The Dodgers acquired two relievers on Monday, one of whom will immediately join their 25-man roster and one of whom will immediately be optioned to one of the club's minor league affiliates. I think one reliever has the skills to be the new setup man that the Dodgers desperately need, and it isn't the one that's joining the major league roster. In case you're wondering, the former is ex-Blue Jay Jesse Chavez, while the latter is ex-Astro Josh Fields.
I'm probably going to get a comment saying, "But you're just a biased Dodgers fan! I bet you're crying because your team didn't acquire an elite reliever at this deadline -- you're just trying to find ways to make yourself feel better!", except with more expletives and less grammar. And I don't think I have anything to rebut that, except that I'm not crying about it...I just have something in my eye.
Fields was drafted in the top two rounds of the amateur draft twice (2007 and 2008), then he was drafted first overall in the 2012 Rule 5 draft. Interestingly enough, he has been in a trade involving the Dodgers before, as he moved from the Mariners to the Red Sox in the three-team deal that sent Trayvon Robinson to the Mariners and Tim Federowicz (among others) to the Dodgers. Fields has less than four years of service time and comes with three more seasons of team control after 2016.
Josh Fields stands at just six foot even, and he employs a drop-and-drive delivery similar to that of reliever Jason Motte. This interesting combination creates a release point that's much lower than most guys with his over-the-top arm slot, and this creates the "rising fastball" phenomenon that helped similar pitchers like Roy Oswalt experience so much success. He's the rare reliever that legitimately uses four pitches (fastball, slider, curve, and changeup), and he's the rare right-hander that utilizes his changeups versus other righties.
However, his stuff begins and ends with the fastball, one that averages 94.5 mph and tends to reside up in the zone. This type of pitching approach is what helps him strikeout 11.15 batters per nine innings over his career, while also leading to his career 48.6 percent flyball rate. Oddly enough, although Fields has never really experienced home run problems (due to a minuscule HR/FB rate), he has actually run a high BABIP over his career, neither of which you would expect from a flyball-generating machine like Fields. He is exactly the type of pitcher that you would expect the Dodgers to target, the same organization that employs high, hard fastball-throwers such as Casey Fien, Pedro Baez, Yimi Garcia, Chris Hatcher, and Kenley Jansen.
For a deal with as little fanfare as the Josh Fields acquisition had, this has the potential to be much more fruit-bearing than your average fringe roster move. Allow me to present you with some facts:
1) There have been 140 relievers that have thrown at least 100 innings since the beginning of 2014.
2) Of those 140, Josh Fields ranks seventh with a 2.22 FIP. The other nine relievers in the top ten are Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, Wade Davis, Kenley Jansen, Ken Giles, Craig Kimbrel, Greg Holland, and Zach Britton.
3) Of those 140, Fields has the largest ERA-FIP differential at +2.16. The next closest underperformer is at +1.35.
4) Of those 140, Fields has the third-highest BABIP at .346.
5) Of those 140, Fields has the third-lowest strand rate at 62.5 percent.
Now, if you believe that facts #4 and #5 can explain #3, then this is a trade that you make ten times out of ten. But because baseball is wacky, there is no guarantee that 4 and 5 will correct 3, and it's why the Astros were willing to let him go in return for a first baseman that has never taken the field in a professional game.
This transaction makes sense for the Astros too, because Fields was pitching for their Triple-A affiliate at the time of the trade. He clearly was not a part of the Astros' bullpen plans, and they turned him into a $2 million Cuban bonus baby by the name of Yordan Alvarez.
However, it also works for the Dodgers. In a trade market that clearly favored relievers more so than in any market we have ever seen, Fields represents an interesting low-cost flier that could be pitching meaningful, high-quality innings come October.
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Austin Yamada is a contributing writer for Beyond the Box Score.