The Los Angeles Dodgers and Seattle Mariners came together again this offseason to make another small but helpful move for either team.
Since Andrew Friedman took over in 2014, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ front office has gotten fans accustomed to expecting a small transaction almost every single day (it would seem). Most of them aren’t big major moves. Most of them are trades or free agent signings which most would not get a second look. They have quietly acquired players such as Enrique Hernandez, Carlos Ruiz, Josh Fields, Charlie Culberson, etc. in the past. Even the Joe Blanton signing was an under-the radar signing for many.
These are signings that fans look at with more confusion and frustration than excitement. Fans love the big blockbusters, but Andrew Friedman and co. usually give fans the opposite (other than the three-team 13-player trade in 2015). They make a bunch of non-flashy and boring moves that actually pay off in some respects. These players, for the most part, have gone on to help the Dodgers in the past year or so. Others are still hidden in the minors, looking for an opportunity to make a difference for Los Angeles.
That pattern of transactions continued yesterday, as the Seattle Mariners sent over shorstop Drew Jackson and pitcher Aneurys Zabala to Los Angeles for pitcher Chase De Jong. Like they did with the Logan Forsythe trade, the Los Angeles Dodgers dealt from a position of depth and strength for help in other areas. De Jong may be the better player from the three, but he was not in Los Angeles’ future plans.
De Jong, 23, was one of the plethora of young arms in the Dodgers’ deep farm system. He was not ranked in the top 10 for the team’s prospects. De Jong is very polished and Major League ready while profiling more as a back-of-the-rotation arm that will provide depth for the Seattle Mariners. There was no path for him to the Majors if he had stayed with Los Angeles, so this trade actually turns out to be a possible stepping stone in his young career. The Major League roster is stacked with pitchers and among prospects, he would have to compete with the likes of Walker Buehler, Jordan Sheffield, Trevor Oaks, Yadier Alvarez, and Brock Stewart.
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The Los Angeles Dodgers did a good job of turning him into two other young players who can eventually help them down the road. Jackson is 23 and becomes the Dodgers’ 20th ranked prospect according to MLB.com’s Pipeline. Zabala, 20, doesn’t crack the top 30 for the Dodgers, so it is fair to assume that neither are going to be stars at the next level. However, there is still some value to be salvaged from them.
Jackson hit .258/.332/.345 last season in the California League so his bat definitely isn’t his strong suit. His value lies on defense and the base-paths. According to Baseball America’s scouting report, he is a terrific athlete with tremendous speed, a great glove, and a cannon of an arm. He was ranked as the top defensive shortstop in the California League last season as well. The 47 stolen bases in 2015 are a testament to his speed. He also adds much-needed depth to the middle of the infield, primarily shortstop. Who knows? Being a terrific athlete with plus speed, he might even be able to get some reps in center field.
Aneurys Zabala is even more intriguing to me, because anyone who can throw 100 mph always stands out. His track record isn’t impressive, as he has a career 4.49 ERA and 1.57 WHIP in 102.1 innings of work. Even more concerning is his 5.7 BB/9. There is a lot of work to be done. He’s only 20 years of age so he is still raw. The Dodgers have lots of time to develop him into an effective pitcher. If he can hone in his fastball and improve his curveball, he may be able to become a solid bullpen arm for the Los Angeles Dodgers down the road.
We know how much the Dodgers value versatility, defense, and athleticism. Jackson is the kind of player the front office likes: Athletic enough to play multiple positions. He is just like Chris Taylor, Enrique Hernandez, and Charlie Culberson. However, none of the four can hit so there’s that.
Jackson will be a better utility option than either Enrique Hernandez or Charlie Culberson have proven to be. Of the three, Jackson is the much better athlete and defender. He will be more effective than the other two because of his other abilities.
So yes, the move benefits both teams because neither team was “hurt” by the trade but made incremental improvements in some aspects. This move also opens up a spot on the Dodgers’ 40-man roster. This gives them flexibility to make any other kind of transaction. This just plays into the Dodgers’ front office’s plans. With an open spot on the roster stay tuned.