So This Is What Relievers Cost

The Dodgers could use a reliever. I know! I can’t believe it either. It’s certainly not something we’ve talked about like a dozen times recently, right? We’ve talked about who should go — hi, Chris Perez! And also Paul Maholm! And maybe, but less likely, Jamey Wright! — and whether it’ll be Paco Rodriguez or Scott Elbert or Jose Dominguez who comes to town, or whether it’ll be someone from outside the organization, which it obviously will, and whether we should be concerned about what Ned Colletti will do.

I don’t really have a lot to add to any of that. But what we have seen in the last week is two of the better relievers being moved, and we can get an idea of what the market looks like. Last weekend, Huston Street and a minor leaguer went from San Diego to Anaheim for four minor leaguers. Last night, Joakim Soria went from Texas to Detroit for two minor leaguers.

Now obviously, simply saying “minor leaguer” barely scratches the surface of value. Robbie Garvey isn’t the same thing as Corey Seager, obviously. And even looking at an organization’s minor league ranking isn’t enough. In the Street trade, which I wrote about at FanGraphs, the Angels trashed their system, moving Taylor Lindsey, R.J. Alvarez, Jose Rondon, and Elliot Morris. The first three of those names were extremely likely to be the top three prospects the Angels had following the season. Saying it that way makes it sound atrocious. You just sliced up the system for a year and a half of a one-inning reliever! But of course, being the best player in a bad system doesn’t make you a better player because of it. Lindsey, Alvarez, and Rondon, are hardly Seager, Joc Pederson, and Julio Urias. So while some, quite reasonably, think the Angels overpaid — and maybe they did, because Street’s impact potential is limited — San Diego also didn’t get anybody who was a consensus Top-100 prospect.

In the other deal, the Tigers gave up pitchers Jake Thompson and Corey Knebel for Soria, in part because Joe Nathan has been a disappointment. The pair were high-ish draft picks (Thompson in 2012’s second round, Knebel in 2013’s first, though at No. 39, and he’s already made it to the big leagues), and both were well-regarded in the Detroit system. Again, the strength of the system comes into play. Thompson both “projects as a strong No. 4 starter” and “may be the best pitching prospect in Detroit’s system,” and hadn’t appeared on a Top-100 list, though it sounds like he might have found his way on to the back end of one after the season. Again, it’s not necessarily cheap to give up two good prospects for a one-inning reliever, but for that same reason, Detroit didn’t need to give up someone considered a game-changer. (And before anyone asks, “where were the Dodgers?,” well, we can’t know how other teams value prospects. The Rangers might have very much liked one or both of these guys for their own reasons.)

So we know, now, a bit about what these types of pitchers will cost. It won’t be Urias, Pederson or Seager. It could be Zach Lee, but even that seems like a lot. More likely, it’s a Chris Reed, or a Chris Anderson, or a Tom Windle, or a Darnell Sweeney, or a Scott Schebler, plus a part. It’s the kind of deal that will cause Dodger fans pain because they’ve seen these guys getting drafted and developed and have begun to identify with them, but in the long run probably won’t matter all that much, because we’d be talking about a prospect in the No.5 to No. 10 range in the Dodger system and not on a Top-100 list anywhere. That doesn’t mean it won’t hurt, of course. But would it hurt less than watching Perez in a big situation in October?

About Mike Petriello

Mike Petriello
Mike writes about lots of baseball in lots of places, and right now that place is MLB.com.