After a conspicuously inactive July thus far, we have a significant trade to chew over! The Los Angeles Dodgers acquired Tyler White from the Houston Astros for minor league right-hander Andre Scrubb.
Now, most deadline deals involve a contending team rescuing talent from a rebuilding club. This, uh, isn’t that. The Dodgers and Astros have the second and third best win-loss records in baseball (behind the Yankees). Los Angeles leads the NL West by 14.5 games and Houston paces the AL West by 7.5. They represent two of the last three franchises to participate in the World Series. Regardless of the players involved, it’s bizarre for two high-caliber teams to make a trade with each other this time of year.
From the Dodgers’ standpoint, White is a curious fit, at least in the near term. After wRC+ of 127 and 144 the past two seasons, he’s struggled with an 81 wRC+ in 2019. Even more strange: the right-handed slugger has only a 45 wRC+ against lefties after a 176 wRC+ against them in 2018.
Defensively, White is pretty much limited to first base. Even if he resumes demolishing left-handers once again, he is at best redundant. David Freese often plays first base against southpaws, spelling Joc Pederson. Otherwise, Max Muncy slides over from second base and Kiké Hernández gets a start.
No, it appears White was mostly acquired for the future, assuming the Dodgers can fix his swing. He won’t reach free agency until 2024, whereas Freese will depart following this season. Los Angeles is taking advantage of a malleable roster spot created when Chris Taylor fractured his forearm. You never know though; White might catch fire and become an important player down the stretch.
The Astros had good reason to trade White, apart from his offensive struggles. That reason is named Yordan Álvarez, and HAVE YOU SEEN WHAT HE CAN DO TO A BASEBALL!?!
Yordan Alvarez's at-bats are becoming must-watch TV. pic.twitter.com/j9zMlueWVP— MLB (@MLB) June 15, 2019
In 141 MLB plate appearances, Álvarez is bashing .320/.397/.664 with 11 bombs. While he technically can play left field and first base, it’s highly inadvisable. Given that he compels DH at bats like a taller, skinnier David Ortiz, White had been shunted to the bench. Since he was out of options, he was really just occupying a valuable roster spot in Houston without providing much value.
Normally, a 24-year-old, former eighth round pick, righty reliever in Double-A wouldn’t be too exciting as a prospect. If you’re waiting for a “but...,” it isn’t coming.
Scrubb has good numbers in the minors. He gets a lot of strikeouts and appears to limit hard contact. He’s not listed on FanGraphs’ “The Board” or MLB Pipeline’s Dodgers Top 30. The Astros are a lot smarter than the rest of us, though, and if they see something special then he’s probably got a decent future in their bullpen.
Now that the seal has been broken, maybe the dam will burst and we’ll finally get some more juicy trades!
Daniel R. Epstein is an elementary special education teacher and president of the Somerset County Education Association. Tweets @depstein1983