Will The Dodgers Make An Impact Deadline Deal? The Blog Looks At The Hot Stove with 5 Trading Days Left.

As the trade deadline approaches and the Dodgers are clearly in the “buyers” column with a half game lead in the National League West with less than a week to go before that deadline strikes, people are wondering more and more who might be coming to the Dodgers.  Here we look realistically at who might be available at positions of potential need and what the chances of the Dodgers acquiring them might be.

Starting Pitching

The Dodgers have four solid starters (Kershaw, Greinke, Ryu and Nolasco,) but there are questions about who they’re going to go with as the #5 guy down the stretch.  Stephen Fife has been solid, but is on the Disabled List for the second time this season with shoulder bursitis and the team has not yet announced officially when Fife will start a rehab assignment.  Chris Capuano has had a couple of very good outings but even more very bad outings.  There was some talk about the Dodgers acquiring Cuban righty Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, but currently it appears that the Boston Red Sox are front-runners on Gonzalez and that the Dodgers are no longer interested.  Even if the Dodgers did jump back into the Gonzalez race, currently Gonzalez is projected to be Major League ready in September, which would likely have the team running Chris Capuano out to the mound every fifth day through the month of August.

Stephen Fife is 3-3 with a 2.76 ERA this year and has been solid as the Dodgers’ #5 starter when healthy. However, shoulder bursitis has kept the righty starter out of the rotation since July 6th, and Chris Capuano has been mostly ineffective pitching in his place. (Image source: Rant Sports at http://www.rantsports.com/mlb/files/2013/03/stephen-fife-dodgers.jpg)

One possible move the team could make to bolster the rotation would be to acquire Jake Peavy from the Chicago White Sox.  Peavy, the one-time San Diego Padres ace, remains a serviceable starter and has managed to stay healthy this year while putting up a line of 8-4 with a 4.28 ERA.  While his ERA line is a little high, a move back to the National League and pitching his home games at pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium (as well as in-division road games in San Francisco and San Diego which tend to be pitcher-friendly parks) could presumably help to bring that ERA down a few tenths of a run.

Jake Peavy appears to be on the market, and the Dodgers might be able to pick him up for a couple of mid-level prospects if they are willing to take on the remainder of his contract. However, with Tim Hudson now out for the season, the Atlanta Braves would appear to be serious contenders for Peavy who would be an easy fit into the Braves’ rotation as a pitcher with ace and playoff experience and a veteran presence. (Image source: http://media.cleveland.com/tribe_impact/photo/jake-peavyjpg-67837bc33914a2a8.jpg)

The only issues with Peavy are injury history (which he seems to have overcome this season) and the fact that there is a team out there that might have even more need for his services than the Dodgers: The Atlanta Braves.

After Tim Hudson’s freak ankle injury knocked him out for the season when the Mets’  Eric Young, Jr. accidentally landed on his ankle trying to beat a throw to first in New York, the Braves are in need of a front-line starting pitcher, and with so few names on the market and the Phillies unlikely to throw, say, Cliff Lee the Braves’ way for anything less than their top two or three farmhands, Peavy becomes now the most logical option for the stretch run.  Peavy has Hudson’s veteran savvy, post-season experience, and most importantly for the Braves, has an ace’s presence.

Another name that has begun to pop up on the hot stove more and more lately is the Kansas City Royals’ Ervin Santana.  Santana is no stranger to Southern California, having come up in the Angels’ system and having spent several years in Anaheim before being traded to the Royals.

Kansas City Royals and long-time Angels pitcher Ervin Santana could be an interesting fit back in Southern California, this time with the Dodgers. But the price to get him would be high. (Image source: https://ericsdodgersblog.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/c40fb-los252bangeles252bangels252banaheim252bphoto252bday252bfqlfyipb-m4l.jpg)

Santana could mix in well with the Dodgers’ blend of latin players, it’s easy to see him laughing and joking along with the likes of Hanley Ramirez, Juan Uribe and Yasiel Puig.  However, the cost on Santana is expected to be quite high, with some predicting that the Royals want even more for Santana than the Chicago Cubs got for Matt Garza.

Santana was a number two pitcher for a good chunk of his tenure in Anaheim, and this season features a 6-6 record, a 3.06 ERA, and a low 1.08 WHIP.  Chances are good that the Dodgers would have to give up an arm such as Zack Lee or Matt Magill to get Santana, and that that might just be the beginning of a package.  Stephen Fife might be a possibility as well since the Royals are reportedly seeking an MLB-ready talent in exchange for the 30 year old righty.

Like Peavy, Santana could be a target for the Atlanta Braves.  However, he seems to be less of a fit for the mold set by Tim Hudson than Peavy and would appear more likely to be heading elsewhere.

