Los Angeles Dodgers' Continued Injury Woes Should Force Big July Trade Splashes

Danny KnoblerMLB Lead WriterJune 8, 2016

Dodger President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman, speaks during a news conference in Los Angeles on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015. Don Mattingly won't return as manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers next year after agreeing with his bosses that he and the team needed a fresh start.  (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)
Richard Vogel/Associated Press

Remember when the Los Angeles Dodgers were going to trade for Cole Hamels?

They were "prioritizing" him last July, according to a tweet from Joel Sherman of the New York Post. They were one of the "likely favorites" to get him, according to Jayson Stark of ESPN.com. They appeared "determined" to land Hamels or another top pitcher, Jon Heyman wrote at CBSSports.com.

I thought so too. We all did.

It was what you heard, if you were listening. It was what made sense, if you were thinking.

It still does, the only problem now being that Hamels is a Texas Ranger and isn't available in trade this summer. Neither are Johnny Cueto or David Price, two other pitchers the Dodgers didn't get then and couldn't get now.

Here we are a year later, and a Dodgers World Series drought that was headed for 27 years in 2015 is headed for 28 years now. Here we are a year later, and instead of sitting in first place in the National League West and wondering if a rotation with two aces was going to be enough, the Dodgers are in second place with a rotation that has a single ace and as many question marks as ever.

They may be proved right someday, if all the prospects they refused to trade for a difference-maker last year become the difference-makers who win them multiple World Series. Or maybe they're going to prove us all wrong in the next two months, by making a big trade that makes an impact like the one Hamels or Price could have made.

It seems doubtful, in part because the Dodgers seem no more ready to trade top prospects now than then, in part because the difference-makers they need don't seem to be available on the trade market this summer.

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As Nick Cafardo wrote this week in the Boston Globe as he surveyed trade prospects for the Boston Red Sox, the market for starting pitchers looks awful this year. There's no Hamels, no Cueto, no Price and maybe not even a Mike Leake or Scott Kazmir, to name two other starters traded last July.

Would the Dodgers offer enough to tempt the Oakland A's to deal Sonny Gray? You wouldn't think so.

Could they go back to what they tried last winter and add to the bullpen instead? They had a deal worked out in December for Aroldis Chapman before his domestic violence incident became public. Chapman could be available again, and so could Andrew Miller, who has the dual advantage of being signed for next year and having a spotless reputation.

Or maybe they do as columnist Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times suggested and trade Yasiel Puig to a team willing to gamble on his future and give the Dodgers someone who provides a more solid return right now.

Hamels and the Rangers are in first place. The Dodgers are not.
Hamels and the Rangers are in first place. The Dodgers are not.Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

The real issue, though, is the same one the Dodgers faced last June and July, the same one they never successfully addressed. If anything, it's worse, because instead of looking for a third ace to team with Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, now they need a second ace to go with Kershaw.

Last year, they traded for Mat Latos, who made all of five starts (with a 6.66 ERA) before they released him. They traded for Alex Wood, who shows some potential but is on the disabled list with a triceps problem.

He has company there. Hyun-Jin Ryu, Brett Anderson and Brandon McCarthy are on the disabled list too. Scott Kazmir isn't on the DL but did leave his last start with a quadriceps issue.

Theoretically, none of them are done for the season. Theoretically, they'll give the Dodgers the rotation depth in the second half that they didn't have in the first half.

The Dodgers used their presence to justify calling up 19-year-old Julio Urias early, figuring they needed Urias' limited innings more now than they would once those other guys come back. The problem with that thinking is that Urias didn't look ready (a 9.39 ERA through his first two starts, both Dodgers losses), and the other guys aren't certain to return.

Kazmir told reporters, including Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, that he expects to make his next start. McCarthy, coming back from Tommy John surgery, will begin a minor league rehab assignment this week.

Ryu made three rehab starts but reported shoulder soreness after the last one, and now his return is up in the air. Anderson, who had back surgery in March, just started throwing.

On the plus side, he did have this humorous tweet when he began playing catch last week:

Brett Anderson @_BAnderson30_

Day 1: I made it through an infant level game of catch without anything on my body imploding/exploding.

The Dodgers have a $250 million payroll this year, and not all of it went to Carl Crawford, the outfielder they designated for assignment Sunday. About $88 million of it goes to pay the starting rotation, some of it money well spent ($34.6 million for Clayton Kershaw, $3.1 million for Kenta Maeda), some of it not ($15.8 million for Anderson, $12.5 million for McCarthy).

For now, the Dodgers are hanging on in the National League West simply because Kershaw has been so brilliant. They're 11-1 in his starts, 20-27 (going into Tuesday) in all their other games. His ERA is 1.46, while the rest of the rotation has combined for 4.27.

Oh, and down in Texas, Hamels is 5-1 with a 3.39 ERA for the first-place Rangers.

He's not available. Rich Hill probably is. Julio Teheran probably is. Perhaps, if someone makes a big offer, the A's might even part with Gray.

Gray just came off the disabled list. With the Dodgers, he'd fit right in.

Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

Follow Danny on Twitter and talk baseball.

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