Dodgers’ Andrew Friedman top trade target: a starting pitcher; Max Scherzer is in play
Andrew Friedman wears an Oura ring, which monitors resting heart rate, heart variability, body temperature, activity, light sleep, deep sleep and sleep duration and delivers data and fitness suggestions to the smartphone of the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations.
With Friday’s trade deadline approaching, the Dodgers in a three-team dogfight for the National League West title and Friedman working furiously around the clock to upgrade a thin rotation, his Oura is clearly at odds with his aura.
“It’s not very impressed with me and my behavior right now,” Friedman said Monday, sounding groggy during a late-morning phone call. “It’s like, ‘You need to start winding down for bed at 10:30 p.m.,’ and I get angry at it. It’s a very inhumane way of life for a week.”
Friedman knows the drill. He endures and accepts the sleepless nights that go with swinging major deadline deals for such players as Rich Hill (2016), Yu Darvish (2017) and Manny Machado (2018), and with the August non-waiver trade period eliminated, there is even more urgency to complete a deal or two this week.
“We could find ourselves in a position [in August] where we end up short on the starting pitching front, so we’re trying to get ahead of that,” Friedman said. “There’s still a question of exactly who’s going to end up moving, but I feel good that we’ll be in a position to be aggressive if and when something makes sense.”
The Dodgers (61-40) are in second place in the NL West, two games behind San Francisco (62-37) entering Tuesday night’s opener of a three-game series against the Giants and 3½ games ahead of San Diego (58-44).
The division winner gains a pass into the NL Division Series, and the runners-up, should they qualify, would be forced to play a one-game, sudden-death wild-card game, so there is plenty of incentive for the Dodgers to win their ninth straight division title.
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Friedman is casting a wide net to boost a rotation that has lost Dustin May to season-ending elbow surgery, Clayton Kershaw to left forearm tightness and Trevor Bauer to a domestic-violence investigation.
The Dodgers are pursuing such ace-caliber starters as Washington’s Max Scherzer, Minnesota’s José Berríos and Colorado’s Germán Márquez as well as mid-rotation starters who can provide better depth over the final two months of the season.
The latter group could include such pitchers as Kyle Gibson (Texas), Tyler Anderson (Pittsburgh), Alex Cobb (Angels), Zach Davies (Chicago Cubs), Jon Gray (Colorado), Michael Pineda (Minnesota) and Danny Duffy (Kansas City).
Starting pitching is “the most front-of-mind thing,” Friedman said, with Scherzer, a right-hander who turns 37 on Tuesday and could be available with the Nationals eight games out in the NL East entering Monday, and Berríos believed to be among the top targets.
Scherzer, a three-time Cy Young Award winner, is 7-4 with a 2.83 ERA in 18 starts this season. He was scratched from Saturday’s game against Baltimore because of right triceps discomfort, but the injury is not believed to be serious.
Scherzer is making $34.5 million in the final year of a seven-year, $210-million deal, and his agent, Scott Boras, has said the pitcher wants a contract extension in exchange for waiving his rights to veto a trade.
The Dodgers blew past the $210-million competitive-balance tax threshold with their signing of Bauer to a three-year, $102-million deal, which pushed their luxury-tax payroll to $238.5 million. So the remaining $12 million on Scherzer’s 2021 contract could be an obstacle.
Berríos (7-5, 3.48 ERA in 20 starts) is signed for $6.1 million and is under club control through 2022, but he would come at a steep price. Márquez (8-7, 3.50 ERA in 20 starts) is in the third year of a five-year, $43-million deal, but it’s doubtful the Rockies would trade him to a division rival.
The competition for top-notch starters will be fierce, with the Giants, Padres, Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros and Philadelphia Phillies reportedly pursuing rotation help.
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“We’ve had conversations on a lot of fronts, some focused more on rental types, some that are much bigger concepts that are focused on guys with more years of control,” Friedman said. “I think each hour, each day we learn more and get a better sense of what’s more real.”
Friedman “wouldn’t rule out” a trade for a middle reliever. With right fielder Mookie Betts and shortstop Corey Seager expected back from injury in early August, he is not expected to trade for a position player.
Friedman is confident he has the high-end prospects to complete any deal, with catcher Keibert Ruiz, who is batting .305 with 16 homers and 44 RBIs in 50 games at triple-A Oklahoma City, catcher Diego Cartaya and pitchers Bobby Miller, Ryan Pepiot and Andre Jackson garnering plenty of trade interest.
He’s not sure how confident he is in acquiring an impact arm.
“I don’t know — I’ve learned to not try to gauge that,” Friedman said. “Things change so quickly. I thought there was close to a zero percent chance of us getting Darvish in 2017, and that changed 15 minutes before the deadline. It was frenzied.”
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