A look at the mega-deal involving the Los Angeles Dodgers, Atlanta Braves, and Miami Marlins.
Dodgers receive Mat Latos, Alex Wood, Jim Johnson, Luis Avilan, Jose Peraza, Mike Morse, and Bronson Arroyo. Braves receive Hector Olivera, Paco Rodriguez, and Zachary Bird. Marlins receive Kevin Guzman, Jeff Brigham, and Victor Araujo.
Analysis and Fantasy Fallout: Well, this was certainly a large trade involving 3 teams and 13 players, but it finally was consummated and it seems to have worked out for all parties involved. Starting with the Dodgers, they get two quality Major League pitchers, Latos and Wood, that have flashed top of the rotation stuff at some point in their young-ish careers. Both of them will step right into the starting rotation alongside Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Brett Anderson. The Dodgers rotation has just been marred by injuries this season, so this is a much needed boost.
Beginning the year with the Marlins after being traded from the Reds in the off-season, Latos’ velocity mirrored his levels from last season when he experienced a significant decline in his strikeout rate at 6.51 K/9 (compared to 8.32 K/9 from 2009-13). Undoubtedly, that loss in velocity was a factor in his overall performance, so when he joined the Marlins rotation this season and showed the same velocity levels, things were not looking promising for the 27-year old righty. Through his first 9 starts, Latos had a 6.11 ERA, 1.78 WHIP, and 36 K/16 BB in 42.2 IP. Then he landed on the DL with knee inflammation and ended up missing 4 weeks. However, when he returned from the DL, he was resurgent and his velocity had actually returned to close to his 2013 levels over his first 5 starts back from the DL and with that, he saw better results. Since coming back from the DL, he has a 2.96 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 43 K/9 BB in 45.2 IP over 7 starts. But in his two most recent starts, his velocity has actually dipped back down to his pre-DL levels. So perhaps he’s not quite out of the woods just yet. It is a nice acquisition for the Dodgers, but there does need to be some concern with the velocity drop again and this leaves his value for the rest of the season up in the air for now.
Like Latos, the 24-year old Wood has not been meeting expectations this season with a 3.54 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, and 90 K/36 BB in 119.1 IP. He’s been giving up a lot more line drives this season, which has left him with a high BABIP of .332. There’s surely a chance that he will improve upon his numbers this season, but there’s no guarantee since he somehow lost his ability to whiff batters with just a strikeout rate of 6.79 K/9 (compared to 8.92 K/9 from 2013-14). However, Wood turned in one of his best starts of the season in his most recent start with 7.1 shutout innings and 7 strikeouts in Baltimore. Viewing his PITCHf/x game chart from that game on FanGraphs, his vertical release point on his pitches was the at the highest point it’s been all season long and it was the most consistent that he’s been in repeating his release point on the different types of his pitches. This may suggest that he altered something in his mechanics or delivery to throw at a higher arm slot, and since he had good results with it, perhaps he is on to something. Looking at the rest of his game charts from the season, his release point, both vertical and horizontal, have been kind of all over the place. So it appears that with his struggles, he may have been tinkering with things all season long to try and find the best combination for success, which likely involved changing his arm slot and changing where he stands on the pitching rubber. He may have found that right combination, but we’ll have to see if he repeats it in his next start and then maybe we’ll have a better gauge on his value for the rest of the season. At the very least, he will have better win potential now that he has the Dodgers quality offense supporting him instead of the Braves weak lineup. Also, the Dodgers can control Wood for the next three seasons at a fairly cheap price (as if money matters to them anyway), so he does carry a good amount of real life value.
What adding Latos and Wood means is that the Carlos Frias/Brandon Beachy experiment is over, and Mike Bolsinger, who has been enjoying a breakthrough season, will likely be acting as a swing man for the Dodgers — making a spot start when necessary, but mostly pitching out of the bullpen. Early on in the season, Bolsinger was just a two-pitch pitcher with a cutter and curveball, so that lent some skepticism that he could sustain the type of success that he was having (because typically starting pitchers need more than just two pitches to give the opposing batters varied looks when going through the batting order more than once). But he actually added a slider that was working very well for him over his last 8 starts, so there was the growing idea that he could stick in the rotation and be successful. So it is bad news that Bolsinger owners probably won’t be able to see how things would have panned out for him as a full-time starting pitcher. He obviously loses basically all his fantasy value after this trade.
