Piecing together a potential Dodgers-Cleveland trade

(Via)

I planned to write a piece breaking down which Dodgers would throw soup at an assistant coach and what soup would be thrown, but actual rumors started happening. So here we are.

Really quickly. Yasiel Puig and Rich Hill are both very good calls. Give me Alex Wood, who has had his share of outbursts during his Dodger tenure. As for the soup of choice, give me minestrone. Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk.

As for the important stuff, the Dodgers finally found themselves in a rumor tweet.

The Dodgers clearly have a need behind the plate, with Yasmani Grandal likely gone and Keibert Ruiz and Will Smith still a year or two away. The Dodgers’ interest in a Cleveland starter makes a bit less sense as the rotation is already plenty deep. Cleveland’s interest in an outfielder also makes sense. Michael Brantley made 134 starts in left field last season and will likely get a nice contract elsewhere. Outside of him, no other outfielder had more than 300 plate appearances for Cleveland last season. Bradley Zimmer hasn’t quite lived up to his former top-prospect status and had shoulder surgery in July that was estimated to keep him out for 8-12 months. They acquired Leonys Martin at the trade deadline last season, but he only had 17 plate appearances before contracting a life-threatening bacteria. Thankfully, yesterday it was announced that he was given full clearance to return to conditioning for Spring Training. Brandon Guyer started the most games in right for Cleveland, which is not what you want. The Dodgers also have a plethora of outfielders. Joc Pederson, Puig, Alex Verdugo, Andrew Toles, Cody Bellinger, Enrique Hernandez, Chris Taylor and Matt Kemp would all likely be welcome in Cleveland’s outfield.

If the Dodgers are looking for a Cleveland starter, the prize would clearly be Corey Kluber. He’ll be 33 in April and is entering the final guaranteed year of his contract. In 2019 and 2020, Cleveland owns team options worth $17.5 and $18 million, respectively. Kluber is coming off a third-place finish in Cy Young voting, as he posted a 2.89 ERA/3.12 FIP in 215 innings last season. Kluber also struck out 222 batters while walking only 35. He’s a definite ace and would give the Dodgers arguably the best 1-2-3 combination in baseball. Cleveland is currently in a weird position. They should be able to walk to division titles for the next couple years, but are clearly not as good as Houston, New York or Boston. A mini-rebuild makes sense, so getting a haul for a 32-year-old pitcher with three years of team control is a decent idea even though it obviously hurts their team. Kluber would be a great get, but would not be cheap. You’d have to think a package begins with Verdugo and either Ruiz or Smith.

Trevor Bauer could be just as pricey as Kluber. He has only two years of team control left, but the 27-year-old is coming off the best season of his career by far. He was the third overall pick so the talent has been there, but Bauer’s 2.21 ERA was nearly 2 entire points better than his previous career-low of 4.18. His 2.44 FIP was the lowest in the American League and he maintained his career-best eight percent walk rate from 2017 while improving to a 30.8 percent strikeout rate. Seeing a pitcher improve that drastically in one season raises some eyebrows about sustainability, but we shouldn’t doubt the most scientific pitcher in baseball. One of my favorite things about the Dodgers is that all their players seem like decent human beings. Bauer … does not.

I’m writing this post and realizing that Cleveland has a really good rotation. Mike Clevinger has been great for the last two seasons, with a 3.05 ERA/3.64 FIP in 321 2/3 innings over that time. He’s still two seasons away from being arbitration eligible, so he’s under team control until 2023. He’ll be 28 in December so he’s not as young as his contract makes him seem. He threw at least five innings in 31 of his 32 starts last season and completed six or more innings 25 times. He’ll probably be more pricey than you’d expect, but Clevinger would definitely be an upgrade to this rotation.

Carlos Carrasco should be the most affordable pitcher on Cleveland. He’ll be 32 in May and is only under contract for this upcoming season, but he has a $9.75M team option for 2020 (that could increase based on Cy Young votes). Carrasco returned as a fixture in the rotation in 2015 and has made at least 25 starts in each season, with 30 or more starts in three of the four seasons. He’s also pitched very well in that time. His highest ERA in this time came in 2015, when he finished with a 3.63 ERA. That came with a 2.88 FIP, the second best in Carrasco’s nine-year career. Carrasco has only failed to surpass 200 strikeouts once in the last four seasons, and that came in an injury-shortened 2016. It seems like the Dodgers have been attached to Carrasco for a while now, and given his age and the length of his remaining contract, he should be relatively affordable. Maybe a deal centered around Pederson could make some sense.

Of course, the Dodgers have a bigger need than a starter. Austin Barnes should probably not be a starting catcher of a team with championship aspirations. Enter Yan Gomes. The 31-year-old is only under contract for next season, but has two team options ($9 and $11 million in 2020 and 2021, respectively). Cleveland traded prized catching prospect Francisco Mejia to San Diego last season, leaving Roberto Perez as their only other Major League ready catcher. Gomes isn’t great, but he should be a capable stopgap until Ruiz or Smith are ready. Last season, Gomes slashed .266/.313/.449 in 435 plate appearances. The batting average is shiny, but it came with a .336 BABIP. Gomes also hit 16 homers and struck out 119 times with only 21 walks. Dodger fans were frustrated with Grandal, so it would be interesting to see the reaction to a catcher that struck out only five fewer times and walked 51 fewer times in roughly 80 fewer plate appearances. Behind the plate, Gomes only allowed six passed balls last season and threw out 20 of 69 (nice) potential base stealers. Gomes was the 28th-best pitch framing catcher in baseball last season (Grandal was second, Barnes was third). If Cleveland lost Gomes, they could be interested in one of the Dodger catching prospects that should be ready before their best catching prospect, 2018 first-round pick Bo Naylor.

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So Cleveland has a bunch of starters and a desire to cut salary, with an easy path to staying on top of a weak division. The Dodgers have a ton of outfielders and are seemingly always looking to improve the rotation. It makes sense that the two teams are having a trade talks, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see something manifest.

With Kurt Suzuki off the market, Gomes may be the best non-Realmuto option for the Dodgers behind the plate in 2019. The Dodgers could help Cleveland with an outfielder or two, and Cleveland could give the Dodgers a great No. 3 starter behind Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler.

Rumor season has arrived for the Dodgers.

About Alex Campos

Alex Campos
I'm a writer that has blogged at a whole bunch of places about a whole bunch of sports. I was most recently writing for Chavez Ravine Fiends, but was also the former editor at Dodgers Way. I graduated from California State University, Long Beach with a degree in Journalism and a minor in Marketing. At Long Beach, I covered the Dirtbags in the 2014 season as an assistant sports editor at the Daily 49er.