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Could the Dodgers dip into the starting pitcher market?

It seems unlikely, but not impossible

MLB: Texas Rangers at Detroit Tigers Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

It’s no secret that the Dodgers have one of baseball’s best rotations. Headed by Hyun-Jin Ryu and Walker Buehler, the Dodgers boast some of the best numbers from their starters.

Heading into the second half, here’s where the Dodgers starting pitchers rank in the major pitching categories:

  • ERA: 3.06 (2nd)
  • FIP: 3.52 (2nd)
  • K%: 25.1 (6th)
  • BB%: 4.9 (1st)
  • K-BB%: 20.1 (3rd)
  • BAA: .224 (3rd)
  • GB%: 46.5 (5th)
  • fWAR: 11.6 (2nd)

Yeah, they’re good. But despite that, there have been whispers that the Dodgers might be in the market for a starting pitcher ahead of the July 31 trade deadline. With Rich Hill’s return this season not a certainty and Ryu’s impending free agency (remember, he cannot be extended the qualifying offer again), it wouldn’t be the biggest shock to see the Dodgers dip into the starting pitcher market — especially for a player with some team control remaining. It’s exactly what they did when they traded for Alex Wood back in 2015.

The Dodgers have coverage with Ross Stripling and Julio Urías, to go along with Clayton Kershaw and Kenta Maeda, but upgrading the No. 4 spot could be on the “to-do” list for the postseason. Urías could slot into that spot, but the Dodgers still have to manage his remaining innings, so using him in his current spot as a multi-inning reliever might be best for the team and him. Maeda and Stripling both have experience in the bullpen and they could end up there, thus improving a somewhat weak Dodger bullpen.

The sexiest connection, media-wise, is Madison Bumgarner. With Farhan Zaidi running the show in San Francisco and the Giants not really going anywhere, they’d be foolish not to move Bumgarner before the deadline. Folks like to connect the Dodgers because of the Zaidi factor, but I (and the Dodgers) much more interested in the likes of Sam Dyson, Will Smith and Tony Watson. Plus, Bumgarner is only under team control through the remainder of the season, so he doesn’t make a ton of sense.

Matthew Boyd is an interesting name out there. The Detroit News named the Dodgers (as well as the Astros, Braves and Rays) as potential fits for the 28-year-old left-hander who’s enjoying a breakout campaign. Boyd has seen his strikeout rate jump by nearly 10 points and his walk rate is tied with Max Scherzer for 8th-best in baseball. He’s plenty talented and under team control through the 2022 season, so the acquisition cost to get him might be the highest of any available player on the market not named Noah Syndergaard.

Speaking of Syndergaard, the Padres are talking to the Mets about him again. They did so over the winter, but it never went any place. The Mets are in a bad way and it might be time for them to move Syndergaard. I’m not sure the Dodgers would meet the surely astronomical asking price, but if they’d be willing to do it for Boyd, going one step further and doing it for Syndergaard could make some sense.

Zack Wheeler is another interesting name. He had a breakout 2018 season that had him talked about as a trade candidate a year ago. Unfortunately for him, he hasn’t pitched nearly as well in 2019. He’s gotten a bit unlucky, but some of his peripherals are still good. I’m not sure he’s much of an upgrade over who the Dodgers have in-house, especially when Wheeler would cost the Dodgers assets.

And I’m not even going to touch Trevor Bauer, for many reasons.

While the bullpen is, clearly, the biggest need for the Dodgers, they might think snagging a quality starting pitcher could be a way to improve the bullpen by shifting a starter or two there. But even if they did acquire a starter such as Boyd, they could do well to get another reliever to plug in. They might not be able to get one of the top-tier relievers, but a guy like Watson is having a confusingly mediocre season up north. But he’s a known commodity and would instantly become the Dodgers’ best left-handed reliever.

If Hill weren’t hurt to this extent, there’s no way the Dodgers would be looking into the starting pitcher market. But Andrew Friedman and Co., are always looking forward and planning for the future, so if they land a rotation arm in the next 19 days, don’t be overly surprised.