The Los Angeles Dodgers have the largest payroll in MLB by a significant margin, but that isn’t stopping them from trying to add another star to their roster. With the 2015 MLB trade deadline less than two weeks away, L.A. is expected to pursue a top starting pitcher.
Cole Hamels and Johnny Cueto are the best pitchers that have been involved in recent trade rumors, and the Dodgers are reportedly interested in both players. According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, the Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs have also talked to the Philadelphia Phillies about Hamels. The Cincinnati Reds have indicated that they are ready to deal Cueto, who is set to become a free agent in the offseason.
Los Angeles has a 3.5-game lead over the San Francisco Giants in the National League West, but they might need to make a move if they want to win a title, especially considering the lack of reliable starters behind Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw. The St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates both have a better record than the Dodgers, and the Washington Nationals are considered to have a better chance of winning the 2015 World Series.
Hamels has been a top NL starter for nearly a decade, and last year was his best statistical season. But recent struggles, combined with his lucrative contract, could allow the Dodgers to acquire him without giving up one of their top two prospects. The 31-year-old is owed $71 million from 2016-2018, and he has a $20 million option for 2019. His 3.91 ERA is uncharacteristically high, and he has a 9.45 ERA in three July starts.
Heyman reports that the Phillies have been more “reasonable” in recent trade talks regarding Hamels. Philadelphia had previously been asking for either shortstop Corey Seager or pitcher Julio Urias, the Dodgers’ top minor-league stars and among the best prospects in baseball. It's possible a deal could get done without either prospect, with the Dodgers also boasting young minor-league pitchers Grant Holmes and Jose De Leon, among others.
Philadelphia has MLB’s worst record, and they haven’t finished a season with a winning record since 2011. Cincinnati is 16.5 games out of first place, and Cueto’s asking price in free agency might be out of their price range. Cueto has a 2.79 ERA with nearly a strikeout per inning, and he hasn’t finished the year with an ERA higher than 2.82 since 2010.
The Houston Astros are reportedly interested in Cueto, as they look to make the playoffs for the first time in a decade. Manager A.J. Hinch has already used 11 starters this season, and the back end of the rotation remains questionable. Cueto would be a valuable addition to any team, but the Astros may be a competing team with the most to gain from his presence.
Cueto has spent his entire seven-year career with the Reds. The 29-year-old boasts a highly effective four-seam and two-seam fastball, as well as perhaps the best cutter in baseball.
The Dodgers have a highly effective top of the order, but Cueto could be a crucial addition. Greinke and Kershaw have provided manager Don Mattingly with perhaps the best one-two punch of any rotation in baseball, having a combined ERA of 1.99 this season. A better No.3 starter could make L.A. the favorites in the NL. Brett Anderson has overachieved, posting a 3.17 ERA in 18 starts for the Dodgers, but has not had 30 starts in a season since his rookie year in 2009.
Mike Bolsinger has a 3.04 ERA on the year, but he has a 4.34 ERA since the start of June, going more than six innings in just one of his last 10 starts. Brandon Beachy has emerged as the No. 5 starter, and has just one start this season.