The Dodgers gained another "top-notch" reliever for their bullpen in left-hander Scott Alexander, who could be the lefty piece the team from L.A. has been looking for in a while.
According to Ken Rosenthal, Alexander is only second to Zach Britton in groundout rate and posted a formidable 2.48 ERA on 69 innings pitched.
Alexander’s 73.3 percent groundball rate last season was second only to Zach Britton’s 74.3 percent among qualifying major-league relievers. Posted 2.48 ERA in 69 IP with 59 Ks and 28 BBs. Heading to #Dodgers from #Royals.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 5, 2018
The Withe Sox also made out good with two relievers in Luis Avilan and Joakim Soria in the three-team, a six-player deal that also included the Royals.
With the move, Chicago immediately improved a bullpen that was decimated by trades and injury in 2017.
But as is the case for any deal involving veterans going to a rebuilding organization, there's more to the trade than what's viewed at face value.
The White Sox also received $3 million in cash considerations, according to various reports. That total helps offset salaries for the left-handed Avilan, who is arbitration-eligible after earning $1.5 million in 2017, and the right-handed Soria, who has $9 million left on a three-year, $25 million deal with a $10 million mutual option for '19.
Soria and Avilan provide late-inning help, along with a healthy Nate Jones and Juan Minaya, who recorded nine saves as the White Sox last closer this past season.
Soria and Avilan are also candidates to be flipped mid-season if the team falls out of contention.
Infielder Jake Peter, who hit .279 with Triple-A Charlotte and Double-A Birmingham in 2017, was traded to the Dodgers after Los Angeles acquired Soria and left-hander Alexander from Kansas City in exchange for infielder Erick Mejia and right-hander Trevor Oaks. The White Sox weren't necessarily looking to move the 24-year-old Peter, but it made sense in the context of the trade and the rebuild.
"Having some payroll flexibility, while other clubs are looking to create it, allowed us to perhaps minimize the amount of players that we had to give up in this deal. We still were able to receive some cash as part of the exchange, which obviously fits in sort of with our need to have the proper value on the players we are acquiring and not just simply absorb payroll for the sake of payroll. We've added some veteran options for the back end of the bullpen. It obviously provides us with some veteran depth, which allows us to protect and pace the development of some of our young players and provides us with some flexibility options over the course of the summer as things unfold."
- Rick Hahn
Avilan, 28, spent all of 2017 with the Dodgers, going 2-3 with a 2.93 ERA, producing 52 strikeouts and 13 holds over 46 innings. He allowed just 18.2 percent of inherited runners to score (4-for-22) while limiting first batters faced to a .196 average and left-handers to a .195 mark. He has gone 17-9 with a 2.97 ERA, 73 holds and 225 strikeouts in 329 career relief appearances over six seasons with the Braves (2012-15) and the Dodgers (2015-17).
Soria, 33, has gone 28-31 with a 2.86 ERA, 613 strikeouts and 204 saves in 573 relief appearances over 10 seasons with Kansas City (2007-11, '16-'17), Texas (2013-14), Detroit (2014-15) and Pittsburgh (2015). Among active pitchers, he is tied for sixth in saves and ranks eighth in save percentage (82.9).
Even with the bullpen improvement, Hahn didn't rule out further relief additions. He also didn't rule out any larger deals over the next few weeks, given the overall slow pace this offseason.
"While our focus remains on the long-term, we do need to fill a roster out that helps us continue this process over the course of the 2018 season. It's fair to say our main focus is on the 2018 club, but we continue to be open to things that put us in a stronger position for the long-term as well."
With 204 career saves, Soria instantly becomes the most experienced closer candidate in an unsettled White Sox bullpen.
And while the right-hander logged an unremarkable 3.70 ERA last season, he also posted a 2.23 FIP while excelling at limiting fly balls (23.3 percent) and home runs.
During Spring Training, mixed-league owners will need to monitor an expected ninth-inning battle among Soria, Juan Minaya (nine saves in 2017) and Nate Jones (2.49 ERA from '15-'17).