All right, look. The L.A. Dodgers technically don’t need anything. When you’re a performance juggernaut backed by a nigh-unlimited payroll, cruising through the regular season with a 64-29 record (that’s a 111 win pace, BTW), you’re pretty much just fine-tuning things for the postseason. That’s the place the Dodgers have not had much recent success.
Despite winning the N.L. West the past four years in a row, the Dodgers have only made the N.L. Championship Series twice (lost both times in 6 games) and haven’t been to the World Series at all since 1988. Meanwhile their N.L. West counterparts, the San Francisco Giants, have won the World Series three times since 2010.
The Dodgers don’t need anything, but they’ll probably fritter around the edges with their thoughts on creating a solid World Series-capable roster. I’m sure L.A. Dodgers’ GM Farhan Zaidi is reading this, so I present to you a package deal that can suit two of your items on your not-needed-more-like-wanted list — a LH reliever and a good bench bat — in the form of Tony Watson and John Jaso.
I’m going to back up a half step for a second. Yes, the Pirates are on an uptick and Starling Marte is just coming back. The pitching is solid, the bats are alive, and Felipe Rivero is covered in sweet baby panda fur and unicorn horn dust. But let’s be real about the Pirates’ prospects of making the postseason — they’re not good. I can’t take any team seriously until they’re at least .500 and the Pirates are still three games under that mark. They’re 6 games back of the Brewers in the division, with the Cubs and Cards still between them, too. The Pirates certainly aren’t going to run down the Rockies (54-41) or the Diamondbacks (53-39) for a Wild Card.
I’m not suggesting a fire sale. In fact, with some tweaks to the roster and better off-the-field decisions by the players, I think this team can bounce right back into the mix in 2018. So my suggestion of trading Watson & Jaso is not to signal the beginning of the end of this core, but rather a prudent offsell of expiring assets for ones that can help in 2018. Think of the Mark Melancon for Felipe Rivero/Taylor Hearn model…just not as good.
The Dodgers have so many great players, especially on their pitching staff, that they have figured out a way to game the system in order to maximize the use of all of them. With the advent of the new 10-day DL this year, the L.A. Dodgers are shunting all their starters not named Clayton Kershaw onto the 10-day DL in order to keep their injury-prone arms fresh. Aside from the demi-god Kershaw, 5 other Dodgers have started at least 12 games, plus phenom Julio Urias started 5 games before being lost to a shoulder injury. And for 2018, they have all six of those starters that have hurled at least 12 games under contract plus Scott Kazmir, who has yet to pitch in 2017 due to a hip injury.
Enter Ross Stripling. The 27-year old Stripling is buried on the starting pitcher depth chart, even after taking the bump 14 times last year, including his debut when he took a no-hitter into the 8th inning. But this year he’s been confined to middle relief, including a lot of appearances in the 5th and 6th innings. He’s acquitted himself well in 2017 with a 9.60 K/9 and 2.23 BB/9 ratio, leading to a 3.79 ERA/2.73 FIP duo in his 24 appearances. I’m only 38% joking when I say that Stripling could wander out of the clubhouse and no one would really notice he’s gone at this point.
Stripling has five years of team control after this year, with two at minimum-salary scale and three years of standard arbitration. He could challenge Chad Kuhl or Trevor Williams for a spot in the rotation or help solidify the 7th inning for the Pirates moving forward.
And because it’s the trade deadline and you can hold teams up, I’d have the Dodgers add in the 25-year old Brock Stewart, too. Stewart was brought up as a starter, but his profile is more of a reliever at this point. He’s got a 3 pitch mix of a 94 mph FB, 87 mph, and 83 mph changeup. With the way his service time has been handled, he’ll still have a full six years of team control after this one.
Tony Watson may not bring back much on his own at this point, due to his declining performance over the past calendar year. John Jaso may not bring back much on his own, as he’s probably viewed as a bench bat/pinch hitter by most contending teams. But if the Pirates can package them together, there may be strength in numbers, especially to a team with strong enough wants.