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2015 pitching depth key for Dodgers in trade with Braves

Ian Thomas has been mostly a reliever since joining the Braves system, but did start 13 games for Double-A Mississippi in 2013.
Ian Thomas has been mostly a reliever since joining the Braves system, but did start 13 games for Double-A Mississippi in 2013.
Hunter Martin/Getty Images

LOS ANGELES -- In the six-player Juan Uribe trade with the Braves, the Dodgers prioritized immediate pitching depth over all else.

All due respect to Uribe and Alberto Callaspo, they are small parts of the deal, playing musical chairs to keep a major league seat warm for Hector Olivera, who will likely join the Dodgers before the All-Star break, possibly even in June.

Olivera hit a home run on Thursday in his first extended spring training game at Camelback Ranch in Arizona.

So the deal essentially becomes Ian Thomas and Juan Jaime for Chris Withrow.

Withrow had a 2.73 ERA and 3.65 FIP in 46 games for the Dodgers in 2013-2014, with 71 strikeouts and 31 walks in 56 innings, but had Tommy John surgery last June. The Dodgers weren't expecting much if anything from Withrow this season.

"In our minds we were thinking 2016, but that's not to say he couldn't have come back in September. But in terms of getting back to where he was, we were thinking 2016," Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said. "We happened to have right-handed depth, and the immediacy of continuing to add pitching depth now as opposed to 2016, pushed it over the top for us.

"Withrow's a guy when I was with Tampa Bay I tried to acquire."

Thomas is a 28-year-old left-hander the Braves signed out of independent ball in 2012. He has pitched 21 games in relief for the Braves in 2014-2015, with 18 strikeouts and 11 walks in 16 innings to go with a 3.94 ERA and 3.75 FIP. In the minors this season, he has 20 strikeouts and one walk in 15⅔ scoreless innings between Double-A and Triple-A.

The Dodgers plan to try Thomas as a starter, and optioned him to Triple-A Oklahoma City.

"He's going to continue to get stretched out, and we think he's got a chance to be a starting pitching option for us. He's been pitching out of the pen more recently," Friedman said. "His floor is as a good major league reliever who can get outs, and who also has a chance to pitch in our rotation or serve as depth for us."

Jaime, 27, like Thomas has pitched in the Braves bullpen for parts of 2014-2015. In 18 major league games he has a 5.93 ERA and 4.37 FIP, with 13 walks and 19 strikeouts in 13⅔ innings.

Jaime has a live arm but has always been wild. He missed all of 2010 and 2011 after Tommy John surgery, but since his return in 2012 his walk rate in the minors is a whopping 17.0 percent. But his strikeout rate during that span is 34.2 percent.

He's headed to extended spring training to work with Dodgers instructors on his control, and will remain as a reliever.

"He's got two plus [pitches], and can really miss bats," Friedman said. "We'll get him with our guys down there, really do everything we can to attack that problem and harness that potential."

Both managers knew the full parameters of the trade before Tuesday night's game, and the teams agreed not to use Uribe, Callaspo or Thomas (Jaime was and is in the minors). But Eric Stults was used, pitching mop-up duty with the Braves down 8-0, and pitched the final 3⅔ innings of the game.

"He was fair game," manager Don Mattingly said.

That outing meant Stults wouldn't be available for at least a few days and contributed to his getting designated for assignment, though his poor performance this season — 5.85 ERA, 5.37 FIP, 10 home runs allowed in 47⅔ innings — sure didn't hurt.

Stults is also very likely to clear waivers and, with about $1.4 million in salary remaining this season, also likely to accept an outright assignment to Triple-A.

"He's pitching depth for us," Friedman said.

Sergio Santos was also designated for assignment on Wednesday. Friedman said the Dodgers "absolutely" would like to keep Santos in the organization in similar fashion, though it remains to be seen whether that will happen.