The Big Picture
The Dodgers have a very loyal following. They attracted over 3 million fans every year from 1997-2010. Then there was an ugly divorce between owners and a multi-billion dollar sale of the team. New ownership is trying to put all of that in the rearview and make the playoffs for the first time since winning their division in 2009.
The Dodgers were the hottest team in baseball out of the gates and were 17 games over .500 as recently as June 17. A late-June swoon – losers in eleven of their last twelve games – where injuries to key players certainly played a part, dropped them back to reality and they now trail the Giants in the NL West, with the Diamondbacks quickly gaining ground.
Why They Will Trade With The Twins
The Dodgers offense in June was downright ugly. They scored only 83 runs in June (including a six-game stretch in which they were shutout five times), the least in the Major Leagues. Their June OPS was .571. That’s not quite Buteran; but it is 40 points worse than Nick Punto during his worst Twins year! To add insult to injury (or maybe the other way around…), stud outfielder and clean-up hitter Andre Ethier went down with an oblique injury: One of the most fickle of all injuries. He could be out days or months.
If they have to throw him on the disabled list, he’d join the likes of All-World CF Matt Kemp, starting 2B Mark Ellis, starting P Ted Lilly, set-up man Matt Guerrier and closer Javy Guerra. As you probably guessed, the Dodgers are actively working the phones, looking for help – not only in the middle of the order – but presumably at the back of the bullpen.
Despite all of the injuries and off-the-field distractions, GM Ned Colletti has put together a collection of players that, when healthy, are arguably the most-talented group in the National League, if not Los Angeles and all of baseball.
As the word gets out that the Dodgers are looking for “middle-of-the-order thumpers”, it would be wise for the Twins to make a courtesy call. You see, where the Dodgers need power the most (left field, first base and third base), just so happens to be the positions of the Twins three most-powerful hitters.
I’m not going to suggest that the Dodgers can “afford” to take on Justin Morneau’s remaining salary of over $20m. I will, however, point out that the Dodgers current 1B combo of James Loney/Juan Rivera has a combined OPS of around .650. And their 2013 commitment to the two? Only Rivera’s $500,000 buyout. The Dodgers are in the market for a first baseman. Right now.
LF Bobby Abreu isn’t nearly the player he used to be (when he was drilling line drives off Nick Blackburn’s face), yet he’s batting 3rd
due to all the injuries. If I were the Dodgers, I would feel much better using the 38-year old’s bat in a pinch-hitting role. When Kemp (batting 3rd
/RH) and Either (4th
/LH) come back, having a RH/LF “masher” batting 5th
would be the ideal situation. The Twins also have one of them – signed to a very reasonable contract – in Josh Willingham.
Moving onto the final (and probably most controversial) position: Third base. Juan Uribe is listed as 33 years old. Does anyone actually believe that? If you’re fat and 33, fine. But when you’re fat and Uribe’s age (whatever that actually is… 36? 37?), that’s not a good sign. Regardless, Uribe, when healthy in 2012, is hitting .205 with an OBP of .248 and an OPS of .535. Sheesh, up until a month ago, I thought the Twins 3B situation was bad.
Might the Twins listen if the Dodgers called about Trevor Plouffe? His value over the last few weeks is the highest it’s ever been (and probably the highest it ever will be). Is this power we've seen over the hot streak sustainable? He did cool off a little, but hit two home runs again today. What do the Dodgers think? How much could you get for him, who has five more years of team control? Trading Plouffe would be a unique attempt by the Twins to “sell high”.
If not, Dodger fans, there’s always Danny Valencia…
Options that may help the Dodgers bullpen would obviously be Jared Burton and/or possibly Matt Capps. If I were the Dodgers (or any team), I would inquire on Jared Burton, he would be a Matt Guerrier-type asset to a bullpen that misses the real (and more expensive) Matt Guerrier. I would also fake bad reception if the Twins bring up Matt Capps’s name.
Why They Won’t Trade With The Twins
Listen, the Dodgers have a window of opportunity right now and they can’t afford to let this season slip away. The underlying issue is that their best players are hurt now
… and they need reinforcements now
. By the end of July, there is a pretty good chance (or at least the hope) that they’ll have the heart of their offense back and rolling. If the Twins want to maximize value, dealing a month before the deadline isn’t the best way to achieve it.
