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July 30, 2015

Transaction Analysis

Load Up the Station Wagon - We're Heading To L.A.

by Craig Goldstein, Christopher Crawford, David Lee, Mike Gianella, R.J. Anderson, Wilson Karaman and Colin Young

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IN THIS ISSUE

National League

ATLANTA BRAVES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Acquired INF-R Hector Olivera, LHP Paco Rodriguez, RHP Zachary Bird, a Miami competitive-balance draft pick, and cash considerations in exchange for LHP Alex Wood, LHP Luis Avilan, RHP Jim Johnson, INF-R Jose Peraza, RHP Bronson Arroyo, and cash considerations

The Braves wanted Olivera badly. They did extensive scouting on him and were considered one of the contending teams for his services before the Dodgers signed him for that tremendous $62.5 million contract over six years. Fast forward four months and the Braves got their man for far, far less, at least in terms of dollars.

Atlanta lacked impact hitters both in the majors and in the upper levels of the minors. Olivera can help relieve some of that, and, despite being 30 years old, it’s not like he’s nearing retirement. They’ve also made it known through their stockpiling of arms that they feel it’s possible to turn their pitching depth into quality bats. The fact that they used Wood in this deal instead of a prospect may have thrown people off, but both sides are taking risks.

While the Braves have been big on adding prospects during their rebuild, an equally major part of the organization’s transition has been financial, and that absolutely cannot be overlooked here. They have freed quite a bit of payroll in trades this season, and they’ve spent a lot of time trying to free up even more. Part of that is to rid themselves of bad contracts tied to players who serve little purpose on a rebuilding team. Another part is to set themselves up to buy talent around the young core for the next competitive window.

The Braves added a bat they expect to be a solid part of that window, and they’ll be paying him a team-friendly amount during that span. The Dodgers are paying all of Olivera’s signing bonus plus part of the remainder of Bronson Arroyo’s contract. Add it up and Atlanta gets a bat for around $5-6 million a year. Consider that the Braves acquired Touki Toussaint, a high-ceiling prospect, for basically Arroyo’s contract, and it softens the blow of losing Wood a little more.

Rodriguez underwent surgery to remove loose bodies in his left elbow in late June and may not be counted on for much the rest of this season, but he could give the Braves the formidable left-handed reliever they’ve lacked for some time. He was a shutdown lefty for the Dodgers in 2013 before experiencing a bit of a setback in 2014, but he was again throwing well this season before his elbow started barking. He remains under team control for several more years and is only 24.

The Braves also received Miami’s 2016 Competitive Balance Pick Lottery Selection A. They’ve become aggressive in acquiring these picks since they became part of the draft. While the value of the pick isn’t incredibly high based on what’s available by the comp rounds, it’s a creative way to add an extra player to the system. –David Lee

***

At first glance, Olivera appears to have a solid build but with a hint of being slightly overweight and out of shape, reminiscent of Miguel Cabrera after 25. His upper half looks like an aging ballplayer’s while his legs seem solid and sturdy, though he is currently rehabbing a pulled hamstring and has not seen Triple-A action since July 13th.

Defensively, Olivera appears limited to the corners. In my observation of him at third, he made all the routine plays cleanly and could have expended a bit more effort on others. He throws from the hip with a whip-like arm action that makes the ball loop and tail. His arm was average at best. There were some concerns with his elbow before signing with the Dodgers so it makes you wonder if there is/was something going on that would affect his throwing mechanics. I believe he is best suited for first base due to mobility, arm strength, and age.

The bigger concern for me is at the plate. His setup is significantly closed with his hands high behind his helmet. His first movement upon loading is to wrap the bat behind his head with the barrel pointing straight to the pitcher. This transitions into a long, loopy swing with which he tries to punch everything to right field. His bat speed seemed average to slow and was very noticeable when challenged on the inner half. Unless Olivera plans to open up his stance or gear up on inside fastballs, I don’t see his bat speed translating to the big leagues. The upside is that Olivera makes contact and seems to have command of his hitting zone (outer half and down), though he is a free swinger.

