On the heels of the news that the Dodgers are in the mix for Jim Johnson, it’s exceedingly fun and intriguing to speculate on the Dodgers as a potential trade partner for the Baltimore Orioles. While trade scenarios with the Orioles only giving up Jim Johnson are interesting in their own right, when one looks at the larger picture, both teams have multiple players who would likely appeal to the other team. So, let’s explore:
Who Would the Orioles Want?
It’s been pretty thoroughly documented that the Orioles are primarily looking for quality starting pitching (who isn’t?), a DH/LF type, a second baseman, and perhaps some bullpen help, along with salary relief/flexibility. While the Dodgers don’t have much to offer in terms of middle-infielders, that’s the least of the Orioles concerns since the Orioles will likely resign Brian Roberts and have a solid contingency plan (Ryan Flaherty).
Starting Pitching: The Dodgers have Clayton Kershaw, Zach Greinke, Hyun-jin Ryu, and Dan Haren locked into the first four spots of their formidable rotation leaving a few pitchers to battle it out for the final spot. However, the losers will likely find themselves floundering in the minors, exiled to the bullpen, traded, or released, thus we should consider all of these options as expendable trade candidates. It is also important to keep in mind the vastness of the Dodgers budget and the distinct possibility that they will sign another free agent starter (Santana/Garza/Jimenez) which would create even more of a surplus. Now, the expendables:
1. Chad Billingsley
Pros: There’s a lot to like about Billingsley as he is an experienced but still relatively youthful pitcher at 29 who boasts a Matt Garza-like resume of solidly above average career numbers (3.65 ERA, 110 ERA+ vs Garza’s 3.84 ERA, 108 ERA+). Additionally, Billingsley can eat some innings as in his four full seasons he has logged an average of 194 innings per year. He would bring stability and consistency to the staff along with #2 or #3 starter potential.
Cons: The big catch to Billingsley is his health as he didn’t pitch past April last year due to Tommy John surgery. While reports have been extremely favorable, suggesting that Billingsley will be full-go for spring training, it is always difficult to predict how long it will take for pitchers to find their stride after such a major surgery; even Adam Wainright seemed to have a warm-up season following Tommy John surgery. Also, the Orioles might be a bit hesitant to pay 12 million (Billingsley’s 2014 salary) to a guy whose health is in question.
Note: Billingsley is signed only through 2014 with a 14 million option for 2015, a dual-edged blade as the Orioles might not want to trade for a one or two year rental, or they might be hesitant to give too much value for a player who isn’t controllable for a longer period of time.
2. Josh Beckett
3. Stephen Fife
Pros: Fife is an interesting pitcher who made a handful of starts with mild success (3.86 era 93 ERA+) for the Dodgers last year when their other more primary options went down with injury. Fife’s groundball tendencies would play well at hitter-friendly Camden Yards and work perfectly with the gilded left side of the Orioles infield.
Additionally, the Dodgers have some B level starting pitching (Think Tim Berry/Mike Wright) that the Orioles could definitely use for depth and potential impact in 2015/2016. Just to float a few names: Ross Stripling, Jonathan Martinez, and Carlos Frias, are all interesting pieces who could help facilitate a larger-scale deal.
Outfield/DH types: It’s old news that the Dodgers are trying to trade one of Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier, and Matt Kemp, and I could see the Orioles interested in all 3 of those players to varying degrees if the Dodgers threw in a hefty chunk of cash.
1. Carl Crawford
Pros: Carl Crawford is a bona-fide Nate McClouth who brings speed, decent on-base capabilities that are elevated through high batting-averages, and solid defense to the field. Crawford could easily solidify the left field position and the lead-off spot, killing 2 birds with one stone. The DH position offered by the American League could help keep Crawford healthy as he struggled to stay on the field last year.
Cons: Most would agree that Crawford is a faded star who will never rack up triples and stolen bases like he once did. While his value deteriorates as he ventures further into his 30s, his price tag climbs to over 20 million, a price the Orioles would definitely scoff at. Any trade involving Carl Crawford would require the Dodgers to eat a significant portion of his salary. Even so, Crawford looks like the least appealing of the three.
