The Dodgers arguably made of the organization’s most important trades ever, acquiring star shortstop Manny Machado for a top prospect, a few mid-level prospects, and a journeyman utility infielder. A steal, as far as I’m concerned.
Machado’s right-handed bat will be valuable down the stretch if Justin Turner cannot return to form this season. However, most fans, although ecstatic to have Machado join the Dodgers, view the Dodger bullpen as the area of the club most in need of a significant upgrade.
MLB Bullpens are always in flux. Even the most elite MLB teams are looking to upgrade their bullpens when the trade deadline rolls around every year. Closer, co-closer, eighth inning set up man, middle reliever, and even LOOGYs (Lefty One Out GuY) are all in demand this time of year. Injuries and a reluctance to have starters not face lineups a third time have placed huge demands upon MLB bullpens in the present day MLB environment.
Every postseason, there are heroes out of the bullpen who shut down the opposition and advance to the next level due to the performance of the bullpen. A couple of years ago, Andrew Miller stood out in the Cleveland bullpen. His ability to come in and dominate in the middle innings, and in key high leverage situations, enabled the Indians to make it all the way to the World Series.
Last year, we saw how important it was to have Brandon Morrow serve as a bridge to Kenley Jansen. Many times in the postseason, the middle innings is when middle relievers become household names for either shutting down the opposition or serving as the pitcher who blew the postseason for their team.
Granted, the Dodgers, have several key bullpen pieces on the DL; Josh Fields, Tony Cingrani, and Pedro Baez. Once those arms are healthy, we will see guys like Dylan Floro, JT Chargois, and Zac Rosscup return to AAA where they will serve as depth. Fields, Cingrani, and Baez are good complimentary pieces, but they are not the late-inning shutdown set-up men that the team so desperately needs.
Scott Alexander has been getting the job done, along with Erik Goeddel, but again, although these guys provide good depth for the postseason, they are not elite relievers. And of course, neither is Daniel Hudson. So what are the Dodgers to do about a bullpen, that is good enough to win a division title, but not quite the postseason ‘pen that is required to go all the way?
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There is one trade the Dodgers must make. A trade to acquire one of the best closers in baseball when he is right, Zach Britton. Britton would give the Dodgers a formidable closing duo at the end of games. This would also slide the previous mentioned relievers into lower leverage roles, setting them up for success. Of course there is risk in this trade. Britton is not the Britton of two years ago, but he does appear to be rounding into form with each passing outing.
In order to acquire Britton, the Dodgers will have to shed salary (to stay away from incurring luxury tax penalties) and trade prospects. Strangely enough, they may have to give up more to get Britton than they had to trade to get Machado! Currently, several media outlets are reporting the Dodgers are not frontrunners for Britton. The Dodgers can change that with the following trade package.
LHP Alex Wood, RHP Pedro Baez, and SS Prospect Gavin Lux to the Baltimore Orioles for LHP Zach Britton
This proposal obviously hurts the team’s starting pitching depth. The Orioles gain a young, controllable pitcher who slots into the O’s #1 spot for now, a reliever with a big arm in Baez, and the SS prospect they so coveted in trade discussions for Machado. In turn the Dodgers obtain the elite set-up man their bullpen needs. The Dodgers would have to pay a heavy price in talent in this trade because they would essentially not be taking on any extra salary as Wood and Baez’s remaining 2018 salary are nearly equal to the $4 + mil left on Britton’s contract this year. Also, Britton would likely be a rental, as he can walk as a free agent at the end of the year, and find a team where he would be a closer.
The final factor to consider is the Dodgers are in a bidding war for Britton’s services with most of the other contenders in the league. They will have to pay a premium to get Britton. This is the going rate for an elite reliever who will tip the odds of going deep into the postseason for whatever team ends up acquiring Britton.