The MLB’s Hot Stove has yet to get burning, but there are reports that the Los Angeles Dodgers and Cleveland Indians are in discussions with each other regarding several trade scenarios.
The Indians are coming off a disappointing 2018 that saw them get embarrassingly swept by the Houston Astros in the ALDS while the Dodgers lost in their second World Series in as many years.
The cores of both teams appear that they will remain relatively intact heading into next season, although a trade between the two can change that. The Indians are in desperate need for outfield help while the Dodgers are interested in starting pitching and in the market for a veteran catcher, making the two perfect trade partners.
The Cleveland Indians are littered with quality starting pitching, and reports suggest that Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco are the two likely players to be moved. In fact, Kluber has been speculated to be a trade asset for a couple of weeks now and would be an excellent get for Los Angeles.
The 32-year-old has a career 3.09 ERA in 201 games (196 starts), but since 2014, the righty has a 2.85 ERA, 2.94 FIP, 1.02 WHIP, and 1,228 strikeouts (aided by an elite 28.4% K-rate) in 1,091.1 innings. In 2018, he had a 2.89 ERA, 0.991 WHIP, and an MLB-best 1.4 walks-per-nine (4.03% BB-rate) in an MLB-leading 215 innings.
During this five-season stretch, Kluber has collected two Cy Young awards, two third-place finishes, and another top-ten finish. The veteran has two club options left on his contract that runs through 2021 at a team-friendly AAV of $15.75 million. He is a top-five pitcher in baseball and grouping him alongside Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler would give the Dodgers arguably the best trio of starters in the game.
31-year-old veteran Carlos Carrasco is the other name linked with Los Angeles. He has a career 3.71 ERA but since 2016 has a 3.33 ERA, 3.21 FIP, and 1.12 WHIP while striking out 27.8% of hitters faced.
Carrasco would require less in trade assets because he has just one year left on his deal and does not have the pedigree of Kluber. But, he would slot in excellently into the number three spot in the rotation behind Kershaw and Buehler.
Regardless of who they get, both would give the Dodgers’ left-heavy rotation much-needed balance.
And Indians catcher Yan Gomes may be another guy who could be included in the trade. Los Angeles is looking for a starter behind the plate with Yasmani Grandal a free agent and unlikely to return. LA has two of game’s best catching prospects, but they aren’t ready yet, so are looking for a stopgap.
Gomes is good defensively with an above-average bat. He hit 21 home runs in 135 back in 2014 but has dealt with injury since. He was an All-Star this past season, finishing with a 103 OPS+ and 16 home runs in 112 games.
After 2019, his club can buy him out for $1 million or opt for a $9 million club option in 2020 and $11 million option in 2021.
And in return for any of these guys, it’s speculated that the Dodgers would have to build a package around their surplus of outfielders. Their full-time outfielders include Matt Kemp, Joc Pederson, Andrew Toles, Yasiel Puig, and top prospect Alex Verdugo.
But 22-year-old Cody Bellinger ended up shifting from first base to the outfield full-time with the emergence of Max Muncy and trade for David Freese while super utility players Chris Taylor and Enrique Hernandez saw a lot of time out there too.
And because of the logjam, most of these guys have become part-time players, even though they need to be playing full-time. A move from Los Angeles would give them just that.
Smart money would be that Puig, Pederson, and Verdugo are the most likely to be moved from the group of players because of their youth, team control, and the fact that Cody Bellinger should be a near-untouchable for the Dodgers.
Pederson is a 26-year-old who crushes right-handed pitching and under team control through 2020. The lefty is coming off a season where he had a .843 OPS (125 OPS+) and 25 home runs in 395 plate appearances. 24 of his dingers came against righties, which he also had a .893 OPS against.
A change of scenery would perhaps give him more reps against left-handers and give him an actual chance to develop against them, instead of being held back like in Los Angeles.
Puig is the uber-talented 27-year-old fielder who will show you his MVP-level talent one week, then frustrate you with inconsistency the next. But he is starting to put it together, hitting 51 home runs in 277 games (30-homer pace) over the last two seasons.
He has been that rare reverse-splits hitter since 2017 but proved he could hit lefties prior. Puig also brings elite defense in right field, aided by arguably the best outfield arm in the league. A change of scenery has long been rumored, and with one year of club control left, going to Cleveland may help him finally reach his tantalizing talent.
Verdugo would likely be the asking price, especially for a deal involving Kluber. He is one of the game’s best prospects because of his ability with the bat and glove. He is a pure hitter that will likely cap out at 10-15 home runs but will hit for average, get on base, and not strike out. All while possessing a rocket arm and playing good defense.
There are options for both teams to come to a conclusion with each other. It’s just a matter of finding the right match. And whatever happens, you can bet will largely affect their 2019 outlook.