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Could the Indians and Dodgers become trade partners?

  Could Seager join the Indians? (Matt Kartozian--USA TODAY Sports)
Don't be surprised if there wasn't a direct line of communication between the front offices of the Los Angeles Dodgers and your Cleveland Indians here at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario.

Dodgers president Andrew Friedman took a sizable hit last week when stud starting pitching Zack Greinke shocked the world when he signed his six-year, $206 million deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and sent Friedman and Los Angeles GM Farhan Zaidi scrambling to replace him.

There have been several Dodgers rumors circulating over the past week surrounding ace starting pitchers, but with the top names slowly dropping off the free agent board, the choices to replace Greinke are becoming both limited, and costly. Combine that with aggressive approach taken by the Dodgers' chief rival and antagonist, the San Francisco Giants, you could see Los Angeles become hawkish in the second phase of the Hot Stove Season. With the Giants nabbing two big name free agent starters in Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija, who were both linked to the Dodgers at one point or another, it's likely the Dodgers will try and match the haul with a big name move of their own.

Could the Indians' be in that mix?

Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar have already been rumored to be 'on the table' for the right deal, although according to Indians' President Chris Antonetti, the right deal would have to be something special.
"We're not looking to do it (trade a starting pitcher). But, what we have to be open-minded [about is], if there's a way for us to really impact our team and make a deal that we think makes us a better, more compete, more competitive team in 2016, we'll be open to it. But, that's a pretty high bar."
So who could the Dodgers offer the Indians to meet that "high bar." That's not an easy question to answer, but when you consider the deals that have been signed this offseason regarding top starting pitchers, Carrasco, Salazar and even Trevor Bauer hold tremendous value on the market in any trade. Carrasco perhaps has the best valued contract in all of baseball, considering that most MLB GM's consider him to be a top ten pitcher in the league, and that's not hyperbole. His current deal has him under team control through the 2020 season (two team options in 2019 and 2020) for a grand total of $37.5 million, when he'll be 33 years old.

Both Salazar and Bauer are also under control through the 2021 season, with both not yet entering arbitration (2017). Salazar is likely a contract target for the Indians, who will be looking to lock up their young flame-throwing righty in the same manner they signed Carrasco and Corey Kluber last year. While Bauer doesn't seem to be on the salary schedule thanks to a fairly bad season that saw him bounced to the bullpen in September, Antonetti and new Tribe GM Mike Chernoff could strike will Bauer is a sell low candidate. Regardless of the deals, their four-years of control at arbitration levels (or a potential offseason deal) make them nearly as valuable as Carrasco (and Kluber, if we're to be honest).

What type of value would they hold with the Dodgers? Perhaps the better question here is, "What would the Indians ask for?"

Chances are, they would ask for a lot.

Let's just get this out of the way first: the Indians aren't likely to ask for Yasiel Puig, simply because he's in the rarefied air of having a pretty valuable and inexpensive contract, and no, that's not a misnomer. When you combine Puig's enigmatic talent with the type of high volatility factor that has many front offices predicting a highly publicized flame-out, you just can't make that deal. If the Indians are going to trade away one of their top starters, they need to hit an unequivocal home run. Puig could be an MVP down the line, but he also could end up having "Manny Ramirez" syndrome off the field, without matching Manny's lofty numbers on it..

With Puig off the board (unless they offer him as a part of a deal, and again, he is a player who is both over and undervalued, a tough mix), that leaves a group of players that Los Angeles woulnd't want to deal, right?

Put it in this perspective: the Dodgers have been pounding down the Miami Marlins door for the services of their just-turned-23-year old stud, Jose' Fernandez. Fernandez is about to enter arbitration, and while he's young with a big upside, he's struggled with injuries over the past two years. He's already had Tommy John surgery, and while trying to return from that, had a shoulder injury. There is certainly a bit of a question-mark regarding his health gong forward. That said, the Marlins reportedly asked the Dodgers for top prospects Joc Pederson, Corey Seager and Julio Urias. That would be like hitting the prospect triple crown, and Pederson has already established himself as a Dodgers' starter.

All three have been rated one of the top ten prospects in all of baseball in a variety of different lists over the years, and all are either in the bigs (Pederson and Seager), or knocking on the door (Urias, who's only 18-years old).

That would be considered a home run deal for Chris Antonetti and the Indians out of the gate, and is likely the kind of deal that he would certainly say yes to.

It's also the type of deal that never, ever happens, especially with a savvy front office like the Dodgers.

Seager would immediately be plugged in as the starting third baseman in Cleveland, with Joc Pederson joining him in the starting lineup in right field. Urias would likely season up in Double A Akron or Triple A Columbus for a year, before locking and loading with the Tribe in 2017.

Would that deal be on the table for Salazar or Carrasco? Carrasco is a superior pitcher right now to Fernandez, and by a long, long way. No, he's not as youthful, and obviously Fernandez and his upside is something on the north side of elite, but don't shrug your shoulders on Carrasco. After 18 months of dominance at the big league level in which he's proven to be a staff workhorse, there's no doubt that Carrasco would command the large haul that Fernandez would for a team that's knocking on the door of a World Series. While Fernandez could turn out to be the best pitcher in the league, there's a certain risk factor that Carrasco just doesn't have. This isn't a soft sell on Fernandez either. Obviously, he's elite, but the health questions are there, and at a young age, Carrasco could be the more valuable pitcher to a team looking for NOW, and not LATER.

There isn't a lot of difference between Fernandez and Danny Salazar, when considering upside. I would definitely say that Fernandez is the better pitcher right now, although that could balance out, thanks to his recent injury issues. Both are in the same conversation though, and don't forget, Salazar has another year of control. For a team like the Dodgers, that likely isn't a huge deal, but when you consider how close Fernandez and Salazar are regarding talent-level and future, and that could be the type of deal breaker that a general manager or president could push a deal over the top.

Could the Dodgers be desperate enough to make such a deal, after turning down the Marlins deal earlier? Friedman doesn't deal out of desperation, and with all three "prospects" making impacts already, either with the Dodgers, or with the upper levels of the organization, they'd honestly be insane to make that kind of deal with the Indians, the Marlins, or anyone, really.

But the Indians should expect that kind of deal.

This is a Grade A case of the market setting trade and value parameters that likely wouldn't be met by a team making a trade withcommodities such as Carlos Carrasco or Danny Salazar.

Could there be other parts that the Dodgers have that could interest the Indians? Sure, but in the end, the return for a top ten starter would have to be outlandishly good, and with the Dodgers already chuckling at the Marlins proposal, it's not likely that the Indians are going to un-snark one of the better President/GM tandems in baseball. And honestly, if the Dodgers decided to part with all three prospects, why wouldn't they just call up the Marlins again?

The chances of a deal like this are slim, but this is certainly the kind of deal that Antonetti, Chernoff and Terry Francona will be looking for, if they're to deal away one of their prized starting pitchers.

I wouldn't hold your breath.
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