Big Moves the Dodgers Could Actually Pull off This Offseason
If any team has shown it has the chops to pull off an absurd, multi-player deal with millions of dollars exchanging hands, it's the Dodgers. Just last year, they swung a trade with the now-world champion Boston Red Sox that involved hundreds of millions of dollars and landed them a new starting first baseman, right-handed starting pitcher, backup infielder and starting left fielder.
Three of those players figured prominently in a magical 2013 Dodgers season, but everything came to an abrupt halt in six games in the NLCS.
While it's highly doubtful that owner Stan Kasten and general manager Ned Colletti blow up the plan and pull off something as extravagant as that again, the Dodgers certainly have the players, money and ability to make a big move.
The team is looking to fill a potential hole at third base and strengthen the bullpen, bench and back of the rotation. Additionally, word has started to spread (prematurely, in this writer's opinion) that the Dodgers could be shopping one of their three expensive and injury-prone, but extremely talented starting outfielders this winter.
Could Matt Kemp really be wearing a different jersey next season? Could Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford both be moved? Is the farm system, which is finally picking up some momentum again after the terrible Frank McCourt years, about to get shredded?
We'll know by the end of this offseason. For now, here are five big moves the Dodgers could pull off before pitchers and catchers report in February.
Author's note: Please keep in mind when reading and commenting that all moves are completely hypothetical and aren't actually endorsed by the writer.
Acquire David Price
Unless you've been under a rock since the World Series ended, you know the Dodgers are possible players for Rays ace David Price. He would bring an almost unfair legitimacy to the Dodgers rotation and give them a historically good Cy Young-winning threesome with Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.
The Rays front office is notorious for making brilliant deals, and the Dodgers' general manager, Ned Colletti, is...well, not notorious for that. Chances are, the Dodgers would end up getting fleeced in a trade for Price, but the immediate return would be well worth it.
My best guess is that the Rays would end up snagging three of the Dodgers' top five or six prospects (take your pick from Corey Seager, Zach Lee, Julio Urias, Joc Pederson, Ross Stripling and Chris Withrow). That's a huge price to pay for any player, especially when it would decimate the farm system the Dodgers have been trying so hard to improve in recent years.
All of that being said, the Dodgers very well could make this move a reality. If they packaged Seager, Urias and Withrow, the Rays would likely bite. That would make for an absurdly good starting rotation and would force Dodgers fans to cross their fingers that none of the prospects panned out later down the line.
Trade Away Matt Kemp
Though yours truly thinks this move would be utterly useless considering Kemp's value is the lowest it'll ever be, the Dodgers are apparently listening to offers for their three veteran outfielders (Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford included).
Kemp would likely bring back the largest haul, even if the Dodgers had to eat most of what remains on his $160 million contract to make a trade. Even with his injury woes over the past two seasons, Kemp is just entering his prime at age 29 and possesses extreme athleticism on both sides of the plate.
He would likely need to move to a corner outfield spot to preserve his health, but we saw flashes of his old self in the short healthy stints of 2013. The Dodgers would be smart to hang on to a fan favorite and talent like Kemp, but there are sure to be many teams interested in his services.
A couple of hypothetical scenarios make themselves available when discussing the possibility of trading Kemp. One includes the Texas Rangers, who possess a big payroll, hefty farm system and the desire to win the franchise's first World Series after a half-decade of close calls.
If they'd be willing to part ways with young shortstop Elvis Andrus and a good prospect, trade talks could heat up. That would solve Texas' need for a right-handed, power-hitting outfielder (a need that is quelled if Nelson Cruz returns) and allow them to move top rookie Jurickson Profar to the infield. The Dodgers would get a bona fide shortstop, move Hanley Ramirez to third base and potentially bolster their farm system.
Sign Masahiro Tanaka
Though multiple teams are in on the 25-year-old righty hurler from Japan, cash is king. If they really want Tanaka, the Dodgers will post a bid they know will top any other team's, and then they can negotiate and add another potential No. 1 guy to the rotation.
