With just 10 days until the non-waiver trade deadline, the Los Angeles Dodgers will be opportunistic in pursuing upgrades for what’s arguably the deepest roster in Major League Baseball.
The club has been prominently linked to the left-handed relief market at this point, hoping to add another late-innings option to pair with closer Kenley Jansen. Some names being connected to Los Angeles are the Baltimore Orioles’ Zach Britton, San Diego Padres’ Brad Hand and Detroit Tigers’ closer Justin Wilson.
The Dodgers may ultimately decide to tap into the starting pitching market as well, with the intention of acquiring a more steady right-handed starter. Doing so would allow the club to split up southpaws Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood and Rich Hill in a postseason rotation.
The best overall controllable starting pitcher in Jose Quintana has already been dealt to the Chicago Cubs, and the Oakland Athletics figure to move Sonny Gray in the coming days as well — nonetheless at the expense of multiple top prospects.
Looking at the rental market for a starter isn’t as promising at the moment, but still features quality arms.
The Toronto Blue Jays will likely shop Marco Estrada and depending on whether the St. Louis Cardinals decide to sell, right-hander Lance Lynn could become available, too.
None of those options are clear upgrades over the likes of Kenta Maeda and Brandon McCarthy, however, which makes it tough to for the Dodgers to improve on that front unless the club gets creative.
That being said, with the Texas Rangers falling behind in the standings and just an 11.2 percent chance, per FanGraphs, of making the postseason, the possibility of dealing Yu Darvish is becoming more realistic.
Darvish, 31 years old in August, is in the midst of his first full season since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2015.
Despite the operation, Darvish is still averaging 94.6 miles per hour on his fastball — the second-best mark of his career and just three decimal points behind last season’s 94.9 average.
The right-hander has posted a solid 3.44 ERA, 3.83 FIP and 2.5 WAR (FanGraphs) in 133.1 innings, despite pitching his home games in a jet stream-propelled ballpark. Not to mention the general difficulties of being a pitcher in an offensively-stacked American League.
Darvish’s strikeouts are at an all-time low (25.6 percent), but he has limited his walks for the most part (8.2 percent) while his home runs per nine (1.1) would undoubtedly trend in the right direction with a change of stadiums.
A move to the National League would certainly benefit Darvish, let alone getting to throw to one of the best pitch framers in Yasmani Grandal. He ranks third in the Majors with a 10.4 runs above average mark.
For comparison, Darvish’s current catcher, Jonathan Lucroy, is statistically the worst pitch framer this year with an unimpressive -17.9 RAA. Swapping backstops would do wonders for the four-time All Star’s peripherals, and thus, lead to more success in the stretch run.
Darvish unquestionably provides higher upside and stability than Maeda and McCarthy, especially with the latter dealing with a blister issue and facing a possible disabled list stint.
Because of his pending free agency this winter, Darvish won’t net nearly as much as the Athletics will fetch for Gray, who’s under team control through the 2020 season.
The Dodgers’ front office has shown a willingness to deal prospects for rentals in the past, evidenced by last year’s trade with the Athletics for Hill and Josh Reddick.
The club yielded three solid pitching prospects, but the farm system is still flush with a plethora of intriguing arms.
While top prospect Walker Buehler is all but off-limits in trades, the Dodgers can virtually acquire any player they want and still maintain one of the stronger Minor League classes in baseball.
As noted by DodgerBlue.com’s Jeff Spiegel, Los Angeles also has the luxury of trading assets from the 25-man roster to lessen the prospect cost in a deal. Though, the front office is weary of disrupting the team’s chemistry.
Regardless if the Dodgers acquire Darvish, the club is well-positioned to strike a deal and upgrade in some form before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
There aren’t many holes on their Dodgers roster, but with the Dodgers eyeing its first World Series in 29 years, the front office has the opportunity to put the club over the top with a bold move or two.
Landing Darvish and slotting him between Kershaw and Wood in a postseason series would qualify for just that.