The Dodgers could definitely look to acquire bullpen and lineup help as we’ve covered in previous trade target segments. Still, the starting rotation shouldn’t be overlooked, as it has been hit with injuries much like the ‘pen in the first half of 2022.
If not for the marvelous efforts of Tony Gonsolin and Tyler Anderson, who have far outpaced the expectations of even their most optimistic fans and prognosticators, this conversation would be had with a far more urgent tone. After all, the Dodgers not only lost Max Scherzer from last season but also saw their ace Walker Buehler go down indefinitely back in May.
Clayton Kershaw and Andrew Heaney to different levels have each looked really good when healthy, but both missed significant time already, and also carry an injury history that can’t be dismissed. Heaney especially missed the bulk of this season with two long IL stints with shoulder problems.
Julio Urías has been the staple the Dodgers needed, and the aforementioned Gonsolin and Anderson both delivered unexpected breakout all-star campaigns, but even now most would admit the plan isn’t to have them both starting crucial postseason games if the Dodgers can help it.
A lot of what the front office does in the market on this particular position, it will speak as to the expectations surrounding a possible Buehler return in mid-September. If the team is optimistic about having their ace ready to gear up for October, they could definitely take a more cautious approach although this wouldn’t prevent them from making a big-time acquisition.
However, if the status of Buehler for a playoff run in 2022 is still up in the air, a big-time starter acquisition becomes more necessary than a luxury add.
Ultimately, if the Dodgers do add a starter, all signs point towards it being an impactful name, rather than a depth acquisition. With Heaney’s return and Mitch White providing serviceable innings when called upon, there isn’t much of a need for an innings eater at the moment.
Before Juan Soto started wreaking havoc on all things deadline related, the bulk of the coverage was slated for the big-name starters out there. Three names, in particular, stand out as elite pickups that the Dodgers could pursue to bolster their starting rotation as the deadline gets closer and closer.
Hello old acquaintance
Frankie Montas (A’s)
1.7 bWAR, 3.18 ERA, 104.2 IP, 1.12 WHIP, 25.8 K%
Several years ago, in the deadline of the 2016 season, the Dodgers sent out a package of prospects to the Oakland A’s to acquire the services of Rich Hill and Josh Reddick. Among the trio of young minor-leaguers that went Oakland’s way, the one name that stands out today is that of Frankie Montas.
Montas didn’t pop initially and took a long-time to truly establish himself as a member of the A’s rotation, but since the beginning of last year, the former Dodgers’ farmhand has firmly entrenched himself as one of the fine starters in the American League, and current ace of the A’s rotation.
Oakland started its rebuild period before this season, and their last big trade piece left is Frankie Montas. At this point in time, he’s all but a certainty to be traded to a contender, it’s just a matter of which one. Who better than his former team to acquire his services?
Montas had a recent IL stint but has been healthy for the most part over these last two years, and already has a couple of starts under his belt since. The A’s starter is under control through the end of next year which further increases his value to any acquitting team, and also his price tag;
Looking from the player’s angle, Los Angeles may be one of the best landing spots for him, as the Dodgers won’t necessarily ask him to carry the staff as other teams might, he can step in as one of the better number threes in the game and do his thing.
Montas finished sixth in the AL Cy Young voting last year and hasn’t skipped a beat in 2022, opposing hitters are carrying a .651 OPS against him this season.
A familiar trade partner?
Luis Castillo (Reds)
3.3 bWAR, 2.86 ERA, 85 IP, 1.07 WHIP, 25.8 K%
The Dodgers have a track record of doing trades with the Reds, and while some may argue that Cincinnati is best served by not picking up the phone when Andrew Friedman calls, as the result of multiple fleeces, this history indicates a rapport between the two organizations.
With the Giants unwilling to sell, and Carlos Ródon being unavailable, Castillo is the big prize of this trade deadline if you’re looking for a frontline starter.
The Reds’ ace doesn’t quite have the innings pitched of other starters on this list, but that’s only because he got off to a late start, beginning the year on the IL, but since then, it’s been smooth-sailing for Castillo.
Since the beginning of the 2019 season, Luis Castillo is the only starter in baseball with a strikeout rate of 25 percent or higher, and a groundball rate of 50 percent or higher. That’s a winning combination for a pitcher if you have ever heard of one.
Castillo, much like Montas, comes with a year and a half of control, only eligible for free agency at the end of 2023. The price tag for the Reds ace is surely going to be high, but for any team acquiring his services, they’re getting it a two-time all-star with a 159 ERA+ in 2022. Castillo is having a masterful season, and his numbers could even look better outside of hitter’s paradise, Great American Ballpark.
A surprising name on the list
Pablo López (Marlins)
2.8 bWAR, 3.03 ERA, 116 IP, 1.04 WHIP, 25.5 K%
The Miami Marlins unlike the As and Reds are in the middle of a Wild Card chase, even if the team is now on the outside looking in and also carrying a losing record, but reports have come out that the organization may be willing to deal from its rich pitching staff in order to add hitting to a putrid lineup.
The chances that López gets dealt are slim at best, but he is the type of talented pitcher, and long-term asset (controllable through the 2024 season) that requires a call, if for nothing else, due diligence.
López may get somewhat overlooked because of the Cy Young efforts of Sandy Alcántara, but his 2022 season is worthy of attention. The Marlins' second ace has carried the momentum of 2021 with similar numbers, and his fastball-changeup combo is one of the more devastating ones by a right-handed starter in today’s game.
Even if Miami does in fact decides to move López, it’s hard to picture a deal in which the Dodgers or another contender subtracts from their lineup, what would be a serious hit, in order to acquire him. These trades are easier to be made when the team is looking at the future and willing to acquire a prospects-heavy package.
However, the Dodgers are one of a few teams that could in theory pull something like this off. Luis Castillo and Frankie Montas remain likelier and attainable targets though.