Dodgers mailbag: Do the Dodgers need to trade for Sonny Gray or Jose Fernandez?

Dodgers mailbag: Do the Dodgers need to trade for Sonny Gray or Jose Fernandez?
Hyun-jin Ryu is expected to pitch at some point this season. (Lenny Ignelzi / Associated Press)

The Dodgers went 4-3 during the first week of the season. If you extrapolate that .571 winning percentage across 162 games, you have a 92-win season. Sounds great, right? Where do you sign?

Alas, the season is long, and the most seasons are full of terrors. After sweeping the Padres in the first series of the year, the Dodgers dropped three of four to the Giants. The Dodgers have won three division titles in a row, but the Giants are a formidable threat to end the streak.


The weekend revealed reasons for concern with both the team's rotation and its bullpen. The Dodgers took an early four-run lead on Thursday, scored six runs in all — and lost. The team received 7.1 innings of no-hit baseball from Ross Stripling on Friday — and lost. On Sunday, Scott Kazmir and the bullpen combined to blow a five-run lead for a third defeat.

So there is plenty to discuss. This will be a weekly feature on Mondays, with questions submitted through my Twitter account (@McCulloughTimes). If you have a question, feel free to ask.

Dylan Hernandez is willing to wager his public dignity, scant though it may be, that neither Sonny Gray nor Jose Fernandez nor any other big-name pitcher (Chris Sale? Tyson Ross?) dons Dodger blue this summer. I am more bullish than my esteemed colleague, as the Dodgers have already had plenty of preliminary conversations with Oakland and Miami on these fronts, but consummating a deal would require more aggression and less aversion to risk than the front office showed in its first year.

In the wake of Atlanta's haul for Shelby Miller (generally viewed as a No. 3 or No. 4 starter, loser of 17 games in 2015, owner of a 8.18 earned-run average thus far in 2016), the asking price skyrocketed. The Dodgers may be waiting for those prices to fall.

So "need" is an interesting verb. Given the generally placid temperament of this front office — consistently preaching the value of depth, refusing to acknowledge public panic, emphasizing the long-term sustainability of the organization while still competing in the present — it's difficult to imagine Andrew Friedman feeling forced to push his chips into the center of the table at all costs. The front office would counter that Hyun-Jin Ryu, Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson are all expected to pitch at some point in 2016, and, all together now, "That's like making a midseason acquisition!"

There is some merit to that argument, as all three have been successful at the big-league level. Ryu especially is a quality pitcher. But it is hard to gauge how the trio will perform as each man returns from major surgery. So it is difficult to bank on any one of the trio.

The organization could also argue about its horde of prospects. Perhaps this is the season that Julio Urias (who started the year with triple-A Oklahoma City) or Jose De Leon (held back in extended spring training to manage his innings) contributes in the majors. The Dodgers are going to ration out Urias' innings so he's an option later in the season. But his youth and relative inexperience also cast doubt on his effectiveness.

All of this is to say that the Dodgers do not "need" to trade for a starting pitcher. But they certainly have the resources to do so, both in terms of money and in terms of prospects, and there will continue to be a public hue and cry for such a maneuver. Friedman did not bow to that pressure last summer, letting Cole Hamels and David Price land elsewhere.

I am going to assume, when you write "SP 3 or 4," mean a No. 3 or a No. 4 starter. In that case, the Dodgers would likely need to eat every single remaining dollar on Carl Crawford's contract and throw in either prospects or a useful major-league asset in order to make the trade. Crawford does not have much value on the trade block these days.

This looks suspect in retrospect, but I was asked this question well before Ross Stripling spun 7.1 innings of no-hit ball in his debut. And even given that knowledge, I still think the best choice of these four is a healthy Mike Bolsinger. He made 21 starts with a 3.62 ERA in 2015, which is a reasonable facsimile of the production required by a No. 5 starter.

