The Dodgers are increasingly confident they will acquire a significant starting pitcher -- the Rangers' Yu Darvish, the A's Sonny Gray or the Tigers' Justin Verlander --- by Monday's non-waiver Trade Deadline, sources told MLB.com on Thursday.To date, the Dodgers have had heavier conversations on Darvish and Gray than Verlander, the sources said.The Dodgers
The Dodgers are increasingly confident they will acquire a significant starting pitcher -- the Rangers' Yu Darvish, the A's Sonny Gray or the Tigers' Justin Verlander --- by Monday's non-waiver Trade Deadline, sources told MLB.com on Thursday.
To date, the Dodgers have had heavier conversations on Darvish and Gray than Verlander, the sources said.
The Dodgers face less competition on Darvish than Gray, because Darvish will be a free agent after the current season and most contenders are focused on adding multiyear assets such as Gray.
The Rangers have told teams they plan to deal Darvish by Monday's non-waiver Trade Deadline, a source confirmed to MLB.com's Mark Feinsand. It appears the team reached that decision after Wednesday's lopsided loss to the Marlins -- with Darvish on the mound -- after which they fell 4 1/2 games back of the second American League Wild Card. MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal first reported Thursday that Texas expects to trade Darvish because of its confidence in receiving a "quality" return.
Darvish hasn't pitched like an ace lately. His ERA is 5.08 since the beginning of June. Wednesday's start, in which he surrendered 10 earned runs over 3 2/3 innings, was the worst of his career.
Another thing to remember regarding the Darvish market are the new Qualifying Offer rules that were set forth by the Collective Bargaining Agreement that was ratified during the offseason. Under the new QO rules, only teams that receive revenue sharing can receive a first-round compensation pick when a free agent rejects a QO to sign elsewhere. According to sources, the Rangers are not on the list of 16 clubs that will receive revenue sharing, which isn't surprising given the size of their market. As a result, the best they can do if Darvish rejects a qualifying offer and leaves is a comp pick before the third round (likely in the 70s). These new rules could incentivize a trade, as Darvish would certainly bring pack a prospect package more valuable than a Draft pick in that range.
Gray is drawing widespread interest from contending clubs -- and even sellers, such as the Braves. The A's would like to acquire a front-line center-field prospect in any trade involving Gray; the Dodgers' Alex Verdugo, the Nationals' Victor Robles and the Yankees' Estevan Florial all match that description.
The Dodgers have scouted Verlander's starts in recent weeks, but a deal with Detroit is problematic because of Verlander's contract. The longtime Tigers ace is due $28 million in each of the next two seasons; the Dodgers don't want to assume Verlander's entire salary because they'd like to lessen (or eliminate) their luxury tax burden in 2018.
The Twins also could emerge as a trade partner for the Dodgers in the coming days, with All-Star Ervin Santana and Jaime Garcia joining the list of possible rotation upgrades. The Twins' recent losing streak -- which reached four games in a walk-off loss to the Dodgers on Wednesday -- has forced the front office to reconsider its approach to the Trade Deadline.
• Friday in Detroit, Dallas Keuchel will make his first start for the Astros since June 2. He's missed nearly two months due to a nerve issue in his neck. Keuchel's performance -- and physical condition afterward -- could have dramatic ramifications on the market for starting pitching ahead of the Trade Deadline.
If Keuchel's outing raises new concerns over his reliability in October, then the Astros will have little choice but to redouble their efforts to add an impactful starter. That's especially true given the recent struggles of No. 2 starter Lance McCullers, who has a 5.86 ERA since June 1 and has failed to complete five innings in three consecutive starts.
The Twins are considering whether to become sellers, sources said, and could emerge as an intriguing trade partner for Houston. Minnesota can market Santana and the recently acquired Garcia, who makes his Twins debut Friday night.
• If the Twins decide to become sellers, there's a high probability they will move All-Star closer Brandon Kintzler, who will be a free agent after this season. The D-backs and Red Sox are among the teams with interest in Kintzler, sources said.
• The Nationals have scouted Cardinals reliever Trevor Rosenthal and outfielder Tommy Pham in recent weeks, sources said. The Nats have five outfielders on the disabled list -- Adam Eaton, Chris Heisey, Ryan Raburn, Michael Taylor and Jayson Werth -- and Pham is enjoying a breakout season for St. Louis, with a .927 OPS and 14 home runs in 73 games.
Jon Paul Morosi is a national columnist for MLB.com.