As the July 31 Major League Baseball trade deadline draws near, the Los Angeles Dodgers have widely been linked to possible upgrades in the team’s bullpen, which struggled at the start of the season before improving somewhat in June.
However, the Dodgers may still be motivated to add to their bullpen in part because of lefty Scott Alexander, who had a solid 3.63 ERA on the season until he suffered a left forearm injury in early June.
Alexander had not necessarily established himself as a shutdown, high-leverage reliever, though, and was often only counted on for one or two batters.
Regardless, his absence leaves Dodgers manager Dave Roberts thin on left-handed relief options outside of Julio Urias.
Alexander may be nearing a return before the end of July, as he is progressing in his rehab, per Bill Plunkett of the Southern California News Group:
Lefty reliever Scott Alexander (forearm) remains in Arizona and is throwing bullpen sessions at Camelback Ranch. He could start a rehab assignment sometime after the All-Star break, Roberts said.
Alexander seems to have recovered from a minor thumb injury at the end of June that provided a setback for him. Despite the improvement of Roberts’ bullpen in June, getting Alexander back could provide a major boost to its biggest weakness.
The only left-handers currently in the Dodgers bullpen are Urias, who has mainly been used as a multi-inning reliever with multiple days of rest between outings, and Zac Rosscup, who has a 6.00 ERA in six outings with the Dodgers this year.
Interestingly enough, though, Alexander’s 2019 season carries two worrisome statistical trends. He has massive reverse platoon splits, dominating right-handed hitters while struggling against lefties. The former group is hitting just .143 with a .525 on-base plus slugging percentage against him, while lefties have a .364 average and .976 OPS.
Alexander has also been horrible in high-leverage situations, allowing an opposing batting average of over .500 in those situations.
Thus, it still makes a lot of sense for the Dodgers to acquire a left-handed reliever to balance out the right-handed Kenley Jansen and Pedro Baez in their bullpen.
San Francisco Giants closer Will Smith has widely been speculated as an option. However, it remains to be seen whether Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi’s familiarity with the Dodgers’ front office would help or hurt the chances of a deal getting done.
The Dodgers also reportedly expressed interest in Pittsburgh Pirates closer Felipe Vazquez, but Pirates general manager Neal Huntington’s recent comments made it seem unlikely that Vazquez would be traded.
Another report linked the Dodgers to veteran lefties Brad Hand and Sean Doolittle, but both of their respective teams–the Cleveland Indians and Washington Nationals–have surged back into contention lately.