One “Los Angeles” baseball team made a splash this week, acquiring two solid relief pitchers to fix their bullpen issues. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the one that actually plays in Los Angeles.
The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim made their first dent in the trade market early on, when they traded struggling former closer Ernesto Frieri to the Pirates for their struggling former closer, Jason Grilli.
About a week later, the Angels sent two prospects to the Arizona Diamondback for Joe Thatcher and Tony Compana, giving them a legit lefty out of the bullpen.
All the while, the Los Angeles Dodgers still have their bullpen issues. Brian Wilson had been coming around, posting a 0.87 ERA in June. However, Wilson had a disastrous first outing in July where he gave up three runs in the eighth to blow a 3-2 lead against the Cleveland Indians.
Kenley Jansen hasn’t been his dominant self, posting a 3.97 ERA so far this season. However, advanced metrics indicate than Jansen has just been ridiculously unlucky. His FIP, which ignores everything that pitchers can’t control, is 1.97, and his BABIP is .388. Both of these numbers indicate that Jansen has had horrible luck this season, and his 37% strikeout rate shows that he is just fine.
Other than Jansen and JP Howell, the rest of the Dodgers’ bullpen is suspect. Chris Perez and Paul Maholm have been awful. Brandon League has been great, but I’m still not sure how much I trust him late in the game. The same can be said for Jamey Wright. Replacing Perez and/or Maholm should be a priority for the Dodgers as the deadline approaches.
There is an in-house option for the bullpen. Paco Rodriguez was stellar last year until falling off in September, which was probably due to Don Mattingly overusing him. He has struggled in AAA this year, but Paco is a dynamic young lefty that could right the ship and provide value down the home stretch of the season.
If the Dodgers choose to make a move, they have plenty of tradable assets. Their overcrowded outfield could use some trimming, and Andre Ethier or Carl Crawford could see themselves in a different uniform before the season ends. For a team in sell mode like the New York Mets or Chicago Cubs, the Dodgers have some interesting prospects that could be moved for the right reliever.
The Mets have two bullpen arms that could instantly improve the Dodgers- Vic Black and Dana Eveland. Black is young and would be a lot harder to pry away from New York, but the Dodgers could make a play for Eveland. Eveland, a former Dodger, has pitched over his head and the Mets could look to sell high on him.
The Mets have needed outfield help for a while and could be interested in Scott Van Slyke, who has shown great power in limited playing time. With Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, and Carl Crawford on the major league roster and Joc Pederson waiting in the wings, there really is no place for Van Slyke in LA unless he’s cool being a career fourth outfielder. SVS deserves to start and could be a very good everyday player, that just won’t happen with the Dodgers.
The Chicago Cubs are also in sell mode (like always) and need pitching prospects. They just traded arguably their two best pitchers, and now have something like 500 highly rated infield prospects. For such a bad team, the Cubs actually have a solid bullpen with some trade value. James Russell, Pedro Strop, Neil Ramirez and Brian Schlitter are not necessarily household names, but have been great out of the Cubs’ bullpen this season. Strop has the worst stats of this group, with a 3.03 ERA and a .192 BAA.
The Dodgers could work out a small bullpen deal with the Cubs, or they could reach for the stars. Hanley Ramirez‘s contract is up at the end of the season, and he could be seeing his last few months as a Dodger. Between Starlin Castro, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Arismendy Alcantara and newly acquired Addison Russell, the Cubs have a lot of decisions to make about the future of their infield. It would take a lot, but the Dodgers could look to acquire Castro, who was the subject of trade rumors after a poor 2013 season.
Castro is still only 24 years old, but just received his third All-Star nomination and is still improving. He has proven to be durable (unlike Hanley), having played in all 87 games this year after only missing one game the last two years combined. Like Hanley, Castro isn’t the greatest defensive shortstop, but his fielding percentage has gone up in each of his five big league seasons. Castro is under team control until 2019 and would demand a lot, but the Cubs may not need him with a plethora of infield studs waiting in the minors.
The Dodgers could go for a home run and try to acquire Starlin Castro and either James Russell, Strop, Ramirez or Schlitter. The price tag will be high and likely cost two or three highly rated starting pitching prospects, but the Dodgers have an abundance of talented pitchers in the minors. Five of the top ten Dodgers prospects on MLB.com are starting pitchers, so a combination of two or three of Julio Urias, Zach Lee, Chris Anderson, Chris Reed and Tom Windle plus a few other prospects could persuade the Cubs into another blockbuster deal.
Acquiring Castro and one of the four Cubs relievers would be one of those rare moves that not only helps the Dodgers this season, but also helps down the line. However, Castro to the Dodgers isn’t even a real rumor, just an idea. Regardless of what the Cubs decide to do with Castro, the Dodgers need to make a deal to shore up the bullpen.