Overall, Olivera looks the part of a role player, not a $62.5 million man. –Colin Young

***

Signed out of high school in the ninth round of the 2012 draft, Bird remains raw but projectable. I wrote him up recently, and you can refer to that for some of the nuts and bolts on Bird's stuff. His main issue involves repeating his delivery and commanding the baseball, and it's been a persistent enough problem that the Dodgers moved him exclusively into the stretch this season, though he remained in the rotation. While toned down, Bird's motion still lacks fluidity despite an athletic frame. He's inconsistent through his checkpoints, and he doesn't have quite enough stuff to overcome loose command in the zone. The fastball projects as an above-average pitch at 92-94 with some boring action, and he gets an angle on his slider that opens up potential as a chase pitch with strike-to-ball sweep.

He throws a change and a curveball as well, but neither projects as better than a below-average offering at the highest levels. Given the command limitations and two-pitch utility it'll be an uphill climb for him to crack a big-league rotation, but the fastball and slider can play as a solid tandem in the bullpen with standard command refinement. –Wilson Karaman

Fantasy Impact
Arodys Vizcaino
With both Jim Johnson and Luis Avilan heading to the Dodgers, Vizcaino is the early favorite to pick up saves. One caveat is that he has not pitched a significant number of innings in the last two seasons, so the Braves might ease him in gently into the ninth inning. If Vizcaino is available in your mixed league, he has to be picked up, but it is possible that he rests on back-to-back days and doesn’t get all of the opportunities.

Jason Frasor
Frasor wouldn’t be a great fantasy option in the ninth if the Braves go this route, but saves are saves, and serviceable, healthy relievers can certainly hold onto a role for months at a time. The guess here is that Frasor won’t close, but could pick up a few stray saves now and again. This makes him NL-only relevant, but if you are desperate for the category in deeper mixed, he is worth a nominal FAAB bid or waiver claim.

Mike Foltynewicz
Foltynewicz was already up in the short-term with Manny Banuelos and Williams Perez on the shelf, but with the trade of Wood, Foltynewicz should get an opportunity to stick in the rotation. His overall numbers are lacking, but the spike in his strikeout rate as a starter this year makes him an intriguing play in deeper mixed leagues and a must own in NL-only.

Hector Olivera
Assuming health, Olivera has a much better opportunity to push his way into some at-bats in Atlanta during the last few weeks of the season than he did with the Dodgers. Reports on his injured hamstring have been sketchy at best, and there isn’t any kind of indication of a timetable for his return to action. If he does go out on a rehab assignment, there is a good chance he will play for the Braves at some point in 2015, which is more than you could say for him on a crowded Dodgers team. –Mike Gianella

MIAMI MARLINS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Acquired RHP Jeff Brigham, RHP Kevin Guzman, and RHP Victor Araujo in exchange for RHP Mat Latos, OF-R Michael Morse, a competitive-balance draft pick, and cash considerations.

Here we go again.

What's the worst part of this trade from the Marlins perspective? Is it the total disregard they hold for the competitive-balance picks they receive every summer? Is it how they paired the pick with another legitimate trade piece to dump a bad contract? Or is it how the bad contract in question isn't even that bad—roughly $10.3 million through next season for a player 52 games removed from one of the best seasons of his career?

The answer is none of the above. The worst part is how predictable this sequence was. Whenever the Marlins fall from contention after spending money, Jeffrey Loria seemingly mandates that the team cut costs by any means possible. Hence brutal, pointless trades like this one. It's a tired act from an owner who has mastered putting his otherwise resourceful front office in impossible situations. Sadly, this might be the latest instance, but it almost certainly won't be the last time Loria pulls this stunt; why would it be? Nobody seems interested in stopping him. –R.J. Anderson

***

The Dodgers popped Brigham in the fourth round last year, and he makes sense for them to move in a deal like this as a live but expendable arm. He's on the short side for a right-handed pitcher and generates below-average plane with sloped shoulders and average extension. He's got velocity in spades, with a mid-90's fastball built on plus arm strength that I've seen as high as 99 in multiple starts. Due to mechanical inconsistencies, however, the pitch will sit just as regularly in the 92-94 band. He'll get solid-average sink and run with the pitch, and it shows some life when he elevates. But the command wanders, there's little deception in the motion, and the pitch plays down when the velocity drops.

