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After much speculation on Friday, the Dodgers and Cubs finally pulled the trigger on a heavily discussed trade, with Chicago sending lefthanded starting pitcher Ted Lilly, infielder Ryan Theriot, and $2.5 million to the Dodgers for infielder Blake DeWitt and minor league pitchers Brett Wallach and Kyle Smit.
The Dodgers had been seeking a veteran arm to bolster their pitching rotation, which has seen lots of turmoil this season and has been very inconsistent behind Clayton Kershaw . Lilly's win-loss numbers this year don't jump off the page, with a 3-8 record in 18 starts, but his 3.69 ERA and especially his 1.14 WHIP are solid, and with a better offense putting runs up for him and a home ballpark more helpful to his fly ball style, he could finish 2010 with a very successful last couple of months. The Dodgers still lack a true ace, but their pitching staff certainly improves with this move.
Theriot, like the acquisition of Scott Podsednik earlier in the week, brings a scrappy veteran presence to the Los Angeles lineup. He'll slot in at second base for the Dodgers, and his .284 batting average and base stealing (16 steals this season) ability may provide an upgrade over DeWitt and Ronnie Belliard in the middle infield, but he's far from a strong offensive force.
The Dodgers were clearly unhappy with DeWitt as the everyday second baseman, as his minor league power hadn't yet surfaced in the majors. However, he has good plate discipline and will likely be a solid major leaguer as time goes on. The Cubs, well out of the playoff hunt, can afford to be more patient with DeWitt, who showed 15-20 home run potential in the minors but has managed just one long ball in 292 plate appearances for the Dodgers this year, with a .270 batting average and .352 on-base percentage.
Minor league righthander Brett Wallach was the 20th best prospect in the Dodger rotation entering 2010, according to Baseball America. The son of former big leaguer Tim Wallach, Brett's brother Matt is a catcher in the Los Angeles organization as well. Wallach's fastball sits in the low 90s and has good sink, but his go-to pitch is his above average changeup. He needs another secondary pitch, as his slider is just so-so and needs improvement. He's had pretty good success in 17 starts in 2010 for class A Great Lakes, going 6-0 with a 3.72 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 84.2 innings. He mostly played shortstop in high school and needs more seasoning as a hurler, but the 21 year-old could be a mid-rotation starter for the big club someday, if all goes well.
As for Kyle Smit, the righthanded 5th round pick in 2006 entered 2010 as a fading prospect, posting total ERA marks above 6.00 in both his 2008 and 2009 minor league campaigns. However, a move to the bullpen in 2010 helped him turn a corner, and he is having easily the best season of his career. In 37 games this year, mostly for high class A Inland Empire, the 22 year-old is 5-3 with a 2.35 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 53.2 innings. His average number of walks per nine innings is down significantly from his mark as a starter, and his strikeout rate is holding steady. He could project as a good middle or late inning reliever if his progress continues.
Overall, the Dodgers made a small splash in their attempts to rally for a playoff spot, and the Cubs have some interesting pieces for the future.
Dan Port has been a writer and article editor for Baseball Press since the fall of 2009. He's a Wisconsin native and Los Angeles resident, as well as an aspiring novelist, moderately successful gambler, and avid craft beer aficionado. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @danport.