December 20, 2014

Dodgers Slump Puts Pitching Trade Rumors Front and Center

There’s no doubt that the Dodgers are slumping right now. The just lost three straight to the Braves and have dropped 11 out of their last 17 games. The general consensus is that they will pull out of it shortly but one has to wonder what the contributing factors are.

Certainly the lack of offense as of late is a concern – after all, the Dodgers have been inconsistent at the plate as of yet. However, the team can get hits when it needs them (remember Ethier’s recent heroics) – they just seem to need them more often.

Which brings us to the pitching woes – highlighted primarily by the starting roster and the high usage of the closers. Chad Billingsley’s nagging injury has caused the Dodgers to lean on their three remaining major-league starters while also calling up minor leaguer Eric Stults (who has had flashes of brilliance but is by no means rock-solid reliable). Kershaw has been doing his part to get as manny innings in the books as possible but opposing teams are getting their offense to work early and often in many cases.

Even Torre is concerned and recognizes the impact that pulling his starters in the first several innings is having on his relievers. “There is no question you’re pushing the envelope (on the bullpen) when you have to go get your starter in the fifth inning or before,” Torre said. “Because it’s really stretching the rubber band.”

Mota and Troncoso have appeared quite fallable as of late, and give up a combined 5 runs on Sunday in the top of the 9th. It’s no wonder that Joe Torre called an all-team meeting following the game on Sunday night to try and right the ship.

All of this has the trade rumors flying right now. John Smoltz and Vincente Padilla are the two most likely candidates – both have been designated for assignment by their respective teams and Smoltz is likely a “person of interest” for Joe Torre given his veteran status and Torre’s challenges with unproven minor league pitchers as of late. Assuming Stults were to stay up for Billingsley and cover any unforseen injuries to the starters between now and September, Torre would likely want someone who was tested and proven for the fifth starting spot.

We’ll keep an eye on things but expect Smoltz to be in the mix for the Dodgers…