A little more than a week left until the MLB July 31st Trade Deadline, and true to form, the Los Angeles Dodgers are leaving their fans anguishing for reinforcements. Despite the fact that serious talks about the Dodgers' trade offer to the Chicago Cubs for pitcher Ryan Dempster have effectively died with the Atlanta Braves reaching an agreement for Dempster, the Dodgers are still in need of another arm to bolster their pitching staff.
Reports from Fox Sports have centered on how the Dodgers are lacking in the prospects and organizational depth needed to pull the Cubs over the hump to complete the deal, but more importantly than that, there are better options for the Dodgers out there.
The Dodgers are already closely linked to Dempster’s teammate Matt Garza because Garza has a contract for 2013. But in terms of starting pitchers, there are other names like Wandy Rodriguez, James Shields, John Lannan and Joe Blanton who will be discussed as more long-term and potentially more easily-obtainable quality arms.
Let’s take a look at who could be another option assuming Dempster does not end up in Dodger blue.
Matt Garza, Dempster’s teammate on the Cubs, is seen as a better option for the Dodgers because he is not just a two month rental. Dempster is a free agent at the end of this season, and the Dodgers do not seem to be willing to part with their highly-touted, right-handed fireballer Zach Lee for a 2012 postseason run.
According to Jim Bowden of ESPN.com and MLB Network, “The Cubs and Dodgers are discussing a trade that would send right-hander Matt Garza to Los Angeles for a package of players including highly-regarded pitching prospect Zach Lee.” He reports that the Cubs are still actively trying to reach an agreement on a group of players for the 28 year old Garza, who has a 3.91 ERA. His WHIP is a solid 1.18 but has been victimized by a poor Cubs bullpen. His batting average against is a stellar .236, better than his career number of .249.
Cramps in his pitching arm forced him from his start last night, but the good news is that the x-rays taken immediately after Garza left after the third inning of Saturday's game returned negative, and he should be in line to make his next start.
In 103 and 2/3 innings, his 8.3 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 are more than worth the $9.5 million he earns and will go to arbitration one last time this offseason, when his salary can be expected to climb past $12MM. Also, if the Dodgers acquire Garza this summer, Ben Nicholson-Smith reports that the Dodgers would be eligible to obtain draft pick compensation for him should he depart as a free agent following the 2013 season.
The Detroit Tigers, Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Angels are all after starting pitching, but they have not been in contact with the Cubs like Ned Colletti and the Dodgers have. Working on such a close level, Colletti might be able to swing a multiplayer deal to bring a quality starter to Chavez Ravine for the better part of two seasons.
Remember Zach Lee, the $5 million dollar man who spurned LSU football to toil away in the Dodgers minor leagues? He entered the season as the Dodgers' best prospect and a top-100 prospect, but he has a 5.85 ERA so far this year. This would be a tough move for Dodgers GM Ned Colletti to explain since Lee has a bright future and has taken a sizable amount of the Dodgers investments, but Garza could bolster the team's rotation for a couple of years.
Wandy Rodriguez, one of the few veteran arms left on the rebuilding staff of the Houston Astros, is in another year of being dangled on the Astros' very hot stove. Rodriguez, in the middle of another solid year for the Astros, is being discussed with teams such as the New York Yankees.
Rodriguez is signed for 2013 at $11 million, but his lack of pitching in clutch situations makes some worried that he can not handle a pennant race. Currently standing at 7-8 with a 3.75 ERA, Wandy will be a steep price for the Dodgers, but he would give them a quality left-hander to place after Clayton Kershaw since it is unknown how strong Ted Lilly will come back from his shoulder injury.
It will take a premium prospect to get Rodriguez, but if the Dodgers wait it out, they might be able to snag Rodriguez in the last few days before August for a bargain.
James Shields, a Tampa Bay staple for the better part of a decade, is potentially the odd arm out of a rotation that is getting younger by the minute. Blessed with a solid crop of young, hard throwing right-handers, Tampa Bay is reloading since finding themselves nine games behind the New York Yankees. Wade Davis, Alex Cobb and Jeremy Hellickson have all developed into serviceable pitchers with standout moments already, thus making Shields a little more expendable as he's becoming arbitration eligible after this season.
Shields has been sought after by the Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Angels, both teams plagued by inconsistent starting pitching and injuries. Shields in Dodger blue would give them a veteran and playoff tested arm that has taken on the best lineups week in and week out, playing in the difficult American League East.
Shields, 30, has seen his ERA rise to 4.39 this year, more than a run and a half higher than last season. He leads the league in hits allowed but remains a dependable innings-eater with strong strikeout (8.5 K/9) and walk (2.7 BB/9) rates. Shields is owed $7 million this year with a $9 million club option for 2013 and an $11 million club option for 2014, so he's very affordable.
James would require Ned Colletti to definitely give up major league talent or a top prospect. If Shields and the Dodgers get into conversations, expect names like highly-touted pitchers Zach Lee and Chris Reed to be thrown around.
John Lannan might be the best Triple-A pitcher in America. The Washington Nationals 2011 Opening Day starter and ace before the Steven Strasburg era commenced, Lannan has always been a very consistent left-hander who kept the Nats in games against the potent bats of the NL East.
Fighting against top competition in the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies, the 27 year old has a career 4.00 ERA and a 39 wins in four full years. However, you might be wondering how he ended up in the minor leagues after such a solid start to his career?
Lannan was the odd man out this spring with Strasburg’s return, Gio Gonzalez and Edwin Jackson coming on board and both Jordan Zimmermann and Ross Detwiler developing into power arms. Not many teams have inquired about Lannan, but he could be a serviceable option without having to give up big time prospects in return.
John has underwhelmed at Triple-A Syracuse this year, but can you blame the man for being disappointed? After giving the Nationals 30 plus starts for two years straight, to not be given a chance to pitch in the big leagues is a shame. The Nationals might be willing to split with the lefty for a moderate price, and Lannan can fill the void of Ted Lilly’s injury or if Chad Billingsley continues to struggle.