Well, we’re almost to July, and teams that need pitching help have decided not to wait any longer. According to reports, two small trades for pitching help are being completed this afternoon.
Neither Fernando Rodney nor Bud Norris are the kinds of guys that are going to single handedly carry you to the playoffs, but both also have their value in providing useful depth, and both are having excellent starts to the 2016 season. Rodney’s strikeout rate has spiked back up this year, allowing him to be an effective pitcher even with his command problems, and will likely slide into the Marlins bullpen, allowing them to ride A.J. Ramos, David Phelps, and Kyle Barraclough a bit less in the second half. Though, if Keith Law is correct that the Marlins gave up a “good prospect” to get a half season of Rodney’s inconsistency, that seems like a steep price to pay. But we’ll have to wait and see what price they paid.
For the Dodgers, this was very likely a reaction to the news that Clayton Kershaw is heading to the DL, weakening the team’s rotation even further. Norris has been pretty good of late, and as Jeff Sullivan recently noted, that’s coincided with him getting rid of his garbage change-up and replacing it with an effective cutter. If that swap continues to pay dividends, he could be a nice back-end starter for the team in the second half.
That said, Norris also has a pretty long history of underperforming his peripheral numbers, with +11 WAR in his career if you go by the FIP-based WAR, but only +6 WAR if you go by RA9. With over 1,000 big league innings, it’s pretty likely that a good chunk of that difference is due to Norris’ own weaknesses and not just bad luck, so we shouldn’t expect him to be as good as his FIP suggests. But even with some BABIP issues, a guy with average walk and strikeout rates and some groundballs can be useful, and Norris is good enough against RHPs that he could be an effective situational reliever in the playoffs, if the Dodgers manage to get there.
Like with the Rodney deal, we don’t know what the acquisition cost was, but the Dodgers certainly needed to add an arm with Kershaw going down for at least a few weeks. Norris isn’t an ace, but he can help the team survive for a little while, and if this new cutter proves effective, maybe even do more than that.