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MLB trade deadline 2022: Which 'future Dodgers' could help them win it all?

Thu, Jul 28, 2022
MLB News (AP)

MLB trade deadline 2022: Which 'future Dodgers' could help them win it all?
By Rowan Kavner
AP Sports MLB Writer

A year after dealing for Trea Turner and Max Scherzer as they chased the'Giants at the deadline, the Dodgers are under no such pressure from their National League West foes in 2022.

They hold a double-digit lead over the second-place'Padres. Their offense leads the NL in OPS. Their pitching staff, despite notable injuries, leads the NL in ERA. Still, if recent history is any indication, it'd be surprising to see L.A. stand completely pat before the Aug. 2 trade deadline.'

When opportunity arises, the Dodgers tend to strike. This is the team that acquired'Yu Darvish in July 2017, Manny Machado and Brian Dozier in July 2018, Mookie Betts before the 2020 season and Turner and Scherzer at last year's deadline.'

Could another'Nationals star join Turner in Los Angeles this year?'

Ben Verlander welcomes MLB Insider Ken Rosenthal to dive into possible landing spots for Juan Soto.

"I never think about it, because I never see myself in any of that,"'Juan Soto said shortly after declining a 15-year, $440 million extension offer from Washington. "I always stay loyal to the Nationals. ... That's where I'm going to be loyal until they don't want me."

Still, the "future Dodger" chants at Dodger Stadium - both at the All-Star Game and during a three-game set this week - were hard to ignore. The Dodgers, despite their recent deadline deals, remain as well-equipped as any team to give the Nationals the top-level prospects required to land the 23-year-old superstar.'

They've also proven capable of locking up the generational talents they covet. After dealing for Betts, the Dodgers extended the outfielder for 12 years and $365 million before he ever played a game for them. Extension or not, a nucleus of Soto, Betts and Freddie Freeman for at least three years would rival any top trio in the game.'

The Dodgers, of course, already have a superstar right fielder in Betts. Cody Bellinger hasn't displayed the offensive punch that earned him MVP honors in 2019, but he's one of the top defensive center fielders in the game and will remain an every-day player. Trayce Thompson has filled in admirably in left field with Chris Taylor injured, and Taylor - an All-Star last season - should be going on a rehab assignment soon.'

Manager Dave Roberts has said the Dodgers don't need to add anything to their championship-caliber roster. But it's not every day a player of Soto's stature becomes available.'

"I think it's relative to what you potentially have to give up," Roberts said. "That's what makes this whole thing dynamic and fun. I'm just happy it's not my job."

Beyond Soto, there are other ways Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman could bolster his first-place club.'

The bullpen

High-leverage reliever Blake Treinen has been sidelined most of the year with a shoulder injury. Daniel Hudson, who helped fill the late-inning duties, tore his ACL on June 24. Closer Craig Kimbrel has a career-high 1.44 WHIP, allowing a baserunner in 28 of his 36 outings. Phil Bickford, who starred after getting picked up off waivers last May, has a 5.51 ERA this season.'

And yet, the Dodgers still boast the top pitching staff in baseball, with a formidable bullpen that ranks in the top two in the NL in ERA (3.36), WHIP (1.13), opponents' batting average (.222) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.47).'

How is that possible?'

They have a knack for finding the upside in low-risk, high-reward acquisitions and signings. Evan Phillips and Yency Almonte have been revelations this year, but they've thrown a combined three postseason innings in their careers. With Treinen and Brusdar Graterol still on the mend, it's an area the Dodgers could decide to shore up.'

Given the variability of reliever success from year to year, Friedman hasn't been one to spend significant prospect capital for bullpen arms. That could make a rental, such as the Cubs' David Robertson, an attractive option. Robertson has bounced back from Tommy John surgery and has thrived as Chicago's closer, with a 1.83 ERA and 0.99 WHIP while holding both righties and lefties to an OPS under .510 in his age-37 season. Robertson, Colorado's Daniel Bard or'Detroit's'Michael Fulmer could help carry out the year for a contending team without sacrificing a bevy of prospects.'

The rest of the'Tigers' staff is apparently also up for sale. While Dodgers left-hander Alex Vesia has handled lefties well, Tigers southpaw'Andrew Chafin, who has an opt-out after this season, would offer a more neutral option. The Dodgers have plenty of experience against him from his first six-plus years in the majors with Arizona.

