A foe to a friend: The Dodgers should trade for Amir Garrett

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - MAY 09: Amir Garrett #50 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches against the Oakland Athletics at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on May 09, 2019 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - MAY 09: Amir Garrett #50 of the Cincinnati Reds pitches against the Oakland Athletics at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on May 09, 2019 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

The Reds took the demised sledding trip down the face of a steep mountain after the 2013 season. It was an aggressive downfall but one not totally foreign to a franchise that, in their entire history of over 20,000 games played, sits just 213 games above .500.

For Cincinnati, the theme due to the record is perennially different than most longstanding franchises. They are the league’s garage sale and outside of a few years here and there, the talent on the Reds’ roster is for a contender’s choosing should they be able to pay the price.

The Dodgers have been far from bothered by the Reds’ constantly open market and have shamelessly completed six trades with them since 2010 and a seventh if you were to include the Aroldis Chapman trade that never came to fruition due to legal matters surrounding Chapman at the time.

They’ve acquired heavily relied on players like Dylan Floro and Tony Cingrani as well as parted ways with Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp across that 2010 to today time frame. For the Dodgers, the trades with Cincinnati have proven largely successful. They’ve been able to acquire some solid players and get rid of some others and cumulatively, the pipeline between the two franchises is a strong one.

With the track record at its current standing and the Dodgers trending towards another buyer’s deadline, the Reds could serve as the open shop for Los Angeles once again. Amir Garrett could be the perfect purchase.

The Dodgers have had an undesirable start to the season out of the bullpen ranking 18th in bullpen ERA and 29th in left on base percentage stranding just 66.4 percent of inherited base runners on the paths.

The bullpen has been the Dodgers’ kryptonite to so far this year and as has been proven over and over again, that isn’t an area a team can struggle in with eyes on a World Series trophy.

But, to keep the focus significantly more narrow than the ultimate goal, the first place Los Angeles Dodgers rank second to last in major league baseball in preventing runners from scoring.

That is the team’s problem. The bullpen group as a whole has seen little success in areas they are expected to succeed and by that token alone the Dodgers could use some help. However, their issue has one more layer: the lefties have been an issue.

Scott Alexander was a pricy trade before the 2018 season. The Dodgers sent a promising young arm in Trevor Oaks to the Royals for the sinker-heavy lefty and immediately the expectation was that Alexander would perform. That has yet to really come to fruition.

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Since his first pitch in a Dodger uniform, Alexander has thrown 79 innings in 94 games. His job was immediately clear in that he would be the team’s lefty specialist but against them and righties, Alexander has struggled to produce at the level that warranted his acquisition.

With the Dodgers, Alexander has a 3.65 ERA and a 109 ERA+. Among Dodger relievers with at least 40 games pitched since the beginning of the 2018 season, Alexander has a better ERA+ than only Tony Cingrani, Daniel Hudson, Yimi Garcia and JT Chargois.

But, truth be told, Alexander is not going anywhere right now and help is what he needs. Cingrani profiles as that person and he is battling his health to get back. Caleb Ferguson is also in the mix but he too hasn’t been all that incredible as well as having dealt with some health issues of his own this season.

Insert Garrett.

Garrett was a 22nd round pick by the Reds back in 2011. The Victorville, California native rose through the Reds’ prospect rankings as a starting pitcher with a mid-90’s fastball and a solid sinker.

In 2017 the Reds took notice, adding Garrett to the starting rotation to which they were greeted by far from desirable statistics. Garrett struggled but the raw talent was still there and for the subsequent season, the Reds moved the southpaw from the rotation to the bullpen for the first time in his career going all the way back to rookie ball.

The move was obviously foreign but the then 26-year-old adjusted and brought his numbers much closer to reasonable, clocking in with a 99 ERA+, just one percent below the league average pitcher.

Garrett found his stride and this year, still in the Reds’ pen, he has exploded. In 24 games and 19.1 innings pitched, Garrett has an ERA of just 1.40 with 28 punchouts against eight walks. That troublesome ERA+ inflated to 323 and Garrett legitimized the move to the bullpen in a quick and rather short sample size in 2019.

The large jump in numbers is the result of a rather rare change in approach on the mound. Prior to 2019, Garrett relied on his mid-90’s four-seamer more than 50 percent of the time, more or less ignored his sinker and changeup and threw his slider at 33.37 percent.

This season has been a whole new world. In his 24 appearances, Garrett has thrown his four-seamer just 27.14 percent of the time and his slider at a career-high clip of 47.86 percent.

The turn-around is, funny enough, very Tony Cingrani esque.

Cingrani’s success with the Dodgers came after an analytics-influenced shift to throwing his slider more often and his four-seam fastball significantly less. At roughly the same velocities on all his pitches, Garrett has triumphantly made the same change

His success also sets the perfect trade.

No matter how you slice it the Dodgers can use help in the pen. They have looked for bullpen help even in seasons where the relief corps have been effective and this year, with the pen struggling, a move would be even more justified.

The new-look Amir Garrett has been as effective as they come and mixing him into the Dodger relief group is a no brainer if the price is right.

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The Dodgers have always been keen on investing in players with potential. Not a free agent until 2024 and trending in the right direction, Garrett is the right fit to solve problems, remain under affordable team control and make an immediate impact on the back end of the bullpen. LA needs to pull the trigger.