The Dodgers have been on a pretty good stretch of late. They opened up the second half of the season with what appeared to be the toughest road trip of the season, with series against the disappointing-but-talented Mets, surprisingly tough Orioles team (who took over first place in the AL East) and the surprising first-place Rangers. The Dodgers went into New York, Baltimore and Texas and took two of three in each series. They returned home up four games in the division with the offense and bullpen clicking.
However, the starting pitching is still a massive issue. Dodger starters have combined for a 4.57 ERA, the 13th-worst in the Majors. Most of their success came from Dustin May, who posted a 2.63 in nine starts before his elbow died, and Clayton Kershaw, who’s nearly missed a month with a shoulder injury he suffered at the end of June (expected to return in early August). After the two of them, Tony Gonsolin has the best ERA among starters with a 3.94. Julio Urias has struggled hard in his contract year, Bobby Miller and Emmet Sheehan both started their careers strong and have faltered since. Gavin Stone and Michael Grove haven’t found much success in their short major league stints.
I feel pretty confident that the Dodgers’ big pitching acquisition in the next couple weeks won’t be Noah Syndergaard. Enter the White Sox, who have the fourth-lowest winning percentage in all of baseball. They’re one of the more obvious sellers out there, and have been attached as a potential trade partner with the Dodgers since Gavin Lux tore his ACL. Fortunately the Dodgers didn’t pull the trigger on a Tim Anderson trade as he’s been awful this year, but the Dodgers could look to their rotation to help boost their own.
Lucas Giolito has been one of the best starters for Chicago this season, despite all that blue on his Baseball Savant page. That’s more of an indictment of the White Sox than it is praise of Giolito, who has a 3.79 ERA/4.46 FIP/4.08 SIERA/4.68 DRA in 121 innings over 21 starts. Those numbers were a bit better before the All-Star break, as his first start out of the break was his worst of the season. He allowed eight runs in 3 2/3 innings in New York, which surely isn’t helping his trade value. He did bounce back on Sunday, as he shut the Twins out over five innings and struck out nine.
So far this season, Giolito has thrown the slider more than he ever has. It’s been his best pitch, as he’s allowed a .296 WOBA and a 37.7 percent whiff rate. He has allowed seven homers on it, which ties the fastball for his most homers allowed despite throwing over 300 more fastballs this season. It’s a weird slider, as it only breaks horizontally 1.6 inches on average (league average is apparently about six inches). It does have above average vertical movement, with 38.3 inches of drop on average (league average roughly 36 inches).
It might be a bit late to teach him a new trick, but it would be interesting to see what the Dodger dev team could potentially do in reshaping his slider. In 2017, FanGraphs gave Giolito’s curveball a 60 grade/70 future grade. That aged poorly, as he’s only thrown it 1.6 percent of the time this season (and hasn’t thrown it more than 10 percent of the time since 2018, so not like he’s recently ditched it).
Clearly, the reason that was included is for the Rich Hill-esque follow through.
Lucas Giolito, 93mph Fastball and 85mph Slider, Overlay pic.twitter.com/gau28Ri4rd&amp;mdash; Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) July 23, 2023
Giolito is in his final year of arbitration and will be a free agent after the season. He’s making $10.4M this year. In a vacuum, his cost shouldn’t be too high. His reputation at the moment appears to supersede his actual production in recent years, and all of that had come in the weak AL Central to boot. However, he’ll likely be one of the best starting pitchers moved this deadline (barring a Shohei Ohtani trade, he might be the best?) and most contenders could use a relatively-reliable innings eater to get them to October.
The cost probably will feel high, but not as high as Ralph’s insane proposal from last week (Giolito, Anderson and Kendall Graveman for one of Diego Cartaya or Dalton Rushing, one of Grove or Stone and one of Jorbit Vivas or Rayne Doncon). He’s probably a number four starter, but given the barren starting pitching trade market he could end up being costly. His return should probably be somewhat similar to Cody’s Montgomery return, and it’s quite tempting to just copy his work. However, the White Sox and Cardinals are in different places. St. Louis likely would demand a young piece that could contribute next season. The White Sox are a bit farther away from contention.
To LAD: Lucas Giolito
This feels a bit steep even for a 1-for-1. Three months of a number 3/4 starter for Nastrini, who was number nine on Bruce’s Top 55 prospects earlier this week. Nastrini was a big riser last season, but has hasn’t quite seen as much success so far this season. His ERA is lower than it was in Double-A last season (3.88 vs 3.93 in 2022), but his strikeout rate has fallen from 35.6 percent to only 26.9 percent. He won’t be 24 until February, and MLB Pipeline estimates that he’ll debut next year. His upside could make him a mainstay in any rotation for years, which isn’t exactly a tempting price to pay for a solid rental starter that might not even be a top rotation option in the postseason. Meanwhile, Ramos’ potential as a big-time power threat should be able to put their offer over the top, as he’s holding his own just fine in AA as a 22-year-old, and found himself improving to the #23 prospect in the system.
Of course, if Ohtani, Mitch Keller and Blake Snell don’t move, it might be a bidding war for Giolito, Montgomery and John Flaherty, and while none of these options are frontline starters, they should have enough interested teams to demand a higher-than-expected return. Other options for trade are the previously mentioned Landon Knack (#14) or Ryan Pepiot (#13), perhaps with a multi-player package of something like Kyle Hurt (#17) and Yeiner Fernandez (#18) added on.
There are iterations of this trade that could add more pieces. Graveman and Keynan Middleton are expiring relievers that could improve the Dodger bullpen. The pipedream would be trading for two cheap years of Luis Robert Jr. (with two additional team option years at only $20M each), but those (especially the latter) would require a bigger package going over to Chicago as well.
Like Cody said about Montgomery, Giolito won’t be the savior of the Dodger season. However, he’s averaging about 5 2/3 innings per start and has completed six innings in 2/3 of his starts, which the Dodgers could definitely use right about now. While he might not be a difference maker in October, getting some more length from the rotation would help the bullpen tremendously. He’d also allow the Dodgers to slow down Miller and/or Sheehan, both of whom are approaching career highs in innings pitched.