The Dodgers have agreed to pull off a three-team blockbuster of a trade with the Marlins and Braves, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. They were able to do this because Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi are wizards or something.
The Dodgers are getting RHP Mat Latos and 1B Michael Morse from the Marlins and LHP Alex Wood, SS/2B Jose Peraza, RHP Jim Johnson, and LHP Luis Avilan from the Braves. The Dodgers are giving up 3B Hector Olivera, RP Paco Rodriguez, and SP Zachary Bird to the Braves, who are also getting a compensation pick from the Marlins. The Dodgers are then trading RHP Jeff Brigham, RHP Victor Araujo, and RHP Kevin Guzman to the Marlins.
The deal is done, pending Olivera’s medical records, according to Joe Frisaro of MLB.com.
— Joe Frisaro (@JoeFrisaro) July 30, 2015
Elbow concerns and most recently pulled hamstring. Sources say he's fine on both fronts. https://t.co/8NVhUAfach
— Jesse Sanchez (@JesseSanchezMLB) July 30, 2015
So who the heck are all these new guys?
Mat Latos has a 4.48 ERA this year and had a relatively serious knee injury, so it’s easy to wonder what the point is. However, he’s just 27 and he has a 3.34 FIP and 3.55 xFIP this year, indicating much better performance than what his ERA shows. Additionally, after a drop-off in strikeout rate last year, both his K% (21.2) and BB% (6.7) are almost identical to his best years before his 2014 knee injury. Speaking of knee injuries, he struggled with soreness through the first two months of 2015 and had a 6.12 ERA when he went on the DL on May 21. Since then, he’s put up a 2.96 ERA in June and July, and after coming back from knee soreness, he has averaged ~93 mph with his fastball, in line with his old pre-2014 form. Latos makes $9.4 million this year and is a free agent after this season.
Michael Morse is a 33-year-old first baseman/sort of outfielder whose line is a robust .214/.277/.314/.592, and his peripherals suggest that’s exactly what he deserves. Morse is on a two-year, $16 million contract, which will likely result in a DFA by the Dodgers since he has no use to the team and he was taken as a salary dump.
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.
Jim Johnson is a 32-year-old right-handed relief pitcher who makes $1.6 million and will be a free agent after the season. From 2011-13, Johnson put up a 2.70 ERA and 110 saves over 230 innings. But in 2014, everything went downhill as his walk rate doubled and his ERA ballooned to 7.09. 2015 then is his bounce-back year, as he currently has a 2.25 ERA, and both his walk and strikeout rates are back to his career norms. Johnson’s heavy sinker from 93-95 mph keeps the ball on the ground 60% of the time, and while the Dodgers don’t have an Andrelton Simmons in the infield, the above-average infield defense of the Dodgers should be a solid fit.
Luis Avilan is a 25-year-old left-handed reliever who makes $530,000 in 2015 and doesn’t hit free agency until 2019. Avilan features a 2.77 ERA in 182 career innings, though he does have a 3.58 ERA in 2015 and struggled a bit in 2014. Though he’s a lefty, Avilan doesn’t have a super pronounced split, with a .638 OPS against righties and .566 OPS against lefties for his career. Avilan, who should slot into a middle relief role, sits 92-94 mph and features a curve and change.
Jose Peraza is a 21-year-old shortstop/second base prospect that is already in AAA. Going into 2015, he was ranked the #54 prospect in baseball by Baseball America, #38 by MLB.com, and #92 by Baseball Prospectus. At the mid-season update, he was ranked #26 by Baseball America, #30 by MLB.com, and #45 by Baseball Prospectus. In 2014, he posted a .339/.364/.441/.806 line between high-A and AA, while this year he’s at .295/.319/.380/.699. Peraza can handle short and only moved because Simmons was in the way. Peraza has a contact-oriented swing and makes little attempt to drive the ball, but he can spray liners to all fields. He’s a plus-plus runner with instincts to steal bases, so he’s gonna be a threat to run when he’s on base. He’s an above-average defender at short and has the arm for the position, but if he were to play second he could grade as plus. The concern for me, and for scouts, is that he doesn’t walk a whole ton, which seems to make him very batting average dependent and will limit his impact with the bat.
