The Los Angeles Dodgers need another ace. They have a deep farm system. And the free-agent starting pitching cupboard is basically bare.

Add those disparate facts up and what do you get?

Possibly Chris Sale plying his trade in Southern California.

It’s pure speculation at this point. But the Dodgers targeted Sale at the 2016 trade deadline and were willing to dangle prized young left-hander Julio Urias, per Joel Sherman of the New York Post.

The deal never materialized, and Sale finished out the season with the Chicago White Sox. The Dodgers, meanwhile, advanced to the National League Championship Series but fell to the eventual champion Chicago Cubs, in part because their depleted rotation ran out of fuel.

Now, imagine Sale paired with Los Angeles ace Clayton Kershaw. That’s two of the top southpaws in baseball, and a 1-2 buzz saw that could push the Dodgers over the top.

Will Sale be moved?

It’s no sure thing, but this much is clear: After four straight losing seasons and an eight-year postseason drought, it’s time for the White Sox to engineer a course correction. 

“We aren’t approaching this offseason thinking we can make a couple of short-term tweaks to put us in position to win on a sustainable basis,” general manager Rick Hahn said recently, per Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune. “We intend to make a firmer commitment to a direction to put ourselves in a better long-term position.”

Translating from GM speak, that means the Sox could be sellers. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe has heard from multiple rival executives that “Hahn is open for business on just about his entire roster.”

Sale is Hahn’s shiniest item.

The 27-year-old five-time All-Star has eclipsed 200 strikeouts in each of the last four seasons and thrown more than 200 innings in three of them. He’s averaged 10.04 strikeouts per nine innings since his debut in 2010, the sixth-highest total among active pitchers. 

Most importantly, he’s under contract for the next three seasons, for $12 million in 2017, a $12.5 million team option in 2018 and a $13.5 million team option in 2019. In a world where the Arizona Diamondbacks paid Zack Greinke $34 million to post a plus-4.00 ERA, that’s an unequivocal bargain.

The sticker shock will be real. The Dodgers would likely have to part with multiple prospects from a farm system Bleacher Report’s Joel Reuter ranked No. 6 in the game.

That could include one of Urias and right-hander Jose DeLeon and a top position player such as power hitting outfielder/first baseman Cody Bellinger or touted 19-year-old Cuban outfielder Yusniel Diaz. 

That’s a lot to give up. But the Dodgers need to bolster their rotation—period.

Last year, injuries decimated their starting corps like henchmen in a James Bond flick. By the time the playoffs arrived, they rolled with a three-man unit of Kershaw, Japanese import Kenta Maeda and trade-deadline pickup Rich Hill through the division series before handing a start to the 20-year-old Urias in the NLCS.

Maeda will be back alongside Kershaw after posting a 3.48 ERA in 175.2 innings in his first big league season. 

The 36-year-old Hill battled blister issues after coming over from the Oakland A’s in early August, but he put up a 1.83 ERA in six regular-season starts with L.A. He’s a free agent, and while the Dodgers will surely kick the tires, it’s not normally in president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman’s DNA to give multi-year contracts to players rounding the bend on 40.

Right-hander Brandon McCarthy is signed through 2018 but is coming off an injury-plagued, up-and-down season. South Korean left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu is an even bigger question mark after missing all of 2015 and nearly all of 2016 with shoulder and elbow problems. 

Lefty Scott Kazmir is around after declining to opt out of his contract, though the Dodgers may look to trade him, per Sherman. Alex Wood pitched out of the bullpen in the postseason but is an option to rejoin the rotation if healthy.

That’s a lot of ifs, maybes and what-have-yous. Plus, Los Angeles could lose closer Kenley Jansen to free agency, weakening a bullpen that led MLB with a 3.35 ERA and covered for the rotation’s lapses.

Not a good look for the squad with baseball’s highest payroll and a 28-year championship drought.

Getting Sale would immediately and immeasurably boost the Dodgers’ stock. Along with Kershaw and Maeda, he’d form a rock-solid top three augmented by either Urias or DeLeon and whomever manages to come back and stay healthy from the above-mentioned group.

The Dodgers won’t be Sale’s only suitor. Expect every club with pitching needs and prospects to burn to come sniffing. Cafardo astutely name-dropped the Boston Red Sox in particular:

In the thinking-big department, [Boston president of baseball operations Dave] Dombrowski may have enough starting pitching, but how could he resist at least exploring a deal for White Sox ace Chris Sale? Dombrowski inquired about the lefthander at the trade deadline but the price was high. That price will be high again, but adding Sale would give the Red Sox a starting rotation that includes David Price, Rick Porcello, Eduardo Rodriguez (unless he was in the deal),Steven Wright, and Clay Buchholz/Drew Pomeranz.

The Red Sox have the pieces to outbid Los Angeles. But while they may want Sale—who doesn’t?—they don’t need him like the Dodgers.

The hot stove is about to start crackling. Rumors will fly like sparks in a stiff wind. This isn’t the last time you’ll read about Sale and the Dodgers.

Some speculation just makes too much sense.


All statistics courtesy of and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.

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