Sure, some problems still remain but the Los Angeles Dodgers front office did what they could to right some of the wrongs with their deadline deals, all while not sacrificing the franchises’ glorious looking future.
The two most pressing needs this team faced going into the deadline was acquiring some quality arms at the back-end of the Dodger rotation and adding solid arms to a fledgling bullpen. Andrew Friedman, Farhan Zaidi and Josh Byrnes hit a home run at the deadline and they didn’t even acquire Cole Hamels, David Price or one of the other big names moved this week.
The cost of getting a Hamels or Price would have dented the Dodgers future and thankfully Friedman and company wasn’t willing to do that. The organization has considered shortstop Corey Seager and left-handed 18 year-old pitcher Julio Urias as untouchable. This has been the stance with Ned Colleti and has also been the stance of Friedman. The Dodgers know what they have in those two cornerstones and weren’t willing to trade for pitchers that would only enhance a strength. Now, there is no denying Hamels or Price would have emboldened the Dodgers rotation, but it would have only solidified a strength. By opting for Mat Latos and Alex Wood the Dodgers added length to their rotation and gives them two superstar starters and two very good third-and-fourth starters.
What some may overlook were the acquisitions of Luis Avilan and Jim Johnson from Atlanta’s bullpen. The names aren’t sexy but they were vital in the Dodgers post-season hopes. Avilan is a 26 year-old lefty that sports a career ERA of 2.77 with a WHIP of 1.16. Avilan struggled last year (4.57 ERA; 1.57 WHIP) but has righted the ship this season with a 3.58 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP. Avilan will be a reliable situational lefty that will compliment JP Howell. Howell has been fantastic this year, but does the southpaw doesn’t throw with the velocity that Avilan brings. Avilan is a nice addition.
Jim Johnson had back-to-back 50 save seasons for the Baltimore Orioles in 2012 and 2013. Since then he just hasn’t been the same pitcher. He struggled to get anyone out in 2014 and was almost out of baseball. But Johnson has regained his form this year with the Braves and will serve as a solid right-handed arm setting up Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen. Johnson was serving as the Braves closer for the last month after Jason Grilli was lost for the season with a knee injury. Johnson registered 9 saves and an ERA of 2.25. The Dodgers are not asking Johnson to close, but they will ask him to get some big outs in the 7th and 8th innings. He is experienced and has been tested. This was exactly the type of acquisition the Dodgers needed. Friedman had littered the Dodgers bullpen with former wash-out infielders who were converting to power arms out of the bullpen. Friedman and the Dodgers brass had come into this season believing this would be the “answer” to the Dodgers bullpen woes. But, since May 1st the Dodgers pen had the second worst bullpen ERA in the National League. Friedman saw the writing and the wall and fixed it.
One of the deadline moves that didn’t address immediate need but may prove one day to be biggest of moves was the inclusion of Jose Peraza. The 21 year-old speedster was in the middle of a conversion from second base to center field. The Dodgers see Peraza as a second baseman and he may be the man they peg for the job sooner rather than later depending on their free agent dealings with current second-sacker Howie Kendrick. By all accounts Peraza is not ready for the big leagues now, but his time should come. Last year Peraza hit .339 with 60 stolen bases between High-A and Double-A for the Braves. This year he is hitting .294 with 26 stolen bases in 96 games for Triple-A Gwinnett. His offensive game may need some refinement but many analysts say he is already the Dodgers 4th or 5th best prospect. And, at 21 years-old he has some time for growth.
The moves weren’t without some pain, most it financial which Guggenheim seems willing to eat and toss into the sea. It sure is nice to have an ownership group that doesn’t mind taking on salary while acquiring pieces that bring the team closer to a championship. The Dodgers did have to part with highly touted Cuban infielders Hector Olivera. The Dodgers gave Olivera a 28 million dollar signing bonus and had planned on paying him 34 million more dollars over the next six years. That responsibility now lies with Atlanta. Braves GM John Hart says they are ecstatic to get a player of Olivera’s talents. Hart told media members if Olivera hit the open market he would command a much bigger contract so Atlanta sees bargain in Olivera.
The Dodgers had high hopes for Olivera but with Justin Turner’s emergence at third and reports indicating Olivera was not playing second base as well as they thought, Olivera was a chip the Dodgers could dangle.
Do the deals make the Dodgers World Series favorites ? Probably not, but despite some of the team’s inadequacies they did become a much more formidable team on the bump.