Dodgers Trade Kolarek and Baker Mayfield’s Backup

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The Dodgers just made an under the radar trade with the Athletics that may prove to help both teams with the West. More importantly for LA, was this just the first domino to fall after Bauer joined the rotation? What does this mean for Justin Turner? So join us as we breakdown the Dodger’s latest hot stove move and why we love it.

Highlights

  • The Trade Breakdown
  • Player Breakdowns
    • Why The Dodgers’s Did It?
    • Why The A’s Did It?
  • Conclusion
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The Trade

Dodgers Send:

  • LHP, Adam Kolarek
  • OF, Cody Thomas (29th in LA Farm)

Athletics Send:

  • IF, Sheldon Neuse (5th in A’s Farm)
  • RHP, Gus Varland (28th)
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Why The Dodgers Traded

TRUST IN FRIEDMAN DODGER FANS. We’ll be the first to admit that we thought this trade was one of the smallest salary dumps we’ve ever seen and that the Dodgers traded for the wrong A’s player. But on closer inspection, the Dodgers merely flipped their surplus player in the pen to strengthen their infield depth if they don’t sign Turner.

Thomas for Varland is just an exchange of a low level OF prospect with upside for a low level SP prospect with upside. The Dodgers have Betts for a decade already and may look to keep Bellinger around long term as well. If that’s the case, the Dodgers will have an OF log jam until 2030. So the shift away from a guy they didn’t see out there is good for everyone involved.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers of 2021 may have just added their next hidden gem.

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Sheldon Neuse

It’s rare to see a Top 5 Team Prospect traded this offseason, but the Dodgers managed to get one for a guy they had pitch 20ish innings last year. Biggest reason why? Because he was stuck behind MATT CHAPMAN. You can be a great 3rd baseman and not even be close to Chapman’s ability. Something Chapman learned in high school when he was behind NOLAN ARENADO.

Neuse could be the 3rd best 3rd baseman in baseball, but that doesn’t matter when #2 is on your team. Now being less dramatic, Neuse may not be a future HOFer, but he does grade well according to the scouts. And apparently he has quite the cannon.

  • Hit: 50
  • Run: 40
  • Field: 50
  • Power: 50
  • Arm: 65

Nuese managed to debut in 2019 for a very mediocre 56 ABs. But his minor league stats leading up to that show great signs. His last year in 2019 saw him slash .317/.389/.550. He hit a career high 27 homers, 102 RBI, 99 R, and 31 doubles. It was a fantastic showing of all the skills he learned over his previous 3 years in the minors.

In his first year, 2016, he struggled mightily at .230/.305/.341 as he adjusted to the new competition. But in 2017 he shined and worked his way up through 3 teams all the way to AA. He finished strong enough for a promotion to AAA for all of 2018. He didn’t thrive, but the contact was there. After the year of growing pains, he killed it for all those career highs in 2019.

We don’t know anything about Neuse in 2020 besides him being a part of the satellite camp group that practiced with other MLBers. We’re going to call it right now that we think he’s much better than we expect. He showed that same average floor with his first taste of the MLB, but Neuse has shown throughout his career that he needs time to adapt before he climbs. It even shows in his draft selection. He was taken in the 38th round in the 2013 draft, but was a 2nd round pick by the 2016 draft.

This isn’t only an investment in case we don’t resign Justin Turner, this is an attempt to find the NEXT Justin Turner. Neuse can play across the diamond, but he is a natural 3rd baseman with his arm being his best tool. Which reminds us of Turner even more. Many may forget that Turner was a utility player for a couple years before the Dodgers gave him the hot corner full time.

This is the guy. The Turner. The Muncy. The Taylor. The Neuse.

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Gus Varland

GUS BUS! Varland is a 24 year old righty with a 3 pitch arsenal. He has his plus fastball, his average slider, and his sub-par change. But his control is tied for his highest grade with his fastball, a good sign.

He only has 18 minor league games to his name, but owns a 2-2 record, a 1.54 ERA, a 0.96 WHIP, 77/16 K/BB ratio, and a total of 64.1 IP. He wasn’t a top pick, recruit for college, or even a top prospect. But he’s a grinder. He is notorious for always getting better and is ready to come out of the pen as soon as he heals from TJ surgery. More likely, he’ll be a new minor league starter as the Dodgers see just what they have with what could be a blossoming Ace.

I honestly don’t know how the Dodgers managed to grab such studs unless the A’s system is currently runneth over with talent.