But what did the Dodgers give up to acquire all that?
Hector Olivera is the main piece the Dodgers are surrendering, and the team gave the 30-year-old third baseman $62.5 million over six years just this past winter. The Dodgers gave him a $28 million signing bonus, so the Braves will likely get Olivera for $34.5 million over six years, plus the conditional 2021 option at $1 million if he needs Tommy John surgery. By all accounts, Olivera has the potential to be an impact bat, and from what I’ve seen and heard I have little doubt he’ll contribute offensively. However, I do think he’s stuck at third and playing second was more of a wishful thinking deal than anything else.
Paco Rodriguez is a 24-year-old lefty reliever who makes $523,000 in 2015 and won’t be a free agent into 2020. Paco has a 2.53 ERA in 85.1 career innings, and he’s an effective reliever when he’s healthy. However, he struggled down the stretch in 2013 after a heavy workload, had a back strain in 2014, and has missed a few months this year with arthroscopic surgery on his elbow.
Zachary Bird is a 20-year-old right-handed starting pitching prospect in high-A, where he currently has a 4.75 ERA. At mid-season this year, Bird ranks as the #15 prospect in the system, and he works in the mid-90s. The upside is there, as evidenced by his arm strength, but the command is still a work in progress and so are his off-speed pitches.
Jeff Brigham is a 23-year-old right-handed starter in high-A that has a 5.52 ERA in 2015. Brigham was ranked as the #28 prospect in the system at mid-season by MLB.com and #30 by Dodgers Digest, primarily due to his arm strength and velocity that can reach the mid-90s. Brigham is currently a starter, but profiles much better long-term in relief.
Victor Araujo is a 22-year-old right-handed reliever in high-A, where he has a 5.40 ERA. Prior to the season, Dodgers Digest ranked him as the #39 prospect in the system. Araujo’s fastball sits 89-91 mph, which he complements with an inconsistent slider, and more control than command.
Kevin Guzman is a 20-year-old right-handed starter in A-ball, where he has a 3.90 ERA. Dodgers Digest ranked him as the #85 prospect in the system prior to the start of 2015, where he was recognized as a potential deep sleeper. To an extent that prediction is coming true, as he has handled his own in full-season ball, but he’s hittable at the moment and lacks a ton of upside.
As cynical or pessimistic or cautious as I can be, I honestly see little to no downside to this deal, and it’s hard not to feel excited over it.
Paco is a useful reliever that has had trouble staying healthy and might profile best as a front-end bullpen guy or a LOOGY, while the four prospects of Bird, Brigham, Araujo, and Guzman are sort of fungible, especially the latter three. There’s upside in Bird if he can get his command and off-speed in order, but you could say the same for a handful of similar prospects in the system.
Obviously the big piece here that the Dodgers are giving up is a cheap Olivera, who has a chance to be an impact bat (I do think he’ll hit). However, Olivera is still a mystery at the MLB level and he’s continued to have trouble staying healthy. Most importantly, even if Olivera does pan out, he wouldn’t have done it with the Dodgers anyway given Justin Turner is at the position in the short-term and Corey Seager looms in the long-term. And if that doesn’t make you feel any better, then just pretend the Dodgers never had him and are just sending $28 million to the Braves instead. Thus, with that type of trade value, the main thing is that the Dodgers get value back by dealing him, and I believe they did.
The Dodgers scored two starting pitchers that profile in the middle of the rotation, one a rental and one for the long haul. The Dodgers also secured the back-end of the bullpen by adding one effective rental closer and another legit middle relief option who has years of team control. Finally, the Dodgers secured a top prospect that could be used in a trade or kept since shortstop and second base happen to also be positions of need. Whether it be the short-term or long-term, the Dodgers got a lot better and addressed the glaring holes in their roster while managing to keep every top prospect and their entire current MLB roster. Simply put, that’s pretty crazy.
Better yet, the Dodgers likely aren’t done, as speculation is that they’ll use some of the pieces from these deals to acquire LHP David Price from the Tigers. That’s another analysis for a another day, but the main point is that if you’re excited about this trade, then you’re having the correct reaction.