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Scott Miller's Starting 9: Dodgers a Year Too Late to Make Moves They Need Now

Scott Miller@@ScottMillerBblNational MLB ColumnistJuly 26, 2016

Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Scott Kazmir throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Sunday, July 24, 2016, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Billy Hurst)
Billy Hurst/Associated Press

It's not the heat, it's the humidity...

   

1. The Dodgers Play Catch-Up

Clayton Kershaw is down, the Los Angeles Dodgers are out and Chavez Ravine cannot disguise the cracks in its faulty roster.

Is now the time for the Dodgers to deal top-tier prospects for a Chris Archer, or a Matt Moore?

No. Absolutely not. A thousand times no.

If the Dodgers wouldn't sacrifice their best prospects for Cole Hamels or Johnny Cueto, the legitimate aces available last July, why weaken their farm system now for far weaker starters?

One year ago this week, I wrote this: "This is arguably the biggest baseball week in Los Angeles in the past 27 years. Think that's outrageous? Consider this: The Dodgers haven't played in a World Series since 1988."

At the time, the Dodgers had a killer rotation led by Kershaw and Zack Greinke. They had a chance to add Hamels, which would have done two things: He would have given the Dodgers a great chance to play deep into October, and he would have provided a terrific insurance policy for this summer after Greinke opted out of his contract, which everyone knew he would.

Rangers pitcher Cole Hamels
Rangers pitcher Cole HamelsJim Cowsert/Associated Press/Associated Press

Failing to land Hamels, who was signed through 2018, the Dodgers could have signed David Price or Johnny Cueto last winter as free agents. Instead, they opted to amass depth through mediocrity, filling their roster with has-beens and underwhelming choices like Scott Kazmir and Alex Wood and inexplicably gambling on the brittle Brett Anderson and Hyun-Jin Ryu. (Is it really a surprise that both are injured?) Speaking of which, how long will now-healthy Brandon McCarthy last?

Kershaw is now 28, and he's a once-in-a-generation pitcher. He will not be in his prime forever, and his current back trouble suggests there is a chance we may have already witnessed his prime.

That's why last year was so crucial for the Dodgers, to take advantage of Kershaw and Greinke together, to add a third ace that would have given them a tremendous chance to play in their first World Series in decades.

Now, if Kershaw doesn't rebound at full strength, does anybody think these Dodgers can even get out of the first round of the playoffs, if they get that far?

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 13: MLB player Clayton Kershaw attends the 2016 ESPYS at Microsoft Theater on July 13, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

The Dodgers have had extensive talks with Tampa Bay, according to B/R sources, among other clubs. The Dodgers-Rays talks are particularly interesting, given that Andrew Friedman, Los Angeles' president of baseball operations, knows that organization so well. Friedman and Rays president Matthew Silverman are working directly with each other, sources tell B/R, which makes sense because they have a good and comfortable relationship from the days when the Rays employed Friedman.

Tampa Bay does not want to deal Archer despite his down (5-13, 4.60 ERA) year. The Rays are more inclined to trade Jake Odorizzi, Drew Smyly or Moore. Other names have been discussed in what could be an expanded deal, including Tampa Bay third baseman Evan Longoria, a longtime favorite of Friedman, and the Dodgers' Yasiel Puig.

Tampa Bay pitcher Chris Archer
Tampa Bay pitcher Chris ArcherDavid Zalubowski/Associated Press/Associated Press

What the Rays have are some options, if they so choose, that should bring back solid young pieces in what many in the industry are complaining is the worst trade season for starting pitchers in many years. In a seller's market, the Rays could become big sellers.

As for the Dodgers, they continue to bank on their organizational depth boosting them through the dog days and into the stretch run, when they believe they can overtake NL rivals who will fade. We'll see. They do get kudos for moving quickly to acquire Bud Norris in the immediate aftermath of Kershaw's injury, but are Norris, Kazmir, McCarthy, Kenta Maeda and maybe Ross Stripling and others to be named enough?

If Kershaw is out long term, that clearly spells doom for the Dodgers, no matter what they do over these next few days until the deadline. The humiliation for the Dodgers isn't that they haven't won a World Series since 1988; it's that they haven't even played in one since 1988.

Though they pulled to within 2.5 games of San Francisco in the NL West on Monday, without a healthy Kershaw, it is difficult to see how that's anything other than fool's gold.