Why The Athletic’s Traded

The A’s are actually looking at a chance to build a dynasty in the AL West as one of the lowest payrolls in baseball. The Astros of 2017 are no more, the Angels keep throwing money at players without getting the results they want, the Mariners are just now beginning to see the positive effects of rebuilding, and the Rangers are just beginning a rebuild. AKA, any team that doesn’t start with the letter A, doesn’t have a chance at the AL West crown.

And for the A’s, 6 of their 7 MLB Free Agents from this year have left for money the A’s don’t offer. They lost Hendricks, La Stella, Semien, Minor, Grossman, and Soria. That was their top closing option, another late inning reliever, 3 starting position players, and a starting pitcher. The only FA that stayed was Mike Fiers. Other than that, the biggest pickup for the A’s was the swap of Khris Davis for Elvis Andrus. Until Kolarek at least.

The A’s lost two relievers, but may have just gained a new closer. Dodger fans are well aware of just how undervalued Kolarek is, but here’s a refresher anyways.

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Adam Kolarek

Even though Kolarek is 32 years old, he’s only played 4 MLB seasons for 143 total game appearances. He’s always been a reliever and has collected an 11-3 record, 3.32 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and 4 saves so far. Yet many are skeptical because Kolarek has had a history of only being good against lefties and his inability to light up the radar gun.

In fact, the Dodgers main use for him in 2019 was centered around coming in against the other team’s top lefties and leaving. His ERA shrank down from 3.95 with the Rays to 0.77 with the Dodgers. They had enough arms to only utilize him where he was strongest. Famously in the NLDS, he came in several times to only face Juan Soto. He got him out every time. A feat no other Dodger pitcher can claim that year. (As Dodger fans painstakingly remember.

But 2020 forced Kolarek to pitch to 3 batters at a time. Many fans were worried that the Juan Soto cheat code was about to become a cheat code for opposing righties to tee off. Instead Kolarek finished 2020 with a 3-0 record, a 0.95 ERA, 0.79 WHIP and even a save for the loaded staff. He gave up 2 runs in 20 appearances, and one of those was a homer in Colorado. (Kolarek is a grounball specialist and this was most likely the Coors Effect). The other was in Arizona and it took him over a month before it cost him his perfect ERA.

The splits still say Kolarek is better against lefties than righties, but if he’s elite against both, does it really matter?

https://baseballsavant.mlb.com/savant-player/adam-kolarek-592473?stats=splits-r-pitching-mlb&season=2020

And when you consider the run produced by the RHB was the home run in Coors, it makes Kolarek look even more impressive. It shows that even though he lets righties on base more, they’re not scoring. We think it’s because Kolarek is one of the best GB pitchers in the game. The average MLB groundball % in 45.3%. Kolarek’s career GB% in 63.2%. Almost 1 in 5 more ground balls than the average.

A’s fans may not know the name now, but Kolarek will have saves on the board before the season is over. He’s immediately a top 3 option in their pen, and the best lefty besides possibly Jake Diekman. At the very least, he’s a fantastic flip piece if the A’s are selling by mid-season.

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Cody Thomas

Cody Thomas is an ATHLETE! The multi-sport phenom was drafted out of high school by the Yankees, but chose to see what he could do with football at the college level. As a QB in high school, he was graded similarly to future #1 overall pick Jared Goff. In college, he played 3 games and wound up benched behind the now Cleveland Brown’s QB, Baker Mayfield. But the Dodgers didn’t forget about him, and saw potential in the part time Outfielder.

He’s part of the short term fix as far as losing Robbie Grossman, and most likely another piece they hope can be a long term fixture as they look further down the line around Chapman (or even Post-Chapman.) He immediately slides in as a Top 30 prospect for the A’s, and if he doesn’t graduate to the Show, he may be a Top 10 soon.

His last grading in 2020 came in as

  • Hit: 40
  • Power: 55
  • Run: 50
  • Field: 50
  • Arm: 55
  • Overall: 45

Overall, this grades him out as a mostly average player, with more power than contact skills. If we had to comp him to a current MLB player as far as upside potential, we’d say he’s similar to Joey Gallo. We do worry for power dominant players considering MLB is rumored to have “deaden” the ball.

Still, Thomas showed off all his tools in spring of 2020 (pre-covid) and may have taken a bigger leap than we think. If he does figure out how to hit for average, there is a valuable player here. If he can hit for plus average, you may have an all-star. And maybe sooner rather than later considering he now has the DH position open to him.

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Conclusion

This is a win-win from just about every angle. The Dodgers traded away two guys that wouldn’t get the playing time they deserve in LA, to another contending Californian team. The A’s get a closing option and an OF/DH bat to replace Khrush Davis. In return the Dodgers add 2 young studs ready to contribute in the years to come. Possibly even in 2021.

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