Okay, they didn’t actually get him for nothing. To acquire the Phillies center fielder (who will almost certainly play left in LA), the Dodgers gave up 25-year-old reliever Josh Lindblom and enigmatic right-handed pitching prospect Ethan Martin. Reports are that the Dodgers felt comfortable moving Lindblom after acquiring Brandon League from the Mariners last night, but in reality, they should have always been comfortable trading Josh Lindblom for value, because Josh Lindblom is simply not a particularly valuable player.
Over the last two years, Lindblom has thrown 77 innings in the big leagues and posted a 2.91 ERA, so on the surface, he appears to be a good young relief pitcher. In reality, though, there are warning signs everywhere.
Lindblom is an extreme fly ball pitcher, as only 69 of his 141 career balls in play (34.3%) have been hit on the ground. Not surprisingly, that has translated into a bit of a home run problem, as he’s given up 1.05 HR/9, a bit above the league average for NL relievers. But, HR-prone fly ball guys can still be good relievers as long as they pound the strike zone and miss a lot of bats.
Unfortunately for the Phillies, Lindblom has been essentially average at those two things as well. His 9.0% BB%/22.7% K% are just barely ahead of the average marks for an NL reliever (9.2 BB%/21.7% K%), and are supported by the underlying numbers as well — he throws an average number of strikes and gets an average amount of contact.
Toss in the significant career platoon split (.244 wOBA allowed to RHBs, .360 wOBA to LHBs), and Lindblom essentially profiles as a decent situational middle reliever. This is basically the same skillset the Dodgers got in Brandon League, so their bullpen won’t take much of a hit at all in this series of moves.
While the Phillies were unlikely to retain Victorino beyond this season and may not have wanted to risk making him a $12 million qualifying offer to get draft pick compensation if he signed elsewhere, getting an okay reliever and a prospect who is probably a reliever is still an underwhelming haul for one of the better position players to change places this summer. Victorino isn’t having the same kind of All-Star season he had a year ago, but his high contact/gap power/great baserunning/good defense package is still quite valuable. Even without as much power as he showed a year ago, he’s at +2.1 WAR in 431 plate appearances. Average hitters who do everything else well are nifty pieces, and the Dodgers just got a big upgrade in left field without having to give up much to get it.
Victorino replaces a black hole of a job share in left field, pushing Bobby Abreu and Tony Gwynn back to the bench where they belong. Given that he’s also replacing guys who were offering no production, this trade has the potential to offer the same kind of upgrade as last week’s Hanley Ramirez acquisition. The Dodgers have to be thrilled that they could solve their left field issues at this kind of low price, and they continue to put pressure on the Giants to make a counter if they want to keep pace in the NL West. This new Dodgers roster is a lot better than the one they were running out there two weeks ago.
For the Phillies, you can understand why they made this deal, assuming they weren’t going to give Victorino a qualifying offer in order to get draft pick compensation, but getting a bad command fly ball reliever and a bad command fly ball pitching prospect is not exactly a huge return. The Dodgers have to be pleased with how the last few weeks have gone, and if they add Ryan Dempster this afternoon, they might just be the big trade deadline winners.