         

2. Chris Scissorhands: Chris Sale as Johnny Depp

SEATTLE, WA - JULY 18:  Starting pitcher Chris Sale #49 of the Chicago White Sox pitches against the Seattle Mariners in the first inning at Safeco Field on July 18, 2016 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

While this is the worst starting-pitcher market at any trade deadline in recent memory, a Chicago White Sox decision to trade Chris Sale suddenly would make things interesting.

But don't look for them to do it.

Baseball's raging question over the past 72 hours has been whether Sale's bizarre behavior Saturday damages his value.

Some industry sources believe that Sale's rant in which he mutilated the throwback uniforms Chicago was scheduled to wear Saturday night will scare some teams away, or at least cause them to dilute their offers.

Other sources say baloney, that teams who need starting pitching know what a weapon Sale is and will aggressively pursue him anyway.

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 10:   (EDITORS NOTE: This image was converted to black and white. Color version is available.) Actor Micah Lee attends Edward Scissorhands 25th Anniversary with FOX Home Entertainment during Comic-Con International 2015 on July 10, 20
Matt Cowan/Getty Images

The Sox are asking for a five-player return for Sale, according to Jon Heyman of Today's Knuckleball. Texas, with Colby Lewis and Derek Holland both sidelined, is aggressively shopping for pitching as Houston makes life interesting in the AL West. The Rangers and White Sox have conversed, but B/R sources close to the talks say the Rangers will not surrender Nomar Mazara, their 21-year-old slugging phenom from the Dominican Republic. For any package centered on Sale, the White Sox want Mazara, Jurickson Profar and Joey Gallo, plus others.

Indications out of Chicago are that the Sox are listening, as they should, but will not move Sale unless they are blown away with an offer.

Meanwhile, as for Sale's wicked temper, he is due back from his five-game suspension Thursday. But being that he is away from the team during his suspension, it is difficult to imagine he'll come right back and start the day he returns without having thrown a normal between-starts bullpen session.

Not only did Sale rip Sox vice president Kenny Williams this spring over the flap surrounding now-retired Adam LaRoche and his son, Drake, but sources tell B/R that this flap over the ugly 1976 throwback uniforms has been brewing for at least a few weeks.

Sale warned White Sox management a few weeks ago that he did not want to be wearing those '76 throwbacks on any day he pitched, according to sources with direct knowledge of the history of the incident. Then, when he caught wind that the Sox were planning to use them Saturday night, he reiterated his opposition to uniforms he feels are uncomfortable. It was when he walked into the clubhouse Saturday and saw those '76 throwbacks hanging in the lockers for that night's game despite his repeated disapproval of them that he snapped.

That explanation certainly is not meant to excuse or condone Sale's behavior. More than anything, what the incident suggests is a need for anger management.

Kudos, by the way, to Murphy's Bleachers, the iconic tavern across the street from Wrigley Field that fired the first shot in this week's Cubs-White Sox crosstown classic with this fabulous marquee:

      

3. The Yankees' Cuban Missile Crisis

So Aroldis Chapman has been packed up and sent off to the Chicago Cubs, who boldly sent a four-player package to New York for essentially three rental months of Chapman. It's a good haul for the Yankees, too, highlighted by top shortstop prospect Gleyber Torres. In addition, the Yankees get right-hander Adam Warren back and two minor league outfielders, Billy McKinney and Rashad Crawford.

Chicago pitcher Aroldis Chapman
Chicago pitcher Aroldis ChapmanAdam Hunger/Associated Press/Associated Press

For the Cubs, this is an October move, designed to help them win a World Series, not just get there. And in the process, they boxed out NL rivals Washington and San Francisco, both of whom need bullpen help themselves.

For the Yankees, they would have been foolish not to trade Chapman, who is a free agent this winter. This may not be a fire sale yet, but the Yanks could be sellers if they follow the Chapman trade with deals for setup man Andrew Miller, outfielder Carlos Beltran and perhaps others.

In case you're wondering, the last time the Yankees were formally sellers? How about 1989? That's right, you've got to go back that far, to when they were 33-35 and 6.5 games back in the AL East and dealt outfielder Rickey Henderson to Oakland for pitchers Greg Cadaret, Eric Plunk and outfielder Luis Polonia.