He compliments the primary weapon with an above-average slider that works in the 82-85 range with good tilt and some late bite. The pitch plays well off his fastball and he can sweep it effectively out of the zone when he's going right. He'll mix in a below-average straight change as well with consistent arm speed but little tumble or fade.

I actually preferred his motion and command profile when he works out of the stretch, as he runs into balance and cadence issues with his long, slow windup. That bodes well, as I see his best role as a power relief arm working off the fastball-slider combination. There's some back-end potential if the command takes a step or three forward and the change develops, but the package should ultimately play most effectively if he's able to air out the heater in short bursts. –Wilson Karaman

***

Guzman was in his first full professional year with the Dodgers, and while the stats say he hasn't pitched poorly—3.9 ERA, 62:29 strikeout-to-walk ratio—the scouts I've spoken with believe he'll end up in the bullpen. The 20-year-old Venezuelan's fastball sits 91-93, and there is some sink to the pitch as well. He'll also show a solid-average slider and fringy change, but his arm action isn't the cleanest and the command is well behind the control. The Marlins will likely give him a chance to start, but more than likely Guzman ends up pitching in relief as a swing man. There's a chance he's an eighth- or ninth-inning guy if more velocity comes. –Christopher Crawford

***

Araujo dominated Low-A Great Lakes in 2014, posting a 1.32 ERA with 74 strikeouts in 68 innings while allowing just 39 hits in the process. Life has not been so king to Araujo in the California League, as that ERA has jumped up to 5.4 in 50 innings with Rancho Cucamonga, though he continues to pile up the strikeouts. He doesn't have the typical electric stuff you see from a reliever who misses bats, but relies on command and deception instead. His fastball generally sits in the 89-92 range, occasionally touching the mid-90s. He also features a slider that doesn't have huge break, but does offer some bite, and he can locate it for strikes to get ahead of hitters. Because he throws strikes and features two 55 pitches, he has a chance to pitch in the big leagues someday, but likely not in high-leverage situations. –Christopher Crawford

Fantasy Impact
Justin Bour, Casey McGehee
Bour and McGehee were already playing anyway, but with Morse officially out the door, both hitters will continue to serve in a first-base platoon for the Marlins. Bour has deeper mixed-league value while McGehee is worth playing as a marginal third corner infielder in NL-only.
–Mike Gianella

LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Acquired RHP Mat Latos, LHP Alex Wood, OF-R Michael Morse, LHP Luis Avilan, RHP Jim Johnson, INF-R Jose Peraza, RHP Bronson Arroyo, and cash considerations in exchange for INF-R Hector Olivera, LHP Paco Rodriguez, RHP Zachary Bird, RHP Victor Araujo, RHP Kevin Guzman, and RHP Jeff Brigham.

In a lot of ways, the Dodgers’ new front office is the same as the old one. While there’s been an increased emphasis on improving defensively and around the margins since Farhan Zaidi and Andrew Friedman took over, the main strategy has been much the same: leverage ownership’s financial might to better the team. They did this in absorbing $252 million in the Nick Punto trade, and again when they paid Dan Haren’s full freight to pitch for Miami, and they’ve done it again to address their current needs, acquiring/eating contracts to land a slew of immediate help plus a good prospect.

As you would expect from any team willing to eat money, the Dodgers have become common partners with the Marlins. This trade marks the fourth deal in as many seasons between the two clubs, with the Dodgers acquiring Hanley Ramirez in the summer of 2012, Ricky Nolasco in July 2013, and sending Dee Gordon to the Marlins last winter in exchange for Andrew Heaney and others.

The latest agreement sees the Dodgers land Latos, a mid-rotation starter who has flashed more than that in years past. He’s been hindered by injuries in recent years, including 2015, but has looked to be his normal self since, with a 2.96 ERA and 43 strikeouts (against just nine walks) in 45 2/3 innings since being reinstated from the disabled list on June 13. His season-long peripherals back up the notion that he’s still the guy he was in Cincinnati, and with his velocity creeping back to normal levels since returning from the DL, there’s underlying reason to believe in his rebound.