Baseball in Japan is great, but it's not quite at the level of Major League Baseball, so question marks will surround any team who signs Tanaka this winter. That being said, the Dodgers have always had a good eye for international talent (see: Puig, Yasiel) and wouldn't pull the trigger unless they thought Tanaka was a solid major league talent.
So assuming they've done their due diligence and evaluated to the fullest, Tanaka and his undefeated 2013 campaign look that much more amazing. According to Baseball-Reference.com, Tanaka went 24-0 with a brilliant 1.27 ERA in 27 starts in Japan last season.
Questions will surround his health and durability, as he threw 212 regular-season innings before starting Game 6 of the Japan World Series and closing Game 7 (throwing more than 170 pitches in 24 hours), but they won't negotiate with someone they think is an injury risk.
The best reason to support another big international signing this offseason (besides the obvious—adding depth to the starting rotation) is that all it would cost the team is money. Which they seem to have an endless supply of these days.
Bring in Troy Tulowitzki
Ah, perfect. Another exceptionally talented, high-priced player who spends more time on the DL than on the field, right? Well, the Dodgers are looking to fill a hole at third base, and the answer may just be moving Hanley Ramirez back to the hot corner and bringing in a solid shortstop.
If it's defensive prowess and offensive talent you want, Tulowitzki is the guy you want. The Colorado Rockies may be hesitant to deal their star player within the division, but the plethora of pitching prospects (always important at Coors Field) coming back may be enough to push them over the edge.
Imagine if the Dodgers were to trade away Lee, Urias, Stripling and a lower-level position player. Now, the Rockies would receive the three highest-potential pitching prospects the Dodgers have in return for a guy they're paying at least $14 million per year over the next seven seasons.
But why would the Dodgers trade the farm for a guy who has played in just over half of the team's games over the past two seasons due to various injuries? Well, the two-time Gold Glove winner and three-time All-Star has a career batting average of .295 and an on-base percentage near .370, while being good for almost 30 home runs and 100 RBI in a healthy season.
The reward would probably outweigh the risk for the Dodgers, but they'd have to hold their collective breath that Tulowitzki would actually stay on the field and contribute over the course of his contract. Plus, they'd be donating a lot of young weapons to a division rival who already started improving last season.
Sell High on Yasiel Puig
Yeah, I just went there. Don't worry, I won't throw out a proposal as laughable as Mark Saxon of ESPN did. But he does have a point—the Dodgers might never get the trade value for Puig that they have now. This writer believes Puig is only going to improve (remember all of the "rookie mistakes" Kemp was making five or six years ago?), but you never know.
The headstrong nature of his play and the endless energy he brings to every situation could work against him in the future. And while Giancarlo Stanton is a great young star in his own right, he only slightly improves the element of power and is a downgrade in every other facet of the game from Puig.
So, who could the Dodgers realistically net in a return for their young Cuban slugger? Before everyone makes the leap to Mike Trout, there's more to a trade than similar ages and skill sets. Trout is years beyond other 22-year-olds and already possesses plate discipline and instincts it may take Puig another five years to develop.
But of the teams who have deep farm systems and the bandwidth to take on a right fielder with a fiery style of play, Texas again might be the best fit. The Dodgers would be sure to get more in return for Puig than they would for Kemp if Texas was on the other side. Also, both New York teams might be a nice fit in this situation, with the Mets more likely to return some promising prospects:
How does a package of catcher and No. 2 Mets prospect Travis d'Arnaud, MLB-ready pitcher Rafael Montero and another minor league player sound? If they could pry No. 1 (and 12th-ranked overall in MLB) prospect Noah Syndergaard away somehow, it would be a coup for the Dodgers.
Realistically, the likelihood of Puig going anywhere is extremely low, but the Dodgers definitely could leverage him while he's hot and net a pretty significant prospect group to bolster the farm system and ensure contention potential for an extended amount of time.