The Los Angeles Dodgers have once again become one of baseball’s best teams in 2019. However, the team’s bullpen has remained ineffective throughout much of the season, with a pedestrian 4.25 ERA that ranks 13th overall.
Several teams ahead of the Dodgers in bullpen ERA, such as the Cleveland Indians and San Francisco Giants, are already falling out of contention, leading many to speculate that the Dodgers could acquire one of their star relievers before the July 31 trade deadline.
Despite the longstanding rivalry between the Dodgers and Giants, San Francisco’s president of baseball operations and former general manager in L.A., Farhan Zaidi, said he would be open to trading with any team within the National League West.
The Dodgers reportedly spoke with Craig Kimbrel, but his desire to close seemed to put a damper on negotiations, and the right-hander eventually signed with the Chicago Cubs.
With trade activity sure to heat up over the next month, ESPN’s ESPN’s Buster Onley said front-office officials around the league expect the Dodgers to be active in seeking bullpen help before the deadline:
“Talking with executives of other teams, they think the Dodgers are going to be in big on bullpen help. Maybe a couple of pieces, like we saw with the Cubs in 2016 chasing Aroldis Chapman. Like the Indians that year going and getting Andrew Miller. Might see the Dodgers go after Brad Hand of the Cleveland Indians, maybe a Sean Doolittle of the [Washington] Nationals if they decide to sell. The expectation is this is going to be the focus of the Dodgers as we get closer to July 31.”
Neither the Dodgers or Giants reportedly is ruling out a potential trade centered around closer Will Smith, who is having an All-Star caliber season before he becomes a free agent this winter.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers once again have reported interest in Indians closer Brad Hand, who they also inquired about before he was traded there from the San Diego Padres in 2018.
Additionally, the Dodgers are believed to have interested in Pittsburgh Pirates closer Felipe Vazquez. He is under team control through 2023 and the Pirates would likely demand a massive return in a trade, including No. 2 prospect Keibert Ruiz.
While the Dodgers have been active around the trade deadline under president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, making big acquisitions like Yu Darvish and Manny Machado to help them reach back-to-back World Series themselves, they have not traded for a star reliever.
Rather, most of their recent midseason bullpen trades have not been for rather average relievers such as Josh Fields, Tony Cingrani, John Axford and Ryan Madson.
However, with virtually no holes to address in the lineup or starting rotation, this may be the year where Friedman goes all in on a star setup man to provide a more reliable bridge to Kenley Jansen.