When the Dodgers acquired Alex Wood almost two years ago, no one expected he’d turn out to be this good. The potential was there, but there were always questions about his delivery and ability to turn a lineup over three times.
Fast forward to 2017 and Wood, despite missing a little time this season, is pitching as well as he ever has and is turning a lineup over three times with ease (.167/.250/.222 in 60 PAs). Oh, and he leads baseball in ERA (1.67), is second in FIP (2.04) and tied for sixth in WAR (3.1), despite throwing just 80 2/3 innings this season. He’s missing bats (30.9 K%, 13.5 SwStr%), not walking many hitters (7.0 BB%) and getting a ton of ground balls (63.5 GB%, fourth-best in MLB). He has been, in a word, incredible.
The Dodgers never didn’t win the 3-team, 13-player trade when it was made. Here’s what Chad wrote about it at the time:
“Alex Wood is a 24-year-old lefty starter that currently makes $500,000, doesn’t hit arbitration until 2017, and doesn’t hit free agency until 2020. In 368.2 career innings, Wood has a 3.10 ERA (119 ERA+) and a 3.17 FIP, so he appears to be a consistent 2-3 WAR starter at least. My primary concern is that after striking out 23.6% and 24.5% of batters in 2013 and 2014, Wood is down to 17.7% this year. Wood is still suppressing homers and his walk rate is solid, so his FIP hasn’t budged much (3.39), but it’s the one area where I have some concern over whether or not he’ll achieve his upside. Wood is not overpowering at 89-91 mph with his sinker, but he has a plus changeup and an above-average curve. Wood projects as a quality #3/#4 type now with #2/#3 upside if he can get back to missing more bats.”
Even if he wasn’t pitching at the elite level he is this season, the Dodgers were getting a young, cost-controlled starting pitcher with upside for what turned out to be spare parts (and they weren’t particularly valuable to the club when they were moved). They gave up Hector Olivera (and paid $28 million of his $62.5 million deal in the form of a signing bonus), who isn’t even in baseball anymore because he’s a domestic abuser. If you remove that from the equation (and I’m not minimizing it by any means, just looking at on-field production), his .245/.296/.378 triple slash, 83 wRC+ and a -0.3 WAR.
An aside: I have to wonder if the Dodger front office played the Braves’ FO on this one. Olivera never looked like a $60-plus million player, but when they gave him the large contract that included a signing bonus that was paid up front, meaning there was no future commitment for that $28 million. It sure seems like Andrew Friedman and company had their sights set on Wood (or Julio Teheran) and hoped to use Olivera as the big trade chip to get a deal done. If so, it was a genius play and just another way the Dodgers used their financial might to their benefit.
This deal was made for Wood, at-the-time bullpen upgrades in Luis Avilan and Jim Johnson and a quality prospect in Jose Peraza. They also took on the salaries of Bronson Arroyo and Mike Morse while taking a shot on Mat Latos. For all that, the Dodgers gave up $28 million, two now-unemployed baseball players and four prospects who don’t factor into anyone’s future plans. At the time of the deal, it was good. Now, it looks like an incredible steal.
It took a little while for Wood to get on track, but he is showing three plus pitches, improved velocity, solid command/control and the ability to pitch deep into games. That’s a No. 2 starter, folks. And while I think the Dodgers will add another starter before the trade deadline, Wood might be pitching the best of any pitcher in baseball right now.
Contrary to the belief of some, this wasn’t “one of the worst trades in Dodger history.” It’s one of the best trades in Dodger history.