2021 Trade Deadline Targets: Primer

Bet you were expecting another draft post, huh? Don’t worry, I’ll get back to that tomorrow. For now, let’s talk about the upcoming trade deadline.

Heading into the 2021 season, it didn’t seem like our annual trade deadline series would be overly necessary or abundant. Fast forward nearly four months later and it’s clear the Dodgers need pitching help — for one reason or another.

It’s hard to see them in the position player market. They kind of already filled those holes when they acquired Albert Pujols and, to a much lesser extent, Yoshi Tsutsugo. Couple that with Corey Seager‘s return (soon, hopefully) and Cody Bellinger‘s improvement (because he can’t be much worse than he was in the first half) and there shouldn’t be a need for a position player — provided there are no significant injuries between now and the July 30 deadline.

——

“You can never have too much pitching.”

It’s a cliché, but also, find the lie.

The Dodgers still have a strong Top 3 of Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler and Julio Urias, but Kershaw is currently on the injured list with inflammation in his forearm/elbow, while Urias has bested his career-high in innings pitched, so there’s some concern about a second-half wear down. Not only that, but they won’t be able to deploy Urias like they did in last year’s postseason as currently constructed.

David Price is going to be stretched out to go back into the rotation, so maybe there’s some help the Dodgers need. But it’s a little difficult to count on him to be that guy again, especially since he hasn’t had a starter’s workload since 2019 — and even then, he only threw 107 1/3 innings in 22 starts. Coincidentally, maybe he can fill the Urias role this postseason — more on that at a later date.

After that, it gets a little more unsure. Tony Gonsolin has been solid, but he missed the first couple months with a shoulder injury. He’s been pretty good in seven appearances (six starts), but his command hasn’t been what it was in his first two seasons in the majors. I’m not sure the Dodgers want to have to count on him to make a long start in a postseason game.

Josiah Gray and Ryan Pepiot are the Dodgers’ best non-Bobby Miller pitching prospects, but I don’t think any of them are ready to step in a pitching meaningful starter’s innings. Gray missed time with a shoulder impingement, Pepiot’s slider is still a work in progress (but getting better!) and Miller — despite the possibility of making it to Triple-A this season — seems like he’s a year away. It’d be difficult to throw those guys into a high-pressure situation before they’re ready.

For these reasons, at least one starting pitcher should be a target at the trade deadline.

——

On the reliever front, Kenley Jansen has been surprisingly good! Blake Treinen has been good himself. Jimmy Nelson has been a godsend (but he’s currently on the IL). Beyond those three, though, it’s been a mixed bag.

Victor Gonzalez has been good and also regressed, which is strange. Garrett Cleavinger has potential, but also has control issues. I’m not sure anyone wants Scott Alexander throwing meaningful postseason innings. Phil Bickford has been a pleasant surprise, but is he Brandon Morrow 2017 or will he pumpkin at some point? Corey Knebel could be back at some point, but counting on it may not be wise. Brusdar Graterol has dealt with injury issues this season and isn’t as sure a bet as he was coming into the season. And Joe Kellyhas great stuff.

So, it seems the Dodgers could use some — at minimum — quality middle relief help. They may not need to acquire a high-leverage guy, but it couldn’t hurt! Some of the MRP issues could be solved by moving starters to the ‘pen come the playoffs, but for the rest of the season, I’m sure we’d be OK not seeing the likes of Edwin Uceta throwing much more in the majors this season. And with the inconsistency from the left-handed relievers, a LHRP could make a lot of sense.

——

We’re going to begin the series later this week or early next week with Max Scherzer. I’m sure there will be no shortage of words about the Nationals’ ace — and impending free agent.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosted a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He was a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times and True Blue LA. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.