The Dodgers are rumored to also have kicked the tires on Bud Norris of the Houston Astros.  Norris is the youngest realistic trade chip on the market who could help the Dodgers now and comes with the added bonus that he would still be under team control for a couple more seasons after this.  Norris sports a 6-9 record to go with a 3.91 ERA for the Astros this season, but has had a few hot stretches and looked like an ace Opening Night against the Texas Rangers, his biggest big league stage to date.

Bud Norris is 28 years old and would still be under team control, but recent outings have been worrisome. It’s possible that Norris could shine in the light of a divisional race, or it could be possible that he is breaking down as the season wears on. (Image source: http://offtherecordsports.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/BudNorris.jpg)

The downside on Norris is that his recent performances indicate the possibility that he is becoming fatigued and worn down, giving up 7 and 6 runs in two of his last three outings, and not getting to the 7th inning in any of them.

There are also indications that the Astros do not intend to trade Norris this season, rather taking notes of interested parties then trying to maximize their return on the right hander with an off-season deal.  The Dodgers are not in a position to make a desperation move to get Norris who would effectively be a 4 or 5 starter.  The Braves would, again, seem a more likely candidate to offer the moon to the Astros to acquire Bud Norris.

The Possible Blockbuster With Philadelphia

There is absolutely no doubt that the Philadelphia Phillies have to start thinking about either rebuilding or, as some general managers might call it, “reloading.”  Two pieces that the Phillies would appear to love to get off their books if they netted them the right players or prospects in return are Chase Utley and Cliff Lee.

Dave Schoenfeld of ESPN.com argues “it’s time to trade Chase Utley!”  Even as the Phillies sit in second place in the National League East and the Braves cope with the loss of their best starting pitcher, some believe it’s unwise for the Phillies to keep the current squad together in hopes of making a run at the division title but to rather start looking toward the future.

Chase Utley sports a .286 batting average to go with 13 homers for the Phillies this year. The veteran second baseman could split time with Mark Ellis. (Image source: http://www.castefootball.us/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/aa-Chase-Utley.jpg)

Utley would be an interesting player to have as a bat either off the bench or in some form of platoon with Mark Ellis, who has hit well lately but who needs a couple games off every week.  The idea of using Ellis and Utley on a rotating basis to keep both players fresh is intriguing and may help get better results out of both of them.  However, this Blog has also argued that Utley would be a terrible idea.

The catch to Utley, what may make it worth it to the Dodgers to acquire him and work him in with Mark Ellis at second base, is the player who could be coming with him if the Dodgers pull a blockbuster.

Cliff Lee.

Cliff Lee could be the piece the Dodgers are missing in their rotation that helps them win a championship for the first time since 1988. (Image source: http://www.blairbunting.com/blog/wp-content/gallery/cliff-lee/cliff-lee-blog-2new2.jpg)

Lee needs no introduction.  The lefty ace tends to be a coveted piece that all potential playoff teams want and has been ever since his days with the Cleveland Indians.  He’s pitched for World Series teams (albeit runners up both times) in Philadelphia and Texas.  He was signed by the Seattle Mariners for big money in hopes that he would be the piece they needed (as it turned out they needed a lot more than just Lee.)

This season Cliff Lee sports a 10-4 record and a 3.05 ERA.  He has a couple years and over $50 million remaining on his contract, but while the Dodgers are seeking to develop their farm system, they also take the attitude that if they have the ability to win now, they need to pursue it.  Cliff Lee could be the “Win Now” pitcher that gets them over the top.

A deal for Lee would likely involve several of the Dodgers’ top prospects.  Zack Lee and either Fife or Magill seem likely.  Dee Gordon might be on the block for this one.  Alex Castellanos could be involved.  And likely a rotation arm with an expiring contract in the form of one Chris Capuano could be a part of the deal.

The likelihood that a blockbuster such as this is on the horizon would seem low.  But Lee is not likely to get moved to in-division rival Atlanta unless they make an offer that absolutely blows the Phillies away.  And both Lee and Utley can help fill Dodger positions of need right now.

Bullpen

The bullpen, a source of great weakness the first two months of the season, has become a source of greater strength for the Dodgers in the past month.  Kenley Jansen has been lights-out in the closer role.  Ronald Belisario and Brandon League appear to “get it” now.  Paco Rodriguez and J.P. Howell have been solid in their roles.  Chris Withrow and Jose Dominguez have thrown smoke and begun to shut down opposing hitters consistently and convincingly.  Carlos Marmol is obviously a project and unless he turns it around quickly will likely find himself designated for assignment for the second time this season.  And with the movement of Francisco Rodriguez recently, it appears that most of the bullpen options out there would not be an upgrade over their current options.

Still, some arms do look intriguing.

Jesse Crain is hurt.  He could be a waiver wire guy.  But his 0.74 ERA this season before he was shut down in early July with a shoulder problem gets a glance from every team in the league.

