In a normal season, the baseball world is beaming with anticipation and excitement in the final week leading up to the trade deadline. This year, it’s tough to gauge if there will even be any significant activity at all.
There are several factors that are certainly in play that have not been in the past. Lower level players who normally make up the final part of a blockbuster deal are pretty much out of the picture, as only players from a club’s 60-man player pool can be dealt. Second, cash flow isn’t the greatest for many clubs, so teams may be limited when it comes to snagging players who might put the teams on the fringes of their respective payroll budgets. Finally, with the expanded playoffs this season, more squads are in contention for the postseason, so they’re hesitant to give up their key players, even if it is the final year of their contracts.
The Dodgers are no different. Skipper Dave Roberts on Friday told Ken Gurnick of MLB.com that there has been “considerably less discussion about the trade deadline with the front office this year compared to previous seasons.”
Still, that’s not to say that Andrew Friedman and his crew are inactive. With everything seemingly staying under very close wraps this year, almost anything could be brewing as I write this story.
As far as the prospective needs of the Dodgers go, in most years, the bullpen would be at the top of the list. Currently, Los Angeles has two key arms on the shelf—a pair of right-handed relievers in Joe Kelly and Pedro Baez.
As it stands, the relief corps of the Dodgers is the best in the majors with a 1.82 collective ERA, for those who believe ERA is an accurate gauge of relief pitching. The bullpen’s combined WHIP is 0.98, which is also best in the majors. Additionally, the relief crew’s .182 BAA is second in the majors only to the Cardinals.
Even if there’s no bullpen upgrades over the next week, bringing back a healthy Kelly and Baez might feel like significant upgrades in themselves.
Indeed, the chatter surrounding the starting rotation has been dominating many of the fan conversations lately. Staff ace Clayton Kershaw has been throwing as well as he has in years, while Walker Buehler flashed six innings of greatness in Saturday’s victory over the Rockies, assuring fans that the rotation may be in better shape than some previously thought.
Dustin May, who perhaps has the highest ceiling of all the pitchers on the staff, is progressing steadily, although many pundits feel that he’s already approaching the elite level. Tony Gonsolin has yet to allow an earned run over three starts this year, but he is sitting at the team’s alternative site waiting for his next recall.
On the downside, Ross Stripling and Julio Urias seem to be trending in the opposite direction at the moment, and many fans believe that both pitchers might be destined for the bullpen in the coming months. Reports say that Alex Wood is regaining his health, but good health doesn’t make up for the fact that he really hasn’t thrown effectively since his 2018 campaign, the season before the Dodgers shipped him off to Cincinnati.
Still, because the Dodgers are so deep, it gives management more than a half dozen names from which to select to form a playoff rotation, a luxury that most rival clubs can only dream about. For those pitchers who are struggling, 30 games—five or six prospective starts—could be enough time to get their performances trending back in the right direction.
The offense seems to be an entirely different animal as consistency appears to be the club’s biggest dilemma, but the Dodgers are still first in the majors with 160 runs scored entering Sunday’s games. Another thing to consider is that the role of the designated hitter and the extra three players on the active roster give teams more offensive flexibility, especially with regards to having a fortified bench available late in games.
Right now, I’m in the camp that Friedman and his troops might stand completely pat and not make any moves at all, but that could change easily if the momentum of the trade market takes an abrupt turn over the next few days.
Stay tuned for the latest news and rumors as they develop.