Pirates pitcher's breakout might take away another Dodgers trade deadline candidate

Pittsburgh Pirates v Tampa Bay Rays
Pittsburgh Pirates v Tampa Bay Rays / Douglas P. DeFelice/GettyImages

Yeah, looking back on it now, perhaps the Los Angeles Dodgers should've passed on paying $13 million for Noah Syndergaard and instead contacted the Pittsburgh Pirates about one of their starting pitchers this past offseason.

At that point, Andrew Friedman and Co. could've bought low and unleashed Mitch Keller just as effectively as the Pirates have this season. Now, though? The right-hander is 5-1 with a 2.38 ERA, 2.63 FIP, 1.02 WHIP and 69 strikeouts in nine starts (56.2 innings) and is likely off limits in trade talks or carries an exorbitant price tag.

Additionally, though the Pirates have cooled off after their impressive start, they still have a winning record and reside in the weak NL Central, so they're probably not going to sell unless everything goes south very quickly.

It's unclear if the Pirates were ever really interested in moving Keller, especially after he showed signs of growth in 2022 with a 3.91 ERA, 3.88 FIP, 1.40 WHIP and 138 strikeouts in 159 innings of work, but the Dodgers' top-notch farm system could've maybe convinced Pittsburgh GM Ben Cherington, who was looking for an asset haul all offseason long.

Remember the Bryan Reynolds rumors? The Pirates were looking for controllable starting pitching and the Dodgers had some to offer, but the cost was prohibitive. Keller would've been significantly cheaper, provided they weren't fully sold on him as a solution to that lack of controllable pitching.

Former Dodgers trade target Mitch Keller is likely no more

The Dodgers might be scraping the bottom of the pitching barrel at the deadline, unless someone like the Guardians wants to part with Shane Bieber. Maybe the White Sox want to move Lucas Giolito if they continue to spiral? Or the Cardinals could be convinced to deal Jordan Montgomery?

With Dustin May now on the shelf for 4-6 weeks following a forearm injury during Wednesday's start, the Dodgers are down one of the best starters in MLB through the first seven weeks of the season. How can they possibly replace that production at the moment?

Clayton Kershaw, Julio Urías and Tony Gonsolin have proven they can carry the load, but they can't be breaking down toward the end of the season/when the playoffs roll around. The Dodgers enjoy the luxury of having an excess of starters so they can skip some arms a couple times through the rotation to provide necessary rest.

Keller really would've lengthened this unit, even with Walker Buehler's absence, and could've been a godsend with May going down and Syndergaard struggling/dealing with mental obstacles.

Oh well, onto searching for the next breakout candidate. Or, you know, Gavin Stone and Bobby Miller could catch on earlier than expected and bring this all home. Don't forget about Ryan Pepiot, either.

The Dodgers will be fine, but this very clearly could've been one of the offseason's biggest coups.