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.

Neal Huntington thinks players should be allowed to re-enter games after concussion testing

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Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli, who has suffered many concussions throughout his 12-year career, was hit on the back of the helmet on a Joc Pederson backswing Saturday against the Dodgers. Through Cervelli remained in the game initially, he took himself out of the game shortly thereafter and went on the seven-day concussion injured list on Sunday.

Perhaps inspired by Saturday’s event, Pirates GM Neal Huntington suggested that players should be allowed to re-enter games once they have passed concussion tests, the Associated Press reports. Huntington said, “Any player that had an obvious concussion risk incident should be allowed to be removed from the game, taken off the field, taken into the locker room, assessed by a doctor, assessed by a trainer, go through an extended period of time and then re-enter the game. Because right now, all of this has to happen on the field.”

Huntington added, “The player has to feel pressure as he’s standing there with 30,000 or 10,000 or 50,000 eyes on him. He has to feel pressure to make a decision whether (he’s) in or (he’s) out of this game. He knows if he takes himself out and he’s the catcher, there’s only one other catcher, and the game becomes a fiasco if that other catcher gets hurt.”

Huntington, who has been forward-thinking on a number of other issues, has it wrong here. The concussion protocols were created because players frequently hid or under-reported their injuries in order to remain in the game. Especially for younger or otherwise less-proven players, there is pressure to have to constantly perform in order to keep one’s job. Furthermore, there is an overarching sentiment across sports that taking time off due to injury makes one weak. Similarly, playing while injured is seen as tough and masculine. Creating protocols that take the decision-making out of players’ hands keeps them from making decisions that aren’t in their own best interests. Removing them would bring back that pressure for players to hide or minimize their ailments. If anything, MLB’s concussion protocols should become more stringent, not more relaxed.

The powers that be with Major League Baseball have no doubt followed the concussion scandal surrounding the National Football League. In January, the NFL settled for over $1 billion with retired players dealing with traumatic brain injuries, including dementia, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. For years, the league refused to acknowledge the link between playing football and CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), which is a neurodegenerative disease that can lead to dementia and has many negative effects, such as increasing the risk of suicide. Since baseball isn’t often a contact sport, MLB doesn’t have to worry about brain injuries to this degree, but it still needs to take preventative measures in order to avoid billion-dollar lawsuits as well as avoiding P.R. damage. In December 2012, former major league outfielder Ryan Freel committed suicide. Freel, who claimed to have suffered as many as 10 concussions, suffered from CTE. MLB players can suffer brain injuries just like football players.

Huntington seems to be worried about not having enough rostered catchers in the event one or two catchers get injured. That is really an issue of roster management. Carrying only two catchers on the roster is a calculated risk, often justified. Huntington can ensure his team never has to be put in the position of not having a catcher in an emergency by rostering a third catcher. Rosters are expanding to 26 players next year, by the way.