2. Andre Ethier
Pros: Andre Ethier has always reminded me of Nick Markakis, a corner outfielder with fading power that was never any more than average, yet well above average on base capabilities. Comparing their career slash lines Markakis/Ethier (.292/.288 .360/.362 .441/.470), we can see that they are pretty much the same player, they even hit and throw with the same sides. One might question the value of another apparently fading Markakis, however the two are both extremely patient hitters with discerning eyes and solid line drive strokes that could provide huge value sandwiching Manny Machado in the line-up (protection), boosting the on base capabilities of the team, and setting the table for the R/L power bats of Jones and Davis.
Cons: Ethier, like most of the Dodger’s commodities, is a player with an enormous contract that will be paying him from 15-18 million a year for his 32-36 seasons. Like Crawford, it’s difficult to imagine the Orioles paying that sort of money to a declining player exiting his prime and inching closer to the middle portion of his 30s.
3. Matt Kemp
Pros: Just imagine sitting on the couch, watching Machado making one of his signature preternatural plays to end the frame and hearing Jim Palmer say, with the MASN music in the background, Kemp-Davis-Jones, up next. No one is going to run to the bathroom for that commercial break. But seriously, a healthy Kemp plugged into the middle of the Orioles line-up would give the Orioles the most dangerous, dynamic trio in the American League. Simply put, when healthy, Kemp is one of the most dynamic, powerful right-handed hitters in the game, whose defense would presumably play up if shifted away from center-field. There is no doubt that the Orioles would love to have Kemp hitting ahead of Chris Davis.
Cons: However, the Dodgers are paying Kemp 21.5 million dollars through his age 34 season, an actually relatively reasonable and worthwhile contract IF Kemp stays healthy. That’s a big if for a contract that could cripple a mid-market organization like the Orioles. Even if Angelos was on-board with the idea, would the Dodgers really want to trade Kemp while his stock is so low? Kemp is definitely the highest risk/cost, greatest reward trade-target of the three.
Who Would the Dodgers Want?
This is a much simpler question to answer, no need for numbered subsections. The two most intriguing pieces to the Dodgers that the Orioles would consider parting with would be Jim Johnson and Matt Wieters. Johnson and his large salary would fit perfectly in an already strong Dodger’s bullpen; Johnson would likely set up for Kenley Jansen, a role Johnson thrived in in 2011. Weiters would provide a nice upgrade over A.J Ellis, particularly if the Dodgers think Wieters will improve to his 2012 level of acumen, or better. If the Dodgers like Wieters, they certainly have the resources to lock him up for an extended period, so his two years left of team control wouldn’t be a huge issue in negotiations.
So, What Would an Orioles-Dodgers Blockbuster Look Like?
Before I propose this trade, let us remind ourselves that the chance of such an enormous blockbuster is miniscule, however, the Orioles are clearly interested in shaking things up, and the Dodgers haven’t been afraid to pull the trigger on huge deals in the past. Here we go:
The deal would begin with the Dodger’s apparent interest in Jim Johnson. If the Orioles were aiming high, say they ask for Matt Kemp in the deal (shoot for the moon, even if you miss…well whatever) and offer to pay his entire salary. The Dodgers still won’t pull the trigger, so they request Matt Wieters. The Orioles don’t want to lose Wieters without getting some starting pitching and filling the catching vacancy, so they ask for Chad Billingsley and A.J Ellis. The Dodgers feel the deal is still heavily tipped in the Orioles’ favor, so they ask for Gausman. The Orioles offer Eduardo Rodriguez instead, but want the Dodgers’ electric closing prospect (#13 in their system) Jose Dominguez to fill the vacancy caused by the impending departure of Johnson. The Orioles offer to throw in Brian Matusz to catalyze the completion of the deal.
Final: Orioles trade Jim Johnson, Matt Wieters, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Brian Matusz for Matt Kemp, Chad Billingsley, A.J Ellis, and Jose Dominguez. This trade is straight up, no cash involved, a big risk for both sides. Kemp is truly the wildcard; his contract is immensely dangerous to the Orioles if injured or ineffective, while the Dodgers might be trading away the best player in the NL. Considering this, and swallowing the orange kool-aid that lives in the throat of Orioles fans, it might be necessary to subtract Eduardo Rodriguez and add Dylan Bundy/Kevin Gausman. But, for the sake of optimism, we’ll assume the Dodgers are happy just to shed Kemp’s contract.
There is a reasonable chance that the Orioles do trade Jim Johnson to the Dodgers, but the blockbuster hypothesized in this article will likely not come to fruition in any way, shape, or form. Still, it’s fascinating to speculate since the Orioles and Dodgers do match up well in trade scenarios.