The industry consensus is that the Dodgers ended up with better prospects than they traded in their three-team, seven-player deal Wednesday with the White Sox and Reds.
So, considering that the Dodgers have spent the past six months building a mini-Cuban empire and buying other international prospects as if they were trinkets, the next questions are obvious:
When are the Dodgers trading for the Marlins’ Jose Fernandez? And if not Fernandez, some other young ace from a team that Andrew Friedman and Co. can bowl over with young talent?
We do not yet know the answer. But as I wrote Tuesday, the Dodgers’ offseason is not going to stop with right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma, who has agreed to a three-year, $45 million free-agent contract; second baseman Chase Utley, who signed a one-year, $7 million deal; and lefty Brett Anderson, who accepted the team’s one-year $15.8 million qualifying offer.
Fernandez remains the most obvious target, and the Dodgers’ acquisitions Wednesday — right-hander Frankie Montas, second baseman Micah Johnson and outfielder Trayce Thompson — only deepened their pool of young talent. The prospects the Dodgers lost — second baseman Jose Peraza, outfielder Scott Schebler and second baseman Brandon Dixon — are less highly regarded.
The Marlins claim they do not want to move Fernandez, but that can change with one snap of owner Jeffrey Loria’s fingers. Loria might wake up one morning and decide, “I can’t stomach going to arbitration for three straight years with Fernandez’s agent, Scott Boras.” And that will be that.
Then again, rival executives use words like “absurd” and “ridiculous” to describe the Marlins’ asking price for Fernandez. What’s more, prospective suitors only will go so far knowing that:
A) Fernandez, in his first full season after Tommy John surgery, will be under an innings restriction in 2016 and;
B) Boras indeed will be a difficult foe in arbitration and likely unwilling to negotiate an extension that would extend club control of Fernandez beyond ‘18.
The Dodgers are not giving up six years of shortstop Corey Seager and heaven knows what else to make such a deal. They might part with left-hander Julio Urias as part of a large package — there certainly is no guarantee that Urias will develop into anything close to Fernandez — but they can also sign a free-agent starter or two and maintain their arsenal of prospects for another day.
The price on Fernandez eventually will become more tolerable; the Marlins almost certainly will trade him before he becomes a free agent. And sometime in the near future, pitchers such as the Athletics’ Sonny Gray, White Sox’s Chris Sale and Rays’ Chris Archer could be available in trade.
One or more of those pitchers could move at the non-waiver deadline if their teams are out of contention. One or more also could move next offseason, when the free-agent class of starting pitching will be so thin that the Rays, A’s and White Sox might be more willing to explore what the trade market will bear.
A few people with connections to the Dodgers were buzzing Wednesday that the team might take a run at Archer, whom Friedman signed to an outrageously club-friendly extension while working for the Rays in April 2014.
Tampa Bay, though, considers Archer “pretty close” to untouchable, according to major-league sources. The Rays’ goal is to win both now and in the future. They have no interest in tanking, and it’s virtually inconceivable to them that trading Archer could make them a better team.
The Athletics’ position on Gray and the White Sox’s position on Sale essentially is no different. Think about it — if the price for three years of Shelby Miller was outfielder Ender Inciarte, right-hander Aaron Blair and shortstop Dansby Swanson, the price for Archer, in particular, would be astronomical.
Archer is a better pitcher than Miller. He is under control for six seasons as opposed to Miller’s three. To top it all off, he also is more affordable — Archer can earn a maximum of $41.25 million in those six seasons, an average of, egads, less than $7 million per year.
As long as Archer stays healthy, his value should be just as high next offseason. The same goes for Sale, who is under contract for four more seasons (including two club options) at below-market salaries, and Gray, who also is under club control for four more years, but will be eligible for arbitration after this season.
The Dodgers likely cannot acquire any of those pitchers now, and maybe they cannot acquire Fernandez at an acceptable price.
Eventually, though, the Dodgers are going to strike. One way or another, their prospect buildup will not go to waste.