The 2018 season has been a roller-coaster ride full of depressing lows and tremendous highs. At the moment, the Dodgers have a winning record and are riding a hot-streak in which they have won 20 of their last 27 games. Furthermore, they have done all of this without their perennial ace in Clayton Kershaw.
They are a game and a half back of the Arizona Diamondbacks for the National West lead. The turnaround is evident as the Dodgers attempt to achieve their 6th consecutive National League West division title.
This would be a remarkable feat. In order to accomplish this task, the Dodgers will need to continue to play winning baseball and most likely will need Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill to return and pitch well in the second half of the season. But as any Dodger fan will tell you, another NL West title is not enough.
It is time for the boys in blue to bring back a World Series title. To be set up best for such a run, the Dodgers will need the assistance of an elite starting pitcher acquired via trade. Jacob deGrom of the New York Mets may very well be the best option as the trade deadline approaches at the end of July.
The Dodgers have had mixed success among their current starters to date. While not performing in an elite status, the starters have held their own this season while largely having ace, Clayton Kershaw, unavailable. Here is the breakdown of the Dodger’s current starting pitchers of note.
- Clayton Kershaw
o 2018 Stats – Games Started: 8, Record: 1-4, ERA: 2.76, WHIP: 1.122
o Under contract through 2020 (opt-out option after 2018) @ $35,571,429 a year
- Ross Stripling
o 2018 Stats – Games Started: 9, Record: 6-1, ERA: 1.76, WHIP: 1.010
o Under contract through 2018 (arbitration eligible 2020) @ $555,000 a year with free agency in 2023
- Kenta Maeda
o 2018 Stats – Games Started: 11, Record: 4-4, ERA: 3.61, WHIP: 1.308
o Under contract through 2023 @ $3,125,000 a year
- Rich Hill
o 2018 Stats – Games Started: 6, Record: 1-2, ERA: 6.20, WHIP: 1.743
o Under contract through 2019 @ $16,666,667 a year with free agency in 2020
o 2018 Stats – Games Started: 14, Record: 2-5, ERA: 4.22, WHIP: 1.179
o Under contract through 2018 (arbitration eligible 2019) @ $6,000,000 a year with free agency in 2020
- Walker Buehler
o 2018 Stats – Games Started: 9, Record: 4-1, ERA: 2.63, WHIP: 0.955
o Under team control (arbitration eligible 2021) @ $545,000 a year
- Hyun-Jin Ryu
o 2018 Stats – Games Started: 6, Record: 3-0, ERA: 2.12, WHIP: 0.876
o Under contract through 2018 @ $7,833,000 a year with free agency in 2019
o 2018 Stats – N/A
o Under contract through 2018 (arbitration eligible 2021) @ $550,000 a year with free agency in 2024
What is immediately visible about the Dodger starters is the number of contracts that will expire after the 2018 season. Hyun-Jin Ryu, Alex Wood, Ross Stripling, and Julio Urias all possess contracts that are completed after the current season. Could it be possible that Mets may take in return for deGrom a pitcher or two from the Dodgers? Most likely not but the youthfulness and potential of Buehler and Urias might be tempting. The Dodgers will need to focus on negotiating current starting pitcher salaries in the off-season. Furthermore, of the 4 starters who are earning more than
$1,000,000 a season, only Alex Wood has not seen the disabled list this season. It is becoming abundantly clear that the starters that the Dodgers are paying big money to have not necessarily been reliable thus far. Rather, the likes of Walker Buehler and Ross Stripling have carried the team. Together Buehler and Stripling have a combined 10-2 record, 2.19 ERA, and 0.982 WHIP.
If the Dodgers wish to make a deep playoff run this year it is clear that they will need a boosted starting rotation. This boost may come either by health and improved performance or by the addition of outside help. Ideally, the Dodgers will pursue both options. This will require them to hit the trade market for a reliable arm heading into October and beyond.
Jacob deGrom should be the Dodgers’ number one priority at the trade deadline this season. deGrom has not only been the Mets’ pitching ace for the last 5 seasons, he also has been selected to the 2015 NL all-star team. In addition, he was the NL rookie of the year and has been among those considered for the Cy Young award twice. Currently, deGrom is well on track to finish first in the 2018 NL Cy Young voting. The only reason deGrom’s win totals are low is because he is pitching behind a horrid offense in the Mets that aren’t supporting him at all. Below are deGrom’s current stats on the season:
- Record: 4-2
- ERA: 1.55
- WHIP: 1.008
- K’s per 9 innings: 11.6
- FIP: 1.99
These are other-worldly numbers. To put these stats into perspective, let’s look back at Randy Johnson’s reign of terror from 1999-2002 in which he won 4 consecutive Cy Young awards.
