The stockpile is in place.
The brain trust is comfortable and mapping out how to do its next big thing.
All that is left is for the Los Angeles Dodgers to actually strike the stunning deal.
Since Andrew Friedman (president of baseball operations), Josh Byrnes (vice president of baseball operations) and Farhan Zaidi (general manager) took over the organization’s front office, the Brainiac Bunch has made calculated trades in order to gain and retain high-level prospects, sometimes to the outrage of a fanbase that expects the Dodgers to do anything and everything to land every elite player on the markets.
Alas, the group is hoarding young, controllable and coveted talent in what can only be seen as ammunition for a blockbuster trade either in the near future.
That trend continued Wednesday when the Dodgers got involved in the trade that sent third baseman Todd Frazier to the Chicago White Sox, who turned over a trio of strong prospects to the Dodgers, who sent a trio of lesser prospects to the Cincinnati Reds, Frazier’s original team.
With the deal—the Dodgers acquired high-velocity right-hander Frankie Montas, second baseman Micah Johnson and outfielder Trayce Thompson—speculation immediately ensued about which ace the Dodgers would target in their attempt to make up ground they’ve lost during this offseason to the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Francisco Giants, clubs that added front-line pitching.
The Marlins have sought volume in their Jose Fernandez trade talks. Few teams in baseball have as much prospect volume now as the Dodgers.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 16, 2015
“I tip my cap to those teams. They both had very strong offseasons,” Zaidi told MLB Network Radio on Wednesday evening. “The bar has definitely been raised in our division, and we're going to have to make sure that we're not just keeping up, but continuing to play at the top of the division.”
Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez is the obvious connection right now. He was rumored to be on the trade market earlier in the offseason, and the Dodgers, winners of three consecutive National League West titles, showed their interest during the winter meetings earlier this month, though they were turned off by the Marlins’ asking price.
But Fernandez is not the only top-end starter the Dodgers could seek out.
Oakland A’s ace Sonny Gray could be the piece the Dodgers want. Or it could be Tampa Bay Rays ace Chris Archer. Or even White Sox stud Chris Sale, though that one is least likely right now considering Chicago is in win-now mode after deals for Brett Lawrie and Frazier.
What is happening with the Dodgers’ farm systems makes it clear another move could be coming, and the front office knows it cannot hide its intentions any longer.
Friedman acknowledged as much during an interview with the team’s flagship station, KLAC AM 570. He said (via Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register) Wednesday’s trade “also improves our trade capital to match up with other teams.”
He couched that by telling Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times that while other clubs are interested in the players he acquired from the White Sox, it does not necessarily mean a trade is imminent.
However, when Shaikin asked if he would be more comfortable trading elite pitching prospects after Wednesday’s deal than he was a day before, Friedman simply stated, “Yeah.”
The Dodgers have not done much this offseason besides signing right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma, and their biggest headlines came when they nixed a trade for elite Reds closer Aroldis Chapman after discovering he was involved in a domestic altercation in October, which Major League Baseball is now investigating and could hand down punishment for depending on the outcome.
There are obvious hurdles in trading for a front-line starter, though. As Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal reported, baseball executives have described Fernandez’s asking price as “absurd” and “ridiculous,” so he could be out of play.
As for Gray, Archer and Sale, the price could be just as high right now. Figure the stunning price the Diamondbacks paid to get Shelby Miller, then figure all three of the aforementioned aces are better than Miller and each has more team control than Miller’s three years.
That means any current conversation had about Gray, Archer or Sale starts at a better package than the Atlanta Braves received for Miller and somewhere close to what the Marlins are asking for Fernandez, who also has three more years until free agency and is still on an innings restriction after Tommy John surgery.
It is possible the prices change for those pitchers by the time July 31 rolls around or by this time next year. It is also possible the Dodgers prospects continue to blossom and their stock rises to the point the team does not have to give up as many in a return package.
Either way, whether it is in the next six weeks or in the next six to 12 months, the Dodgers are now prepared to part with some of their elite stockpile to land an ace. And when they do, they again become one of the scariest teams in all of baseball.
All quotes, unless otherwise specified, have been acquired first-hand by Anthony Witrado. Follow Anthony on Twitter @awitrado and talk baseball here.