- Mark Saxon, ESPN Staff Writer
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Already, some of the Los Angeles Dodgers' targets have fallen off the board. Scott Kazmir, a pitcher Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi discussed with his former boss, Billy Beane, was traded by Beane's Oakland A's to the Houston Astros for two minor leaguers, including well-regarded catcher Jacob Nottingham. Johnny Cueto, one of the pitchers the Dodgers have been scouting for months, went from the Cincinnati Reds to the Kansas City Royals for three minor-league left-handed pitchers.
But the beauty of this season’s trade market is that those could be just the first dominos to fall in a cascade of starting pitchers switching teams. The Dodgers have until 1 p.m. PDT Friday to land the starting pitcher(s) they so desperately want and, if rumors are true, there is no lack of alternatives. Let’s look at some possibilities:
The likely targets
Cole Hamels: Jayson Stark of ESPN.com reported over the weekend that the Dodgers and Texas Rangers are the front-runners to land the veteran left-hander, who just made himself a bit more enticing by throwing a no-hitter at Wrigley Field. If the Dodgers are fixated on Hamels, here’s why: He’s not a rental and, though he makes $23.5 million, he could save them a lot of money and ease a lot of worries in the long run.
By the time November arrives, the Dodgers’ rotation could be Clayton Kershaw and a bunch of blank spaces. Zack Greinke will have opted out of his contract, barring something unforeseen. Brett Anderson will be a free agent. Brandon McCarthy, who is coming off Tommy John surgery, will be at least eight months from pitching again and Hyun-Jin Ryu is no sure thing coming off shoulder surgery. Hamels is 31 and signed through 2018. Having him in the fold would allow the Dodgers to be less at the whim of next winter’s free agent market. They are expected to make a run at David Price. Imagine if they had three of the best left-handed starting pitchers in baseball. Then, they could just add a couple of back-of-the-rotation right-handers and call it a winter. Or, they could focus their resources on keeping Greinke.
The problem is the Dodgers don’t want to trade Corey Seager, who could be their Opening Day shortstop next season, and they don’t want to trade Julio Urias, who could be in their rotation next season. The drop-off to the next tier of prospects is steep and the Phillies, who have been discussing trading Hamels for years, have been demanding a big haul of prospects in return, according to reports. The Dodgers likely would agree to pay all of Hamels’ contract if the return on talent is less severe, so maybe that is their edge.
Price: Nobody can seem to read whether the Detroit Tigers are going to be sellers or are holding out hope they can close the four-game gap in the wild-card race and take a run at the World Series. If they decide to sell, the Dodgers will be aggressive in pursuit of Price, a pitcher they tried to get from the Tampa Bay Rays last year. At the time, the Rays’ general manager, Andrew Friedman, was insisting on Seager and Urias, so it was a non-starter. That tells you how unlikely he is to trade either of those two guys now that he is the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations. Price will be a free agent and the Dodgers might save their pitch until the off-season.
Yovani Gallardo: The Rangers appear to be one of the few teams willing to buy and sell simultaneously. Gallardo will be a free agent in the fall, but he has one big advantage over either of the other two pitchers mentioned. He is right-handed, which will come in handy for those September games against the San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks, who have all sorts of right-handed power. With Kershaw and Anderson in the fold, adding another lefty to the rotation might not be ideal unless that particularly lefty happens to be as dominant as Price and Hamels. That could explain why the Dodgers weren’t more aggressive in the Kazmir discussions. One knock on Gallardo: He’s not particularly well-represented in the type of advanced analytics the Dodgers’ front office looks at. He is, for example, No. 48 in the majors in Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP).
Jesse Chavez: You know who does rate highly in FIP? This guy. He’s 24th in the majors. He has been mentioned as one of the players Beane might consider trading, and Zaidi’s connections to Beane and Oakland’s assistant GM, David Forst, would figure to be an asset in talks, allowing them to cut through the small talk. The Dodgers’ front office won’t care at all about his 5-10 record, he’s from Fontana and he won’t require nearly as many name-brand prospects as the other pitchers mentioned. He won't be a free agent until after 2016, another benefit to acquiring him.
C.J. Wilson: No one has yet to actually suggest the Dodgers have spoken to Los Angeles Angels interim GM Bill Stoneman, but it just makes too much sense to eliminate. Carl Crawford's return has brought back the Dodgers’ outfield glut, and they’d be all ears if someone was willing to take Crawford or Andre Ethier off their hands. With Jered Weaver close to coming back, the Angels might be willing to move a starter, and many of the outfielders they’ve been linked to aren’t as good as Ethier or Crawford. In fact, the Angels thought they were going to sign Crawford before he shocked baseball and wound up in Boston. Mike Scioscia loves his skill set. Wilson, who makes $20 million next year, is overpaid for a No. 3 or 4 starter, but so are Crawford and Ethier.
1dBrian Heyman, Special to ESPN.com