(Photo Credit: Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)
Understandably, fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers have been a very difficult group to please over the past few decades. Three consecutive division titles, which would be blessings from the heavens for any small market team, are seemingly insubstantial for the dedicated followers of the Boys in Blue, who more or less have one goal in mind — witnessing their favorite club win their first World Championship since 1988.
As the hot stove annually cranks up the heat, especially during the past several seasons, Dodger fanatics have been on the edges of their seats, eagerly awaiting to see the actions of the front office in the trade market, hoping that any major upgrade will be a key addition in transforming the squad into a World Series contender.
The 2016 Dodgers have been a tough bunch to figure out. The offense, which has been among MLB’s hottest in recent times, lurked close to the cellar in most statistical categories for a number of months. The bullpen, often considered a group of misfits sans their All-Star closer, has been carefully managed and maneuvered to rank among the best in baseball. And the starting rotation, without the Best Player in the Universe, has found a way to perform well and hang tough in a very competitive NL West divisional race.
So how should the Dodgers fine tune the roster to make the squad even more competitive during the stretch run? Add more offensive pop? Try to add an elite starting pitcher? Make a deal for a solid bullpen piece? Or just stay put and hope that players like Clayton Kershaw and Andre Ethier get healthy quickly enough to make strong contributions during the final months of the regular season? We’ve already discussed all of these areas in the weeks leading up to the trade deadline, and the department that probably could use the most help is the bullpen, despite its overachieving performances for much of the season.
Last December, just one week after seeing 2015 Cy Young finalist Zack Greinke agree to a monstrous six-year, $206 million deal with the Diamondbacks, the Dodgers’ front office countered with a trade with the Cincinnati Reds, which would have brought flame-thrower Aroldis Chapman to Los Angeles in exchange for two prospects.
Eventually, it was reported that Chapman had allegedly been involved in a highly troublesome domestic dispute only two months prior to the prospective deal. While no arrests were issued at the time of the incident, the Dodgers backed away from the trade, already having a possible domestic case of their own to deal with in outfielder Yasiel Puig‘s professed behavior in a barroom incident in Miami. Needless to say, at that particular moment, having two potential suspensions on deck for domestic violence would have been a nightmare for public relations and the club’s image.
Fast forward to the steamy days of the 2016 hot stove season, and it appears that the Dodgers are amidst talks attempting to acquire Chapman once again, this time with the New York Yankees.
Currently, the Chicago Cubs could very well be the front runners to bolster their own relief corps by adding Chapman, but according to a number of media outlets, the Dodgers are right there in the mix.
The Yankees aren’t really happy with the reported offers from the Nationals and are currently blowing off the Giants, yet they may listen if San Francisco sweetens their proposition with better trade pieces. Most teams are hesitant to offer top 10 prospects to New York for Chapman, mainly because he’ll become a free agent at the end of the season.
The Indians are starting to become less likely to get the 28-year-old southpaw due to the fact that he’s still owed $5 million for the remainder of the season, a chunk of money that Cleveland may not be comfortable in investing.
While they certainly have the funds, Andrew Friedman has already shown that he’s reluctant to trade away the Dodgers’ top talent, especially when it comes to adding a rental player.
Last Tuesday, though, Rosenthal put together a column noting that the Dodgers desire a strong, left-handed bullpen piece, along with the team’s willingness to listen to offers involving Puig.
“The Dodgers, given their various injury concerns, might not identify which players fit them best until the final days before the non-waiver deadline. But at the moment, their primary needs appear to be A) a hard-throwing left-handed reliever (hello, Yankees) and B) a slugging outfielder (where have you gone, Mr. Puig?)”
Puig’s current trade value is conceivably at an all-time low, and a potential straight-up swap for Chapman could have some merit.
Still, it’s really difficult to predict how a trade of this nature would play out. If Yasiel continued to regress and Chapman would turn out to be a key addition in contributing to hauling in a National League pennant, Friedman and his henchmen would appear as geniuses, while on the other hand, if Puig went to New York and transformed back into the electric Rookie of the Year runner-up of 2013, it could turn out to be one of the worst deals of the decade.
At the moment, any speculative rumors aren’t yet considered to be at the boiling point, as it seems if the management team of the Dodgers is keeping all of its doors open and is leaving no stone unturned regarding the trade market.
Nevertheless, regardless of the fans’ approval for Chapman or any other player, the main focus surrounds the improvement of the current roster, and if any prospective addition proves to play big down the stretch, it will be considered a victory by the team’s management. And a seven-year résumé featuring a 2.16 ERA, a 1.96 FIP, a 15.2 K/9, along with a 105 MPH fastball is very, very difficult to ignore.
In the end, the Dodgers’ pursuit of a fourth consecutive NL West title may lie in the hands of the front office, as the management team decides between going all-in and upgrading the roster to make a strong run at the playoffs this year, or remaining content with strengthening the organizational depth with smaller trades while continuing to trim payroll.
By staying conservative, the club would be able to retain its top prospects while preparing to be a World Series contender for the 2017 season and beyond.