The Dodgers are now a week away from the non-waiver trade deadline and although they need to bolster their bullpen, should they pursue a starting pitcher instead?
The Dodgers need to bolster their bullpen if they want to advance deep in the playoffs once again, there is no doubt about it. In order to help out the bullpen should the Dodgers acquire another starting pitcher? Acquiring another starting pitcher would allow the Dodgers to move a starter like Alex Wood or Rich Hill to the bullpen where they could be more effective in shorter bursts.
On top of acquiring a starter to push another starter to the bullpen, the case could be made that the Dodgers need another starting pitcher. Clayton Kershaw has had poor luck but is beginning to pitch better. The issue with Kershaw is that he seems to have chronic back issues now and he also had biceps tendonitis earlier this season. Acquiring one more starting pitcher would protect against another Kershaw injury.
Kenta Maeda has been awesome this season as he has mastered a Greinke-like changeup, but Maeda seems to run out of gas towards the end of the season. Last year Maeda sputtered down the stretch posting a 5.25 ERA in September which pushed him to the playoff bullpen where he actually had lots of success. If Maeda struggles towards the end of the season it makes sense to move him to the bullpen once again.
Alex Wood and Rich Hill are two other starting pitchers who have had injury issues over the past few seasons and both have shown the ability to pitch well in relief. Rich Hill was once a reliever before he transformed himself into a late-blooming starting pitcher and Alex Wood pitch five innings of relief last year and didn’t allow a single hit.
In shorter bursts, Wood’s fastball would perk back up into the mid 90’s. With Tony Cingrani’s health still in question, it could make sense to move Alex Wood or Rich Hill into a relief role if either struggle down the final stretch. Julio Urias will also be another starting candidate who could get run as a reliever when he returns.
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Then there is the new breakout starting pitcher of the season, Ross Stripling. While Stripling has been a godsend and saved the Dodgers when 4/5 of their starting rotation was hurt, Chicken Strip is starting to regress back to the mean. In July, Stripling has a 3.97 ERA which is still solid but he has also given up five home runs in only four starts. Adding another starting pitcher would protect against a second-half slide by Stripling.
Walker Buehler is another starter with his name in the hat, but young Buehler is on a strict innings limit. The Dodgers will mix Buehler into the rotation mix but they will need to watch his innings down the stretch to ensure he is fresh and able to pitch in the postseason if he has a good second half. Walker Buehler still has a lot to prove in the majors though, so betting on him to become a dominant postseason pitcher at this age is still a questionable proposition.
The Dodgers starting rotation still has plenty of questions that will need to be answered in the second half of the season. With the bullpen also facing serious questions with a week left before the trade deadline, the Dodgers would be able to provide some insurance for their rotation and bullpen if they went out and traded for another starting pitcher.
The starting rotation trade market is not as prolific as the reliever market, but as we’ve seen, the front office loves to go out and acquire someone who was never mentioned in trade rumors. That happened when the Dodgers acquired Alex Wood, so it can’t be put past them to go out and make a similar move. The route the Dodgers choose to go at the trade deadline remains to be seen, but it’s safe to say at least one pitcher will be acquired and it would not be shocking if a starting pitcher was picked up instead of a reliever.