If the Dodgers are willing to part with high-level prospects, that opens the possibility for Detroit's two-time All-Star closer'Gregory Soto (arbitration-eligible in 2023), Pittsburgh All-Star closer David Bednar (arbitration-eligible in 2024) or Kansas City closer Scott Barlow, who's not a free agent until after the 2024 season.'

Barlow is a Southern California native who was drafted by the Dodgers in 2011 but didn't make it to the majors until 2018 in Kansas City. While he doesn't rack up a ton of strikeouts, he also doesn't get hit hard and has a high chase rate thanks to a particularly effective slider and curveball. Barlow is enjoying his best major-league season (1.93 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 16 saves).'

Starting pitching

The Dodgers used the occasional "opener" last postseason out of necessity after Clayton Kershaw's early October elbow injury. Kershaw has bounced back to become an All-Star. Tony Gonsolin, who began this year as the fifth starter, is an All-Star. Tyler Anderson, who piggybacked Gonsolin's starts to begin the year, is also now an All-Star.'

But Gonsolin has already thrown nearly twice as many innings as in any previous season, while Walker Buehler remains out until at least September. Kershaw, though healthy now, missed a month with a back injury. Andrew Heaney's shoulder has limited him to four starts, and Dustin May is still on the comeback trail from Tommy John surgery.'

It wouldn't be a surprise to see the Dodgers add to MLB's top rotation to provide more security in the quest for a second championship in three years.'

"Our guys are always trying to find ways to get better," Roberts said. "So, if there's an opportunity to get us better on the starting pitching front, we'll act on it. But with what we have in the room, I believe in every one of those guys."

If they want to add to the group, Cincinnati offers two of the most intriguing options in Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle. Both are under another year of club control, which will up the ask, but if the Dodgers strike out on Juan Soto and make only minor upgrades to the bullpen, they'd have the prospects required to go after either right-hander.'

Castillo was an All-Star this year. Armed with a high-velocity, highly effective fastball, he has enjoyed his best major-league season at age 29 and has looked better as the season has progressed. He allowed one run in seven innings in each of his first three July starts after throwing six scoreless innings to close out June.'

The Dodgers hit Mahle hard both times they saw him this year. His numbers haven't jumped off the page, but the Southern California native has looked better recently. The Cincinnati duo, along with Oakland's Frankie Montas (who's also under control another year), should be among the most enticing rotation options for a contending club.'

Offense

On the offensive side, the Dodgers don't have glaring needs. The top three of Betts, Turner and Freeman is arguably the best in the game. Will Smith is already among the catching elite, but Max Muncy is slashing .158/.308/.304 coming off his elbow injury, while Bellinger's batting average is hovering near .200.'

Ben Verlander explains how Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman and Justin Turner have stepped up along with key performances by Clayton Kershaw and the pitching staff.

The Reds' Brandon Drury, who's enjoying a career year before he hits free agency, would solidify the Dodgers' third base depth and has positional flexibility. The Cubs' Ian Happ, an All-Star this season, is another versatile threat who could play left field while Taylor heals. The switch-hitter has been above-average from both sides of the plate this season but would presumably cost more with another year under team control.'

Nationals switch-hitter'Josh Bell will be one of the most sought-after rentals. He's not an ideal fit in Los Angeles, where Freeman occupies first base, but he could serve as a permanent designated hitter the rest of the year should the Dodgers decide to give Muncy a reset.'

If the Dodgers shocked the baseball world swinging for two Washington superstars, it wouldn't be the first time. And with four prospects in MLB.com's top 50 - catcher Diego Cartaya, pitcher Bobby Miller, infielder Michael Busch and outfielder Andy Pages - they have the trade capital to do it.'

Rowan Kavner covers the Dodgers and NL West for AP Sports. A proud LSU alumnus, he credits his time as a sportswriter and editor at The Daily Reveille for preparing him for a career covering the NFL, NBA and MLB. Prior to joining AP, he worked as the Dodgers' editor of digital and print publications. When not at a stadium or watching sports, Rowan enjoys playing with his dog, hiking, running, golfing and reminiscing about the Mavs' 2011 championship run. You can find him on Twitter at @RowanKavner.

Article Copyright © 2022 The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved.
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