This Tyler Mahle trade could net Dodgers bounce-back candidate

If and when the Los Angeles Dodgers trade David Price this summer (or sooner), their plan to replace him still remains a slight mystery.

Are they clearing space for a young arm before the stretch run? Are they content with their current back-end piggybackers, and would just rather Price find another spot to shine? Or would they like to upgrade their rotation with a potential flashbulb (as Dustin May also works his way back), especially since Clayton Kershaw’s spot is now in question?

If it’s the latter, Reds Opening Day starter Tyler Mahle could be available, and his price might be plummeting.

To paraphrase Chris Berman, nobody circles the drains like the 2022 Cincinnati Reds, despite having a rotation topped by two of the most desirable 2021-22 offseason trade candidates.

You remember that, right? Back when the Reds were thought of as merely middling and not a scorched-earth tire fire?

Unfortunately, both Luis Castillo and Mahle have struggled to begin the season, but there’s enough under Mahle’s hood to make it seem like he has a fighting chance of recovering in the Dodgers’ system. Plus, he still doesn’t have the name recognition of Castillo (and is underperforming for a desperately poor team), so while he won’t come cheap, he’ll likely come cheaper.

This Dodgers-Reds trade package could net LA Tyler Mahle

Mahle’s surface numbers? Brutal. Entering his start on May 13, he had subtracted 0.1 WAR from his team’s chances of winning games (already slim to begin with!), sporting an elevated 1.565 WHIP and 6.46 ERA.

But the metrics indicate he’s not entirely lost. Mahle’s in the upper half of the league in hard-hit rate and expected slugging, and sits in the 80th percentile in barrel percentage. He’s not getting hit hard as often as you’d think, and he’s still whiffing more than a batter per inning. He’s just clogging the bases.

Considering the right-hander is under control through 2023 and was one of the league’s hottest commodities entering the season, the Reds won’t give him away for free — but they might give him away at 75% of the sticker price.

The Dodgers’ strong farm system is intriguing to any potential trade partner, and the Reds have needs upon needs. How about MLB Pipeline’s No. 4 prospect Andy Pages and No. 16 right-hander Carlos Duran, along with a back-end lottery ticket?

Cincinnati brass sees the writing on the wall for the next several years, and has almost shamelessly ushered in an era of low expectations, daring Reds fans to venture elsewhere.

Why wouldn’t they do the same for one of their pitching cornerstones?