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With only a little over five weeks remaining until the 2016 non-waiver trade deadline, many fans are wondering just how active the Dodgers will be, and how many top-shelf prospects the club is willing to sacrifice to achieve immediate, overall improvement.
Up until this point, the front office has been steadfast in adhering to the philosophy of doing everything possible to make the team better without relinquishing the farm’s most prized possessions. While management has indeed made a number of quality waiver claims and several low-profile deals that improved the depth of the minor league system, a good number of fans have criticized the front office for establishing depth in mediocrity — in other words, prioritizing the overall welfare of the entire organization rather than making a high impact trade that could propel the Dodgers to the top of the NL West today.
Hypothetically, though, if the front office were to throw several of the club’s best farmhands on the table as bargaining chips next month, exactly which areas need to be addressed before the Dodgers could call themselves legitimate contenders to win the pennant?
Many other teams around baseball are truly envious of the half-dozen or so elite starting pitching prospects in the Dodgers’ minor league system, but the truth is, as we have seen recently, all of them need more time to develop and aren’t really in a position to help any big league squad fill out a quality rotation. Hyun-jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy are now near the conclusions of their respective rehab assignments, yet many are concerned how long it may take, if ever, for either one to return to a form resembling the prime years of their careers. Coupled with the prospective returns of Alex Wood and Brett Anderson, it’s senseless to depend on even one of the quartet being able to contribute quality innings to the pitching staff in the second half of the season, and with the recent news of flamethrower Frankie Montas expected to miss up to eight additional weeks, the team is almost forced to look outside the organization for starting pitching help.
Back in early May, we took a look at four players who could potentially aid the starting rotation, and while Julio Urias was already called upon by the Dodgers, and whilst the Indians certainly wouldn’t consider dealing Danny Salazar, righty Julio Teheran is still up for grabs by all means, and has become a very popular target for many clubs looking to upgrade their rotations.
Sonny Gray is another pitcher who is brought up frequently in trade discussions as a good fit for the Dodgers, yet the return for either Gray or Teheran would surely require a package of at least several of the best prospects on the farm.
The same can be said for the relief pitchers on the trade market. Although the Dodgers’ bullpen has been steadily improving on paper as the season progresses, there’s no doubt that the addition of a proven setup man or quality closer could boost the relief corps to a highly competitive level. The rumors continue to pour in with the club’s frequent communication with the Yankees, with conversations regarding Andrew Miller, Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances being the centerpieces of the talks. The Dodgers nearly acquired the 28-year-old Chapman from the Reds over the winter, but ultimately moved away from the deal once the southpaw’s domestic violence issues surfaced.
Things seem to get complicated when considering upgrades to the teams offense. Again, it’s foolish to bank on a productive return by Andre Ethier at any point in the season, and even if he did join the club anytime soon, it’s tough to figure out who surrenders playing time among an already crowded outfield consisting of Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson, Trayce Thompson and Scott Van Slyke, along with super-utility men Howie Kendrick and Enrique Hernandez.
The same can be said about the infield. With an addition of an upgraded bat anywhere on the diamond, it seemingly appears as if the team needs to trade away one or more parts of the existing core to create any type of vacancy — something that further illustrates the Dodgers’ organizational depth, albeit players of average or slightly better value. The team could desperately use some type of power surge with a quality bat, but the fact that there’s no conspicuous place on the diamond for a sure fit could be preventing management from making a huge splash right away.
In the end, the Dodgers’ pursuit of a fourth consecutive NL West title could conceivably lie in the hands of the front office crew, who may ultimately need to decide which of the young prospects are keepers, and which ones may be expendable for the purpose of adding high-impact players through the trade market.
Or, management and ownership just may be content on continuing to strengthen the organizational depth with smaller trades while continuing to retain the team’s top prospects and trimming payroll, focusing on becoming a true baseball dynasty for the 2017 season and beyond.