It was a decade ago that the Dodgers traded for Manny Ramirez. They traded for Manny Machado on Wednesday in the biggest trade deadline move since.
The offense — which was already good — is getting a boost with a premium hitter. Even if the fit didn’t make 100 percent sense, it’s hard to pass on a player of Machado’s ilk, especially for the price they paid.
Now, the Dodgers will focus on the bullpen.
But what if they don’t?
What if, instead, they really go all-in and try to land Jacob deGrom from the Mets? It’s greedy, it’s crazy ... and it just might make more sense than going after a reliever.
The Dodgers’ starting rotation isn’t exactly struggling, numbers-wise. Healthy has been another question, but even with the perceived struggles, the rotation collectively has a 3.31 ERA, 3.34 FIP, 19.8 K-BB% and has complied a 10.2 fWAR — all of which rank in the Top 5 in baseball. The starters are averaging just 5.3 innings per start, down from 5.5 per start last season. They’ve had a couple of “opener” starts and the infamous 2-pitch start from Rich Hill, but even with that, the rotation is still strong.
The Mets’ ace is in the midst of a career-year, as he has a 1.68 ERA, 2.32 FIP, 24.5 K-BB% and a 4.4 fWAR. He’d fit on literally any team in baseball, and he’s not especially happy with New York right now because of how the contract extension talks have gone. Most think the Mets should do one of two things:
- Trade deGrom and replenish the farm system
- Sign him to an extension to keep him in New York
Selfishly, I’m hoping for No. 1, because even if deGrom were to stick around for another half-decade, there’s no guarantee the Mets will get back to the level of ball they were playing just three short years ago. But they aren’t doing him or the franchise any favors by continuing to be in limbo.
If the Mets were to truly make him available, the acquisition cost for any team would be exorbitant. We’re talking Chris Sale-to-Boston kind of a price because deGrom, 30, is under team control through the 2020 season. Since the Dodgers only gave up one premium prospect in the Machado deal, they still have a healthy stable of prospects from which to deal.
Of course, the Mets would likely insist on Walker Buehler. Hell, they might even insist on Cody Bellinger. That makes sense for them, but not so much for the Dodgers. So, if I’m Andrew Friedman and Co., I tell the Mets “you can have any five prospects you want for deGrom,” and that still might not be enough. But because the Dodgers are in a prime position to return to the World World Series after a painfully slow start to the season (I’m sorry!), going all-in and trying to land deGrom, even if it means gutting the farm system, isn’t as crazy as it sounds.
This would be a lot easier if the Dodgers had signed 2018 first-round pick J.T. Ginn, but there’s nothing that can be done about that now. They’ll have two first-rounders next year and are kicking the tires on one of the best international amateur free agents remaining, so the farm system could get restocked quicker than, say, the last two years.
Landing deGrom would help with the whole “Clayton Kershaw isn’t elite anymore” situation and in case he were to opt-out following the season. It’d also improve the Dodgers’ chances markedly of returning to the World Series.
A move like this would also have a ripple effect on the bullpen. In theory, they’d acquire deGrom and have to move a starter or two to the bullpen, thus strengthening the bridge to Kenley Jansen. Buehler might be that guy because the Dodgers might still need to limit his innings, but he hasn’t looked great out of the bullpen in the majors or minors in an, admittedly, small sample size — 5.96 ERA in Oklahoma City last year (22 2⁄3 innings), 11.32 in the majors in 2017-18 (10 1⁄3 innings). Ross Stripling, as great as he has been in the rotation, might be the guy. But he’s more of a multi-inning guy as opposed to a late-inning guy. Alex Wood makes a lot of sense. He has seen his velocity decrease significantly since the first half of 2017 and has experience pitching in relief. And of course there’s always Kenta Maeda, but I’m hoping the Dodgers wouldn’t do that until he reaches as many contract bonuses as he can. Also, his improving changeup would make it hard to move him out of the rotation, but also would make him more than a right-handed only reliever, as he basically was in the postseason last year.
It might be a bit far-fetched, but if the Dodgers were going to push all their chips to the center of the table, do it for deGrom. He’s an elite starting pitcher who goes deep into games, misses bats and has been successful in his lone postseason appearance (2.88 ERA in 25 innings).
They’ve already made the big move for Machado. Maybe they need to make an even bigger move for deGrom. It might be their best chance of besting the beastly teams from the American League.
I realize the chance of this happening are wafer thin. Then again, who really thought Machado would don Dodger Blue in 2018?