Phillies send Shane Victorino to Dodgers for pair of pitchers

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For the past week rumors have been swirling about the Phillies offering up Shane Victorino for bullpen help. They were reportedly turned down by the Reds for Logan Ondrusek, but today they found a taker and sent Victorino to the Dodgers for reliever Josh Lindblom, pitching prospect Ethan Martin, and a player to be named later or cash.

Victorino will play left field for the Dodgers, who’ll stick with Matt Kemp in center field and Andre Ethier in right field. He also figures to slide into the leadoff spot, which has been a major weakness for the Dodgers all season. Victorino isn’t an ideal leadoff man because of his mediocre .324 on-base percentage this season and .336 OBP during the past three years, but compared to Dee Gordon or Tony Gwynn Jr. he’s an on-base machine.

Dodgers left fielders have hit just .259 with four homers and a .677 OPS in 104 games, so making a move to upgrade the position is smart. However, at this point it’s not clear how much of an upgrade Victorino provides, as he’s hit just .261 with nine homers and a .724 OPS in 101 games. He’ll be better–offensively and defensively–but the upgrade over, say, a Bobby Abreu-Jerry Hairston platoon is unlikely to be as significant as Victorino’s name recognition suggests.

Lindblom is a 25-year-old right-hander with a 2.91 ERA in 75 appearances since debuting for the Dodgers last season and his 71/28 K/BB ratio in 77 innings is strong as well. He may prove stretched as a late-inning option, but Lindblom has solid raw stuff and should be effective in a secondary setup man role. And just as importantly for the Phillies as they try to rebuild the bullpen, Lindblom is under team control through 2017.

Martin is a 2008 first-round pick with a career ERA near 5.00 in the minors, but he’s turned things around a bit at Double-A this season with a 3.58 ERA and 112/61 K/BB ratio in 118 innings. He’s far from a top prospect, but is still just 22 years old and has a shot to be valuable if his control improves at some point.

To replace Victorino the Phillies have called up one-time top prospect Domonic Brown from Triple-A, where he’s spent most of the past three seasons because the team has consistently been hesitant to give him an extended opportunity. He’ll get that chance now and Brown is still just 24 years old, but he hasn’t been particularly productive this season while hitting .286 with five homers and a .767 OPS in 60 games at Triple-A.

Victorino is a 31-year-old impending free agent whose production has fallen off substantially this season and the Phillies obviously aren’t contenders, so Philadelphia did well to get a useful young reliever and a decent prospect. Lindblom’s upside probably isn’t high enough for him to truly come back to haunt the Dodgers and Martin remains a question mark, but to give them up for a two-month rental who hasn’t played very well is hardly a no-brainer move. Of course, if the Victorino from 2008-2011 shows up the Dodgers just got one of the best outfielders in the league on the cheap.

UPDATE: And the Phillies didn’t stop with Victorino, trading Hunter Pence to the Giants.

Rival Executives Expect Justin Verlander To Hit The Trading Block

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About a month ago, a report circulated that if the Detroit Tigers weren’t above .500 by the end of June, they were going to chuck the season, look to trade off veterans and rebuild. It’s now June 29 and the Tigers are 34-42 and sit six games out of first place.

As such, we should not be too terribly surprised to see a report from Jeff Passan of Yahoo that multiple baseball executives expect Tigers ace Justin Verlander to hit the trade market sometime in the next two weeks. Passan notes that the Tigers haven’t formally offered him and that he’s just passing along speculation from rivals, but it’s pretty astute speculation.

The question is what the Tigers can get for Verlander. On the one hand, yes, Verlander is Verlander and has been one of the top starters in baseball for a decade. While he had struggled for a bit, last year featured a return to Cy Young form. He still has a blazing fastball and there is no reason to think he could not anchor the staff of a playoff caliber team.

On the other hand, as Passan notes, his 2017 has been . . . not so good. He looks amazing at times and very hittable at other times. Overall his walk rate is way up and his strikeout rate is down. There doesn’t appear to be anything physically wrong with him — various ailments contributed to his 2014-15 swoon — so it’s possible he’s just had a rough couple of months. Like I said, Verlander is Verlander, and it may not be a bad gamble to expect him to run off a string of dominant starts like he has so many times in the past.

The problem, though, is that anyone acquiring Verlander is not just gambling on a handful of starts down the stretch. They’re gambling on the $56 million he’s owed between 2018 and 2019 and the $22 million extra he’ll be guaranteed for 2020 if he finishes in the top five in Cy Young voting in 2019. Those would be his age 35, 36 and 37 seasons. There are certainly worse gambles in baseball, but it’s a gamble all the same.

If the Tigers don’t find any gamblers out there on the market, they’re going to have to make a gamble of their own: let Verlander go and get relatively little in return if another club picks up that $56 million commitment or eat it themselves and get prospects back in return to help kickstart a rebuild. Personally I’d go with the latter option, but I don’t work for the Illitch family.

 

There is a Tyler glut in baseball

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It’s a slow news morning — Miguel Montero is gone and everyone else is quiet — so you should go read Tyler Kepner’s latest column over at the New York Times. It’s, appropriately, about Tylers.

There are a lot of them in baseball now, Tyler notes. No Larrys and hardly any Eddies or Bobs. This obviously tracks the prevalence of the name Tyler in the population at large and the declines in Larrys, Eddies and Bobs. It’s the kind of thing I imagine we’ve all noticed from time to time, and it’s fun to do it in baseball. For his part, Kepner tries to make an all-Tyler All-Star team. The results are sort of sad.

There are always one or two Craigs floating around baseball from time to time, but not many more than that. We got a Hall of Famer recently, so that’s pretty nice. There will likely be fewer over time, as Craig — never even a top-30 name in popularity — is now near historic lows. I’m not complaining, though. I never once had to go by “Craig C.” in class to differentiate myself from other Craigs. Our biggest problem is being called Greg. We tend to let it pass. Craigs are used to it by now.