The Los Angeles Dodgers lost eight pitchers from last year’s staff that led the league in team ERA. That mass exodus included the dependable right-hander Derek Lowe who ventured to Atlanta via free agency.
This year the staff has outperformed most expectations put on them in the preseason. Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw and Randy Wolf have had outstanding seasons thus far in the starting rotation.
Ronald Belisario, Ramon Troncoso, and even the emergence of Jonathan Broxton in his first full season as a closer has been a pleasant surprise to Dodgers fans.
However, the organization faces a problem with the loss of many arms in the first half. Belisario has a sore elbow, Broxton has a toe that won’t heal correctly, and Eric Milton is out for the season after undergoing back surgery.
The recent run of injuries has put pressure on Ned Colletti to acquire at least one arm to help for the stretch run.
Colletti needs either a late-inning reliever or a fifth starter to meet the needs of the team.
Roy “Doc” Halladay is the prime target of any team that is in search of an arm before the trading deadline. Although Halladay has expressed interest in moving to the National League because he doesn’t want to face, in particular, the Yankees lineup day-in-and-day-out.
A tempting bait, but the Dodgers would have to give up far too much in order to acquire the Toronto Blue Jays ace.
The Dodgers are not looking to unload key talents like Russell Martin or Kershaw. That puts them in a bit of a tight situation because in order to attain a top-end pitcher you must give up a lot.
Los Angeles has a number of young prospects to offer up as collateral and I have isolated two prospects for the Dodgers who are close to Major League ready and could be used in a trade without sacrificing the integrity of the current active roster.
In my opinion, Lucas May and Josh Lindblom are two pieces that could be easily moved and they also are quality players for another team to receive.
Lucas May is a young catcher in the Dodgers organization. Although he is on the 40-man roster May has not seen any time with the big league club. A.J. Ellis has been manager Joe Torre’s choice to take on the task of being the third catcher.
May hit .309 with a home run and four RBI in seven games this spring in his first experience with the Dodgers Major League club. The home run came when May pinch-hit in the ninth inning against the Boston Red Sox and it tied the game.
"It felt great," said May. "I was down in the bullpen and had about a minute and a half to get ready for the at-bat.
He slugged 25 home runs for class-A Inland Empire and has taken great strides since his first three seasons in the minors. He hit just 14 home runs in those three seasons, but slugged 43 over the next two seasons.
"I had heard about May," Torre said after May's homer this spring. "He certainly is living up to his potential. He seems to be an offensive force. He's still learning behind the plate, but he has ability."
Josh Lindblom is a 22-year-old right-hander out of Purdue. Los Angeles selected him 68th overall in the second round of the 2008 draft. At 6’5”, 240 pounds, Lindblom throws four pitches well: a fastball, slider, changeup, and splitter.
He is currently in triple-A Albuquerque where he has pitched just two games, posting a 1-0 record with a 5.59 ERA. Josh was recently called up after playing 14 games for Chattanooga and making 11 starts.
Lindblom somewhat resembles Chad Billingsley in his pitching style; a big, powerful kid with a lively fastball but some control issues.
Last August he tossed five no-hit, shutout innings while striking out six batters in a game for single-A Great Lakes. The talent is certainly there for Lindblom and his experience in college usurps the lack of Minor League achievements on his resume.
The question on who the Dodgers can pick up is still out there.
Who can the Dodgers get in exchange?
Here it is.
The Dodgers trade Lucas May and Josh Lindblom to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Ian Snell.
The trade seems good for both teams. Lindblom is nearly ready for the Majors, and lets face it, when he gets to the Pirates he will be expedited to the big leagues most likely.
The Pirates signed Ian Snell to an expensive contract extension before the 2008 season but since signing back on with the team, Snell has been a huge disappointment and the organization has openly admitted that the relationship with Snell has been irrevocably damaged.
Snell requested to be sent down to the minors on June 24 because of what he described as “too much negativity” surrounding him in Pittsburgh.
Snell apparently experienced suicidal thoughts in recent months and perhaps that is what has been diminishing his on-field performance. He has posted just a 2-8 record with a 5.36 ERA in 15 starts this season with the Pirates.
On June 28, however, Snell struck out 17 batters in his first start with triple-A Indianapolis. He walked the first batter and proceeded to strikeout 13 consecutive hitters.
On the night, he allowed one unearned run and two hits in a 2-1 victory.
"The guys made me feel welcome here," Snell said after the outing. "It was just fun to see this relaxed, fun atmosphere. Nothing against the guys up there, you know. They work hard. I just have a lot of thoughts going through my head, and I wanted to get my thoughts together. I felt awesome, and they made me feel awesome."
Could it possibly be that simple?
Are the Pirates so bad that they destroyed the morale of Snell and drove him into such a state of bad thoughts that he was unable to perform?
It might just be. Look at Zach Greinke, how he was rejuvenated after expressing to the public his very personal issues.
There has been a recent trend of depression and social anxiety disorder ailments flaring up in the Majors. Dontrelle Willis, Khalil Greene, and Joey Votto are some of these players, just to name a few.
Some have questioned the validity of the diagnosis for the aforementioned players. Perhaps it’s just a way for an organization to place a poor-performing player on the disabled list. That could be the case, but Snell has a whole different situation all together.
He asked to be sent down. He wanted out of Pittsburgh.
Additionally, Snell has an extremely positive outlook on the future.
"Seek God and positive people around you and look for your true friends and they'll come out and support you," Snell said. "A lot of people support me right now. I'm just grateful, because if I didn't have them, I probably wouldn't be standing here right now."
There is a lot to be said of someone who can publicly admit to an issue so personal.
The negativity surrounding his presence in Pittsburgh was dragging him down mentally and physically. The Pirates have been openly shopping him around and were demanding more than just a salary dump for Snell, but as the situation has unfolded the organization might be willing to take a couple of prospects and cut ties.
You might be wondering: why do the Dodgers want a head case that can’t pitch?
I think Snell has a great arm and a lot of talent ready to be unleashed. He has shown that he can win on the Major League level and he may have just needed a little time to remember why he pitches, why he loves the game, why he works so hard.
Players can get lost in the world of sports and the grand stage they are put on while playing in it.
When you’re a kid, the world is so grand and so big. The sports world is a perfect utopia to a child. They just go out and play ball and that’s all there is to it.
Or maybe Snell and the Pirates orchestrated the whole thing in an attempt to split ways. Either way, Snell has a lively arm and for one reason or another he couldn’t perform for the Pirates anymore.
I think a little warm weather, the nice beaches of Southern California, and the sweet thoughts of October baseball would be more than enough to extract the most production out of Ian Snell.
PJ Ross is a Featured Columnist for the Los Angeles Dodgers