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Dodgers look to get creative ahead of Deadline

@kengurnick
July 10, 2019

With the best record in baseball at the break, the Dodgers are on a breakaway for their seventh consecutive National League West title and it’s hard to envision they need to make any changes to win it. What happens once they reach the postseason, as they’ve shown the past six

With the best record in baseball at the break, the Dodgers are on a breakaway for their seventh consecutive National League West title and it’s hard to envision they need to make any changes to win it.

What happens once they reach the postseason, as they’ve shown the past six years, is an entirely different subject. The bullpen has been the most obvious vulnerability this year, but finding an impactful upgrade will be a real challenge because the supply/demand equation favors the sellers and the pool of players available is possibly smaller than ever.

And this year for the Dodgers in particular, the specter of the Yordan Alvarez trade for Josh Fields is the elephant in the ballpark. You never know when the teenager nobody’s ever heard of turns into the next David Ortiz … but you traded him for a reliever you released.

Current status: buyer
The Dodgers are buyers because they’re always buyers, but that doesn’t mean they’re spenders. They usually pass on the biggest names available when they are the most expensive names available, with Manny Machado last summer being the biggest exception. But the Dodgers lead the league in creativity, so you never really know what they’re up to.

What they are seeking
Sure, they’d like Will Smith-the-reliever, Brad Hand, etc. About 23 teams do. But this management team does not trade away its top prospects. If it did, Julio Urias, Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, Walker Buehler or Will Smith-the-catcher would have been dealt for a quick fix during a previous Trade Deadline. They won’t knowingly overpay, and with so many teams in the Wild Card race and the jobs of general managers riding in the balance, somebody else will overpay. So the Dodgers are more likely to settle for a Tony Watson-type bullpen arm.

What they have to offer
This is another reason why the Dodgers are not likely to pull down a marquee name. Most of their prospects are on the young side and most teams willing to trade a marquee name want MLB-ready talent in return. Keibert Ruiz, Gavin Lux, Dustin May and Smith are the Dodgers’ top four prospects, the kind that can land a marquee name, the kind this management doesn’t trade.

While a veteran like Joc Pederson appears expendable with the return of outfielder A.J. Pollock, another trait of this management team is to not trade away players off the roster that have been first-half contributors, preferring to package Minor Leaguers instead, like last year’s 5-for-1 Machado deal.

Possible scenario
A best-case-scenario might be Detroit right-hander Shane Greene in a deal for a pair of prospects not named Ruiz/Lux/May/Smith. Maybe they’ll acquire a starter to turn into a reliever, or one that would allow for turning Kenta Maeda into a reliever. Or maybe they’ll go back in time and reacquire Watson of the Giants or Daniel Hudson of the Blue Jays. The Dodgers acquired both before and they play for two of the few teams out of the race so they should come relatively cheaply.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.