Entering this week, the Yankees were 50-48 and 7.5 games back in the AL East (and 4.5 back in the wild-card standings). And they can always re-sign Chapman as a free agent this winter if they find they miss him terribly.

Meanwhile, there is one NL team guaranteed to be highly perturbed to see Chapman back in the NL (and, especially, back in the NL Central), as ESPN.com's Jayson Stark noted:

Jayson Stark @jaysonst

Great note from @SlangsOnSports - Aroldis Chapman hasn't allowed a run vs the Cardinals in almost 5 yrs: 25 scoreless appearances, 46 K's!

   

4. Marlins on the Move

Miami has deployed scouts all over the land, sources tell B/R, in its search to add one starting pitcher and, yes, possibly even two. Make no mistake: The Fish are not simply playing for an NL wild-card slot; they think they have what it takes to overtake Washington in the NL East.

San Diego pitcher Andrew Cashner
San Diego pitcher Andrew CashnerJeff Roberson/Associated Press/Associated Press

New manager Don Mattingly likes his team, slugger Giancarlo Stanton is showing signs that his second half will be better than his first, and Jose Fernandez is as lethal of an ace as there is in the game.

The Marlins have talked with San Diego about Andrew Cashner, Philadelphia about Jeremy Hellickson, Minnesota about Ricky Nolasco and Tommy Milone…if a starting pitcher is available, chances are the Marlins have watched him.

   

5. The Padres Reboot and Look to Deal

Unlike last July, San Diego is not going quietly into this trade deadline. Having already dealt starter James Shields (Chicago White Sox), closer Fernando Rodney (Miami Marlins) and starter Drew Pomeranz (Boston Red Sox) this summer, the Padres sent Melvin Upton Jr. to the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday, according to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, and, per B/R sources, are shopping starter Andrew Cashner hard.

Toronto outfielder Melvin Upton Jr.
Toronto outfielder Melvin Upton Jr.Jae C. Hong/Associated Press/Associated Press

The Padres were close to a deal with Baltimore for Upton Jr. last Monday, according to B/R sources, but couldn't agree on the money. Upton is owed roughly $22 million for the rest of this year and next.

That Upton Jr. rekindled interest is one of the more surprising stories of this season. But it was no fluke: Upton has been good with the bat and with the glove this year.

Another reason for the heated Upton Jr. market might have been this sensational play against the Orioles that surely piqued the interest of many teams. In a game in June, Upton played Spiderman, robbing J.J. Hardy of a home run and then firing a strike to first base to double off Mark Trumbo:

As for Cashner, the Padres have had conversations with the Texas Rangers, the Marlins and the Orioles, among other clubs. Questions continue to surround Cashner's makeup and whether he has the heart of a winner. Some in the industry think a move back to the bullpen with whichever team acquires him would better suit him.

The Orioles can use a midseason boost, especially in their rotation. As difficult as it is to believe, they've won more games than any other American League team over the past five seasons but have nothing to show for it.

    

6. Weekly Power Rankings

1. Scissors: Hottest home tool going right now in Chicago, thanks to Chris Sale.

Mike Groll/Associated Press

2. Cooperstown: Damn you, Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza, despite your bait, I still refuse to make any more No Crying in Baseball jokes. Smile, already!

3. Aroldis Chapman: So when he reaches 105 mph in Wrigley Field, will they put the number up by hand on the center field scoreboard?

4. Alex Bregman: The future of the Houston Astros arrived Monday when one of their top prospects was summoned from Triple-A Fresno. Hey, wait a minute, I thought Carlos Correa was the future of the Astros!

5. Ichiro Suzuki: Closing in on 3,000 hits, which the Marlins surely will celebrate in Technicolor.

   

7. Changes in Minnesota

Reinhold Matay/Associated Press

Despite their disappointing season and poor record, Minnesota's firing of longtime general manager Terry Ryan still came as a shock.

For one thing, nobody is more respected as a baseball man throughout the industry than Ryan. For another, only three men have served as GM in Minnesota since 1986: Ryan, Andy MacPhail and Bill Smith.

It is a remarkable run of continuity, one that surely won't be duplicated in today's rapidly changing world. Former Boston GM Ben Cherington would appear to be a heavy favorite for the job if Twins owner Jim Pohlad decides to go outside of the organization to make the hire. Two other veteran GMs who know their way around trade talks are Jim Hendry, now a special assistant to Yankees GM Brian Cashman, and Kevin Towers, now a special assistant to Cincinnati's Walt Jocketty.

