Clayton Kershaw is headed to the disabled list with another back injury and this time the 29-year-old ace is expected to miss four to six weeks. With this news, it’s even more imperative that the Los Angeles Dodgers acquire another front-line starting pitcher before next week’s trade deadline.
This is the second year in a row that Kershaw has dealt with a back injury. He made just 21 starts in 2016 thanks to back issues, and this year his injury could derail yet another incredible season. In 21 starts during the 2017 campaign, Kershaw is 15-2, with a 2.04 ERA, a 0.88 WHIP and 168 strikeouts against just 24 walks in 141.1 innings. He’s undeniably the best pitcher in baseball right now. And the Dodgers will not have him for an extended period of time.
Los Angeles has a comfortable 10.5 game lead in the National League West, but the Dodgers definitely need to add another starter if they want to make a run in the postseason. Alex Wood (11-1, 2.17 ERA, 0.97 WHIP) has been excellent this year, but other than that LA hasn’t gotten much out of its starts. Plus, Wood is performing far beyond his past performance and there is a high probability of him coming down to Earth in the second half. It’s time to deal for another front-line starter to pair with Kershaw.
Texas Rangers righty Yu Darvish (6-8, 3.44 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 143 Ks, in 133.1 innings), Oakland Athletics ace Sonny Gray (6-4, 3.66 ERA, 1.18 WHIP) and Tampa Bay Rays righty Chris Archer (7-6, 3.77 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 167 Ks in 136.0 innings) could all be had for the right price. While the Rays are in the playoff hunt, rumors suggest they’re willing to part with Archer for the right price. The Dodgers have been reluctant to give up top prospects over the past few years, but they need to go all-in this year.
Meanwhile, Justin Verlander could be another option, but his massive contract and performance this year (5-7, 4.54 ERA, 1.47 WHIP) could make him easier to acquire. The Detroit Tigers would almost certainly be willing to unload his deal for peanuts in return.
Los Angeles is the National League’s best team and if the franchise wants to get to the World Series and have a chance to win, it’s going to need another starter to pair with Kershaw anyway. With their ace out, the Dodgers have even more incentive to put together a monster package for another ace.
Gray is controllable through 2020, Archer under contract through 2020, and Darvish would be a rental who hits free agency after the season. Obviously LA is going to have to unload significant assets to acquire Gray or Archer, but both would be worth it. While 21-year-old flamethrower Yadier Alvarez may be untouchable, 21-year-old outfielder Alex Verdugo will almost certainly need to be included to make a deal for either Gray or Archer. Second baseman Willie Calhoun and 22-year-old righty Walker Buehler are also going to be in the mix to be traded.
Back issues rarely heal easily, which means Kershaw could struggle with the injury for the rest of the season. Given that the Dodgers have a chance to reach the World Series this season, they must go all-in and get rotation help. The cost will be steep, but that’s often the price you pay to win a title.