Perhaps some fans saw it coming, but not everybody expected reliever Alex Vesia to be the roster casualty following the Los Angeles Dodgers' promotion of top prospect Gavin Stone ahead of Wednesday's series finale against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Though Vesia's 7.84 ERA and 2.81 WHIP are ghastly, he still wasn't the worst pitcher in the Dodgers bullpen. That label goes to Yency Almonte, who has an 8.49 ERA, 5.34 FIP and 1.89 WHIP in the same amount of games (13).
The only problem? Almonte doesn't have any minor-league options left while Vesia has two. So the Dodgers made the easy call to keep their 40-man roster intact and give Vesia a much-needed period of time to adjust/rediscover his footing.
The left-hander, as early as last year, was arguably the team's most important reliever (though others would make the case for Evan Phillips). Vesia finished 2022 with a 5-0 record, 2.15 ERA, 2.12 FIP, 1.12 WHIP and 79 strikeouts in 54.1 innings. The year prior he maintained a 2.25 ERA and 0.98 WHIP across 40 innings (but with an elevated 4.22 FIP). He was the primary neutralizer for left-handed hitting.
Vesia has enough cushion ahead of him to return to prominence, but the Dodgers can't bank on that with how bad the early returns have been. And they also can't afford to be down a reliever of his 2021-2022 caliber, especially after losing guys like Chris Martin, Blake Treinen, Joe Kelly, Corey Knebel and Daniel Hudson over that span to departures or injuries.
Dodgers need to start thinking about trades after Alex Vesia's demotion
Luckily, LA has insurance with Brusdar Graterol seemingly putting it all together and Shelby Miller defying the offseason odds and becoming one of the team's best relievers. Caleb Ferguson has also been huge.
But that still won't be enough to support the team in the postseason. There are very few experienced bullpen arms on this pitching staff and the Dodgers can't stake too much confidence in injured relievers like Treinen, Hudson, JP Feyereisen, Jimmy Nelson, and Alex Reyes. They need a bonafide workhorse who can handle the eighth or ninth with regularity.
Though the trade market isn't even close to materializing, the front office needs to start identifying targets as soon as possible.
Right now, Aroldis Chapman, who has done a complete 180, appears to be the most obvious trade candidate given his pedigree and the fact he's on a losing team that clearly signed him for this exact purpose.
But that might not appeal to the Dodgers, so the sooner they can target who they like, the easier it'll be to narrow it down and hit the phones in late July when the frenzy takes hold.