This is part three of a 4-part series looking at some potential under-the-radar players the Dodgers could target this winter.
Let me clear something up: These posts aren’t meant to be the primary moves for the Dodgers this winter. I want them to sign Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon and/or Stephen Strasburg. I want them to trade for Mookie Betts and/or Francisco Lindor. These moves would be complementary to a big-time move or two.
Short of the Dodgers somehow pulling off a trade for Noah Syndergaard — who is certainly not an under-the-radar player — the Dodgers could turn to the trade market to improve the NL’s best (statistically) pitching staff.
RHRP Austin Adams, Mariners
Adams, 28, bounced around the minors between the Angels and Nationals before landing with the Mariners in a minor trade in May. While the sample size was small (32 innings), Adams showed big-time potential. He had a 3.94 ERA, 3.12 FIP and a 28.5 K-BB%. He’s a fastball-slider short reliever who could be groomed as Seattle’s future closer … or perhaps LA’s? The Mariners aren’t going to be eager to get rid of five years of team control of a promising reliever, but he could be attainable for a team that doesn’t project to contend anytime soon.
RHSP Dylan Bundy, Orioles
Bundy is still somehow only about to turn 27 years old. He has spent the entirety of his career with the Orioles and has a 4.67 ERA, 4.75 FIP and a 15.1 K-BB%. He has shown flashes of living up to his No. 4 overall selection in the 2011 draft, but he has always found a way to vastly under-perform. He’s a classic change of scenery candidate, and what better team to try to get the most out of him than the Dodgers (or Astros, I guess). He has two years of team control remaining and the O’s have a similar rebuilding plan to the M’s. He could probably be had for a decent price.
RHSP Jon Gray, Rockies
I’m going to level with you: The whole reason for this post was to write about Gray. Despite pitching for a division rival, Gray, 28, has always been intriguing to me. A former No. 2 overall pick, he has never lived up to that potential but he has had stretches of brilliance. He finished the 2019 season on the injured list, but before he ended up there, he was able to compile a 3.84 ERA, 4.06 FIP and a 14.8 K-BB%. He has been a 2.5-win or better pitcher over that time, but his ceiling is limited as long as he’s pitching half his games in Coors Field. Despite having a mid-to-high-90s fastball, it has been a bad pitch for him in his career (-49.9 FanGraphs runs above average). He makes up for that by having a strong slider and his curveball is coming along. A change of scenery could do him well, as he was demoted to Triple-A as recently as June 30, 2018. I’m not one to be against intradivision trading, but I understand in the real world it makes a trade a little less likely. He has No. 2 starter potential, but he’s probably not ever going to get there with the Rockies.
LHSP Eduardo Rodriguez
The Red Sox are looking to cut salary. They have $80-plus million annually dedicated to Nate Eovaldi, David Price and Chris Sale. So, perhaps moving a guy like Rodriguez, 26, would get them a bigger return and some salary relief. He’s projected to make $9.5 million in arbitration (via MLB Trade Rumors) and is coming off a season that saw him post a 3.81 ERA, 3.86 FIP and a 16.1 K-BB%. The southpaw is a fastball, slider, cutter, changeup pitcher whose best offering is a 93 MPH heater. Because he’s so affordable, it doesn’t make a ton of sense for the Sox to deal him two years away from free agency. Then again, it makes even less sense that they’re contemplating trading one of the game’s Top 5 players because he makes a lot of money. Welcome to baseball in the 21st Century, I guess.
RHRP Blake Treinen
Treinen, 31, wouldn’t have been on a list of this sort last winter. He had a historically great 2018 campaign. Unfortunately for him and the A’s, he regressed to the mean. Hard. After a 0.78 ERA, 1.82 FIP and 25.1 K-BB% in ’18, he had a 4.91 ERA, 5.14 FIP and an ugly 8.3 K-BB% in 2019. His command went to hell, which can happen with a guy who throws a sinker as hard as he does (96-97 MPH). He’s going into his final year of arbitration and is projected to make $7.8 million. He’s been talked about as a non-tender candidate, so the acquisition cost shouldn’t be terribly high. He’d definitely be a nice buy-low candidate. I don’t think he’ll ever be as good as he was in ’18, but he could be plenty serviceable for a team looking for bullpen help.
RHSP Vince Velasquez
Velasquez, 27, is in a similar situation as Bundy. He was a highly touted prospect — the headliner in the original Ken Giles deal — who may be in need of a change of scenery. He’s two years away from free agency and has been maddeningly inconsistent. He has never posted a sub-4 ERA, but in three of his five seasons, he has posted sub-4 FIPs. He also has a career 16.4 K-BB% (MLB average in 2019 was 14.4), so there’s potential in that right arm. The other concern with Velasquez has been his health. His career-high in innings is 146 2/3 set in 2018. He logged just 117 1/3 last season and suffered the dreaded forearm strain (sometimes a precursor to Tommy John surgery). He does seem like the kind of pitcher Andrew Friedman likes (higher upside, considerable injury risk). He’s set to make $3.9 million in his second year of arbitration and will be a free agent after 2021. Throw a decent prospect or two Philly’s way and they’d probably be interested in a deal.
None of these guys is Cole. None of them are Syndergaard. Hell, none of them are Corey Kluber (last winter’s most rumored pitcher going to LA). But if the Dodgers focus on upgrading the offseason via free agency and/or trade, perhaps they could look to a pitcher or two here to improve a staff that likely won’t return Hyun-Jin Ryu.