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.

Young Blue Jays say they aren’t intimidated by top seed Rays

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) When the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays opened the pandemic-delayed season a little over two months ago, there was little to indicate the AL East rivals might meet again to begin the playoffs.

While the Rays launched the truncated 60-game schedule with expectations of making a strong bid for their first division title in a decade, the Blue Jays generally were viewed as an immensely talented young team still years away from postseason contention.

Tampa Bay didn’t disappoint, shrugging off a slow start to go a league-best 40-20 and claim the No. 1 seed in the AL playoffs that begin Tuesday.

Lefty Blake Snell, who’ll start Game 1 of the best-of-three wild-card series against Toronto at Tropicana Field, also isn’t surprised that the eighth-seeded Blue Jays earned a spot, too.

The Rays won six of 10 games between the teams during the regular season, but were outscored 48-44 and outhomered 17-11.

And while Toronto (32-28) lacks the playoff experience Tampa Bay gained last season when the Rays beat Oakland in the AL wild-card game before falling to Houston in the divisional round, the Blue Jays are building with exciting young players such as Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

“They’ve got a lot of young guys who can ball over there,” Snell said. “It’s going to be fun to compete and see how we do.”

Rays defensive whiz Kevin Kiermaier said Tampa Bay, in the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the second time franchise history, will not take the Blue Jays lightly.

“We know we’re playing a real good team,” Kiermaier said. “It’s not going to be easy, regardless of what a team is seeded.”

The Blue Jays, who’ll start right-hander Matt Shoemaker, aren’t conceding anything.

Bichette said he and his teammates respect how good Tampa Bay is, but are not intimidated by facing the No. 1 seed.

“I would say that we didn’t care who we played. I would say that we didn’t mind playing Tampa, that’s for sure. We’re familiar with them. We’ve played them well,” Bichette said.

“I think we’re confident in our ability against them. Our talent matches up well,” Bichette added. “We think if we play well we’ve got a good chance.”

NO FANS

The stands at Tropicana Field will be empty, leaving players to wonder what the atmosphere will be like for the playoffs.

Tampa Bay routinely rank at or near the bottom of the majors in attendance, but usually pack the stands in the domed stadium during the postseason.

“It will be different,” Bichette said. “Normally when you think of your first postseason you think 40,000, you think about not being able to think it’s so loud, stuff like that.”

The Blue Jays open the playoffs near where they hold spring training in Dunedin, Florida. It’s been a winding road for Toronto, which played its home games in Buffalo, New York, at the site of its Triple-A affiliate after the Canadian government barred the Blue Jays from hosting games at their own stadium because of coronavirus concerns.

CONFIDENT RAYS

Tampa Bay’s five-game loss to Houston in last year’s divisional round was a source of motivation during the regular season.

“It definitely lit a fire under everybody. It really showed us we belong. … We gave them a tough series,” second baseman Brandon Lowe said.

“We won the wild-card game. We belong in the postseason. I think that did a lot for us to understand that we should be in the postseason and we can go a lot farther. We know what to expect this time around. I think everyone in our clubhouse expects to be playing until the end of October,” he said.

CLOSE FRIENDS

Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash has the Rays in the playoffs for the second time. His close friend and former Rays third base and bench coach Charlie Montoyo is in his second year as manager of the Blue Jays, who last made the playoffs in 2016.

“Pretty special,” Cash said of his relationship with Montoyo.

“I really learned a lot from him being around him. The way he carried himself. His hand print is throughout this organization,” Cash added. “A pretty big impact and a positive one. … When they clinched I talked to him, we face-timed at 1:30 in the morning. I’m so happy for him.”