The Dodgers’ need for another arm had been glaring since they lost Hyun-Jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy for the season. While Mike Bolsinger has filled in admirably, and is perfectly functional as a fifth starter, giving a rotation spot to the three-headed monster of Carlos Frias, Brandon Beachy, and Zach Lee has proved less than optimal. With Brett Anderson pitching through an achilles injury, the need for a reliable option beyond Clayton Kershaw (scratched yesterday with a pulled ass muscle) and Zack Greinke was heightened. Latos is not only a stabilizing force in the Dodgers’ rotation, but he should be a solid enough pitcher to rely on come the playoffs, unlike Nolasco.

In order to snag Latos for a lesser prospect haul, the Dodgers took on Morse’s contract, with about $8 million remaining, less whatever portion the Marlins are picking up. While Latos makes a lot of sense for the starter-needy Dodgers, Morse’s role is less certain. The Dodgers’ bench currently features seven players listed as outfielders, though Enrique Hernandez, Alex Guerrero, and Scott Van Slyke have varying levels of experience on dirt. Morse would seem to be an older, lesser version of Van Slyke—an immobile right-handed hitter in the corner outfield/first base mold—and thus, not much of a fit on this team. In other words, Morse could soon go the way of Brian Wilson and Brandon League.

But the Dodgers didn’t stop at getting Latos in exchange for taking on Morse’s contract. They also ate the bonus ($28 million) of recent international signee Olivera and added a portion of the approximately $7 million remaining on Arroyo’s contract in exchange for even more immediate help in the rotation and the bullpen, and get a prospect to boot. The motivation for adding Wood is much the same as it is with Latos, with the benefit of extending into the future. While Wood isn’t having quite the year he did in 2014—he’s seen a seven-percentage-point decline in his strikeout rate—there’s a lot to like. He has a career 22 percent strikeout rate and his walk rate is a tick below league average. An unconventional delivery makes him extremely tough on same-side hitters, though, as you might expect, right-handed batters have gotten the best of him thus far in 2015. While he’s always produced when he’s played, Wood hasn’t thrown more than 171 1/3 innings in a season. It’s not hard to imagine a shift to the bullpen should the Dodgers make the playoffs, allowing them to shorten games and limit his overall workload.

Johnson is the headliner of the two relievers, and he’s much the same guy he’s always been, with the exception of 2014. He’s generating groundballs just over 60 percent of the time, and seems to have regained the control that deserted him last year. He can be a weapon in the middle innings, something the Dodgers have lacked since Chris Withrow’s elbow gave out. Avilan is more in the mold of a generic LOOGY, and easily replaces Rodriguez in this capacity. While he had a standout 2013, posting a sub-2.00 ERA in 65 innings, his strikeout rate (15 percent) and walk rate (9 percent) told a truer story. Those numbers trended in the wrong direction last year, but have rebounded significantly in 2015, though the result is still just marginal production out of a relief arm.

While there are a lot of moving parts—a theme from this administration—the Dodgers net two starting pitchers, two relief arms, and a prospect in exchange for four low-level pitching prospects, a LOOGY, and a willingness to bite a few financial bullets. It is certainly a quick turnaround from giving Olivera a $62.5 million deal in March, but the emergence of Justin Turner made him expendable. In the end, the Dodgers dealt from depth to address their current deficiencies while still keeping an eye on the future. –Craig Goldstein

***

If there's one thing the Braves do well, it's develop pitching. But if there are two things they do well, it's develop pitching and middle infielders, and Peraza has a chance to be one of the best to come through that system. His best tool is his speed; he's a borderline 80 runner and when he's on base he immediately changes the way pitchers go about their business. He isn’t Billy Hamilton, but 40- or 50-steal seasons are certainly within the realm of possibility for the switch-hitting infielder.

