In a deal that beat the trade deadline by a single minute, the Los Angeles Dodgers have made the biggest splash of the day.
As Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports and Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported, the Dodgers acquired right-handed pitcher Yu Darvish from the Texas Rangers in exchange for Willie Calhoun, A.J. Alexy and Brendon Davis.
The Dodgers look like a juggernaut
Darvish is a huge get for the Dodgers, who are 74-31 and on pace for 114 wins. The team has a 14-game lead in the NL West. As a result, it’s evident that the trade is not meant to propel them to the playoffs, but through the playoffs.
The Dodgers’ starting pitching depth did take a hit this month with the loss of Clayton Kershaw to the 10-day disabled list with lower back tightness, but a rotation with Alex Wood, Rich Hill and Hyun-jin Ryu would have been more than enough to hold up while he was sidelined. This trade is meant to take Los Angeles to a World Series victory, and with the amount of offense and relief pitching that they have, it could very well be the move that gets them over that hump.
The 30-year-old Darvish hasn’t pitched all that well this year, but it goes without saying that he has the pedigree of an ace. In 137 innings over 22 starts with the Rangers thus far in 2017, Darvish is 6-9 with a 4.01 ERA. His 148:45 strikeout-to-walk ratio, though, suggests that he’s been much better than his ERA shows. The Japanese righty has a 3.98 FIP and a 3.05 DRA, both signifying that his run-prevention could be much improved in Los Angeles.
The trade represents the first time that Darvish will venture to an MLB organization other than the Rangers, who signed him to a six-year, $56 million deal out of Japan in the 2011-12 offseason. He is making $11 million this season but will become a free agent this November.
That shouldn’t matter to the Dodgers, who have their entire current rotation under contract through at least through next season. They’ve been quite good, too, posting the highest fWAR (13.0) and lowest ERA (3.25) among all rotations in the Major Leagues this season. This move is all about October and November.
But Darvish is a great pitcher, and even for just a few months of pitching, the price tag on him wasn’t cheap.
The Rangers get a diverse spread of talent
The return on the Rangers’ end seems reasonable for a rental starter who has been scuffling of late. The package doesn’t include any of the hot names in LA’s system that had been thrown about in the last few days, like Walker Buehler or Alex Verdugo. But there’s a solid collection of talent in the deal.
Willie Calhoun is unquestionably the headliner here. Calhoun packs quite a punch in his small frame. Standing at only 5’8” and a tad short of 190 lbs, Calhoun isn’t exactly an imposing figure in the batters box. That said, his bat more than makes up for any deficiencies of stature. His bat speed was described as “double plus” in the Dodgers’ edition of Baseball Prospectus’ top 10 prospect series, where he slid in at number eight in LA’s system. However, every evaluation of Calhoun bemoans his limited defensive value. Though he currently slots in at second base, he very likely will be a corner outfielder. Still, as long as he hits, he’ll be worthy of the leaguewide top-100 prospect valuation that he earned this season. JJ Cooper and Kyle Glaser remark that Calhoun’s barrel feel and plate discipline gives him “big home run production without sacrificing his batting average or on-base percentage.” Overall, they see him as a potential 30 home run, .300 batting average guy at his peak.
Calhoun has continued to hit his way through the minors this season in AAA, and is currently tearing through the level. His 131 wRC+ and .389 wOBA come paired with a solid 8.7 percent walk rate and an excellent 11.8 percent K rate. Calhoun has been lauded in the past for his ability to limit strikeouts and make solid contact, and he’s displayed that skill this season. In just 99 games, he has also flashed his pull side power, putting 21 of his 23 home runs over the right field fence.
Despite the high percentage of home runs being pulled, he still does put 23.4 percent of balls in play up the middle and 31 percent to the opposite field. All in all, Calhoun’s advanced bat has shown that it may be ready for the big leagues. Still, his defensive profile has been holding him back. But, given that he was blocked in nearly every spot with the Dodgers, a change of organization may be the key to him getting a taste of big-league pitching sooner rather than later.
In addition to Calhoun, the Rangers received a couple of upside pieces in A.J. Alexy and Brendon Davis.
Alexy, 19, was a bonus baby last season in the 11th round. Given that he’s only been a full-time pitcher since his junior year in high school, he’s extremely raw. Still, he throws in the low 90’s currently and can add velocity to that as he ages and fills out. In his 87 1⁄3 pro innings, he has posted a 3.48 DRA at full-season A ball, with a heavy strikeout total but control issues as well.
Finally, the 20-year-old Davis has been in pro ball for three years now. Thus far, he’s been marked as a corner infielder, if he can someday fill out his wire-thin frame. Currently standing at 6’4” and 185 lbs, he has a way to go to fill out his string bean-like body. But there’s a ton of projection there from the power side if he can.
With just half a season left on his contract, the Rangers were motivated to move Darvish. Though the return doesn’t include the names from LA’s system with the most panache, they still did well. Calhoun will be able to impact their lineup soon, and while Alexy and Davis are more sink-or-swim types at this point, there are tools there that may be impactful if their development goes well.
Devan Fink is a Featured Writer for Beyond The Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter @DevanFink.
Anthony Rescan is a Featured Writer at Beyond the Box Score and a Stats Intern at Baseball Prospectus. You can follow him on Twitter at @AnthonyRescan.