The July 31 trade deadline is approaching and to answer the question on everyone's mind no, the Dodgers can not get anything for Carl Crawford or Andre Ethier. Let's look over how what the Dodgers need to contend this year and beyond, and who they can target for those jobs.
There is a major starting pitching hole in for the next two years
A starting pitcher was more of a nice to have before Tuesday morning, but with the revelation that Josh Beckett is dead1 it has become a priority. It's not that having three good starters is too little, it's that one more injury means the Dodgers are looking at number three starter Dan Haren. On top of that, the Dodgers have only three pitchers signed for 2015 and none of the Dodgers prospects have had the kind of year that makes you willing hand them a 2015 rotation spot on day one. Most of the major starters available at the deadline are signed until at least the end of 2015 so acquiring one of them kills two birds with one stone.
Need a reliever, probably two
Trading for relievers is always painful, but the Dodgers bullpen is "Howell and Kenley, then might as well use Don Henley". The Dodgers need a pen arm, and if they thought there were viable internal options they would have called one of them up by now instead of Pedro Baez. The only question is if they want to get a premier guy or stick with some fringier options.
The Dodgers should not acquire any position players signed beyond 2014
The Dodgers have 10 position players signed until at least 2015, as well as having A.J. Ellis, Dee Gordon, Scott Van Slyke and Joc Pederson all under team control and looking to find play time. The team's strategy of signing all these guys and figuring it out later has led to them ignoring the figuring it out later part. We've seen the kind of dilemmas having too many players can cause so the Dodgers should not add to the issue.
Crawford and Ethier will still be Dodgers
The total lack of interest in averigish players that had draft pick compensation attached to them has shown that teams are not willing to give up money and talent for non elite players. Crawford and Ethier combined have 133 million dollars coming to them and a .690 OPS between them. There is simply no market for players like that unless the Dodgers make an Odalis Perez like deal where they send over money and talent just to get the guy off their roster. If the Dodgers were willing to do something like that, they'd be gone by now.
Even if a team is desperate for a bat there's Matt Joyce out there who does everything Ethier can except play a below average center field and even journeymen that are outhitting Crawford and Ethier like Justin Ruggiano and Bobby Abreu will be looked to first because they don't have the time and money commitment attached to them. If either of these two go anywhere, it will likely be sometime in the off season in a swap of similarly disastrous contracts.
David Price - SP, Tampa Bay
What it could take: Joc Pederson, Corey Seager, and Julio Urias
Why it could happen: The Rays have been openly shopping Price since this past off-season but no one has offered a package the Rays like. The A's reportedly offered a similar deal to the one that landed them the Jeff Samardzja and Jason Hammel for Price and got rejected so we know the Rays are asking for the world here. Addison Russell is a stronger piece than anything the Dodgers have to offer so it would likely take at least two but probably three of the Dodgers top prospects. You can make a case that all three are expendable; Pederson has no clear path to the majors, Urias has huge upside but his future is a mystery, and the Dodgers have made extension offers to Hanley Ramirez so they could be seeing a future with Erisbel Arruebarrena at short and Hanley at third. Totally decimating the farm system will hurt, but if any team can just go out and buy more overseas prospects to fill the holes, it's this one.
Why it won't happen: The Rays could be seeking a bigger headliner than upper tier but non elite prospects. What the Dodgers are offering is good but none of these guys are equal in stature to their return for James Shields, Wil Myers. The Rays generally prefer to slowly develop older arms so the upside of Urias might not be enough, Seager will end up at the same position at the only position the Rays have completely locked up and Pederson just doesn't have the upside of a guy you would take for Price. Meanwhile, the Dodgers would be left with a farm system consisting of Zach Lee and some other stuff.
Cole Hamels - SP, Philadelphia
What it could take: Lord only knows
Why it could happen: This, mostly
Amaro's observations today jibe with what a rival bb ops person told me recently: "Everybody's available there except for Utley."— Tim Brown (@TBrownYahoo) July 7, 2014
Hamels is notable in his absence. Dealing Hamels represents the Phillies finally admitting they're doomed and need to start over. Hamels still has about $105 million coming to him by the end of 2018, and the Dodgers are one of the few teams that could pick up the bill. Hamels would give the Dodgers the best rotation in baseball by a good measure, arguably turning Zack Greinke into the number three starter.
Why it won't happen: The last time a pitcher as good as Hamels got moved with this much time left on his deal was when Curt Schilling went to the Red Sox. That move came from the Diamondbacks making it well known they'd give him to the first team willing to take on his contract. There is zero precedent for a guy like Hamels being sincerely shopped so I have no idea what it would take to land him. The Phillies have every right to ask for the moon and the stars for Hamels and if they don't get it can worry about moving him later.
Cliff Lee - SP, Philadelphia
What it could take: Eating the massive amount of money owed to Lee and a package headlined by Zach Lee
Why it could happen: Guess how much money Cliff Lee still has coming to him. You're probably lowballing it. Lee was signed to one of the highest average annual value contracts in baseball history in 2011, and the deal was heavily back loaded. He still has roughly $33 million coming to him by the end of 2015, and since his $27.5-million option year in 2016 has a $12.5-million buyout attached to it, that should be considered guaranteed money as long as Lee has at least three of his limbs. This leaves the Dodgers as likely the only team that the Phillies can send Lee to without eating a huge amount of money.