With Bolsinger out, though, the choice with the highest upside was Stripling. Zach Lee has stagnated in the upper levels of the minors. Carlos Frias profiles as a swingman. Scouts view Stripling as a No. 4 or No. 5 starter, with a useful curveball and a credible fastball. The only dilemma was if the Dodgers would trust Stripling, who had never pitched above double-A, to take the ball in San Francisco against the Giants. Stripling rewarded them for their faith.

This is the fourth team I have covered since 2010. I covered the Mets from 2010 to 2012, the Yankees in 2013 and the Royals the last two seasons. The job is the same everywhere — you report on the team, you search for stories beyond the diamond, you find new ways to antagonize people on Twitter — but each market and each team has its own quirks and its own history. It takes some time to learn that. It also takes a while to build relationships with players, executives, coaches and everyone else inside a new organization.

There are a lot of choices: Luis Avilan would make the most sense, given his big-league track record, the organization's investment in him and his status as a left-hander. In the last week, the team has signed Sam LeCure, Dale Thayer and Sean Burnett all as minor-league depth.

The harder question is determining how the Dodgers would clear space to improve their bullpen. Both Yimi Garcia and Pedro Baez have options, but the team doesn't want to punt on either. And Baez has looked excellent in a limited sample. The team still has faith in Chris Hatcher. Louis Coleman would have to clear waivers, which doesn't seem likely. And it's hard to see the Dodgers quitting on J.P. Howell after two rocky outings.


After five or six? Then that's a more complicated question.

If I was a rabble rouser like Dylan Hernandez, I would have asked Kenta Maeda on Wednesday night where the Padres would finish in Nippon Professional Baseball this season.

The Dodgers traded him to Atlanta along with Juan Uribe last April. He has yet to pitch in the majors since tearing his ulnar collateral ligament in 2014.

It was terrible. I cannot imagine actually sitting through all four hours and 51 minutes of the broadcast, so I fast-forwarded through most of it. The ladder match was a solid spot fest. The rest of the card was a waste. It's difficult to fathom the logic in paying A.J. Styles a sizable amount of money so he do jobs and let a 45-year-old part-timer no-sell The Styles Clash. Whatever.

The Hall of Famer run-ins — Austin, Foley, Michaels, The Rock, Cena — provide limited value in a world where you can watch their actual career highlights on the WWE Network. Those moments tend to please the audience at first, but they mostly make me contemplate my own mortality. Brock Lesnar squashed Dean Ambrose, which would have been interesting if the company hadn't mismanaged him for a year and if Ambrose was capable of throwing something that resembles a punch.

The match with Shane McMahon ensures the Undertaker can never be taken seriously in a main event again. That is probably for the best. I hope he retires. I never saw Willie Mays fall down in the outfield, but I did watch the Undertaker huff and puff because he was actually winded by the botched triangle choke of a non-wrestler. I thought Taker's performance two years ago against Brock Lesnar was sad, like Ali wilting in Larry Holmes' wake. This was just embarrassing.


The main event was bland. Hopefully Roman Reigns turns heel. He does not do much for me. The deflating part about how terrible this card was: The company has more talent in house these days than ever before. Think about this roster: Styles, Generico, Owens, Rollins, Lesnar, Samoa Joe, Nakamura, Balor, Triple H (who looked injured in the title match, but usually can still go), Cena, Neville, Ziggler and Cesaro. They should be able to tear the house down on the specials every month. Instead, in the biggest show of the year, in the largest house in history, you get this pabulum.

Also, I'm 28 years old and I still care about professional wrestling. Keep me in your thoughts and prayers.

I'm going to go chalk on this one:

  1. “Boys and Girls in America.”
  2. “Separation Sunday.”
  3. “Almost Killed Me.”

I'm not a huge Hold Steady guy. It's all kind of one big jittery song. But that song sounds the best on their third record.

I hope it's "Nostalgia" by Doe Paoro.


Twitter: @McCulloughTimes