Along with the two starting pitching arms to step into their rotation, the Dodgers also added two Major League bullpen arms in Luis Avilan and Jim Johnson. The left-handed Avilan has a decent 3.58 ERA and 1.19 WHIP this season and will provide some depth to the Dodgers pen. Johnson was one of the game’s best closers in 2012-13 when he was with the Orioles, saving 50+ games in consecutive seasons. However, last year with the A’s, he imploded to have a 7.09 ERA as his velocity dipped a bit and he just lost command of all his pitches. With the Braves, Johnson was functioning as a setup man for Jason Grilli, but when Grilli suffered a season-ending injury, Johnson stepped right in and did a fine job closing out games. For the season, he has a 2.25 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, and 33 K/14 BB in 48 IP. He surely is no strikeout machine, but his M.O. is to locate his pitches well and induce a lot of weak ground balls that go for easy outs — and he is pretty good at it. He should do just fine for the Dodgers in a setup role for Kenley Jansen.
Peraza is a 21-year old second base prospect that was rated pretty highly among all prospects coming into the season. Baseball America ranked him #26 on their top prospects list and he could end up being a very nice grab for Andrew Friedman, Farhan Zaidi, and the Dodgers. Peraza is a light hitting, speedy player who is very good at making contact and putting the ball in play. Once on the base paths, he then has the ability to steal bases with regularity. He has been playing all season at AAA and has hit .294 with 3 HR and 26 SB in 96 games. Peraza was once thought to be the second baseman of the future for the Braves, but they acquired Jace Peterson in the off-season from the Padres and he has performed well this season as a rookie and the Braves seem comfortable to move forward with him. So now, with veteran Howie Kendrick set to hit free agency at the end of the season, perhaps Peraza is the second baseman of the future for the Dodgers.
Acquiring Morse from the Marlins and Arroyo from the Braves in this deal was merely just the Dodgers and their deep pockets taking on the salary of these two players that they have no intention of utilizing. In fact, Morse was designated for assignment and then flipped to the Pirates in exchange for Jose Tabata, who will serve as organizational depth in the outfield. And Arroyo is out for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, so the Dodgers will eat the remainder of his $9.5 million salary for this season and then buyout his 2016 option for $4.5 million. It’s quite amazing what an ownership that has endless amounts of money does for a crafty front office executive like Friedman in building towards a championship team. The Dodgers are paying more in salary to players NOT to play for them than several teams’ 2015 payrolls.
For the Braves, they lost Johnson and will have to turn to someone else to close out games for the for the remainder of the season. First up will be Arodys Vizcaino who is a fireballing 24-year old who has done well for the Braves in limited work this season (1.00 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, and 8 K/4 BB in 9 IP). Control might end up being an issue for Vizcaino, but he does throw it quite hard at 97.2 MPH on average with this fastball. He doesn’t have any closing experience, so he’s going to have to learn on the fly, but he’ll have a chance to succeed if he can limit the walks. His fantasy value gets a big bump and he should be scooped up in most competitive leagues.
The big piece that the Braves are getting in return is the Cuban infielder that the Dodgers signed in the off-season for 6-years/$62.5 million, Hector Olivera. The Braves coveted Olivera in the bidding process, as they finished as a runner-up in trying to sign him this past off-season. So they got a player that they liked a lot and they will end up paying him a less amount than they would have had they signed him as an international free agent. The Braves will be on the hook for the rest of this season and the next 5 years for around only $22 million, as the Dodgers will be picking up the tab on the remainder of the signing bonus that Olivera is due — once again, it’s a wonder what an ownership that is care free about money can do for a team. Olivera is hitting .348/.392/.493 with 2 HR in 19 games in the Minors this season, and he appears to be ready to arrive in the bigs. Olivera isn’t a young player by any means as he turned 30 years old earlier this year, so there need not be much more time to keep him down in the Minors. Scouting reports suggest that he is pretty advanced in his plate approach, which is just more reason that the Braves should be calling him up very soon. When he does get the promotion, he’ll likely play third base, but he has been getting time at second base in the Minors as well. He’s definitely worth a grab in fantasy leagues as a preemptive strike right now, and then definitely when he gets the promotion.
The Braves received southpaw relief pitcher Paco Rodriguez, but he has been on the shelf with some elbow issues and has been limited to just just 18 appearances this season. However, he is younger than Avilan, who he is basically going to end up swapping places with, and he can end up being a quality specialist against left-handed hitters — though there’s no real fantasy value in that. The other player that the Braves received was pitching prospect Zachary Bird, but he is not a player that should be expected to make an impact at the Major League level.
The Marlins received three pitching prospects on their end — Kevin Guzman, Jeff Brigham, and Victor Araujo — all from the lower levels of the Dodgers Minor League system. None of them project to be anything special, so the Dodgers may not end up really missing any of them. So for the Marlins, this trade seemed to be purely about dumping the remainder of Latos’ $9.4 million salary for this season, and the remainder of Morse’s $7 million salary this year and his $8 million salary for next year. But perhaps the Marlins will find some use out of the three pitching prospects down the road when they go with a tiny payroll after enduring their next big fire sale.
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