Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Looking at potential bullpen trade targets

As the Dodgers keep on rolling, this time with a 1-0 one-hit shutout of the Indians to propel them into first place of the NL West all by themselves, July means that the trade market will begin to heat up even more.

One of the biggest areas of need that will be targeted is the bullpen.  I know, every team says they need bullpen help, so it's not a surprise.  But, the Dodgers have excellent starting pitching and an offense that kind of comes and goes night by night.  Getting better arms in the 'pen is necessary with the close games they play.

Doug Mittler of ESPN.com (Insider only) took at look at this very subject, and suggested a few names.  Let's break down four of the top names suggested to see if it's even worth the trouble of trading for any of them.

Huston Street, RHP, Padres.  The Padres are horrendous again this year, and having gone through the sudden death of Tony Gwynn, it's been a tough year all around for that organization.  One guy who has delivered is Street, who is a perfect 22-22 in save opportunities with a 0.90 ERA and 0.77 WHIP.  In 30 games, he's given up only three runs.

Quietly, because nobody pays attention to the Padres, Street has been very good in his three years with the team, so the numbers and consistency are both there for a reliable arm.  As Mittler points out, the salary of $7 million this year and a team option for $7 million next year is very affordable in Dodgers' standards.  Maybe the Padres will be reluctant to help a division rival, but does it really matter?  The Padres need to just get better, period.  It shouldn't matter which team it's to.

Joakim Soria, RHP, Rangers.  The current Rangers' closer has enjoyed a good season, going 15-16 in save opportunities.  His ERA was down to 1.73, but four runs surrendered in his last two outings has sent it back up to 2.93.  Still, that's pretty darn good.

Once again, the money is more than manageable for the Dodgers, as he makes $5.5 million this year with a $7 team option for next.  The Rangers have fallen dangerously far back at 14 games in the AL West, so they could easily be sellers.  Soria has 175 saves in seven seasons, peaking at 43 with the Royals in '10, so the track record is really good.  Plus, with a microscopic 0.80 WHIP this year, he'd make a great addition.

Joaquin Benoit, RHP, Padres.  Another guy from the Padres who is having a great year is Benoit, one of the best setup men in baseball.  He has 13 holds in limited chances, because his team sucks.  He's currently gone scoreless in his last 17 appearances and has a 1.30 ERA and 0.72 WHIP.

There's a lot to like about him, but maybe the biggest thing is that he has proven how good he is in middle relief.  In other words, he's not one of those guys who can only close and won't adjust to other situations.  It doesn't matter that he's 36, I'd much rather see him than Brian Wilson, Chris Perez, or Brandon League, especially in the eighth.  He's making just over $6 million this season, another affordable contract for the Dodgers.

Brad Ziegler, RHP, Diamondbacks.  The righty with the sidearm delivery has enjoyed a solid season with 20 holds, one save, a 2.34 ERA, and 1.04 WHIP.  He's appeared in 44 games, and only twice has experienced a "bad" outing with more than one run allowed.  Considering his highest ERA out of any season was 3.26 in 2010 with the A's, I'd say he knows how to get hitters out.

Yet again, the Dodgers would face the obstacle of dealing with another team in their division.  This one could be trickier than the Padres considering the bad blood between the Dodgers and DBacks.  Much like Benoit, though, he's clearly comfortable pitching in middle relief, something the Dodgers are still looking to improve upon.  He's signed for two years and $10.5 million with a $5.5 million option for 2016.  So yes, yet again, the Dodgers can afford it.

Bottom Line:
The Dodgers would more than welcome any of these guys to pair up with J.P. Howell in the setup role.  Brian Wilson is still getting chance after chance in the eighth, maybe because Don Mattingly doesn't have confidence in anybody else.  That's understandable, but I would certainly hope that Donny's stance on the setup man would change if one of these guys is brought in.

I'm glad Ned Colletti has openly expressed his desire for bullpen help, but one thing he should not do is trade Joc Pederson to get his guy.  I don't care if Pederson is hurt right now, that's the guy of the future in the outfield.  Maybe even for next year.  Give the other team the cash they want, throw in a young guy or two, and wah lah!  The Dodgers bullpen has just improved.

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