The Los Angeles Dodgers are trying to cast as wide a net as possible in their search for a starting pitcher, but they are also faced with one overriding imperative. Each dominant start Zack Greinke makes -- and he hasn’t given up a run in his past six -- he gets closer to walking away. Imagine a 32-year-old former Cy Young winner -- and possible soon-to-be two-time winner -- going into free agency after a season with a sub-2.00 ERA. Greinke’s contract, which he signed before the 2013 season, looks better by the day because of that opt-out clause. Barring something unforeseen, he’ll opt out and the Dodgers will be left with only one sure thing -- Clayton Kershaw -- in their rotation. Hyun-Jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy are coming off serious arm injuries. Brett Anderson will be a free agent. Granted, having Kershaw is a great start, but the Dodgers don’t want to be in the position of needing to sign two or three starting pitchers in free agency. It’s just not good business. So, look for them to spend a lot of their time between now and July 31 pursuing pitchers who will not be free agents in November.
Cole Hamels: We know the Dodgers have sent two separate professional scouts to watch his starts. We know he won’t be a free agent until after 2018, so he checks that crucial box. What we don’t know is how serious the Philadelphia Phillies are about moving him in the next 10 days or so given the flux in their front office. They could wait until the winter meetings. Also, the Dodgers have a slight preference for a right-handed pitcher because their division is so stacked with right-handed power, but they won’t let that stand in the way of closing the deal on a difference-maker.
Anyone in an A’s uniform: Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi has such a strong, longstanding relationship with everyone in the Oakland A’s front office, you can’t rule out these teams coming to an agreement on any A’s pitcher. Zaidi has chatted with A’s general manager Billy Beane about Scott Kazmir, but Oakland has other starters who won’t be free agents in November. Sonny Gray, obviously, would be the big catch, but it’s not clear if the Dodgers would be willing to part with the elite prospects to acquire an ace-caliber pitcher like Gray.
C.J. Wilson: This rumor cropped up weeks ago and went away quietly, so there’s no evidence the two Southland teams have actually had discussions, but it does make some sense. Wilson is overpaid at $18 million, but it’s not the worst contract in baseball and he has another year left on it, plus he’s having a nice bounceback season. He has a home in the Los Feliz section of Hollywood, a 10-minute drive from Dodger Stadium, so he’d be happy. The Los Angeles Angels need an outfielder and the Dodgers have a couple of overpaid guys in Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford who are still productive (and largely redundant) players.
Who could go
The way the Dodgers talk, we can pretty much rule out Corey Seager and, probably, Julio Urias from leaving the organization. Seager figures to be the starting shortstop next April and he has future superstar practically tattooed on his forehead. Given the Dodgers’ need for starting pitching reinforcements, Urias is just as crucial. But the Dodgers’ system is deeper than it was a year ago, and guys like Jose De Leon, Grant Holmes, Chris Anderson, Scott Shebler and Darnell Sweeney could be packaged to get premium major-league talent in return.
As people have begun to note lately, the entire scene changes if the Dodgers decide they're willing to trade Yasiel Puig. At that point, they could have discussions with buying teams as well as sellers. Gold Glove-caliber outfielders with right-handed power and star appeal can land a haul of talent in return. Perhaps they could line up on a deal with the Washington Nationals, for example, on a deal involving Stephen Strasburg or Jordan Zimmermann if Washington adds other pieces.
The dialogue is just beginning and a lot can change in the coming days as more sellers decide to pull the plug, but the Dodger have an excellent shot of landing a pitcher who can help them in 2015 and, probably, beyond.