The back injury to Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw is worse than initially reported, just as the Dodgers playoff chances. Earlier this week the club stated surgery is still an option for the 28 year-old lefty, who was shelved on the DL prior to the All-Star break. How good has he been? Well, he still leads the National League in WAR despite missing several starts. Not to mention the Dodgers are 14-2 in games started by arguably the game’s best pitcher, and just 40-41 in all other games. Can the Dodgers make the playoffs if Kershaw misses most – if not all – of what remains of the regular season?
With their current roster… absolutely not.
Sure, with a deep farm system and stout bench, Los Angeles certainly has the acumen to turn things around. But, the bottom line is injuries have spread through their clubhouse like the plague. To make matters worse, players in the lineup are underperforming all over the diamond – with the exception of NL Rookie of the Year front runner Corey Seager.
If the bad news on Kershaw gets worse (earmuffs Dodgers’ fans!), the club needs to sell or make trades that will mimic a Jenner makeover. To contend this year, LA fans and the front office will have to be OK allowing teams around the league to harvest the plethora of young talent coveted in desperate trades. Yes, a trade for an impact player with club control beyond 2018 would likely require the Dodgers to part ways with at least one of their top five prospects in Jose De Leon, Grant Holmes, Cody Bellinger, Frankie Montas, and Alex Verdugo.
What the Dodgers need to create a summer surge is a front of the line starter, impact arm at the back end of the bullpen, and a middle of the order bat in the outfield. ESPN recently speculated the Dodgers may try to be creative to convince the Oakland A’s to part ways with Sonny Gray, or the Tampa Bay Rays to move Chris Archer. Gray was injured early in the season, and Archer has been the most inconsistent pitcher so far. But, both pitchers are gushing with undeniable talent and would be worth the cost of any prospect. Outfielders whose names have been tossed around in trade discussions for at least the past year include Cincinnati’s Jay Bruce, Colorado’s Carlos Gonzalez, and Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun. It seems unlikely LA would spurn for Braun, especially given the fans’ animosity toward the former PED user after he snubbed Matt Kemp for the NL MVP in 2011. Bruce would be a solid offensive addition, but his inconsistent defense over the last four years and inflated offensive numbers from playing half his games in Cincinnati could lead to the Dodgers balking at Cincinnati’s asking price. For the same offensive reasons and inability to stay off the DL, Gonzalez may scare away the Dodgers.
In my opinion, the Dodgers need to take a leap of faith on a monumental trade with the Rays. Los Angeles GM Andrew Friedman – named Executive of the Year in 2008 as GM with the Rays – has as much knowledge of the Rays major league players as anyone in MLB. While countless trade scenarios are possible over the next week and a half, I’m proposing the following trade with the Rays:
Evan Longoria, 3B
Chris Archer, RHP
Xavier Cedeno, LHP
Brad Boxberger, RHP
Grant Holmes, RHP
Alex Verdugo, OF
Yasiel Puig, OF
Kyle Farmar, C/3B
Why this trade works:
The Dodgers receive Cedeno – a talented lefty having a good year (the Rays are selling high here, but still adds a lefty to the LA bullpen); a solid righty in Boxberger (albeit he’s coming back from an injury, he was a 2015 All-Star mad registered 41 saves); Longoria is a franchise cornerstone that many Rays fans would be sad to see go, but he’s having a great year and the time to sell is now since the Rays are in the basement; Archer is a perennial Cy Young candidate having a down year (if Kershaw comes back healthy and Archer returns to form, they would form arguably the most dominant 1-2 punch in MLB). The Dodgers agree to this trade because they can improve their roster immediately while hanging on to De Leon and Julio Urias. Slotting Longoria at third base moves Justin Turner to second base, and slides Howie Kendrick to left field for good. Chase Utley becomes a utility man overnight while Scott Van Slyke becomes an everyday right fielder until the return of Trayce Thompson and Andre Ethier.
Yes, I know I said the Dodgers need an outfielder. But guys.. Let’s smell the roses! The outfielders available today just are not worth what teams will demand in return.
Still, nobody knows if Yasiel Puig will ever become the player that many scouts thought he’d be. But, he’s still young and can flourish – we all know this because we’ve seen it. The real prizes here are Verdugo and Holmes. These two are legitimate future big leaguers capable of being MLB mainstays. Farmar gives the Rays minor league staff another boom or bust project with respectable upside. Historically, the Rays also value a low roster payroll. Moving Archer and Longoria to a major market club almost assures their salaries will be take off the Rays’ books.
While the trade scenarios begin to take shape, the waters are still murky as we approach the trade deadline. What’s transparent is this: the fate of the Dodgers’ 2016 season rests entirely on the health of the back of the best pitcher in baseball. The Dodgers must decide if selling some of the farm is worth the price of admission into the playoffs. The clock is on: 10 days, and counting.
Stats courtesy of ESPN