COMMENTARY | The Los Angeles Dodgers sit 3.5 games out of first in the NL West. They've come on hot over the last couple of weeks as health issues have turned for the better, but moves could be made to improve the club going forward.
One of the most popular and rumored moves has been upgrading the rotation spot occupied by Chris Capuano. Capuano has been up and down this year, posting a 4.15 FIP and allowing too many homers while whiffing just under 7/9 IP and walking 2.60/9.
Capuano has dealt with injury and been nothing more than a #5 starter, and while he certainly could be removed in favor of somebody better, it's not worth overpaying for an average starter on the trade market such as Matt Garza or Ricky Nolasco, the two names thrown around the most in trade rumors.
Garza has garnered a reputation as a difference maker in a rotation, and his name has been thrown around a lot in connection with the Dodgers. He's dealt with injury in 2013, but even if we put aside this season, he's one of the more overrated pitchers in baseball.
Garza has a career ERA of 3.82, a FIP of 4.00, strikes out 7.61/9 IP, and walks 3.06/9. He gives up a homer per game and has only posted one season with an fWAR better than 3.2 (4.8 in 2011 with the Cubs). That one season - and it's the only season Garza posted a FIP below 4 - has built Matt into something he is absolutely not and has never been: a top of the rotation hurler.
Garza had one great season and while he's been solid, he's not a star pitcher and is really a 3 or 4 based on results. Stephen Fife's been pitching to the level that Garza has outside of his great 2011 season, so why should the Dodgers give up a ton of talent to get him? He's better than Capuano, sure, but he's not the difference between winning it all and finishing without a title.
Would you trade top prospects for Fife? No, and the Dodgers shouldn't for Matt Garza's services.
Nolasco is the other pitching name on the trade block likely to be moved prior to the deadline, and the Dodgers are once again the rumored destination. While Ricky doesn't have the reputation of Garza, he's actually been the better pitcher over their respective careers, both of which began in 2006.
Nolasco's best season - a 2009 campaign in which he struck out 9.49 per nine, walked just over 2 per nine, and posted a 3.35 FIP and 4.1 fWAR - wasn't quite as good as Garza's best, but it wasn't as far off as their reputations would imply.
Nolasco would cost less in prospects due to reputation, so if a move was made, I'd prefer him over Garza. That being said, it would have to be a mediocre prospect (with the Dodgers eating the contract in its entirety) and even then the Dodgers rotation is a big positive without either righty. You can't have five stud starters every year.
As it stands, 3/5ths of the Dodgers' rotation is likely to lead them to victory while one starter is closer to 50/50 - even with as well as Fife has pitched thus far - and the final pitcher (Capuano) is likely to get beat up.
However, with a healthy lineup and lots of power throughout said lineup, the Dodgers will be in most games and can mitigate the likely poor starts from Cap with offensive output and an improved bullpen.
Again, neither Garza nor Nolasco is a great pitcher worthy of giving up top talent for but the latter costs less, isn't coming off of an injury, and has had the better career. Both are upgrades over Capuano but they're not worth overpaying to get.
Would I trade a Chris Reed or Garrett Gould - pre-season top 10 prospects that have struggled and are likely not going to be great - for Garza or Nolasco? Maybe. However, would I even considering trading a Zach Lee or a Matt Magill or an Onelki Garcia type?
Not a chance in the world.
Greg Zakwin is the founder of Plaschke, Thy Sweater Is Argyle, a Dodgers' and sports card blog. He writes with an analytical tilt about The Blue Crew at ChadMoriyama.com. You can find and follow him on Twitter @ArgyledPlaschke. A graduate of UCLA in 2011 with a Bachelor's in History, he's been a follower of the Dodgers since birth and still mourns the loss of both Mike Piazza and Carlos Santana.
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