With MLB doing away with August waiver trades beginning this season, the July 31 deadline figures to bring about more activity than years past. As it pertains to the Los Angeles Dodgers, their focus is believed to lie with shoring up their bullpen.
President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman acknowledged there being room for improvement in the bullpen and said the Dodgers would pursue possible trades. However, he added they would not do so to the point of being reckless.
Thus far the Dodgers have been linked to a trio of left-handed closers in the Cleveland Indians’ Brad Hand, San Francisco Giants’ Will Smith, and Pittsburgh Pirates’ Felipe Vazquez. Of the three, Hand and Vazquez are under team control beyond this season.
That is one reason Pirates general manager Neal Huntington suggested Vazquez will remain with the club beyond the July 31 trade deadline, via 93.7 FM The Fan:
“We will continue to look for ways to improve this organization. Felipe Vazquez is, in our minds, one of the best, if not the best young left-handed reliever in the game. He has the potential to contribute to us for this and four more years. Our expectation and anticipation is that Felipe will be closing out playoff games, be it this year or in the future with us.”
The Pirates are five games out of first place in the National League Central and 3.5 games back of the second Wild Card spot.
Vazquez, at the time Felipe Rivero, signed a four-year, $22 million contract in January 2018. His deal also includes $10 million team options for fifth and sixth seasons, meaning it’s plausible left-hander won’t reach free agency until after the 2023 campaign.
Add to it that Vazquez is 2-0 with a 1.89 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 19 saves, and the Pirates are in prime position to command a haul if they are to trade their coveted relief pitcher. Pittsburgh reportedly would ask for Keibert Ruiz if the Dodgers are to pursue a trade for Vazquez.
Ruiz was also sought after by the Miami Marlins this past offseason amid speculation the Dodgers were holding talks for J.T. Realmuto. Although L.A. declined to part with one of their top prospects at the time, Will Smith’s impressive showing this season could changes matters.
It may be all the more reasonable to anticipate a possible shift in approach when also considering the Dodgers’ organizational depth at the catcher.