The Dodgers could always use another bullpen arm, and Milwaukee has already begun to sell, so they seems like a logical partner.
The Dodgers’ bullpen has been fantastic this year, and the Dodgers’ bullpen has also been overused.
These are two true and important statements as we approach the trade deadline. The Dodgers’ bullpen has surpassed most everyone’s expectations this year, despite a very slow start. At the All-Star break, the Dodgers’ bullpen is third in all of baseball (first in the NL) with a 4.0 WAR, only behind the Astros (5.6) and Yankees (4.7). They have the lowest bullpen ERA in the majors (2.83), but the third-lowest bullpen FIP (3.54). Definitely some skill, some luck. Their bullpen has a .237 BABIP against, which suggests a bunch of luck. Their strikeout rate and strikeout to walk rates aren’t great, but they’ve put together a really solid first half of the season.
At the same time, the bullpen is ninth in innings pitched with 299. I was shocked they weren’t running away with this category, but a lot of that can be credited to Clayton Kershaw. With Kershaw hurt, the Dodgers struggled to have any length out of their rotation. Before Sunday, the last time a non-Kershaw starter went seven innings or more was May 14th. It’s not like seven innings is a magical number, but it’s definitely the goal when Joe Blanton is a solid eighth inning guy and Kenley Jansen is as good as it gets in the ninth.
Kershaw has gone at least six in each of his 16 starts and at least seven in all but two starts. He’s such a freaking outlier.
Ignoring Kershaw for a second. Non-Kershaw starters have started 75 games for the Dodgers. Of those 75 games, the starter has lasted six innings 29 times and lasted seven innings six times. That’s a little skewed as Ross Stripling, Brandon McCarthy and Hyun-jin Ryu are all coming off arm injuries and Julio Urias is really young, but the fact is that in almost a third of non-Kershaw starts, the bullpen has to throw at least three innings. We can expect the rest of the season to be a little better as McCarthy and Ryu hopefully go deeper into games and the Dodgers maybe trade for a starter, but the bullpen could definitely use another arm.
The Dodgers drafted a catcher out of Louisville named Will Smith. We all know the actor Will Smith. The Dodgers should absolutely trade for Will Smith.
The final Smith is a reliever for the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers have begun to sell, as they moved Aaron Hill to the Red Sox. Smith began the season on the DL with a totally normal baseball injury (fell while taking off a shoe and tore his LCL), but he returned in early June and has been good. In 17 innings/19 appearances, Smith has allowed four earned runs and has allowed one of nine inherited runners to score. There’s a little concern with his contact rates, as his strikeout percentage is well down from the last two years (23.1 percent this year after three straight years above 30 percent). His swing percentages are down, but his contact percentages are up (80 percent contact, below 70 percent the last three years). It’s a small sample size with only 65 batters faced, but he’s been more hittable this season.
Smith is one of two Milwaukee relievers the Dodgers should have their eyes on as the deadline approaches. They don’t have the starpower than other relievers possibly on the market have, but they can make a difference down the stretch and could come at a much cheaper price than an Andrew Miller or Dellin Betances.
Smith turned 27 earlier this week and can’t become a free agent until 2020. He’s still cheap and under team control, and he was in line to be the Brewers’ closer before his injury. Jeremy Jeffries benefitted bigtime from the injury and has turned himself into a high-potential closer. Both of them could be on the Dodgers’ radar.
The Dodgers could use relief help as a long-term play as well, as Jansen is a free agent at the end of the season. There’s not reason for the Dodgers not to do everything they can to keep him, but if they’re confident they can replace him they could lose a huge piece of the pen. I’m usually pretty anti-trading good prospects for a guy that impacts 60-70 innings a year, but a good bullpen is necessary to go anywhere in the playoffs and Smith could make a huge impact. He’d cost a pretty penny in terms of prospects, but could end up making a difference down the stretch and in the postseason.