Will Injuries to the Dodgers' Starting Rotation Propel the Dodgers to Trade for Cole Hamels or Johnny Cueto?
Cole Hamels, the biggest fish on the trade market, has dominated trade rumors after a swirl of injuries to starting pitchers. He is not the only high-end option, however, as Johnny Cueto may become available with the Dodgers chasing him after the season ending injuries to Brandon McCarthy and Hyun-jin Ryu.
The Dodgers even face questions beyond McCarthy and Ryu, as Zach Greinke's lubricating injection in his right elbow during the offseason has caused concerns. Although Greinke has been one of the best pitchers in baseball so far this season, there is also serious speculation he could opt out of his contract when the season ends in order to pursue one last lucrative deal before he is too old to do so.
With McCarthy missing all of this season and at least half of the 2016 season due to Tommy John surgery, Ryu being out indefinitely after having shoulder surgery, and Greinke most likely opting out after this season, Clayton Kershaw is the only reliable starting pitcher for the Dodgers right now.
If the Dodgers' internal starting pitching options, such as Mike Bolsinger, Carlos Frias, Joe Weiland, Zach Lee, and Erik Bedard cannot hold down the back end of the rotation effectively, the club could explore the trade market for another very expensive pitcher.
"The Dodgers have used their resources in creative ways over the past seven months while hoping that their relatively thin starting rotation would hold up. Now they might be cornered into making a significant starting pitching investment, either this summer or in the fall. A number of industry folks believe they'll take a run at Johnny Cueto," writes ESPN Insider Buster Olney.
Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times also views Cueto as a potential option, as well as Hamels, Doug Fister (Nationals), Jeff Samardzija (White Sox), and Jordan Zimmerman (Nationals). The Phillies, with Hamels being signed through the 2018 season with a 2019 club option, would likely want one of Corey Seager or Julio Urías in return. With the Dodgers having shown they are not willing to pay that price, Cueto might be the best fit because he would only be a rental, and therefore cost less in terms of prospects. In addition, the White Sox are hoping to sign Samardzija to a long term deal, and the Nationals would likely prefer to keep their starting rotation unaffected if they are still sitting in first place in the National League East come July.
Given these circumstances, Cueto is the most likely of the bunch to be traded. This statement only proves more true since it was said that he is seeking a $200 million dollar contract, which the Reds cannot afford. The Reds got off to a decent start but have faded dramatically lately, and will most likely continue to fall behind in the very competitive National League Central because their pitching staff lacks depth, and their offense, even while being healthy, has been mediocre.
It only makes sense for the Reds to try to trade Cueto if they continue to fall behind the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs in order to get value for the right-hander before he hits the free agent market after this season.
Andrew Friedman has acknowledged trades are pretty uncommon in April and May and suggested the Dodgers would fill the rotation vacancies internally for the next two months.
However, pending free agents on teams that are out of contention could become available by June.
Look for the Dodgers to make a blockbuster deal in June or July in order to finally end their World Series drought if their starting rotation doesn't seem to be shaping up.