Might be time for Keibert to learn how to talk like a Pirate

This is not a reactionary column to another poor outing by the Dodger bullpen, but it is about the season-long problems with the bullpen. The team is still on pace to win 105 games so at this point we only care about the wins in October.

I’ve followed Keibert and watched him climb up the Dodgers prospect ranking to take the number one spot this spring.  Many names have been bandied about to help the Dodger bullpen but far and away the best name and option belongs to Felipe Vazquez of the Pirates.

Via the Fangraphs Custom Date Tool, here the best relief pitchers via fWAR from 4/1/2017 – 7-17-2019.

Name IP WAR K/9 BB/9 HR/9 GB% FIP xFIP ERA
Felipe Vazquez 185.2 5.8 11.63 2.67 0.53 46.4 % 2.37 2.96 2.13
Josh Hader 175 5.3 15.17 3.34 1.13 29.0 % 2.65 2.57 2.31
Roberto Osuna 140.2 5.2 9.92 1.34 0.45 42.1 % 2.24 3.28 2.82
Blake Treinen 195.2 5.1 9.75 3.27 0.55 52.9 % 3 3.4 2.76
Sean Doolittle 135.2 5 11.14 1.79 0.73 30.1 % 2.44 3.62 2.45
Edwin Diaz 175.2 5 13.88 3.13 1.13 40.9 % 2.93 2.83 3.13
Aroldis Chapman 138.1 4.8 13.99 4.03 0.46 46.5 % 2.26 2.8 2.73
Kenley Jansen 178.2 4.6 12.19 1.61 1.21 35.6 % 2.85 2.88 2.52
Kirby Yates 161.2 4.6 13.64 2.51 1.06 39.6 % 2.67 2.77 2.51
Joakim Soria 160 4.4 10.46 2.81 0.51 43.1 % 2.61 3.45 3.71

Josh Hader, Osuna, Treinen, Doolittle, and Chapman are all on teams the Dodgers might have to beat in Oct to win a World Championship. Diaz was an elite bullpen arm but has given up three runs or more in four games this year and may not be the guy you want to mortgage some of your future for. Just ask the Mets.  Kenley Jansen is, of course, our guy. Kirby Yates might be available but I think he’s going elsewhere. Soria is the final guy on the list and the A’s aren’t moving him.

This leaves the best pitcher and the best option. Felipe Vazquez. The Pirates have a fighting chance at the Wild Card but not a very realistic one. Their team simply isn’t that good. To get Vazquez we can look to recent mid-summer deals for elite bullpen arms in the last few years.

In the summer of 2018, Brad Hand was dealt from the Padres along with Adam Climber for the Indians top prospect Francisco Mejia. That was the only prospect the Padres got. At the time of the deal, Brad Hand was in the middle of a contract that would keep him with the Indians through 2021. The Indians were swept in the ALDS by Houston with Brad Hand pitching in two games, getting five outs, giving up three hits and two earned runs. The Indians gave up their top prospect and got nothing from him in the postseason that would have prolonged their season.  They still have Brad Hand though, and maybe this year he will be the difference-maker in October. It is a trade I would have made.

On July 25th, 2016 the Cubs traded multiple prospects including Gleyber Torres to the NYY for Aroldis Chapman. Chapman appeared in 28 games for the Cubs during the regular season.  The Cubs would win the World Series with Chapman as their closer but it wasn’t like he was Mariano Rivera. Chapman was good enough that he only gave up runs in four of his eighteen games, but two of those games were games six and seven of the World Series.  The Cubs got what they wanted when they traded for Chapman, a World Series. They also gave up one of the best young players in baseball.

Headed into this spring Keibert Ruiz was considered the Dodgers top prospect. The previous summer at just nineteen years old he had acquited himself quite well in AA. He had a successful stint in the AFL. The switch-hitting catcher was generally considered the best catching prospect in baseball.  Keibert has struggled offensively this year in AA, but he’s still just twenty.  As far as the prospect list goes, Alex Verdugo is now a successful major league outfielder which dropped him off the list but Gavin Lux has emerged as the Dodgers best positional prospect.

In my own view, the Dodgers have several untradeable prospects. Those would be Gavin Lux, Dustin May, and Diego Cartaya. Keibert Ruiz is not one of them for one big reason. Will Smith. I have no doubt that Ruiz is going to a major league catcher, hopefully, a good one, but I also believe that Will Smith is also going to be a quality major league catcher. It is only because of Will Smith that I’d consider trading Ruiz but because of Smith, I do think the Dodgers could move Keibert Ruiz for Felipe Vazquez. I think it would take more than Ruiz to pry Vazquez from the Pirates. I would move three prospects for him only because I think this team really has a shot at the elusive World Championship and Vazquez is the guy who might help them get it.

Given the depth, on the major league roster, the Dodgers could actually move Joc Pederson for some prospects that they might move toward the Pirates. Or Kiké. Depth will win you the season but it won’t win you the World Series and the season has already been won.

Anyway using Dustin Noslers top 30 list I’d think a package of Keibert Ruiz, one of (Omar Estevez, Mitchell White, Matt Beaty), one of (Edwin Rios, Edwin Uceta, DJ Peters, Dennis Santana) might get it done.  Maybe it will take more, but I do think this is the guy the Dodgers should be targeting.

If they get Vazquez, he will help, but you never know how he will perform in the post-season. The Dodgers have a history of having their best regular-season relief pitchers come up short in the postseason but at least they would have another weapon and the quintet of Jansen/Vazquez/Urias/Kelly/ Baez would be formidable.

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