As far as first baseman, where there will continue to be a need, there are options out there with less risk. The Dodgers have been linked to Astros 1B Carlos Lee. Lee has finally returned from a hamstring injury. The rumors of the Astros getting back a solid pitching prospect – and the Dodgers picking up some of his remaining salary (close to $10m of the $18.5m 2012 salary) – would be hard for the Astros to turn down.
There are conflicting reports about who the Astros would acquire in this trade as well as who would pick up what amount of Lee’s bill. The hang-up, as I type this, is whether El Caballo will waive his no-trade clause and accept a trade to L.A. (away from his ranches in Texas).
Acquiring Lee would probably mitigate any interest the team might have had in Justin Morneau, though the Dodgers apparently believe Lee can still play a little in the outfield.
The Dodgers are going to deal, so keep an eye on them. They also made a trade for an aging player (Casey Blake) a few years ago and because they didn’t want to pick up the $6.1m tab that was owed to him, they shipped a top prospect (Carlos Santana) back. If the Twins were willing to pick up most of Morneau’s contract, would the Dodgers sweeten the pot?
Something worth noting from the Dodgers perspective: They have 3 guys on the 60-day DL, so they have 43 players on their 40-man. To take on more guys, you’d have to assume they’d be dealing from their active roster.
They’ve also recently agreed to sign Cuban OF Yasiel Puig to an absurd 7-yr, $42m major-league deal, so they’ll have to make more room… and might be less inclined to take on an outfielder in a deal. Though I don’t believe Puig is going to be contributing this year (or next).
Possible Trade Targets
Zach Lee – RHP
Lee, the 28th
overall pick in 2010, dropped down draft boards because it was nearly certain he would be attending LSU to play baseball and quarterback the football team. When the Dodgers selected him, it was viewed as a “punted pick”, made to save the club some money. In the biggest shocker of all draft signings in 2010, Lee signed for $5.25 million at the August deadline. His top-of-the-rotation ceiling moved him to the top of Dodger prospect lists. He was left off of this list initially, because it appeared there was little to no chance of the Dodgers trading him. But once he was mentioned in Carlos Lee trade rumors - even though it doesn't appear likely he'll be traded - he was added.
Nate Eovaldi – RHP
Eovaldi made his big-league debut last year and held his own over six starts (ten appearances). Forced by injuries to join the rotation this spring, he is 0-4, 4.04. He’s a power pitcher who may end up in the back of a bullpen.
Allen Webster – RHP
The Dodgers #2 prospect behind Lee has slowly been climbing the ladder and has struggled in his first full season at AA. Webster is a sinkerball pitcher who sits in the mid-90s. His change-up is phenomenal. He was baseball’s #68 rated prospect coming into the year, according to MLB.com
Chris Withrow – RHP
The 2007 1st
round pick out of Midland, Texas fits the “power” mold the Twins were looking to add in the 2012 draft. If he could harness his stuff, he’d be a middle-of-the-rotation type guy; if not, his future’s in the bullpen. Currently, his future is on hold. He’s on the minor league DL after suffering a vicious cut on his hand while throwing a snorkel mask. (You can’t make this stuff up!) This is Withrow’s first option year as he was added to L.A.’s 40-man last November.
Garrett Gould – RHP
Gould made his full-season debut last year in Midwest League and went 11-6. He was promoted to High-A this year and currently has a 1-6 record. His peripherals haven’t changed much (besides his BABIP going from .260 last year to .352 this year) and he’s still striking batters out (72 Ks in 72 IP this year). His status could eventually elevate to the top-of-the-rotation starter, though #3 starter is more likely.
Scott Barlow – RHP
round draft pick in 2011 out of a California high school, Barlow added weight and velocity and was primed to breakout as a prospect. Earlier this week, it was announced that Barlow would miss the rest of the year due to Tommy John surgery. As was discussed about Kyle Drabek earlier, could this be a chance for the Twins to “buy low”?
Chad Billingsley – RHP
If the Dodgers were to deal from their right-handed pitcher depth, may they be willing to part with a member of their current rotation? The big-bodied righty is the type of pitcher the Twins prefer to employ. He has a hefty contract – he’s in the first year of a three-year, $35 million deal - and moving it would free up money to spend elsewhere.
(picture from franklinavenue.blogspot.com)