The Dodgers have earned rare Yankees treatment: Los Angeles is in the running to acquire one of the Cubs top two starting pitchers not because it makes any particular amount of sense, but simply because "they're the Dodgers." Congratulations?
Acquiring another starter does make good sense for L.A. While Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Zack Greinke have all been excellent, Josh Beckett has largely ridden the BABIP monster to success this year. Perhaps more importantly, Dan Haren has been something of a disappointment thus far, and with a $10 million vesting player option upon reaching 180 innings, the Dodgers have a strong incentive to limit his innings to avoid the option if they think a better starting option may be found. Paul Maholm has been an unmitigated disaster as a starter, although he has proved useful in relief.
Anyway, despite their free-spending ways, the Dodgers still have plenty of appealing talent in their system, certainly enough to consummate a big deal at the trade deadline. Who exactly could their offer for Jeff Samardzija or Jason Hammel? Let's take a look.
The crown jewel of the L.A. system is 17-year-old left-hander Julio Urias. The 5-11, 160-pound Mexican native figures to have a bit more physical projection in him, but even without it, he has been a revelation in his short time as a professional. His solid fastball works in the low-90s and while his low-80s breaking ball gets a lot of repetitions, I'm significantly more impressed by his changeup that dives at 82-84. After pitching wonderfully in the Midwest League at age 16 in 2013, he has continued his success at High-A primarily by working with the type of pitchability found in the likes of Kyle Hendricks or Mark Prior, guys who cut and dive their pitches as the situation dictates. Urias has a legitimate chance to pitch in a Major League game as a teenager, even though he lacks an ace ceiling due to his physique.
Next, we find a player whose bat will play anywhere: 20-year-old shortstop Corey Seager. The 18th pick in the 2012 draft, Seager is an athletic 6-4, 215-pounder with baseball in his blood. After pummeling Low-A last year before burning out in High-A and the Arizona Fall League, Seager returned to High-A this year to punish opposing pitchers. With a .350 batting average and an ISO above .250, he has done just that. Seager will strike out frequently, but he also draws enough walks that he should be an on-base asset. His game is plus but not plus-plus all around as his arm will play anywhere and his hit/power combination can lead to some explosive results. He's got a regular future with the chance to be a key cog.
Not all that dissimilar to Seager but more advanced is outfielder Joc Pederson. Pederson played a great season at Double-A in 2013, yet he has followed by erupting even further in Triple-A with a .319/.437/.568 line including 17 home runs and 20 stolen bases prior to separating his right shoulder in late June. The 6-1, 185-pound lefty is just 22 and has produced massive results at every level, save a 16-game sputtering in the Midwest League in 2011. Pederson is the type of athlete that the Cubs like, a guy who does everything well even if nothing projects to be impactful at the top level. If Pederson's profile sounds familiar to Brett Jackson's, you probably know the warning that is coming: the strikeouts. As Pederson has climbed the minor league ladder, his strikeout rates have steadily risen to a very dangerous 28.6% this year. As it did with Jackson, that type of rate can sabotage the entire package.
The first pitcher of note is 6-3, 190-pound righty Zach Lee. The 22-year-old features a very average arsenal with the traditional fastball-slider-changeup three-pitch mix. Lee's stuff is generally unspectacular, although his command allows the package to work together. After a very solid Double-A showing in 2013, Lee has struggled mightily in 2014 as Triple-A hitters have made too much contact against Le for his stuff to work. There's still time for him to work on his pitchability and become a mid-rotation starter given his youth, but Lee might need a jump in his stuff that isn't coming.
There's not a ton of sense in me trying to significantly differentiate the next five guys in the system, so here they are all as a bunch: big righty Chris Anderson, big lefty Chris Reed, tall righty Ross Stripling, and huge lefty Tom Windle all project as fourth starters with significant command issues standing in the way of them reaching their ceilings. They do have differentiating characteristics -- for example, Reed is British, Anderson and Windle are both from Minnesota, and Stripling underwent Tommy John surgery in March -- yet none of them are all that exciting.
The final pitcher that is exciting: Mexican 19-year-old righty Victor Arano. Arano tips the scales at 6-2, 200 pounds with plenty of size to stick as a starter. As a professional, his control has been excellent as his walk rate is just 1.98 BB/9 over his first 104⅓ career innings. By living over the plate, he has been hurt by the long ball, but Arano's clean delivery still generates low-90s heat, a projectable curveball, and a passable changeup. He has a long path ahead of him, but there is a world in which he spends a few years in the middle of a good rotation.
This could be Arismendy Alcantara's fault: Right now I've got a thing for undersized switch-hitting middle infielders. That leads us to our final prospect: Jesmuel Valentin. Valentin -- the 51st overall pick in the 2012 draft -- checks in at just 5-9, 180 pounds, but he has the type of skill set that excites. He hits for good average, he draws plenty of walks while striking out an acceptable amount of the time, he has solid power, he's got good speed, and it has all come together well enough for him to post a .281/.351/.423 line with 16 steals and 24 extra-base hits as a 20-year-old in the Midwest League. It's not terribly sexy, but it's interesting to me. I like his lefty swing a lot while his righty swing... less so. It shows in his splits too. Still, Valentin is the kind of guy who has enough in the tool bag to push for a meaningful job at some point, even if his defensive profile likely fits better at second base or in a utility role.
The Dodgers system isn't deep like some of the systems we have seen thus far, but there's plenty here for a deal. Here goes:
Proposal #1: Chicago Cubs trade starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija to Los Angeles for starting pitcher Julio Urias, outfielder Joc Pederson, and starting pitcher Ross Stripling
Proposal #2: Chicago Cubs trade starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija to Los Angeles for shortstop Corey Seager, starting pitcher Zach Lee, starting pitcher Victor Arano, and second baseman Jesmuel Valentin
Proposal #3: Chicago Cubs trade starting pitcher Jason Hammel to Los Angeles for starting pitcher Zach Lee, starting pitcher Chris Reed, and second baseman Jesmuel Valentin
Getting one of Urias, Pederson, or Seager in a Hammel deal would be excellent. As for Samardzija, at least one of that trio has to come to Chicago for the deal to make sense. I'll close with a disclaimer: I did consider the eminently tradeable rostered outfield trio of Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier, and Matt Kemp. None of those three are any good at this point and all come with debilitating injury concerns that have sapped their defensive abilities. Unless Yasiel Puig enters the conversation -- not going to happen -- I'm not interested in any of the outfielders actually in Los Angeles.
What do you think? Do any of these packages rise to the level that you'd pull the trigger?
On Deck: Kansas City Royals