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Matching up a Josh Hader trade: Los Angeles Dodgers

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Could Andrew Friedman be coaxed into giving up high end, young talent for the best reliever in the game? It would have to be a must for Stearns to pull the trigger

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Milwaukee Brewers Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Dodgers have been rumored to be in on trade talks about Mike Clevinger and Francisco Lindor. There have also been murmurs about a pursuit of Mookie Betts. The Dodgers are reportedly looking into Josh Hader, too. Why are they in on so many high-end players that are supposedly up for trade? Simple — the Dodgers have the prospect capital (at least at the top of their system) to pay the price for these types of players. History tells us, however, that Andrew Friedman does not part with his prospects easily.

As I mentioned, Los Angeles was one of the teams reportedly interested in Josh Hader. The area of greatest weakness with this team is the bullpen, and Hader rectifies that in spades. With that in mind, let’s look at some of the pieces that could front a trade package for the most dominant reliever in the game.

Gavin Lux

Lux is a Wisconsin native, and just on fact alone he would be the top pick for many Milwaukee fans to come to the Cream City.

While having Wisconsin ties is attractive, the fact that he is really good is probably the reason why the Brewers and any other team with a high end player to trade would begin by asking about him. Lux is the #2 overall prospect in baseball according to MLB Pipeline. According to Kevin Carter at Baseball Prospectus, the 22 year old middle infielder is a low risk prospect that grades out with a 70 OFP. Carter explains that Lux has All-Star shortstop upside with an impressive physical hit tool and above average game power. He gives the following future grades:

  • Hit: 60
  • Power: 55
  • Run: 55
  • Arm: 50
  • Field: 55

Fangraphs grades him out with the following future values:

  • Hit: 55
  • Power: 55
  • Run: 55
  • Arm: 45
  • Field: 55

The lack of arm strength might make him a second baseman long-term, but the Kenosha product looks like a solid bet to succeed at the major league level. The prospect hype around him is certainly at an all-time high, which will make it difficult for the Brewers or anyone else to pry him from the Dodgers’.

Alex Verdugo

The #1 prospect in L.A.’s system in 2018, Alex Verdugo is lauded for his ability to hit. Unlike most of the players on this list, Verdugo got significant time in 2019 with the big league club playing in 106 games and getting 377 plate appearances. He posted 2.2 fWAR and slashed .294/.342/.475 with a 114 wRC+. He is just 23 years old on top of that.

While Lux is currently one of the most hyped prospects in baseball, Verdugo might just be the more valuable player as he has already demonstrated real success at the big league level. The left-handed hitting outfielder graded out well from a scouting perspective when he was a prospect. In a scouting report written in 2017 by Keith Rader of Baseball Prospectus, he gave Verdugo a 70 OFP. His major league accomplishments reinforce this. He does not seem to suffer from platoon splits either. If anything, he has reverse platoon splits (121 wRC+ vs. LHP, 111 wRC+ vs. RHP).

Verdugo is a solidly built outfielder with a fine hit tool (70 future hit according to Baseball Prospectus) and although scouting reports gave him low in-game power grades, he has thus far exceeded those expectations in the show (12 home runs in 377 plate appearances in his first full season with the Dodgers). His bat would play well in Miller Park, and might be the best option to headline a return for Hader. Just to add a cherry on top, his arm grades as a 60-70 depending on the scouting source.

Dustin May

His flowing red locks at least rival Hader’s, and would generate unnecessary but entertaining discussion around hair. The Brewers would love to get good pitching back in a deal, and May is the best pitching prospect in the Dodgers’ system. Fangraphs grades him as a 60 OFP with a very good fastball and elite slider. Future grades according to Fangraphs:

  • Fastball: 60
  • Slider: 70
  • Change: 50
  • Cutter: 60
  • Command: 60

All of this means that “Gingergaard’s” ceiling is a somewhere around a front-line to middle-of-the-rotation starter. He got his first call to the majors this past season at just 21 years old. Over 34.2 innings he pitched to a 3.63 ERA and a 2.90 FIP.

Keibert Ruiz

Ruiz is considered one of the best catching prospects in baseball currently according to MLB Pipeline. The 21 year old is a switch hitter that moves well behind the plate. Fangraphs projects him to have a 60 OFP, a 60 field and a 70 future hit tool. If those future values hold, he is an All-Star catcher.

Kiley McDaniel and Eric Longenhagen say of him, “Watching Ruiz catch is like watching video of Alan Shepard play golf on the moon. Things seem to be moving at a different pace for Keibert, especially on defense...almost all of his baseball skills are elite. He’s one of the better receivers in the minors and is a better ball blocker than one would expect given his lack of athleticism.”

MLB Pipeline does not grade him as highly as Fangraphs, but they still see him as a better than average major leaguer.

  • Hit: 55
  • Power: 50
  • Run: 40
  • Arm: 50
  • Field: 55
  • OFP: 55

The Los Angeles Dodgers have strong prospects at the top of their system as well as young talent on their major league roster. They have won the National League West for seven consecutive seasons. They have been to — and lost — the 2017 and 2018 World Series. This is a team that is looking to get over the hump, or at least they should be. While Friedman is loath to give up prospects, he might need to if he wants to bolster his bullpen. The most dynamic way to deal with his team’s only significant weakness is to trade for the best reliever in the game. But would he give up one or more of the names above to get him?

There are other decent prospects in the Dodgers system. Josiah Gray, Tony Gonsolin, Dennis Santana, and current major leaguer Will Smith (the catcher, not the former Brewer) are just a few of the names. However those are all names to add to a deal, not names to front a package. The 2016 Andrew Miller trade is the model that would or at least should have to be exceeded to get Hader. That would mean acquiring two of the above mentioned players plus more. Friedman has yet to do anything resembling that in the past, so he would have to change his stripes to make it happen. Are he and the Dodgers front office at a critical enough stage to do it?

Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs