Dodgers Trade Targets: What Would it Take to Get Johnny Cueto?

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Buckle up, things are about to get wild. The Dodgers open the second half of the season in Washington D.C. on Friday. If we thought the flurry of transactions by the newly appointed front office made our heads spin up to this point, I think we should prepare for some more major moves to be made before the July 31st trade deadline.

With 90 games already in the book, the Dodgers would need to go 43-29 the remainder of the way to notch 94 games on the year. The Dodgers may not need 94 wins to claim their third consecutive N.L. Division title this season, but it just goes to show you that last season’s team wasn’t exactly shabby.

So far it seems as though the Dodgers have been lucky to be 4 1/2 games up in the West after two thirds of their starting rotation was decimated early in the season. A career year from Brett Anderson on a one-year deal and a smart pick up of right-hander Mike Bolsinger were some of the most cost effective and successful moves made by Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi this season, but the Brandon McCarthy signing ended up being a big expensive dud.

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Everyone, and I mean everyone, knows that the Dodgers need to acquire at least one reliable starting pitcher before July 31st in order to shore up the rotation and compete with Washington, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and the hack-eyed St. Louis Cardinals come October. While ridiculous trade scenarios fill up the internets (no, the Dodgers are not straight up trading Yasiel Puig for David Price), it’s that time of year when we really do have to think about trade possibilities.

I’m still a fan of Cole Hamels, and I will be upset if he ends up in Toronto or somewhere else after the Phillies have hoarded him this long. The right-hander has pitched less than 200 innings once in the last seven seasons proving to be a reliable frontline starter, but the Phillies may once again hold on to their ace until the offseason before they trade him making me even more irritated. Acquiring Hamels would also give the Dodgers a fall back option should Zack Greinke opt-out at the end of the season. With a Cy Young worthy season through half, there’s no reason to think Greinke won’t opt-out.

The Dodgers haven’t been willing to part with their top prospects for a Cole Hamels, but what would it take to get Johnny Cueto? Could Cincinnati’s ace look better in Blue than Red? Cincinnati is 15 1/2 games behind St. Louis in the N.L. Central, and Cincy may be readying to sell off any day now.

Although a playoff rotation with Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Johnny Cueto would be formidable indeed, Cueto doesn’t come without some wariness. The high-kickin’ Cueto did have some elbow stiffness in May. Even though a subsequent MRI showed only inflammation, with a remaining 72 games left on the regular season schedule, it makes one hesitant to ship off top-notch talent in exchange for a Cueto rental.

If the Dodgers were to acquire Cueto via trade, the ramifications would be nothing short of a disaster should he fall to disability in the second half. Especially since the front office banked on Brandon McCarthy only for his elbow to explode.

Buster Olney  of ESPN feels that the Dodgers are the frontrunners to land Cueto this month, and that the front office loves him.

What exactly would the Dodgers have to give up to get Johnny Cueto? Alex Guerrero is of course expendable, but he has little trade value other than a throw-in since he has the ability to opt-out of the last two years of his contract if traded.

Jul 15, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; National League outfielder Yasiel Puig (66) of the Los Angeles Dodgers jokes around with pitcher Johnny Cueto (right) of the Cincinnati Reds before the 2014 MLB All Star Game at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Corey Seager and Julio Urias are absolutely off the table. There’s no way the Dodgers would trade either top prospect for a Cueto rental. I could see the Dodgers trading a pitching prospect like Jose De Leon in a package for Cueto (perhaps with a Alex Guerrero thrown in). Leon is easily a top-25 prospect, and even though I don’t want to see him go, I’d rather it be him than Urias.

Grant Holmes, last year’s first-rounder, has had some control issues in single-A (39 walks in 69 1/3 innings pitched good for a 5.1 BB/9 up from 2.4 BB/9 in 2014), but he could be another name in the mix as well.

I’m sure a lot will depend on whether the Dodgers are able to sign either Walker Buehler or Kyle Funkhouser before the deadline this Friday who were both top pitching prospects out of this year’s MLB Draft. The Dodgers have the pitching depth, and I do expect them to deal a couple of their minor league arms for a starting pitcher in order to make a push down the stretch.

If the Dodgers do trade for Cueto, I would hope that it would include a window of opportunity to sign him to an extension so that they would not have to face extending both Cueto and Greinke next offseason. The Dodgers have the money power and the farm reserves to get a Cueto, but I hope they also have the financial clout and sense to retain Greinke as well.

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