If and when the Los Angeles Dodgers right the ship of their 2021 season, it will be thanks to the men in their locker room, as well as the stars currently recuperating from injury.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t some clear holes on the roster in need of reinforcing, though. Even when the team is fully recovered, trouble spots will remain.
This is a championship contender. We aren’t doubting that. It is not a roster that can set MLB single-season win records while losing a large portion of its first line of defense.
Now that we’ve seen what life is like without Brusdar Graterol, David Price, Dustin May, Corey Knebel and Tony Gonsolin, suffice to say we don’t want to go through that again.
In order to ensure a World Series journey and title defense is as easy as we thought it would be when Trevor Bauer signed on the dotted line, the Dodgers will need to shore up both the bullpen and back end of the rotation.
Without Price, Gonsolin and May, the fifth starter spot remains a question mark. Even if Gonsolin solidifies it, that changes the bullpen construction permanently.
And about that ‘pen …
Based on what we’ve seen this year, Mitch White is likely not the answer. Ditto Alex Vesia. Los Angeles is swiftly running low on potential Triple-A plug-and-plays, and there’s no guarantee that any of the lottery tickets they planned on running out at the back end of their bullpen will be available in September and October, either. Still waiting on Brandon Morrow, in fact.
If the Dodgers want to reach their ceiling — or at least approach it — they’re probably considering these options already.
These 3 midseason trade targets are probably necessary for the Dodgers.
3. Pablo Lopez, Miami Marlins
Don’t look now, but the Marlins are building a veritable pitching factory down in Miami.
The emergence of lefty Taylor Rogers this season, alongside franchise centerpiece Sandy Alcantara and currently-injured franchise centerpiece Sixto Sanchez, means Miami possesses four extremely controllable high-upside arms, with Pablo Lopez dragging behind in the hype machine, but not on the field.
Controllable through 2024, Lopez has broken out to open 2021, posting a 197 ERA+ while striking out 40 in 39.2 innings, continuing his strong progress from last season.
There’s a cavalry coming behind this front line, too; counting Sanchez, five of the Marlins’ top 10 prospects are pitchers, including 2020’s first-rounder Max Meyer and No. 4 prospect Edward Cabrera. That’s a lot of lottery tickets, and presumably a few more of them will hit.
Given Lopez’s slightly lower pedigree, there’s a chance Miami offers him up for trade at his highest value while he’s still missing bats.
A veteran trade option could be an interesting bit of patchwork for the Dodgers to pull off, but the opportunity to add a controllable arm with high upside seems more appealing. After all, who wants to surrender assets for Wade Miley when you could simply … start Gonsolin?
Keep an eye on someone like Lopez if the Dodgers feel the need to upgrade their rotation.