Why it won't happen: The Phillies don't really have any incentive to move Lee now. With the Dodgers as one of the only viable suitor and Lee just starting a rehab assignment the Phillies would be rightfully hesitant to ship him off immediately. A deal in August or during the off season is much more likely.
Jonathan Papelbon - RP, Philadelphia
What it could take: Taking on Papelbon's salary and not much else.
Why it will happen: If the Phillies truly are giving up, the last thing they need is a closer that's owed $18 million until 2015. The Phillies have a closer of the future in mind, Ken Giles, and moving Papelbon gives him room to develop. Papelbon is one of the only consistent veteran closers left in baseball and would be a huge boon to a broken Dodger bullpen. The Dodgers are likely the only team that can afford a luxury like Papelbon so he could be had without giving up much in return.
Why it won't happen: For the same reason Cliff Lee won't happen. The Dodgers are the only viable destination for Papelbon and if they're only offering salary relief there's no reason to pull the trigger now. Papelbon could also cause a lot of clubhouse tension for the Dodgers since he has a vesting option for 2016 that rests on him being the closer leaving either Papelbon or Kenley Jansen very unhappy.
Joakim Soria - RP, Texas
What it could take: Zach Lee and a lesser guy
Why it will happen: The Rangers have 15 players on the disabled list which has led to them contending for a number one pick in 2015. They have no need for a guy that's quietly been one of the better relievers of 2014, Joakim Soria. Soria's low cost and eminent free agency makes him a good option any contending team except the A's. It's hard to get a read on what the market for a proven closer is since almost every one of those deals in recent history have involved Ned Colletti, but these two factors make me believe the cost will be high.
Why it won't happen: 15 teams could use Soria so Zach Lee plus other things might not be enough to nab him. It's a situation where if the Dodgers do get Soria, we'll probably feel like they way overpaid.
Chad Qualls - RP, Houston
The most Ned Colletti move out there, and the one I'd say is most likely to happen. Since 2010 Qualls has been on the verge of leaving baseball only to have a bounce back year for the team giving him has last chance. Qualls has experience in the ninth inning and is having arguably the best year of his career so hes probably tops the Dodgers relief help list. The only thing that could save us from Qualls is the Astros asking for Pederson and Ned "not responding immediately".
Juan Carlos Oviedo - RP, Tampa Bay
Oviedo racked up 92 saves for the Marlins from 2009-2011 as Leo Nunez, but he did that by being a somewhat competent reliever on a team that had nothing else. Returning to the bigs three years later under a new name, Oviedo is still a somewhat competent reliever that at least isn't Chris Perez. Another guy I'd bet strongly on joining the Dodgers.
Tony Sipp - RP, Houston
A left handed reliever who is better than the scraps at the back of the Dodgers bullpen.
A.J. Burnett - SP, Philadelphia
Not nearly as attractive of an option of the starters listed above, but could be the most realistic. Burnett is one of the few arms out there that won't break the bank and would represent a real upgrade for the Dodger's rotation. Could likely be had for a couple of the Dodgers second tier prospects like Chris Reed or Tom Windle.
A.J. Pierzynski or David Ross - C, DFA Land/Boston
The Dodgers need a solid backup catcher after two A.J. Ellis trips to the DL led to two stretches of starting catcher Drew Butera. The recently DFA'd Pierzynski could fill the role nicely, or failing that the Dodgers could go after the Sox other catcher David Ross.
Stephen Drew - SS, Boston
See above, just replace "Drew Butera" with "a hideous combination of Justin Turner, Miguel Rojas, Erisbel Arruebarrena, and Carlos Triunfel".
Probably Won't Happen
Jon Lester - SP, Boston
His contract is set to run out at the end of the year, but I can't see Boston not re-signing him.
Hiroki Kuroda - SP, New York
If Masahiro Tanaka's injury is as major as it sounds the Yankees will be left with Brandon McCarthy as their number two starter . Kuroda doesn't have a no trade clause and a returning Kuroda is a solid upgrade to the back of the rotation. However, if the Yankees don't collapse hard in the next couple weeks, they're still in position to contend in the AL East and I can't see the Yankees selling if they have any shot.
Jorge De La Rosa - SP, Colorado
A free agent to be on a doomed Rockies team, De La Rosa is at the very least a step up from Paul Maholm. However, inter-division trades are a rare beast so De La Rosa will likely go elsewhere.
Jake McGee - RP, Tampa Bay
One of the most dominant left handed relievers of 2014 would slot nicely into the Dodgers pen. However, he's under the Ray's control until 2017 and is valuable part of the team unless the Rays are planning a complete tear down, so the cost would likely be too high. Only way I see it happening is if he's part of a David Price deal.
The most likely thing that will happen by July 31st is that the Dodgers make a run at David Price, but if they can't land him they go for A.J. Burnett and a couple of the lower tier relievers. While I would normally say the Burnett plan is the sensible thing to do, it might be time to push all in and go for Price. It would take a lot of talent and money to do so, but it makes this team into a juggernaut the next couple years.
1. I mean that literally since Mattingly is actually admitting Beckett is out for a while. Donnie once described a smoldering crater as "a nice fixer upper"↩