clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Joel Peralta adds certainty to Dodgers bullpen

J. Meric/Getty Images

One of the hardest things to do in baseball is building a bullpen, but by acquiring Joel Peralta in a four-player trade with the Rays, the Dodgers managed to add a degree of certainty to what was a weak spot in 2014.

The relative uncertainty of relief work can be seen with Peralta himself, who put up a 4.41 ERA, by far his worst mark since 2009. But there are reasons to bet on the right-hander going forward, even at age 39 in 2015.

Peralta struck out 27.9 percent of hitters faced in 2014, a number only reached by Dodgers relievers Kenley Jansen, Chris Withrow and Drew Butera. Peralta's low walk rate (5.7 percent) led to a K-BB% of 22.3 percent that ranked 22nd among 142 qualified major league relievers. Peralta's FIP (3.40) and xFIP (3.11) were both more than a run lower than his ERA.

That was par for the course for Peralta, who led all major league pitchers with 296 games pitched in his four years in Tampa Bay. Peralta's strikeout rate with the Rays was 27-percent with a walk rate of 7.8 percent.

"It's extremely volatile by nature, and is something that is really difficult to project," new general manager Farhan Zaidi said earlier in November. "It's about having as many good options as you can down there, and giving [manager Don Mattingly] and [pitching coach Rick Honeycutt] different looks from different guys - guys that can put the ball on the ground, guys that can match up well from both sides, guys who can cut through both sides."

Peralta has shown no discernible platoon split in his career, allowing right-handed batters to hit .234/.280/.409 and lefties to hit .226/.295/.410, though right-handers did slug .480 against him in 2014 in all of 107 plate appearances.

The one bugaboo in Peralta's game is the home run ball. As a fly ball pitcher (his 52.6 percent fly ball rate is fourth among 67 relief pitchers with at least 200 innings in the last four years), he has allowed 32 home runs in the last four years, a rate of 1.07 home runs per nine innings that was the 11th-most among relievers in the last four years.

To the extent that anyone can really predict anything, the Dodgers know what they are getting in Peralta, who has been a reliable reliever for the past five seasons.

Jose Dominguez would have certainly played a role in the Dodgers' bullpen in 2015, but though 15 years his junior poses even more of an injury risk than Peralta. Dominguez missed the final two months with right shoulder inflammation in 2014.

Dominguez has a live arm - his 98 mph average fastball ranks sixth among the 865 pitchers to have thrown a major league pitch in the last two seasons - but as noted by Baseball America, "life on the pitch has flattened out, which along with his below-average command makes even his top-of-the-scale velocity hittable."

Peralta gives the Dodgers a pitcher much more likely to be used in the later innings in important roles, much more than Dominguez. In 2014, 46 of Peralta's 63 innings came in the eighth and ninth, and 27 of his 69 appearances came in the eighth or ninth inning of either a tied game or with a lead of three or fewer runs.

As for the other players in the trade, Greg Harris was just drafted in 2013 and is only 20 years old. But he also is more of a fringe prospect, ranked by as the No. 20 prospect in a Dodgers farm system that really isn't deep at all. Our own David Hood had Harris as just missing his top 20 Dodgers prospects.

Adam Liberatore could be a decent left-handed bullpen option for the Dodgers at some point. His numbers in Triple-A in 2014 were certainly great, with a 1.66 ERA and 86 strikeouts against just 15 walks in 65 innings with Durham. He even held right-handed batters to hitting just .192/.246/.250 this season.

But he is also about to be 28 - in May - and hasn't advanced past Triple-A. It's hard to just look at the numbers, especially for an older player in the minors and project major league success. Colt Hynes, who pitched for Triple-A Albuquerque in 2014, had a mind-blowing 58 strikeouts and just two walks between Double-A and Triple-A in 2013 but got torched that same year in the majors to the tune of 17 runs and 35 baserunners in 17 innings with the Padres.

Baseball America praised Liberatore's "short arm action that brings an above-average fastball that flashes plus," so he has that going for him. At the very least, Liberatore will provide left-handed depth behind J.P. Howell and Paco Rodriguez.

In the end, this is a trade that likely helps both the Dodgers and the Rays. Peralta is the best pitcher in the deal in the short term, and fills an immediate need in the Dodgers bullpen. Dominguez could end up being the best pitcher in the deal in the long term, but given that Peralta could potentially provide three years for only $7.5 million (with no long-term risk because both 2016 and 2017 are club option years) the Dodgers should be able to get quite a bit of value out of the deal.