It's officially the home stretch of the Major League Baseball trading season, as the deadline is now less than a week away.
For the Los Angeles Dodgers, the next seven days have the potential to be anything but quiet. General manager Ned Colletti has been known to shake things up at the end of July—Manny Ramirez and Hanley Ramirez are just some of the big splashes made during his tenure.
The popular name on the trade market this year is David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays. While the Dodgers have been linked to the talented left-hander since the offseason, nobody is certain that he'll be moved at all now that the Rays have turned around their season.
Instead, it's becoming more likely that rather than making a big acquisition, the Boys in Blue might send some of their own mainstays packing.
Let's take a look at the various scenarios that could play out for Los Angeles as the next week unfolds.
The Dodgers Trade for David Price
This outcome has been on the table since the offseason. Yes, the table has rocked and teetered, but the deal has never quite fallen off simply because of the Dodgers' financial flexibility.
Price is due to become a free agent after the 2015 season and will command a massive new contract, a paycheck in the ballpark of the $215 million Clayton Kershaw received from Los Angeles just prior to this season.
Although Price's next contract probably won't be quite as colossal, there's no denying that it will be a megadeal. And there are few teams that can offer Price that kind of money.
The deep-pocketed Dodgers are surely one of them.
Tampa Bay, on the other hand, will have more difficulty retaining the 28-year old beyond next season, when he will be eligible for arbitration.
With Price, the Dodgers would suddenly boast arguably the best starting rotation in the history of baseball. Kershaw, Price and Zack Greinke as the top three in a playoff series—with Hyun-Jin Ryu as a fourth option if necessary? That's scary.
Yet just as frightening for the Dodgers is what it might take to acquire Price.
The Rays, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, are reportedly asking for at least two of Los Angeles' top three prospects—center fielder Joc Pederson, shortstop Corey Seager and 17-year-old phenom pitcher Julio Urias.
These are not only the Dodgers' best farmhands, they are some of the top prospects in baseball. Colletti understands what they mean to the future of the organization, and he isn't keen on giving them away for what could be an extended rental in Price.
But there is still at least one immediate problem for the Dodgers if they decide to pass on Price and hold on to their top prospects.
There's No Room for Joc Pederson
Center fielder Joc Pederson has passed every minor-league test and is ready for the show.
The Dodgers' top outfield prospect is slashing .325/.453/.585 with 25 home runs, 49 RBI and 25 stolen bases in Triple-A so far this season.
Numbers like that deserve a promotion, but the problem facing the Dodgers is one of overcapacity. With Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford and Scott Van Slyke all on the major league roster, there is simply no room for Pederson.
What's more, none of the current Dodgers outfielders are true center fielders—not since manager Don Mattingly banished Kemp to left field.
The best center fielder in the organization? Mattingly told ESPN Radio this week that he believes it's Pederson, per Greg Frazier of the San Jose Mercury News.
If both Colletti and Mattingly are so high on Pederson, it seems like Los Angeles plans to promote him sooner rather than later. But a call-up would mean that the team wants to utilize Pederson immediately, an impossibility as the sixth outfielder on the roster.
For the Dodgers, the logical solution would be to clear room for Pederson by trading away one of their current outfielders.
The Dodgers Trade Away Matt Kemp
The descent has been swift for Matt Kemp.
While his performance on the field has declined steadily since his MVP-runner-up campaign in 2011, nothing has soured faster than his relationship with Mattingly this season.
Coming off major ankle surgery, Kemp did not seem to trust his lower body early in the season and it cost him. Shifting in and out of the lineup, his defense in center field suffered, according to advanced metrics, and it prompted Mattingly to slide him to left field at the end of May.
Although Kemp accepted the new role because it meant more playing time, he has maintained his desire to return to center field, per MLB.com's Alex Halsted.
But Mattingly, already looking toward a center field patrolled by Joc Pederson, has given no indication that Kemp will return to his old position. According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, when informed that Kemp believes he would be better as a center fielder Mattingly said: “That’s fine. He can view himself however he wants. I’m playing him in left.”
Kemp wants to be an everyday player. And with $21 million owed to him this season, he should be an everyday player.
His agent, Dave Stewart, said last week that Kemp would be open to a trade if it meant guaranteed playing time, according to Rosenthal.
But unless the Dodgers eat a large portion of his massive salary, it will be difficult for Los Angeles to find a suitor for the disgruntled outfielder. Furthermore, Kemp's value on the market has plummeted due to his struggles at the plate this season. The 29-year-old is hitting just .268 with eight home runs.
To put that home run total in perspective, Kemp hit 12 home runs in April 2012—his first month of action after signing the contract that will still pay him $107 over the next four years.
So what if the Dodgers aren't able to trade Kemp?
The Dodgers Move Yasiel Puig to Center Field, Trade Away Andre Ethier
With Puig recovering from being hit on the hand last weekend, Mattingly tried Kemp in right field this week against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The move seemed to soothe Kemp's gripe about not playing center field, at least for the time being. It also gave Mattingly an interesting idea: keeping Kemp in right field and moving Puig to center.
If the shuffle does figure into Mattingly's plans for the near future, it would seem to spell the end of times for interim center fielder Andre Ethier as it pertains to his Dodgers career.
The outfielder is in the midst of his worst statistical season, batting just .248 with four home runs.
However, the Dodgers might be able to pawn him off to an interested party if they agree once again to eat most of his salary. After all, he's just two years removed from a 20-home run season and is one of the team's most fundamentally sound outfielders.
Trading Ethier would leave Los Angeles with one left-handed-hitting outfielder in Carl Crawford.
All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference unless otherwise noted.
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