The good on Jesse Crain: 0.74 ERA this season. The bad: shoulder problems have had him on the DL for most of the past month. (Image source: http://cdn2.sbnation.com/uploads/chorus_image/image/16517649/20120915_lbm_aj5_074.0_standard_352.0.jpg)

Still, with Dominguez on the 15 day DL as well, it’s likely the Dodgers are going to want healthy options.  Crain does not fit that description.  If Crain comes back healthy and continues to dominate in August, this is more likely something the Dodgers will look at come waiver wire time.

Another name that has been popping up recently is John Axford of the Milwaukee Brewers.  Axford started the season off poorly and was demoted from the closers’ role, but has since regained traction and could be an impact arm in the back of the Dodgers’ bullpen.  Also, most importantly, Axford is healthy and at times downright dominant.

John Axford and his odd facial hair could find a place in the dugout in September next to Scott Van Slyke. (Image source: http://b.vimeocdn.com/ts/197/149/197149082_640.jpg)

Axford would likely cost a mid-level relief prospect or two.  However, general manager Ned Colletti should make sure to get a close look at all of Axford’s body of work this season to determine whether he’s really found himself again or whether his recent stretch is a flash in the pan.

An intriguing in-division deal the Dodgers could make if the price is right would be for San Diego Padres setup man Luke Gregerson.  Gregerson is 4-5 this year with a 2.85 ERA and 36 strikeouts.  He’s also reportedly drawing more interest than Padres closer Huston Street.

The San Diego Padres’ Luke Gregerson could be a solid pick-up for the Dodgers’ pen, and rumor is that the righty is available. However, the in-division cost for the set-up man may be steep. (Image source: http://hankbrockett.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/luke-gregerson.jpg)

Gregerson could certainly help now, but might cost the Dodgers more than they’re willing to part with.  The Padres have shown this season that their young roster can give other teams fits and they may believe they can contend in 2014.  Gregerson could be a chip to get the player that gets the Padres back over the top.

The Dodgers could also opt to go the Free Agency route to add depth to their bullpen.  Former San Francisco Giants closer Brian Wilson is reportedly rehabilitated from Tommy John surgery and ready to sign with a team to help during the stretch run.

Not your typical Beach Boy: former Giants closer Brian Wilson has 171 career saves, a World Series ring, and if fully recovered from Tommy John surgery could be an intriguing piece in the Dodgers’ bullpen down the stretch this season. (Image source: http://www.hauteliving.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/brian-wilson.jpg)

Wilson, who did not pitch almost any of the 2012 season and has missed this entire season, has post season experience as a closer, winning the World Series in 2010 with the Giants.  “The Beard” could likely be had at a discount and would cost the Dodgers nothing.  If no other options work out, it might not hurt for the Dodgers to take a chance on Wilson, who’s 171 career saves could translate well to a setup role.

Third Base

The Dodgers’ infield has been a mix-and-match this season.  Mark Ellis is the primary second baseman and the team seems content to platoon him with any other available infielder.  Third base has been less defined.  It appears that Juan Uribe is the starting third baseman, but the team also starts Nick Punto, Jerry Hairston, Jr. and earlier this season Luis Cruz there.

The issue is that there don’t appear to be many third basemen on the open market that would actually be an upgrade over what the Dodgers already have.  Aramis Ramirez appears to be on the decline in Milwaukee.  Mike Moustakas has significantly regressed in Kansas City and has gone from can’t miss prospect to a player who looks lost at the plate.  Utley, who was mentioned earlier, could theoretically play some third base but has not played there regularly since college and is already somewhat suspect defensively at second.  Michael Young could also conceivably be available, but he would not be a significant upgrade over Uribe.  Kyle Seager is doing well in Seattle but the young third baseman is inexpensive and under team control so it’s not likely that they will move him.  It doesn’t appear likely that Chase Headley will be moving within the division and he’s only hitting .236 with 7 home runs this season, a far cry from last year when he made the All Star Game and looked like he could be a hot commodity when he hits free agency during the 2013 off season.  And while the Red Sox might be willing to part with Will Middlebrooks at this point in time, he’s only hitting .192 this season.

Despite the appearance that the Dodgers could stand to add depth at third base, there do not appear to be any good options available at this point in time.  The team may opt to continue rotating their infield between Mark Ellis, Juan Uribe, Skip Schumaker, Nick Punto, Jerry Hairston, Jr. and the recently-recalled Elian Herrera and see if anyone comes available on the waiver wire in August.

Conclusion:

There are some interesting names out there right now, but with the current Dodgers team clicking well, the bullpen rounding into form, the price for starting pitching being high and the lack of good alternatives at the hot corner, it looks as though the Dodgers may opt to stand pat or only make a minor deal.  Still, if the Phillies decide they are sellers and the Dodgers decide to go all-in on a run at the World Series, a deal for Cliff Lee and Chase Utley, veteran players who have World Series experience in their backgrounds would be intriguing and not out of the realm of possibility, despite the price.  We’ll continue to keep an eye on the hot stove the next few days and see what other names may pop up.

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