Perfect Dodgers bullpen trade target emerges in Jeff Passan's Winter Meetings column

I mean, you have to use your prospects on *something*, right?
Minnesota Twins v Cleveland Guardians
Minnesota Twins v Cleveland Guardians / Brandon Sloter/GettyImages

The Los Angeles Dodgers have a surplus of prospects at nearly every position and a Corbin Burnes dream that's dying by the day. While their biggest area of need remains the rotation (two or three times over), it's undeniable that they would benefit from bringing in a lockdown closer once more to bump everyone back down one level on the trust tree.

Remember Kenley Jansen? That was great, despite some Dodgers fans believing to the contrary. Well, what if we told you you could have that cutter again?!

It shouldn't come as a great shock that the constantly evolving Cleveland Guardians are seeking another surprising way to reshape their roster. Given the fungible nature of most bullpen arms and the pitfalls of paying top dollar to a stopper as a mid-market team, Emmanuel Clase was always destined to be the first out the door in Cleveland, as shocking as it is to comprehend the team moving on from someone that dominant.

But ... boom, there it was, in Jeff Passan's pre-Winter Meetings primer. The first mention of Clase on the trade market. If he's truly being dangled by the Guards -- he got his own blurb! -- then the Dodgers have to find a way to match up here, give Cleveland an asset as enticing as Kyle Manzardo (from the Aaron Civale trade), and reap the rewards.

Dodgers Rumors: Emmanuel Clase available in Cleveland Guardians trade?

Is this the Michael Busch destination? Diego Cartaya? Finally?

It's going to take a haul, which is likely the only reason Cleveland has floated this information to the mainstream. Whichever team employs Clase next will have him for a while; he's under team control for pennies through 2026 ($2.5 million, $4.5 million, $6 million), and comes with $10 million club options that could keep him as locked down as his typical ninth innings through 2028.

The 25-year-old (he's 25?!) Clase blazed through the league once again last season, though he took a step back from his stunning 2022 campaign, allowing a stark 25 additional hits in the same number of innings pitched. That's the thing, though. Year-over-year, the same closer can easily provide a 1.36 ERA and a 3.22 mark back-to-back with the same stuff, the same panache, and the same slow heartbeat. Teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers can afford to commit long-term to a bullpen asset that might have an off year. Teams like the Cleveland Guardians cannot stomach the same option years down the line.

It's surprising to see Clase's name mentioned here, considering he has three years of cheap control remaining before anything reaches an unpalatable point. But perhaps that's why we're reading about this now. He'll never net more prospect capital than he would prior to the 2024 season, and the Dodgers have intriguing pitching and catching depth burning a hole in their proverbial pocket. Don't be stunned if we uncovered an unexpected match here (as well as a conversation that might just expand into the realm of Shane Bieber).