In a quest to fortify its bullpen, the Dodgers have expressed interest in Royals closer Wade Davis, according to people familiar with the situation, though it is unclear if Kansas City is willing to part with him.
The Dodgers attempted to pair Aroldis Chapman with their own closer, All-Star Kenley Jansen, over the winter. The gambit ended when the team backed away after learning about a domestic violence incident involving Chapman. But the team still seeks another elite reliever.
As the Monday deadline approaches, the Dodgers have explored almost every avenue of the market, looking for upgrades to their outfield, starting rotation and bullpen. Taxed by the team’s under-performing starting rotation, the team’s relief corps has shown signs of fatigue in the past two weeks.
Jansen blew two saves on the team’s last road trip. Joe Blanton got roughed up in his last two outings. Adam Liberatore has injured his knee. And those are the three most reliable arms in the group.
Davis, 30, has become one of the most dominant relievers in baseball these past two seasons, a pitcher in the same class as Chapman, Jansen and Yankees left-hander Andrew Miller. The Royals hold a $10 million option on Davis for 2017, which would add to his appeal for the Dodgers as Jansen enters free agency this winter.
It also adds to Davis’ value. After winning the World Series last fall, the Royals have posted a losing record thus far this season. The club still has control of its core players – first baseman Eric Hosmer, third baseman Mike Moustakas, outfielder Lorenzo Cain and, yes, Davis – through next season. The team still views contention as possible in 2017.
Yet in a shallow pitching market, Davis could fetch a sizable return. The Cubs surrendered a pair of talented prospects, shortstop Gleyber Torres and outfielder Billy McKinney, plus big-league swingman Adam Warren and another minor-leaguer, for two months of Chapman. Given the extra year of control, Davis should require more than that.
After two stellar seasons, Davis has been less impressive in 2016, with his strikeout rate declining and his walk rate rising, while still maintaining his effectiveness in terms of run prevention. Davis has a 1.60 earned-run average. He did spend two weeks on the disabled list with a forearm strain, and some scouts expressed concern about his long-term viability.
It would be stunning to see the Dodgers part with 19-year-old pitcher Julio Urias in any trade that doesn’t involve White Sox ace Chris Sale. But behind Urias, the Dodgers possess a wealth of minor-league talent: Jose De Leon, Cody Bellinger, Alex Verdugo , Grant Holmes, Willie Calhoun and plenty of others. The Dodgers have been reluctant to part with their upper-tier prospects under Andrew Friedman.
In the past, the Dodgers have absorbed bad contracts from their trade partners to complete deals. Yahoo Sports reported the Royals are trying to package Davis with starting pitcher Ian Kennedy, who Kansas City signed to a five-year, $70 million contract last winter.
The Royals owe Kennedy $62.5 million after 2016, a year in which Kennedy has posted a 4.41 ERA and given up the most home runs in baseball. Even with Clayton Kershaw’s return uncertain, it is unclear if the Dodgers would take on that much money. Kennedy can opt out after 2017, but to do so he would leave nearly $50 million on the table.