With the Dodgers in the thick of the NL playoff race, there's been some justifiable concern over the back-end of their rotation. Josh Beckett had been pitching well, but he's on the DL with a hip injury. Dan Haren has been struggling for weeks. And it's hard to put a lot of faith in Paul Maholm.
LA Times columnist Bill Plaschke writes that the Dodgers should trade for Tampa Bay Rays ace David Price. But while Price is one of the best pitchers in the game, the cost of acquiring him is way too high.
Plaschke writes that top prospects: "Joc Pederson, Corey Seager and Julio Urias are all seemingly headed toward stardom from places like Albuquerque, Chattanooga and Rancho Cucamonga. But they are not there yet. Price, at age 28 and in the prime of his career, is there, and proven, and available because he will be a free agent after next season and the small-market Rays can't afford him."
Two days later Plaschke writes that the Dodgers should call up Pederson, so I think he's a little confused on what he thinks the Dodgers should do. But the Dodgers cannot afford to trade their best prospects.
I've been arguing for years that the best way to build a successful team is through the farm system. Last year, the home-grown Cardinals beat the grown-somewhere-else Dodgers decisively in the NLCS. The Dodgers ownership understands this, and they've been diligently building up the farm system since they took over. Trading the first seeds of that effort would be counterproductive to the long-term goals.
I have great respect and admiration for David Price, but trading for him guarantees nothing. Plaschke writes "Some fans won't like it. Some experts will criticize it. But come October, everyone in town will love it, the Dodgers throwing out a seemingly unbeatable rotation that should make them the favorites to win their first World Series championship in 26 years."
Evidently, Plaschke didn't look up Price's postseason stats. He's 1-4 with a 5.06 ERA. Last year, Price gave up seven earned runs in a disappointing Game 2 loss to the Red Sox in the Divisional Series.
I've always believed that a "super rotation" is the most overrated concept in baseball when it comes to the postseason. For years the Braves had Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, and usually one other good pitcher like a Denny Neagle or Steve Avery in their prime. Yet, the Braves only won one World Series with that group. The Phillies won the 2008 World Series with a postseason rotation of Cole Hamels, Brett Myers, Jamie Moyer, and Joe Blanton. In subsequent years, they added Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, and Roy Oswalt, but they never won again.
The Dodgers already have three excellent pitchers in Clayton Kershaw, Zach Greinke, and Hyun-jin Ryu, with whom they committed over $400 million. The cost of signing Price to a long-term deal could approach $200 million. In an era when ace pitchers are breaking down with alarming regularity, committing that kind of money is a dicey proposition.
Furthermore, the trade market for starting pitching has gotten very costly. Last year, the Rays acquired eventual Rookie of the Year Wil Myers from the Royals in a deal for ace pitcher James Shields. Earlier this month, the A's traded a king's ransom of prospects to the Cubs for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel.
But the A's and Royals have deep farm systems. The Dodgers do not. Trading their top prospects now for Price, Cole Hamels, or any other ace pitcher - when they already have three good ones - will be a step backward for the organization. The Dodgers are going to need Joc Pederson to step in for one of their aging outfielders in the near-future. Corey Seager could be the long-term answer at shortstop or third base. Julio Urias has looked so promising that he could wind up being a David Price-level ace.
The Dodgers do need to shore up the back-end of their rotation, but they would be better advised to do it with a cheaper rental. Someone like Ricky Nolasco, who they acquired last year along with an international signing slot, would be fine. With the Dodgers willing and able to take on salary, they won't need to give up a top prospect to obtain someone of that caliber.
Right now, there is no real dominant team in the National League. The Braves, Nationals, Cardinals, Giants, Brewers, Reds and Pirates all have significant holes. The Kershaw-Greinke-Ryu trio is as good or better than what the competition offers. Mortgaging the future for a move that could easily backfire is the wrong course of action.