That's not to say that Peraza is bereft of other qualities, though. The swing is very much geared for contact, but he's quick to the ball with strong wrists, so he's capable of shooting the ball to any part of the field. The swing path and strength make hitting for power very unlikely, however, and expecting more than a handful of homers would be too much.

The Braves had Peraza playing second base at Triple-A, but the Dodgers would be wise to move him back to shortstop. His arm strength is only average, but his footwork and athleticism are outstanding, and he's shown a flair for the spectacular to both his left and right. If you leave him at second he's going to be among the very best in baseball there, but I'll take the 55 to 60 shortstop over the 70—maybe even 80—second baseman.

The floor is super-sub utilityman (he’s also played some center field this year) who can make a difference with a glove and bat off the bench, but the ceiling is leadoff-hitting shortstop who hits .290 while ranking among the leaders in stolen bases and playing above-average defense. –Christopher Crawford

Fantasy Impact
Alex Wood
For keeper and dynasty leagues, as a 24-year-old pitcher, Wood may very well be an excellent growth candidate to target. However, this assessment is primarily focused on his 2015 value, and while the trade won’t change much for him, moving out of the easy peasy NL East into the more challenging NL West puts a bit of a damper on Wood’s prospects for the rest of the season. The chance at a few more random wins helps Wood’s cause a little bit, but between the slight park disadvantage and the division, Wood moves down a couple of ticks.

Mat Latos
Latos has the same divisional “issues" that Wood has and the park factor differential is even more extreme in Latos’s case. That said, Latos has a bizarre home/road split in 2015 that doesn’t jibe with the overall data (a 6.92 ERA in Miami compared to a 2.44 ERA on the road), but the sample in his case is skewed by three awful home starts prior to his DL stint. In standard/shallow mixed leagues where owners aren’t paying attention to Latos’s individual game performances, he makes for a sneaky pick-up. This isn’t predicated on his trade to Los Angeles but the fact that he’s a good pitcher who seems to be in good health now.

Mike Bolsinger
Barring injury, Bolsinger appears to be the odd man out in the Dodgers’ rotation. This is a rough deal for Bolsinger—he has a 2.83 ERA and the peripheral numbers support his overall performance—but the Dodgers aren’t going to pull Brett Anderson and his $10 million contract from the rotation. Bolsinger makes for a nice insurance policy for L.A., but unless you have a super deep reserve list, feel free to drop Bolsinger from your fantasy team.

Carlos Frias
If you don’t play in an NL-only league, you are forgiven if you forgot that Carlos Frias existed. It was questionable that he was going to get his rotation slot back anyway; now it is even more of a certainty.

Jim Johnson
Johnson goes from being an okay closing option for the Braves to Kenley Jansen’s setup man in Los Angeles. Of all of the players in this trade, Johnson loses the biggest chunk of fantasy value. Feel free to drop him in all mixed-league formats.

Michael Morse
Morse has the potential to provide good mixed-league value when he is healthy and socking the ball with authority, but he was doing neither of those things this year and now moves into a situation where he will be a pinch hitter and perhaps occasionally spell Adrian Gonzalez or a corner outfielder. Another trade or a DFA is possible, but at the moment Morse is a back-of-the-roster guy, even in NL-only.

Jose Peraza
Even in March, the idea of a call-up seemed like a pipe dream for a 20-year-old player with 195 plate appearances in the high minors, but the trade to the Dodgers cements Peraza’s status as a minor leaguer the rest of the way. Perhaps he comes up in September for a cup of coffee and can rack up some steals as a pinch runner, but I wouldn’t hoard my FAAB for him. In keeper formats, with Howie Kendrick a free agent after the season, the idea of Peraza in the Dodgers’ lineup in 2016 whets the appetite. –Mike Gianella


Craig Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Craig's other articles. You can contact Craig by clicking here
Christopher Crawford is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Christopher's other articles. You can contact Christopher by clicking here
David Lee is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see David's other articles. You can contact David by clicking here
Mike Gianella is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Mike's other articles. You can contact Mike by clicking here
R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here
Wilson Karaman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Wilson's other articles. You can contact Wilson by clicking here
Colin Young is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Colin's other articles. You can contact Colin by clicking here

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