The general managers' meetings, which just got underway in Indian Wells, Calif., can be a good place to lay a foundation for trades that might happen days, weeks or months later.
Dodgers GM Ned Colletti figures to touch base with several teams while he's in the desert. Colletti has made it clear that his top priority is adding starting pitching, but the prices for the top free agents -- Zack Greinke, Anibal Sanchez, Kyle Lohse and Ryan Dempster -- could make those acquisitions unappealing.
Last month, ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney reported that the Dodgers are open to trading Andre Ethier just a few months after signing him to a five-year, $85 million contract extension. Colletti said such a move "hasn't been discussed," but he also didn't say it won't be. The Dodgers could have an available shortstop, Dee Gordon, and enough pitching prospects to get other teams' interest.
We've touched on the possibility of a James Shields trade in previous posts, so we'll leave that aside, and we won't waste our time wondering about whether Felix Hernandez, Evan Longoria or Justin Upton are available because those teams have tried to make it clear they aren't.
So, here are some outside-the-box possibilities for Colletti to look at:
Tampa Bay has the rare luxury of an abundance of starting pitching, but with severe payroll restraints, is constantly on the lookout for position players to improve a below-average offense. Why shouldn't the Dodgers set their sights on a younger, cheaper alternative to Shields? According to reports, the Rays actually have received more calls about Hellickson, 25, than about Shields. It might take a bit more coaxing to get them to give up a player earning the major league minimum, but Hellickson -- the 2011 rookie of the year -- would give the Dodgers a young arm who could grow up alongside 24-year-old Clayton Kershaw for years to come.
The Dodgers made a waiver claim on Lee last August, but couldn't close a deal and the Phillies stated publicly that they have no interest in trading him. Still, things change and perhaps the Phillies are looking to get a little younger while gaining some payroll flexibility. Lee, 34, had a weird season, going 6-9 despite the best strikeout-to-walk ratio (7.39) in the National League. Not only could he give the Dodgers the best rotation in the league, he would be a great mentor for Kershaw. The Phillies need a center fielder, so it might take parting with Yasiel Puig or Joc Pederson to make it happen.
Again, if you have a chance to get younger without sacrificing talent, you always want to explore it. The Rangers have told Alexi Ogando he's returning to their rotation and they might be in pursuit of Greinke, which could make them inclined to part with their talented young lefty. Given his raw stuff -- a mid-90s fastball and strong off-speed pitches -- Holland can be occasionally frustrating and inconsistent (4.67 ERA last season), but he has a huge upside and would cost a fraction of what the free-agent starters will command. Getting Texas GM Jon Daniels to part with him would be the tricky part.
The White Sox picked up his $9.5 million option, but that doesn't mean he'll be in Chicago in 2013. The White Sox, like Tampa Bay, are in a great position, sitting back with starting pitching to deal, fielding phone calls. "I think we’re going to hear from a lot of teams about our starting pitching depth,” GM Rick Hahn told Chicago reporters. “I think we’re going to be pretty popular in that regard vis-a-vis trades because we’re in a better position than a lot of clubs right now.” Floyd is not a great pitcher, but he's a talented former first-round pick who turns 30 in January and could help the Dodgers solidify the back of their rotation.
ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick reported Wednesday that the Diamondbacks are willing to listen to offers on one of the top pitching prospects in the game. That could give the Dodgers an opportunity to bring the former UCLA star back home. Bauer has made just four major league starts, so he wouldn't be an immediate impact addition to the Dodgers' rotation, but he would be depth for 2013 and a potentially exciting young right-hander for years to come. His 5-1 record and 2.85 ERA at Triple-A suggest he's ready for the next challenge. He's a meticulous worker, and it seems unlikely he wouldn't have some kind of major league impact within a year or two.