Los Angeles Dodgers bolster pitching rotation in separate trades for Alex Wood and Mat Latos

July 30, 2015

The Los Angeles Dodgers' pitching rotation has been a mix of good news and bad news throughout the season.  The good news has been that All-Stars Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, in particular, have more or less played up to expectations and dominated the opposition.

The bad news has been that the other rotation spots have been manned by a patchwork collection of journeymen and minor league call-ups who have been put into service to fill the roles of the other injured starters.  While those replacements have managed to get by and keep the Dodgers afloat, the team had been in need of an upgrade if it realistically hoped to win a World Series this season.

Facing such a scenario, the Dodgers' busy front office came up with some potential solutions, executing two trades for starters capable of holding down the back end of their rotation.  Once again, these deals come with their own set of good and bad news.

The good news is that the team did not have to give up either of their two elite minor league prospects in pitcher Julio Urias and infielder Corey Seager.

The bad news is that the team did not land any of the ace-level arms on the trading block, such as Cole Hamels, Johnny Cueto, or David Price.

In the team's first deal, the Dodgers acquired left-handed pitcher Alex Wood, right-handed reliever Jim Johnson, left-handed reliever Luis Avilan, minor league infielder Jose Peraza, right-handed pitcher Bronson Arroyo, and cash considerations from Atlanta in exchange for infielder Hector Olivera, left-handed reliever Paco Rodriguez, and minor league right-handed pitcher Zach Bird.

Wood is expected to immediately fill a spot in the rotation, while Peraza is regarded as good prospect down the line.

Wood, 24, has gone 21-20 with a 3.10 ERA in 86 games (55 starts) in three big league seasons with the Braves, including a 7-6 mark with a 3.54 ERA in 20 starts this year. Since making his big league debut in 2013, Wood ranks among the NL leaders (min. 350.0 IP) in ERA (9th) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.12, 15th), while posting a 47.7 groundball percentage and forcing an average of 1.03 groundball double plays per 9.0 innings (4th).

Peraza, 21, has a .303 career batting average with 203 steals, eight home runs, and 178 RBI in 439 games over seven seasons in the Braves’ minor league system, including a .294 mark with 26 stolen bases, three homers and 37 RBI in 96 games this year with Triple-A Gwinnett.

Entering the 2015 season, he was rated by Baseball America as the No. 54 overall prospect in baseball after earning selections as a MiLB.com Atlanta organization All-Star in 2013-14 and to the MLB All-Star Futures Game in 2014, when he ranked third among all minor leaguers with 60 steals.

Johnson, 32, has gone 2-3 with nine saves and a 2.25 ERA in 49 games with Atlanta this year in his 10th big league season. The 2012 All-Star and Rolaids Relief Man Award winner has a 25-31 career record with 133 saves and a 3.45 ERA with the Orioles (2006-13), Athletics (2014), Tigers (2014) and Braves (2015). He was one of the American League’s top closers in 2012-13, topping the AL in saves in consecutive seasons and posting back-to-back 50-save seasons with the Orioles.

Avilan, 26, has a 12-5 record with a 2.77 ERA in 218 career games in four big league seasons with Atlanta from 2012-15, limiting opponents to a .225 batting average and posting a 1.16 WHIP. He has appeared in a team-high 50 games this year, going 2-4 with a 3.58 ERA, while limiting opponents to a .245 average.

Arroyo, 38, last pitched on June 15, 2014 before undergoing Tommy John surgery on July 15, 2014. He is not expected to play this season.

Although the Dodgers did lose a talented prospect in Olivera, the Dodgers already have two quality players at his third base position in Justin Turner and Alex Guerrero.  Moreover, Olivera, 30, is older than the typical prospect and has an injury history.

Olivera has hit .348 with two homers and seven RBI in 19 games in the Dodgers’ minor league system following his signing on May 19. Prior to joining the Dodgers, he played 10 professional seasons from 2003-14 with Santiago in Cuba and has a .323 career batting average with 96 home runs and 433 RBI, appearing primarily at first base and second base.

Rodriguez, 24, had surgery on July 2 to remove loose bodies in the back of his elbow and posted a 2.61 ERA in 18 games with the Dodgers this year. He went 4-5 with a 2.53 ERA in 124 games with Los Angeles from 2012-15.

Bird, 21, is tied for seventh in the California League with 95 strikeouts and went 5-7 with a 4.75 ERA in 19 games (17 starts) with Single-A Rancho Cucamonga this year. He has a 16-35 career record with a 4.74 ERA in 83 games (71 starts) in four minor league seasons.

In a second deal, the Dodgers acquired right-handed pitcher Mat Latos, infielder/outfielder Michael Morse, and cash considerations from the Miami Marlins in exchange for minor league right-handed pitchers Victor Araujo, Jeff Brigham, and Kevin Guzman.

Latos, 27, has a 64-52 career record with a 3.43 ERA in 169 starts with the Padres (2009-2011), Reds, (2012-14) and Marlins (2015). During the course of his career, Latos has limited opponents to a .235 batting average and posted a 1.17 WHIP, while striking out more than three times as many as he’s walked with 938 Ks against only 308 walks in 1040.1 innings.

This year, the 6-foot-6, 245-pound Latos has gone 4-7 with a 4.48 ERA in 16 starts with the Marlins, but regained his form with a 2.96 ERA (15 ER/45.2 IP) and a .198 opponents’ batting average in seven starts since returning from the disabled list on June 13 (left knee inflammation). In six starts against NL West opponents this season, Latos has a 3-1 record with a 3.05 ERA (13 ER/38.1 IP) and a 1.02 WHIP.

Morse, 33, has a .276 career batting average with 103 home runs and 345 RBI in 757 games over 11 big league seasons with the Mariners (2005-08, 2013), Nationals (2009-12), Orioles (2013), Giants (2014) and Marlins (2015). During the course of his career, Morse has played outfield (409 games, 385 starts), first base (209 G, 174 GS), shortstop (57 G, 50 GS) and third base (9 G, 2 GS) and, in 82 career pinch-hit appearances, he has hit .282 (20-for-71) with a home run and 16 RBI.

Araujo, 22, has a 22-15 career record with a 4.30 ERA in 129 games (38 starts) in six minor league seasons with the Dodgers after he was signed in 2009 out of the Dominican Republic. In 32 relief appearances with Single-A Rancho Cucamonga this year, he was 3-3 with a 5.40 ERA.

Brigham, 23, had a 6-5 combined record with a 5.52 ERA in 19 games (14 starts) with Single-A Great Lakes and Single-A Rancho Cucamonga this year.

Guzman, 20, is in his third professional season after signing with the Dodgers as a free agent out of Venezuela in 2013. He went 5-7 with a 3.90 ERA in 17 games (15 starts) with Single-A Great Lakes this year and has an 11-16 record with a 3.36 ERA in 42 career minor league games (35 starts).

Following these two trades, the Los Angeles Dodgers added left-handed reliever Luis Avilan, right-handed reliever Jim Johnson, right-handed pitcher Mat Latos and left-handed pitcher Alex Wood to the roster, placed right-handed pitcher Bronson Arroyo on the 60-day disabled list (right elbow surgery) and optioned infielder Jose Peraza to Triple-A Oklahoma City.

To create room on the 40-man roster, Los Angeles transferred right-handed reliever Chris Hatcher to the 60-day disabled list (left oblique strain) and designated the following players for assignment: Right-handed pitcher Brandon Beachy, outfielder Chris Heisey, infielder/outfielder Michael Morse and right-handed reliever Chin-Hui Tsao.

By Staff of TheDailySportsHerald.com and news services

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