Posted July 31, 2012

Dodgers get Victorino to fill big need

Los Angeles Dodgers, Philadelphia Phillies, Shane Victorino, Trade deadline

Shane Victorino joins Hanley Ramirez as big names to be traded to the Dodgers this month. (Getty Images)

The Dodgers hope that Shane Victorino can be the solution to their season-long struggles in leftfield and thus a key part of their battle with the rival Giants, with whom they are tied atop the National League West. Los Angeles has acquired the longtime Phillies’ centerfielder (he’ll move to left because Matt Kemp has a lock on center) for righty reliever Josh Lindblom and Double-A starter Ethan Martin and either a player to be named later or cash. The Dodgers previously thought they had solved their leftfield problems in May after signing Bobby Abreu, who had been released by the neighboring Angels. Abreu hit .326/.444/.461 in 108 plate appearances from May 4 to June 11, but has hit just .180/.270/.225 in 100 PA since and has effectively been benched since last Wednesday. Collectively, Los Angeles’ leftfielders have hit just .259/.329/.348, a performance which yields an adjusted OPS 21 percent worse than that of the average leftfielder.

By comparison, Victorino hit .281/.348/.452 from 2008 to 2011 while averaging 12 triples and 28 stolen bases, making two All-Star teams and winning three Gold Gloves in centerfield, but the 31-year-old arrives in L.A. in the middle of a down season in which he has hit just .261/.324/.401, though he has shown more power in July and is a splendid 24-for-28 (86 percent) in stolen base attempts on the season. Even Victorino’s season line as it stands would be an upgrade for the Dodgers, who originally drafted Victorino back in 1999 only to lose him in the Rule 5 draft three years later. As with their acquisition of Hanley Ramirez last week, the Dodgers have addressed a pressing need by buying low on a struggling star, though the risk is far lower here as Victorino will be a free agent after the season, freeing the Dodgers from further obligation if he fails to recover his old form.

The trade also likely eliminates any iteration of the still-pending Ryan Dempster trade that would include Alfonso Soriano, who reportedly would have been willing to accept a trade to the Dodgers. Soriano has hit a robust .285/.341/.604 since finding his home run stroke in mid-May, but is a vastly inferior fielder, no longer a base-stealing threat and is still owed $36 million over the next two years.

For their part, the Phillies have traded a player they were likely to let walk after the season for a pair of live young arms. Lindblom is a big, 25-year-old righty who has pitched well in the major league bullpen since making his big league debut last June. In 77 1/3 major league innings he has posted a 2.91 ERA and struck out 8.3 men per nine innings against 3.3 walks, good for a 2.54 K/BB ratio. His low 90s fastball/slider combination isn’t overwhelming, but he’s a solid set-up arm who will remain under team control for five more years.

Martin, a 23-year-old righty, was the Dodgers’ first pick in the 2008 draft (Lindblom was taken in the next round that year). He has strikeout stuff with a mid-90s fastball that can spike higher and a big curve, but his progress through the minors has been slow and uninspiring. Having walked 5.7 men per nine innings in his minor league career, Martin has never struck out twice as many men as he has walked over a full season, posted a 6.68 ERA in a season and a half at High-A in 2010 and 2011 and was briefly moved to the bullpen last year. He’s been better in the Double-A rotation this year, walking “just” 4.7 men per nine innings and going 8-6 with a 3.58 ERA, but those aren’t the kind of numbers you’d expect from a 23-year-old first-rounder in Double-A in his fourth professional season, and his K/BB is still below 2.00. Still, if the Phillies can figure him out, they’ll get all of his team-controlled years.

– By Cliff Corcoran

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