One former Twin who has been mentioned appears to have publicly taken himself out of the running: Randy Bush, who played on the 1987 and 1991 Twins World Series winners, is now an assistant to Cubs president Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer, and told the Chicago Sun-Times' Gordon Wittenmyer the other day he is quite happy where he is.

Currently, Rob Antony is the interim GM in Minnesota, is well-respected throughout the organization and will be considered for the job if the Twins hire from within. Wayne Krivsky—one of Ryan's longtime assistants who did a far better job than he's given credit for during his two years as Cincinnati's GM—and Mike Radcliff are strong candidates as well.

It's been a tough year for the Twins all around. In May, popular scout Larry Corrigan suffered a stroke and is still recovering.

    

8. Chatter

Jul 22, 2016; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Chicago Cubs center fielder Dexter Fowler (24) high fives teammates following the game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park.  Chicago won 5-2.  Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

• No team needed the All-Star break more than the Chicago Cubs. They had played 24 consecutive days without a day off leading into the break, and 23 of their final 33 games before the break were on the road. Coming out of the break, they won't have to get on a plane until Aug. 4. The team with the best home record in the NL (30-16 going into this week) is opening the second half with 14 of its first 19 games at home. And the five road games are at Milwaukee (short bus ride north of Chicago) and at the White Sox (during which the Cubs get to stay in their own beds).

 Atlanta Braves people are shocked at how Shelby Miller has backslid this year in Arizona. They don't understand it.

 The feeling in Arizona, where rumors have manager Chip Hale's job status as being tenuous, is that president of baseball operations Tony La Russa has Hale's back, but few others do. Phil Nevin, who is managing Triple-A Reno, is viewed by many as Arizona's next manager.

 Toronto first baseman Chris Colabello returned from an 80-game performance-enhancing-drug suspension, only to be designated off of the Jays' 25-man roster.

Miami second baseman Dee Gordon
Miami second baseman Dee GordonGary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

 Miami second baseman Dee Gordon is due back soon from an 80-game PED suspension as well, but why should the Marlins reinstall him in their lineup? Derek Dietrich has been terrific both offensively and defensively at second base in Miami, and if the Marlins make the playoffs as they hope, Gordon won't be eligible anyway because of his suspension.

 As labor negotiations continue between owners and players, one item under discussion is the schedule and the fleet of late-starting getaway-day games. Both sides agree that to improve quality of play, there should be more day games scheduled on travel days for the visiting team.

 Sliding San Francisco is looking for both a hitter and bullpen help.

 The Padres have spent more than $60 million so far on international free agents as a means to restock their farm system. San Diego's system is viewed throughout the industry as having improved markedly as a result, though many of the international free agents are only 16 or 17 and, as such, are a few years away. One of the older ones is Jorge Ona, a 19-year-old slugger from Cuba who was viewed by Baseball America, via United Press International, as the fourth-best Cuban player on the market. Padres GM A.J. Preller says he's got "now" strength, noting his body is more Albert Belle than Vladimir Guerrero.

   

9. Injury of the Weak

Toronto catcher Russell Martin stayed in the sauna too long:

Hazel Mae @thehazelmae

Gibbons on Martin:Russ was in sauna yesterday, was in too long, got lightheaded, fell in shower & hurt knee. Needs couple days off #BlueJays

   

9a. Rock 'n' Roll Lyric of the Week

This song is just as relevant with the crazy things going on in today's world as it was when it was released in the early 1970s amid racial riots:

Anonymous/Associated Press

"Mother, mother
"There's too many of you crying
"Brother, brother, brother
"There's far too many of you dying
"You know we've got to find a way
"To bring some lovin' here today

"Father, father
"We don't need to escalate
"You see, war is not the answer
"For only love can conquer hate
"You know we've got to find a way
"To bring some lovin' here today

"Picket lines and picket signs
"Don't punish me with brutality
"Talk to me, so you can see
"Oh, what's going on
"What's going on
"Yeah, what's going on
"What's going on"

— Marvin Gaye, "What's Going On"

       

Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

Follow Scott on Twitter and talk baseball.

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