I’ve re-written this intro about four times, ranging from “This trade rules!” when I thought it was just Josh Bell, to “holy hell no!” when I thought it was Bell and Scott Elbert, to “yeah, that’s fair” now that we know it’s Bell and Steven Johnson.
As far as relievers go, Sherrill’s basically the best on the market, and we’ve heard that up to eight teams were after him – so for the Dodgers to get him is a pretty nice feather in the cap. He’s a little older than you might think – 32, since he didn’t make his MLB debut until 27 – but he’s been one of the best relievers in the American League for the last several years. After some quality years in Seattle (dig that 2.36 ERA in 70 games in 2007), Sherrill was dealt to Baltimore in the disastrous Erik Bedard trade, and has put up 51 saves as the O’s closer the last two seasons. Clearly, he’s not coming to LA to be the closer, but if you can put up a 191 ERA+ and strike out nearly a man per inning in the toughest division in baseball, he’s still a pretty nice addition to the pen.
Sherrill has an absolutely absurd platoon split in 2009 – while righties are OPS’ing .731 off him, which is a little better than average (88 OPS+), lefties have no prayer whatsoever, OPS’ing just .356. That’s an OPS+ of 3. THREE. His career numbers haven’t been quite that crazy, but he’s still holding lefties to a good 250 points of OPS worse than righties.
As far as what he adds to the bullpen, a strength just got stronger:
RH Mota (I know, but he’s been incredible over the last few months)
That’s a top five in the ‘pen that you can put up against anyone else in the league, and that doesn’t even count the imminent return of Ronald Belisario, the quality long relief of Claudio Vargas and Jeff Weaver, and the hope you still hold for Cory Wade. Who needs the starters to go more than 6 innings when you’ve got guys like that holding down the last three?
For the guys going to Baltimore, it’s not exactly a cheap price. Josh Bell’s a third baseman who’s been steadily progressing through the system since his drafting in the 4th round in 2005, and Kensai thinks he might even have a 30-35 homer peak in the bigs ahead of him. As a 22-year-old in AA this year, he’s more than held his own, putting up a line of .296/.386/.497 with 11 homers. Steven Johnson (hey, he’s a native of Baltimore! congratulations, kid) was a 2005 draftee like Bell, but was on no one’s top prospect list. His first shot at advanced A ball last year as a 20 year old was a disaster (7.10 ERA in 11 games), though he’s bounced back to strike out more than a man per inning repeating that level before a recent promotion to AA.
And really, it’s the fact that it’s Steven Johnson, and not Scott Elbert, who’s joining Bell with the O’s that makes this trade a win and not a disaster. Bell’s a solid prospect, but not a superstar-in-waiting, and you have to expect to give up at least that much. Johnson’s intriguing, but hardly someone you lose sleep over. Elbert’s already shown success at the major league level, and losing him would not only cost his services as a Dodger, but his availability in any possible Roy Halladay trade.
I say that I hate things so often around here that I’m thrilled to be able to take the other side: this is a good, solid trade that’s going to help the Dodgers without killing them in the future. Even better, Sherrill’s only arbitration-eligible, so he can’t just walk away. Job well done by Ned Colletti on this one.