Surprise, surprise. As the first half of play has come to a close the Los Angeles Dodgers have the best record in the National League, being the only NL team with 60 wins at the break.
The Dodgers have both the best team OPS and ERA in the National League and have already stretched a 10-game lead over the San Diego Padres for first place in the NL West. Without a surprise standout like the San Francisco Giants from last year, L.A. is going to run away with this division and will likely enter the playoffs as the favorite to make it out of the National League.
With all that said, that does not mean that the Dodgers are going to stand pat at the deadline, even though they could. This teams ever-present World Series aspirations make them a constant buyer, as they look for the final few pieces of what they hope is a championship roster.
Adding Another Starting Pitcher
The rich might get richer.
The Los Angeles Dodgers currently have four starting pitchers in their rotation who have a sub 3.00 ERA. Tony Gonsolin has been the surprise ace, pitching to a 2.02 ERA across 17 starts in the first half. Gonsolin is an All-Star for the first time and he will be joined at the game by fellow first-timer Tyler Anderson, as well as longtime Midsummer Classic veteran in Clayton Kershaw.
Kershaw is making his ninth All-Star appearance, as the 34-year-old has pitched to a 2.13 ERA this season, while having already flirted with perfection multiple times.
Anderson meanwhile has been one of the best value signings from the offseason. Coming over on a one-year, $8 million deal, the left-hander has pitched to a 2.96 ERA. The Dodgers have a third left-hander in the rotation right now who is also pretty good, as Julio Urias has a 2.89 ERA in a team-leading 18 starts.
Mitch White is currently occupying the final spot in the Dodgers rotation and prior to giving up six runs in his final start before the break, he had a 3.38 ERA. Now it sits at 4.20.
Ace Walker Buehler is currently on the 60-day IL, dealing with a flexor strain in his forearm. He also had surgery to remove bone chips in his elbow, which had been bothering him for some time. There is a chance Buehler could return in late August, if not at some point in September. Still, there is no guarantee that is the case.
Since this is the Dodgers, expect them to leave no doubts in the rotation and land one of the top starting pitchers on the market.
Remember last week, when we wrote our list of the top 20 trade targets available at the deadline?
In case you missed it, the top two names on our list were starting pitchers in Frankie Montas and Luis Castillo. You can imagine the Dodgers conversations start with adding one of those two pitchers and you can even call them the favorites to land one.
Both Montas and Castillo have a year of control beyond this season and both will be in Los Angeles this week for the All-Star Game. We ranked Montas one spot ahead of Castillo, mostly due to the lack of injury risk that he possesses in comparison.
Montas led the AL in starts last year and has taken the ball every fifth day this year as well. Castillo meanwhile dealt with a shoulder injury earlier this year that had him begin the season on the IL. Considering this starter is essentially taking Buehler’s spot in the rotation, Montas may be a little more attractive as the safer bet to be heathy for the remainder of the season, but really we are splitting hairs.
Tyler Mahle, Martin Perez, Jose Quintana and Merrill Kelly are the other four starters that made our top 20 list of deadline targets, all of which could interest the Dodgers as depth options. But again, this is the Dodgers, who shop for the best that is on the market.
With that said, it would almost be surprising if Montas or Castillo wasn’t in Dodger blue this August.
Bolstering National League’s Best Offense
The Dodgers have scored more runs than any team in the National League this season, but again, that does not mean they will be content with their lineup at the deadline.
All-Stars Trea Turner, Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman form maybe the best trio of hitters the game has to offer on the same roster. After that though, the Dodgers could certainly use some upgrades in their starting lineup.
Max Muncy (.631 OPS), Cody Bellinger (.647) and Justin Turner (.728) have all been downright disappointments this season, with none of them meeting the heights of past production.
Among hitters with a minimum of 650 plate appearances since the start of the 2021 season, Bellinger’s 65 wRC+ is the third-worst mark in all of baseball. Muncy and Turner combined to hit 63 home runs in 2021, but this year have just 17 between them.
Will Smith is having a strong year as the Dodgers primary backstop, hitting .292/.369/.415, with a 139 wRC+ and Gavin Lux is swinging the bat well too (126). Super utility man Chris Taylor is currently on the 10-day IL dealing with a foot fracture, but is expected to make a return not too long into the second half.
If the Dodgers can find a replacement for Bellinger and Muncy in their starting lineup, they can put together one of the best starting nines the game has to offer.
Juan Soto is on the trade market, so let’s not count the Dodgers out from swinging for the fences to add another potential MVP to their starting lineup.
If not Soto though, there really are a long list of names the Dodgers could target to bolster their lineup. Whether that is adding a big bat like Josh Bell, Christian Walker or even catcher Willson Contreras to DH. They also could look to add a quality outfielder like Andrew Benintendi, Ian Happ or Ramon Laureno.
Last year, none of us saw the Trea Turner trade coming, so who knows which players could actually be on the Dodgers list to target at the deadline. One thing is for sure though. They will be on the phones and won’t hesitate to a make a move if it gets them closer to winning the World Series.
Trade Pieces to Move
The Los Angeles Dodgers had six prospects make our top 100 prospect list prior to the season, all of which could be moved at the deadline to bolster the MLB roster.
Pitcher Ryan Pepoit is the only one of the six who has debuted thus far, meanwhile catcher Diego Cartaya, outfielder Andy Pages and infielders Michael Vargas and Michael Busch are all still showing out in the minors. Bobby Miller is the final one of the Dodgers top six prospects who made the top 100 and he is currently dominating batters in Double-A.
Bottom line when it comes to the Dodgers, they have all the prospect capital in the world to get any trade done. If they decide to go all-in and acquire Juan Soto. They have the pieces to do it.
When looking at the Dodgers plans at the deadline it is impossible to know exactly what they are thinking is there biggest needs. We haven’t even mentioned adding to the bullpen, which is something every legit contender looks to do.
Just know that the Dodgers will be one of the most active buyers at the deadline, as every seller will be looking to poach talent from their loaded farm system.