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2018 MLB Trade Deadline: Are the Los Angeles Dodgers going to be buyers or sellers?

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With championship expectations at an all-time high, the answer is pretty clear as to what they will do this summer.

MLB: San Diego Padres at Los Angeles Dodgers Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

As we approach July 31, we will preview what each team is projected to do in advance of the non-waiver trade deadline. For a complete listing of our previews, click here.

Los Angeles Dodgers: 43-36, 2nd in the NL West

At this time last year, the Dodgers began to run away with the NL West and focus on making moves that could help them compete for a World Series title (i.e. Yu Darvish).

This time, that is not the case, as they are battling the Diamondbacks for the division crown and they are fighting the Cubs, Phillies, Cardinals and Nationals for one of the two wild card spots, all while dealing with struggles at the plate and on the mound plus the injury bug that keeps hitting them every year.

But, there are always championship expectations in Los Angeles and that is not going to change this year. Because the expectations are so high, especially after losing Game 7 of the World Series last year, the Dodgers will be buyers. However, the question will be, “How much will they buy?” because they also have to think about free agency this winter and the possibility of ace Clayton Kershaw opting out of his contract to test the market.

What moves have they made so far?

The Dodgers have made some moves in an effort to get their bullpen right after losing Brandon Morrow to free agency last winter. They acquired Scott Alexander in a three-way trade with the Royals and White Sox in January and they signed Daniel Hudson to a minor-league deal in April.

The two moves proved to be important, as they saw Tony Cingrani, who they acquired last year at the deadline, Tom Koehler and Pedro Baez all hit the disabled list this year. But, the Dodgers know their are still some moves left to be made in the next month.

Who could they acquire?

The Dodgers have their eyes on a lot of players this summer. One of the most talked about guys is Orioles star shortstop Manny Machado.

According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, several MLB executives and scouts have said that the Dodgers “have emerged as the clear-front favorites to land Machado.” If the Dodgers acquire Machado, it would send shockwaves throughout the majors because all year long, reports coming out of Los Angeles have been that the club is trying to do everything to not go over the $197 million competitive balance tax threshold (it is currently at $191.6 million).

But, as Nightengale points out, the Dodgers need to make amends from last year when they did not give up their top prospects for Justin Verlander, who ended up going to the Astros and leading them past Los Angeles in the World Series. In addition, they have a huge void at shortstop after losing Corey Seager to a UCL sprain that forced him to have Tommy John surgery in May, something only Machado can fill.

If the Dodgers don’t land Machado and watch him get dealt to a team like the Diamondbacks, Phillies, Brewers or Cardinals, then their chances at a postseason bid, let alone a return trip to the Fall Classic, will take a significant hit.

Another couple names who could be a big help to them are relievers Brad Hand and Zach Britton.

Hand is under team control through 2020 and has a team option for 2021, so he would provided a great impact not only this season, but for the next three possibly. However, trying to land Hand will not be easy because the Padres may not feel the urgency to make a deal unless they receive a package they can’t refuse and the Dodgers may not want to deal their best prospects to a division rival.

As for Britton, the Dodgers have had interest in him since last year at this time. In fact, they almost landed the Oriole before the Astros had a trade in place and that deal ended up falling through because of medical issues involving the Astros prospects. Britton, an All-Star who just returned to the mound after tearing his Achilles in December, would be an impact arm as well, but only for three months since he is a free agent after this year.

However, the Dodgers could try to add another starter to the rotation, just like they have done over the last three seasons. If they don’t get Machado, they can always try to pry away Jacob deGrom or Noah Syndergaard from the Mets in an effort to form one of the most dynamic one-two punches in the rotation along with Kershaw.

Predictions

The Dodgers will make the big move and get a deal done for Machado on July 31. They will give the Orioles the high-end prospects they want and in turn will get the most impactful position player on the trade market, who will re-energize the team and help them make another push toward the World Series.

As far as pitching help, they will not be able to land Hand, Britton, deGrom or Syndergaard, as Hand will stay put in San Diego, Britton will be dealt to the Indians and the pair of Mets starters will stay in New York. However, they will be able to get a middle reliever may not be as elite as they are, but can give them good production.