2 trades Dodgers need to make 2022 World Series
As we saw in the Los Angeles Dodgers fourth and final loss to the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS on Saturday, it wasn’t meant to be two years in a row. On the heels of a 106-win season and a dramatic comeback against the San Francisco Giants (at least they beat them?), it definitely hurts to not be able to run it back all the way. However, there’s obviously plenty of reason for optimism heading into 2022. But they will have to make some major moves in the offseason.
Let’s focus on the trade market. The Dodgers utilized trades in a big way in 2021, as they nabbed Max Scherzer and Trea Turner from the Washington Nationals in exchange for a couple big-time prospects in Josiah Gray and Keibert Ruiz, but ultimately the lack of impact from those two (Scherzer’s health, Turners subpar performance) were big contributors to the Dodgers loss to Atlanta. Given that LA would obviously like to give up less of their blue-chip prospects and also find lower-salary, high-upside talent in future trades, what should they look for?
The most pressing area of concern is starting pitching. Despite having one of the best pitching staffs in baseball in 2021, the Dodgers will likely let go of Trevor Bauer (for obvious reasons), and either one of Scherzer or Clayton Kershaw to free agency, and they certainly don’t want to rely on Walker Buehler and Julio Urias to repeat the massive workloads they each saw this year. So, finding some durable, quality arms will be imperative.
Additionally, LA needs someone to fulfill the spark plug utility role that guys like Chris Taylor and Kiké Hernandez have played in years past, as they will likely only be able to keep one of Taylor or Corey Seager given their pending free agency. That means finding a versatile, underrated bat on the market who won’t cost much. That’s hard to do.
However, the Dodgers have some of the brightest minds in the game in their front office, and, more importantly, money to spend. So, here are two players they should target if they want to make the 2022 World Series.
L.A. Dodgers acquire SP John Means from Baltimore Orioles in exchange for SP Kendall Williams
Means got off to a scorching start in 2021, as he had a 1.21 ERA through his first 8 starts, including an incredible 12-strikeout no-hitter. That was backed up by an elite changeup and spectacular spin rate numbers – almost too spectacular. As he battled injuries and saw spin rates drop after the MLB cracked down on illegal substances, Means’ numbers declined as well, and he ended up finishing the season with a 3.62 ERA and 134 strikeouts over 146.2 innings. He could also be due for some regression with a 4.62 FIP, but the raw talent and workload potential could easily see him getting used to pitching with no sticky stuff in the offseason, and coming back for an injury-free 2021 with 170+ innings and a more consistent mid-3’s ERA.
Means isn’t getting any younger at age 28, Baltimore is still nowhere near contention, and they likely won’t be by the time Means hits unrestricted free agency in 2023. By trading for a high-upside prospect like Williams, they can sell Means at a time when his value could very well be at its highest, and acquire a Dodgers prospect who has front-end potential. The Orioles will likely ask for more than Williams, but a sparse demand for starting pitchers among a vast league-wide free agency could mean the Dodgers get a steal here.
L.A. Dodgers acquire IF David Fletcher from L.A. Angels in exchange for SP Gavin Stone
Fletcher is exactly the kind of tough, versatile player that the Dodgers regularly have at least one or two of. He can play all around the infield and puts the ball in play a ton, which bodes especially well for the playoffs when contact still reigns supreme. The Dodgers need a guy like him who plays great defense (9 outs above average, per Baseball Savant), gets on base, and produces on the basepaths (Fletcher added 3.3 runs over average via baserunning, per FanGraphs). Plus, he just posted a career-best strikeout rate of only 9.0%, an astonishing rate for any season, but one that would be even more valuable in the postseason.
On the flip side, the Angels don’t need a guy like Fletcher anymore. He provides decent returns in the regular season (1.9 bWAR, 0.3 fWAR), and is a fan favorite, but he’s not going to win them many ballgames. They should try to get as much value from him as they can, which, at the present moment, would come in the form of trading him for starting pitching capital/potential. Stone is a guy who has quickly ascended to high-performance in Triple-A, as he posted a 3.86 ERA across 21 innings last season after a great run in Double-A. He has the stuff to be a contributor in Anaheim as early as next year, and would be the perfect guy to target for them.
Will any of this pan out? Probably not. However, if the Dodgers follow the mold and vision that these trades have in mind, they’ll be primed for success in 2022.