It took two-and-a-half months, but the star-studded Los Angeles Dodgers have finally gained some traction.
The Boys in Blue, still in search of a winning streak longer than three games, are suddenly nipping at the heels of the scuffling San Francisco Giants thanks in large part to the dominance of Clayton Kershaw.
The talent on the roster is more than capable of continuing the recent trend, but the team doesn't have much room for error with July fast approaching.
The Giants can't play much worse than they have over the past two weeks. It will be up to the Dodgers to keep pace as their rival to the north inevitably gets back on track.
The trade deadline is less than six weeks away. While a lot can change between now and the end of July, general manager Ned Colletti may want to start thinking about potential deals as his team heads into the home stretch.
Here are the three most likely trade partners for the Dodgers based on team needs and opportunity:
3B Juan Uribe and RHP Chris Perez for RHP Wade Davis
It's no secret that the Dodgers' bullpen has been a weakness of the team so far this season. Free-agent additions Brian Wilson, Chris Perez and Paul Maholm have been major disappointments, all with ERAs over 5.00. Even closer Kenley Jansen has struggled to keep his ERA below 4.00.
Manager Don Mattingly must be growing tired of calling down to the bullpen only to get the same result—shakiness at best.
One potential trade that might solve this problem would be to send Perez and third baseman Juan Uribe to the Kansas City Royals. In exchange, the Dodgers would receive one of baseball's best relievers in Wade Davis.
The 28-year-old right-hander is third among relievers in strikeouts with 54 and has compiled a stellar 1.34 ERA over 33 innings pitched.
Los Angeles is in desperate need of some bullpen reliability, and Davis fits the bill.
On the other hand, the Royals are in desperate need of some offense from the third base position. Fourth-year man Mike Moustakas has been a huge disappointment for the past year and a half, hitting just .233 last season and .182 so far in 2014.
Even if the Royals remain patient and hold off on completely aborting the Moustakas experiment, Uribe could be a key veteran presence in Kansas City with the ability to platoon at third base or as the designated hitter.
The Dodgers would then be able to slide the defensively challenged Hanley Ramirez to third base and promote Cuban defector Alex Guerrero, who is nearing a return from ear-reattachment surgery, per Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.
OF Matt Kemp and RHP Chris Perez for LHP Andrew Miller and RHP Anthony Ranaudo
The Dodgers and Red Sox have a recent history of making big trades, and there might be more in store this year.
Boston has fallen on hard times since winning last season's World Series. Entering Thursday, the Red Sox (35-43) are eight games behind Toronto in the AL East. Their .242 team batting average ranks 23rd in baseball.
Needless to say, they could use some offensive help, and Matt Kemp might be their guy.
The 2011 MVP runner-up is finally finding his groove at the plate after missing most of the past two seasons due to injury. He's batting .316 in June, and his 13 RBI this month account for nearly half of his 2014 total. In other words, Kemp's stock is the highest it has been all season.
Even if Kemp doesn't reach the numbers he put up three years ago, he's still the best offensive weapon among the Red Sox's current outfield corps of Daniel Nava, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Jonny Gomes.
In return, the Dodgers would again receive bullpen assistance. Left-hander Andrew Miller has struck out 48 batters and walked just nine over 30 innings of work. A former starter, Miller also has the capability to be a long reliever. The Dodgers' Maholm (5.04 ERA) has failed miserably at the long-man job so far this season and would likely be released following this trade.
Ranaudo (7-4, 2.58 ERA at Triple-A) could be ready to take over Perez's position in the Dodgers bullpen if this trade goes through. He is also a candidate to become a starter in the future. With Josh Beckett and Dan Haren set to become free agents after this season, Ranaudo's versatility could be very intriguing to the Dodgers.
Joc Pederson and Zach Lee for David Price
How close are the Dodgers to assembling arguably the greatest starting rotation in history? Well, closer than one might think.
The last-place Tampa Bay Rays will most likely be sellers this July, and David Price is expected to be the main offering, according to Mike Axisa of CBSSports.com.
While most teams around baseball would love to acquire the talented lefty's services, only a few clubs can actually afford the former first overall pick.
That's because Price, set to become a free agent after the 2015 season, is going to command a massive new contract (he will remain under Tampa Bay control as an arbitration-eligible player next season).
Price's upcoming deal is expected to pay him north of $150 million, based on the similar paychecks Clayton Kershaw and Felix Hernandez recently received.
The steep price tag, no pun intended, is why the deep-pocketed Dodgers have been suggested as a top suitor for the 28-year-old.
Although Price has gone just 6-7 with a 3.63 ERA in 17 starts this season, he leads all of baseball with 144 strikeouts. Even more impressive are the 14 walks. If Price manages to keep it up, that 10.29 strikeout-to-walk ratio would be the highest ever.
Pederson, who ranks second in the Pacific Coast League with a 1.005 OPS, is about as major league-ready as a Triple-A player can get. He was almost promoted last June, but the Dodgers opted to go with Yasiel Puig instead.
Pederson is a player who can contribute immediately for the Rays if traded. Current Tampa Bay outfielders Matt Joyce and Sean Rodriguez have underwhelmed while playing out their one-year contracts this season.
Right-handed pitcher Lee, the Dodgers' first-round pick in 2010, gave up six runs in four innings during his start this week at Triple-A. His record now stands at 6-8 with a 4.86 ERA.
The opportunity for a mega-rotation in Los Angeles is tantalizingly within reach. The question for the Dodgers and Colletti becomes whether or not to risk mortgaging the team's future for a player like Price.
All stats courtesy of ESPN.com, unless otherwise noted.
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