The Dodgers have already both added and subtracted from their pitching mix prior to the deadline, acquiring Lance Lynn and Joe Kelly from the White Sox while also shipping out Noah Syndergaard to the Guardians in exchange for Amed Rosario. Between these moves and the re-acqusition of old friend Enrique Hernandez from the Red Sox, Los Angeles has already checked several boxes on their wishlist with over three days to go until the trade deadline, but more transactions seem likely given the Dodgers’ aggression.
Pitching remains the focus, as while Lynn will theoretically fill one hole, Lynn’s inconsistency and the Dodgers’ relative lack of rotation has put a lot of other hurlers on the team’s radar. According to Jack Harris and Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times, the Dodgers’ list of targets include Justin Verlander, Eduardo Rodriguez, Brady Singer, Mitch Keller, Jack Flaherty, and Jordan Montgomery. Beyond Verlander, the Dodgers are also looking at a couple of other Mets players to address their outfield needs, as The Athletic’s Fabian Ardaya reports that Tommy Pham and Mark Canha are of interest.
One Met who apparently isn’t under heavy consideration is Max Scherzer, as Harris/Castillo write that “the likelihood…isn’t as strong” of Scherzer heading to Chavez Ravine at another trade deadline. L.A. memorably landed Scherzer and Trea Turner from the Nationals two years ago, but Scherzer was a rental at the time, just two-plus months away from free agency. Scherzer implied yesterday that he would be exercising his $43.333MM player option for 2024, and with the Mets likely to ask for a strong trade return, the uncertainty over that player option makes Scherzer a pricey add both financially (he is also still owed $16MM for the rest of 2023) and from a prospect cost.
Given how aggressive the Dodgers have been, a Scherzer reunion might not be entirely ruled out until either the team makes another pitching move, or until Scherzer is potentially shipped elsewhere. With Verlander, Pham and Canha also apparently under discussion, the Dodgers’ talks with the Mets could go in several directions between now and Tuesday’s 5pm CT deadline.
Similarly, there are plenty of layers to the negotiations between the Dodgers and Cardinals, as Nolan Arenado is yet another star name Los Angeles has explored. In a move akin to that Scherzer/Turner blockbuster of 2021, the Dodgers could aim to land both a major position player and a rental pitcher (either Montgomery or Flaherty) in the same deal. Harris/Castillo note that L.A. might also pursue either Montgomery or Flaherty on their own, should the more complicated machinations of an Arenado deal fall through.
Rodriguez has drawn attention from several other teams as the deadline approaches, and the Tigers left-hander’s status is also impacted by a contractual option. Rodriguez has the ability to opt out of his contract after the season, leaving three years and $49MM on the table in search of a richer and longer-term deal. An opt-out seems like a distinct possibility the way E-Rod has been pitching, yet an injury or a drop in form (with the Tigers or a new team) could certainly still occur post-deadline, leading to a change in his thinking. If this did happen after a trade, a new club could find itself on the books for $49MM of a suddenly distressed asset, which surely factors into the thinking of the Dodgers and any other team considering the southpaw.
Beyond these veteran rental players, the Dodgers are also slightly expanding their perimeters to look at more controllable pitchers. The Pirates have arbitration control on Keller through the 2025 season, while the Royals have Singer arb-controlled through 2026. Keller seems like the longer shot, as Pittsburgh is perhaps only listening to trade offers out of due diligence, and would command a huge prospect return in any deal. While Los Angeles is one of the teams with the prospect depth to perhaps get the Pirates’ attention, it doesn’t seem likely that the Bucs will move Keller anywhere at the deadline or even in the near future, as Pittsburgh may have an eye on fully turning the corner back into contending in 2024.
“No traction toward a deal has materialized” between the Dodgers and Royals, so Singer is probably also not on the move. The former first-rounder has a breakout season in 2022 but has struggled to a 5.46 ERA over 113 2/3 innings this year, albeit with a somewhat more favorable 4.41 SIERA. It is possible that L.A. was looking to buy low on the righty (who turns 27 next week), just in case Kansas City was considering a wider-range rebuild in the wake of its disastrous 2023 season. The Royals are in a tough spot given the lack of production from almost all of their projected cornerstone young players, yet while it isn’t clear what the next step will be for the franchise, it does seem too soon for K.C. to give up on Singer, one of the few members of that group who has had some level of success in the majors.
Returning to Verlander, he would also bring a bit more control than a rental player, as he owed $43.333MM in 2024 and he can earn a $35MM player option for 2025 if he pitches at least 140 innings in 2024. It’s a steep price tag for a pitcher who turns 41 in February, as even though Verlander has pitched closer to his vintage form in the last few weeks, he missed time earlier this year due to a teres major strain and was then shaky in his first few starts of 2023.
Perhaps more relevant to August 1, Verlander has a full no-trade clause in his contract, and said earlier this week that “I’m focused on being a Met. I want to win here…Obviously it hasn’t gone according to plan just yet, but I didn’t sign a one-year deal.” Since the Mets have already started to trade veterans and look ahead to 2024, it is possible Verlander might change his mind should a contender make an offer, and there has been a connection between Verlander and Los Angeles in the past. The Dodgers pushed to sign Verlander in free agency last winter, with Harris/Castillo writing that L.A. offered the future Hall-of-Famer two years and $80MM.