- Record: 81-27
- ERA: 2.48
- WHIP: 1.044
- K’s per 9 innings: 12.4
- FIP: 2.53
RANDY Johnson had 9 seasons with more strikeouts than baserunners allowed. No other pitcher has had five such seasons.
— Retro Baseball (@retro_baseball) January 24, 2018
Obviously, this comparison is only so helpful as Johnson accomplished his stats over 4 continuous seasons where deGrom is barley on the precipice of half a season. However, we need to realize that deGrom’s numbers this season are likely indicative of things to come in the future seeing as his career numbers have remained incredibly consistent in the elite categories across all of baseball. In fourth, fifth, and sixth seasons pitching it is not uncommon for starters to take their game to the next level and soar to new heights. Does the name Clayton Kershaw ring a bell? In his fourth season in the big leagues Kershaw put it all together and won the NL Cy Young for the first time. We may be seeing the same phenomenon happening with deGrom and the Dodgers will want to be a part of it.
This year deGrom is making $7,400,000 and is only under contract through the end of 2018. He becomes arbitration eligible in 2019, meaning that he will have power to negotiate his contract and pay with the team who held his contract at the end of 2018, which currently would be the New York Mets. The best part? deGrom does not become a free agent until 2021.
The Dodgers have more financial room to make an agreeable offer to deGrom and sign him for years into the future. They should be able to afford to bring his salary on after the end of the season for the 2019 and 2020 seasons before he hits free agency. It is obvious enough that the Dodgers will place themselves front-and-center in the bidding war for Bryce Harper this offseason which will demand a large wad of cash. Furthermore, you may remember that Clayton Kershaw has the option to opt-out of his current contract and test the free agent market. This is now very unlikely seeing as Kershaw has been injury plagued and will likely remain seated with the Dodgers making $35,571,429 a year until 2020. So, if the Dodgers play their fiscal cards right, they should be able to potentially land Bryce Harper and pay deGrom, for the next couple years, in the same offseason. This is all made possible by their concerted efforts to reset the luxury tax the past two years due to limited spending.
Of course, signing such an elite talent in deGrom comes with high costs. Not only will the Dodgers have to dish out massive amounts of money, they will likely be forced to part with key players within the organization. The following are players that will likely be targeted in return for deGrom from the Mets in some sort of combination:
As horrific as it may seem for Dodger fans, securing deGrom from the Mets will require a key piece from the Dodgers with the key characteristic of raw talent and proven ability, a seemingly impossible combination. Walker Buehler fits that bill perfectly. It would be a crying shame to trade away home-grown talent such as Buehler which would go against the Dodgers’ historic track record of keeping the farm under lockdown. But, if it would mean a title in 2018 would it be a shame if the Dodgers did not move? Ask the Houston Astros if sending their
number 3, 9, and 11 ranked prospects at the time for a playoff-monster Verlander was worth it.
Before you shout heresy from the rooftops consider the fact that Bryce Harper will likely be heavily targeted by the Dodgers. Now, in the assumption that the Dodgers land Harper, consider Puig’s predicament. Firstly, Harper plays right field, a position that the Dodgers will no doubt hand to him. It would be difficult to move Puig to left due to a scorching Matt Kemp. It would be even more difficult to move him to center due to starter Chris Taylor and a streaking Joc Pederson. Secondly, consider that Puig and Harper are MLB’s two most arguably passionate and vocally aggressive players in any team’s clubhouse. Imagine those two in the same dugout.
Furthermore, the Mets currently have aging Yoenis Cespedes, Jose Bautista, and Jay Bruce sharing left and right field duties. Doesn’t a young, brimming with potential Yasiel Puig sound more appealing to a ballclub that is about to empty house and rebuild with young talent?
Undoubtedly the Mets will be looking for a number of young players with promise in return for deGrom. The Dodgers always have such talent available in their top-of-the-line farm system. Cather Keibert Ruiz recently ranked top 30 in Baseball America’s 2018 prospect rankings. Furthermore, outfielder Alex Verdugo shows
immense potential as a franchise center fielder even though he has not had a real chance to shine for the Dodgers yet in his career.
At the end of the day, the Dodgers are looking to win a World Series. Should this happen, it will be primarily a result of the work of Dave Roberts and his current players who came a game away from tasting true glory last year. However, imagine the relative ease the Dodgers would have compared to last year’s playoff run if they had a healthy and effective Jacob deGrom. Follow that up with an equally healthy Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers would be all but impossible to stop.
[button color=”red” size=”big” alignment=”center” rel=”follow” openin=”samewindow” url=”https://dodgersnation.com/dodgers-four-years-later-kershaws-no-no-still-a-fan-favorite-bs0193/2018/06/18/”]Kershaw’s 2015 No-No[/button]