The Dodgers and Giants are the only two NL west teams over .500 and they both made significant moves at the trade deadline. The division-leading Dodgers added Mat Latos and Alex Wood to their starting rotation and got some bullpen help with Jim Johnson coming aboard. The Giants added Mike Leake from the Reds. Here’s a look at how the clubs helped themselves in light of these additions and the other particulars in these deals.
The Dodgers gave up three minor leaguers, not premium ones, plus Cuban free agent signee Hector Olivera and lefty reliever Paco Rodriquez to get two starters to fill the gap behind Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. They also got Johnson and LHP Luis Avilan, as well as Atlanta’s top prospect, INF Jose Peraza.
How’d they do that?
They flexed their financial muscles, as only the Los Angeles Dodgers can. In the mix, LA took on Bronson Arroyo’s contract and also received Michael Morse, who was almost immediately DFA’d. Nobody writes checks like the Guggenheim gang.
They’ve paid Brian Wilson $10MM for this season while he is out of baseball and Matt Kemp $18.5MM to play for a team in their division.
How do these pieces fit and how much do they help?
Mat Latos is bouncing back from a bad start and has been pretty solid since coming off the DL in June. In seven starts for Miami, Latos has gone at least six innings in all but one of them (5 2/3 IP in that one), and has dropped his ERA from a ghastly 6.12 to 4.48. Over his last four starts, Latos has pitched 26 innings and has walked three while striking out 23.
Alex Wood has been up and down this season but is coming off of a very strong 7 1/3-inning effort against Baltimore where he gave up just three hits and no runs while walking two and striking out seven. He’s had several outings like that this season, including a seven-inning gem against the Dodgers in May.
He’s also been lit up at times, like in a four-start stretch where he gave up 10 hits in three of them, including a drubbing in Colorado where he gave up seven earned runs in 5 2/3 innings.
Still, the Dodger rotation after Kershaw and Greinke can only get better with Latos and Wood coming aboard. Not only will they pitch better than the crew that has been starting in these slots, they should pitch longer. Saving the Dodgers from their bullpen is no small matter.
Jim Johnson should help there. The Dodgers have an established closer in Kenley Jansen, though he’s starting to get hit more lately. Johnson’s a former 50-save closer and is bouncing back this season from an absolutely forgettable 2014. He can help the Dodgers shorten the game and get it to Jansen without incident.
The Giants have streaked both good and bad this season, but at the end of the day, they’re breathing right down the Dodgers’ necks and if they get into the postseason, nobody wants to play them. You can look at the roster and wonder how in the world they are in this position. But if you’re still doing that, you haven’t been paying attention to the Giants this decade.
Madison Bumgarner is doing his part as the ace, but behind him the Giants have some suspect performers. Tim Hudson, Tim Lincecum and Ryan Vogelsong are out, Hudson and Lincecum to the DL and Vogey to the bullpen. That leaves Chris Heston, Jake Peavey and Matt Cain, with Peavey and Cain recently returning from injury.
That’s not exactly the early-1970’s Orioles rotation.
But it’s August 1st and Bruce Bochy’s Giants are 57-46, a game-and-a-half behind the big-spending Dodgers. That’s just the way it is. The Giants win, experts are confused, and the Giants win. Stat-heads pick apart the roster, and the Giants win. Every time you go position-by-position and rate the Giants vs. their opponents, the Giants come out on the short end. And the Giants win.
The San Francisco Giants have a system, whether analysts understand it or not, and it works. Mike Leake will fit into that just fine. The Giants didn’t need Cole Hamels or David Price. Or Cy Young or Randy Johnson. Leake’s going to take the ball every fifth day and have the Giants in the game. It won’t be a disaster start. It won’t be a bullpen game. Mike Leake will handle his business.
That’s what the Giants need and they know what to do with it. In three of his last four starts, Leake has gone eight innings. That will keep the Giants’ shaky bullpen out of the picture. The short outings from Hudson and/or Vogelson are replaced by a workhorse who pitched 214 innings last season.
What it cost the Giants was their top organization prospect, Keury Mella, and Adam Duvall. Duvall’s essentially the typical “4-A” player. And the “top prospect” label doesn’t mean the same thing for the Giants that it does for most organizations. The infield is all home-grown, including C Buster Posey, but the Giants have leaned on veterans over the successful years of three World Series titles. They started the run by bringing in Pat Burrell and others, got a lot of business done with Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria, and now have Peavey in the mix.
And, after all that, now Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt and Posey are veterans, with the best kind of experience imaginable.
They don’t need Mickey Mantle or Ken Griffey Jr. They don’t need Tom Seaver or Mariano Rivera. They’re going to get their business done with Mike Leake. He’s going to strengthen the rotation, which ultimately helps the bullpen. It’s going to work.
Great moves by both clubs. The Dodgers won’t miss the money and the Giants won’t miss the minor-leaguers they gave up. But they will both see results. These are shrewd moves that will pay off.
How much and for whom?
That’s the tricky part. The Dodgers have done everything right. They’ve built the team they want, going back to the additions of Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick to shore up the middle infield. The haul from these deadline acquisitions goes a long way toward completing the roster that they need to have a deep post-season run.
But the Giants are tried and true and the Leake trade is exactly what they do at this time of year. And it almost always works.
I look at the Dodgers and they are a machine. They have addressed the fatal flaws on their roster. They will continue to win and I expect them to be a holy terror in the post-season.
The Giants just keep on keeping on. They’re playoff-bound now, and they might not have been without this trade. They’ve gone on long losing streaks several times this season but Leake is a vital piece that should be able to keep that from happening again. It will be hard to go two times through the rotation with Bumgarner and Leake in it, without the Giants being able to win a game. The bullpen will be stronger because it should get a break on Leake’s days that it wasn’t getting. The impact of this trade will be noticeable.
In the end, they’re both going to the playoffs. The Dodgers still look like the division winner and the Giants should be in the wild card game, which doesn’t scare them one bit. It is impossible to predict the post-season, especially this far out, but the important thing is this: there’s going to be a heated race for the NL West crown between these two teams.
Both now have the depth to survive the end of the season plus the wild card game just to get into the playoffs. MadBum in the wild card game, Leake in Game One of the division series. Kershaw on the hill for the WC, Greinke for Game One. Latos is at the ready as well.
Excellent moves by both clubs, addressing needs and only giving up what they can afford to give up. Many expected the Dodgers to open their wallet and bring home a huge name. This is much smarter spending. And the Giants had to be happy to give two unproven minor leaguers for the workhorse arm of Leake. Mission accomplished for both clubs, they’re both playoff-bound. Slight edge to the Dodgers for addressing more needs. But we all know how things work in October when the orange-and-black joins the party.