With Clayton Kershaw out indefinitely, the Dodgers have turned to the trade market to make an ‘impact move’ to their starting rotation according to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick.
Replacing a pitcher of Kershaw’s caliber would be impossible for any team. The three-time Cy Young winner was on-pace for his best season yet by many measures. With a FIP at 1.67, Kershaw is having the 21st-best season ever recorded by a major league starting pitcher.
By FIP- (a measure of how much a pitcher’s FIP that shows its relation to the league average FIP in the current season), Kershaw’s season is the fifth-best of all-time so far, immediately behind the infamous 1999 season of Pedro Martinez. The three others that rank higher than Kershaw and Martinez took place in the 19th century.
#Dodgers are "Big Game Hunting,'' says a rival exec. They're looking for impact moves, not incremental upgrades.— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) July 20, 2016
Translation: #Dodgers might be motivated to pursue Chris Archer, even though he's struggled. Odorizzi, Smyly-type deals ... not so much.— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) July 20, 2016
According to Crasnick then, adding to the back end of the rotation doesn’t seem to be in the Dodgers’ playbook. Instead, Farhan Zaidi and the rest of the Dodgers’ front office could look to pull Chris Archer away from the Rays. While Archer has gone through some struggles this season, the Rays are still looking for a substantial return for their young hurler if a deal does come to fruition. He is considered available insofar as the Rays are “overwhelmed” by the offer.
For the Dodgers, a substantial trade token that seems to be in play is Yasiel Puig. Puig has failed to live up to the promise of his 2013 and 2014 seasons. This season, his walk rate is down and he isn’t slugging the ball with nearly as much authority. The 25-year old outfielder is definitely still an asset and he’s heading into years that should be considered his prime.
Perhaps that makes something like an Archer for Puig swap even more likely, with the narrative revolving around a ‘change of scenery.’ Puig is under team control through the 2019 season so it wouldn’t be as if the cost-conscious Rays wouldn’t want to invest in that either.
Other pitching names that are available to help buoy the loss of Kershaw could be Sonny Gray or Julio Teheran. Gray, who, like Archer, is also struggling, could be an available trade token for the Athletics, but it would likely involve the team admitting a rebuild phase. The Braves on the other hand are already pretty transparent about their plans to rebuild, and Teheran appears to be their most premium trade token.
Of course, the Dodgers could choose to deal from their strong farm system as well. However, with Julio Urias already making his major league debut and Jose de Leon seemingly not too far behind, the Dodgers could add to their rotation by just calling them up. The Dodgers’ strength in pitching prospects is intriguing in this situation, though their first base prospect Cody Bellinger could also be the centerpiece for a deal.
More teams may resort to selling off assets as the August 1 trade deadline approaches, which could grant even more opportunities for the Dodgers to find a front-of-the-rotation asset. Last season, the Dodgers had two Cy Young contenders and Kershaw and Zack Greinke. Since losing Greinke to free agency, it seems like the Dodgers have been playing some catch up with their rotation. By looking for a trade opportunity now, the Dodgers could put themselves in a great position for this season and going forward.