2019 Dodgers Trade Deadline Targets: LHP Felipe Vazquez, Pirates

This is the beginning of our 2019 Trade Deadline Targets series here at Dodgers Digest. It’s getting started a little early this year because, well, we can do that. Additionally, there’s only one trade deadline now (no waiver deals) and we could see trades get consummated sooner — especially if a team is trying to make multiple trades before July 31.

Last year, the Dodgers acquired Manny Machado at the All-Star break, so it wouldn’t be terribly surprising if something like that happened again this year — and the All-Star break is about a week earlier this season than it was last season.

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First up in the series is a guy the Dodgers have seemingly been eyeing for the better part of three years in Felipe Vazquez. In fact, they’ve been eyeing him since he went by Felipe Rivero. And why not? Vazquez is one of the premiere left-handed relievers in the game. The Pirates acquired him for Mark Melancon in 2016, and that turned out to be quite the steal for Pittsburgh.

Things haven’t really gone the way Pirates’ GM Neal Huntington was expecting this season, especially after making the big move for Chris Archer at last year’s deadline. So far, that trade has blown up in his face. Because of this, Vazquez might be available this trade deadline. But they’re under no pressure to deal the fireballing lefty, so the cost is going to be significant.

Before we get to the cost, let’s look at Vazquez’s performance since becoming a Pirate. Here are his rankings among MLB relievers in that time.

YearERAFIPK-BB%fWAR
2016-194th (2.28)8th (2.62)16th (22.8)4th (5.5)

Yeah, he’s really good. He operates with a fastball that sits in the high-90s, along with a curveball, slider, and changeup. He has a starter’s repertoire as a reliever. As such, he owns pretty neutral platoon splits.

  • wOBA vs. LHH: .241
  • wOBA vs. RHH: .268

If he’s truly available — especially looking at the state of the Dodgers’ bullpen — they should do almost whatever it takes to land him.

Cost

It isn’t going to be cheap. Vazquez signed a team-friendly contract extension two winters ago, which only seemed to increase his trade value. It’s similar to what happened with Brad Hand and the Padres, but he was locked up only through 2021, is two years older, and was probably a quarter-to-half-tier down from Vazquez in terms of reliever rankings. Cleveland gave up Francisco Mejia for him straight-up in a deal that looks great for them and not so much for San Diego. I honestly thought it was a bit of a light return for Hand. Then again, I (and another Dodger writer with whom I had communications with and shall remain nameless) was willing to give up Alex Verdugo for Hand, so who knows?

Vazquez is locked up through 2021 and has two incredibly exerciseable options.

  • 2019: $4 million
  • 2020: $5.25 million
  • 2021: $7.25 million
  • 2022: $10 million (team option, $1 million buyout)
  • 2023: $10 million (team option, $500,000 buyout)

So, if you’re expecting spare parts to be enough to get him, you’re sorely mistaken.

Package 1

To Pittsburgh: Keibert Ruiz, Jeter Downs, Dennis Santana, Mitchell White
To Los Angeles: Vazquez

This is a lot to give up. Ruiz is still a Top 50 prospect, but with the emergence of Will Smith and Diego Cartaya coming at some point, there might be no better time to consider trading from the catching depth. Downs would give the Pirates a high-upside infield bat, and Santana and White would give them two arms they could plug into their staff almost immediately and have under team control for six years (each).

Package 2

To Pittsburgh: Keibert Ruiz, Josiah Gray, Caleb Ferguson, DJ Peters, Robinson Ortiz
To Los Angeles: Vazquez

Again, a lot to give up, and all these packages will involve Ruiz. Gray is a guy who would surely interest the Pirates, especially since he has improved since coming over from the Reds. Ferguson could be plugged into the Pirates’ bullpen or they could convert him back to a starter. Peters gives them a big boom-or-bust prospect in the outfield and Ortiz is the low-level lottery ticket guy. Remember, they got Oneil Cruz from the Dodgers for Tony Watson a couple years ago, and now he’s a Top 100 prospect, so we know the Pirates might pursue low-level prospects with upside.

Package 3

To Pittsburgh: Ruiz, Ross Stripling, Jacob Amaya, Cristian Santana, Guillermo Zuniga
To Los Angeles: Vazquez

The Pirates reportedly had interest in a Francisco Cervelli for Stripling swap over the winter, but it never came to be. He could slot right into the rotation and is under team control for three more seasons after this one. Amaya and Zuniga are lower-level guys who could intrigue the Pirates, and Santana has big power at third base and is plenty capable defensively at the hot corner.

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No matter what package you like best (and they can all be modified, obviously), the Dodgers are going to have to dip into their considerable resources if they want to land a guy of Vazquez’s caliber.

Kenley Jansen has an opt-out after this season and, while he’s not likely to use it, having a guy like Vazquez locked up for four more years would be a safeguard in case Jansen leaves, suffers an injury, or becomes ineffective in the closer role.

Vazquez would be my No. 1 trade target if I’m the Dodgers. They might not get him, and if they don’t it’s unlikely anyone else will, but he’d be well worth the cost.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler
Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.