A Trade Proposal Between The LA Dodgers And Pittsburgh Pirates


The LA Dodgers will enter the 2020 season with many questions in their bullpen. However with a RHP with shutdown numbers the past few seasons, the Pittsburgh Pirates could make an early season swap with the Dodgers for one of their many young starters.

One of the few weaknesses the back-to-back NL pennant winning Los Angeles Dodgers have is their bullpen. After a seven year run as one of the best relief pitchers in MLB, Kenley Jansesn is starting to show signs of decline.

Last season was the worst of the right hander’s career. He posted a 3.71 ERA/3.48 FIP through 63 innings. Home runs have been one of Jansen’s biggest issues the past 2 seasons, as he has given up 22 between 2018 and 2019. In comparison, Jansen gave up just 35 home runs between 2011 and 2017.

They also signed Blake Treinen. The former Oakland A had one of the best seasons of the 2010’s for a relief pitcher in 2018, posting a sub-1 ERA (0.78!), while striking out triple digit batters (100) through 80.1 innings. But in 2019, Treinen’s ERA was nearly 5 (4.91) and his K/BB ratio went from 4.8 to 1.6.

Joe Kelly also had an inconsistent 2019. Although, he had a three month stretch to end the season where he put up a sub-3 ERA and sub-.600 opponent OPS, you can’t ignore the first two months where he had an ERA above 8.

Pedro Baez has been the team’s most consistent relief pitcher, but he isn’t great with runners on base, indicated by his opponent .819 OPS with RISP. This leaves the very talented Dodgers relying on young arms like Brusdar Graterol to step up and prove they can take over in high leverage situations.

But the Pittsburgh Pirates could have a solution to the Dodgers’ bullpen needs. Right-handed relief pitcher and recently named closer Keone Kela is one of the few good relief pitchers left on the trade market. Kela might have only pitched in an injury limited 29.2 innings last season, but he was excellent after he came back from the injured list. From July 24th onward, Kela pitched to a 0.50 ERA, and opponents couldn’t touch Kela. He gave up just eight hits, with none being home runs. Kela also struck out 22 batters to go against his seven walks.

Kela has been extremely consistent the past three seasons. He has posted an ERA below 2 in two of the three seasons, but even then a 3.29 ERA is still really good. His K/9 has also never dipped below 10 in this time span. Kela doesn’t give up very many hits or walks, indicated by his 1.01 WHIP, 5.6 H/9, and solid 3.5 BB/9.

But while his performance has remained great over the past three seasons, his health can’t say the same. He has only pitched 50+ innings twice in his entire career. Once in his 2015 rookie season, and again in 2018. Like I stated earlier he pitched in less than 30 innings in 2019, but pitched just 38.2 in 2017. He does come with some inherent risk, but if he can show he is back up to speed early in the season, this trade is more than plausible.

Obviously, I don’t think the Pirates could get back a Gavin Lux, who is the second best prospect in baseball according to MLB.com, but the Dodgers have a deep roster with many young players they could afford to part with. One of which is prospect Tony Gonsolin.

Gonsolin is ranked as the sixth ranked prospect in the Dodgers system. He had an impressive debut in the Majors in 2019, recording a 2.93 ERA, 3.86 FIP, and 1.03 WHIP through his first 40 MLB innings. Opponents couldn’t barrell him up either, as they slugged just .322 off of the righty. Although the soon to be 26-year-old struggled in Triple-A in 2019, he has much more room for improvement.

Gonsolin’s fastball spin rate is in the 89th percentile. His curveball could also see some improvement in 2020 as well, as it’s spin rate is in the 73rd percentile. One of Gonsolin’s best pitches is his splitter. MLB.com gives it a 70 grade, while Fangraphs puts it at 55.

Overall, Gonsolin is something the Dodgers can afford to part with. The starting four seems to be set in stone with Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, David Price, and Julio Urias. The fifth spot has more than enough options, with most being ahead of Gonsolin on the depth chart. Those range from bounceback signees Alex Wood, and Jimmy Nelson to the 23rd best prospect in the MLB, Dustin May (who would likely get a shot over Gonsolin anyways). After the Angels trade fell through, stalwart swingman Ross Stripling also remains on hand to start games. Youngsters like Caleb Ferguson, Dennis Santana, and Mitchell White will fight for roster spots in Spring Training, and all three of which have experience as a starter. Even though Brusdar Graterol is seen as a future bullpen piece, he could see the spot start here and there in 2020. Top 70 prospect (ranked at #67) Josiah Gray will also probably factor into the team’s rotation plans at some point in 2020 just to add yet another name.

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If the Pirates could get Gonsolin out of Kela, that would be a pretty good return. Gonsolin immediately slots into the team’s final rotation spot, and represents a solid piece in the rotation to build around. While Gonsolin obviously doesn’t have the ceiling that someone like Mitch Keller does, I could see him pitching somewhere in the 150-170 innings range, and providing a 3.50-ish ERA/FIP, and 1.25 WHIP out of the rotation. His rookie season showed he could handle MLB batters, and based on his spin rates on his pitches, he has more than enough talent to improve on those said pitches.