There was of course the infamous trade in the summer of 2016, where the Dodgers acquired reliever Josh Fields and gave up an overlooked prospect by the name of Yordan Alvarez. Fields accumulated an fWAR of just under 1.0 in his two and a half seasons with the Dodgers, while Alvarez has already won a World Series and has established himself as one of the premier power hitters in all of baseball.
Then there was less of a noteworthy trade in 2019, where the Dodgers acquired first baseman Tyler White in exchange for minor league reliever Andre Scrubb. White was a non-factor in 12 games for the Dodgers, hitting just .045 with a horrible -20 wRC+. On the other hand, Scrubb pitched briefly for Houston in 2020 and 2021, posting a solid 3.32 ERA in 38 relief appearances.
So far since 2016, the Dodgers haven’t been too lucky when it comes to making trades with Houston, but the Dodgers could erase their past misfortunes by making a deal for one of the best left handed starters in the entire American League.
Framber Valdez has established himself as not only one of the best starters in the Astros’ rotation, but also as one of the best left-handed starters in his respective league. He is coming off his second straight All Star season, finishing with a 3.45 ERA in 189 innings while striking out an even 200 hitters.
Bob Nightengale reported on Monday that at least six teams have spoken with the Astros about a potential trade, although Houston doesn’t intend on trading him this winter.
Should the Dodgers continue to deal with injuries, especially with the injury history of starters such as Walker Buehler, Dustin May, and Tyler Glasnow, the Dodgers could look to add an arm that consistenly can pitch 30 starts per season. Here are a few reasons for why the Dodgers should look into adding Valdez to the rotation.
The Dodgers in the past two postseasons have posted a combined ERA of 4.95, resulting in the team experiencing two straight first round exits against divisional opponents. That pales in comparison to what Valdez has experienced on the mound in October.
Valdez showed signs of struggles in the 2023 postseason, especially against the division and in-state rival Texas Rangers in the ALCS, as he posted a combined ERA of 9.00 against the Twins and Rangers. When the Astros have made the World Series, Valdez turns on a different gear.
This is highlighted by his 2022 postseason statistics, as he posted a perfect 3-0 record with a 1.44 ERA, striking out 33 and walking eight hitters, ultimately helping the Astros take home their second Commissioner’s Trophy since 2017.
Ground ball extraordinaire
The Dodgers experienced a major issue with limiting the long ball, as they were one of 10 teams to allow at least 200 home runs in the 2023 season. They also ranked dead last in baseball in ground ball rates and fly ball rates.
Valdez would serve as the antidote to the Dodgers’ pitching woes they experienced in 2023.
Among all starters in the 2023 season, Valdez ranked second in ground ball rate at 54.2 percent— a ground ball rate that stood in the 91st percentile— and ranked ninth in home runs allowed per nine innings at a 0.86 clip. Valdez will pitch to contact, as he had the second lowest average launch angle among all qualified starters and ranked second to last (both times behind Giants ace Logan Webb) in fly ball rate. He does give his fair share of hard hit balls— finishing with the second highest hard hit percentage behind D-Backs starter Zac Gallen— but usually result on balls that don’t leave the infield.
An innings eater
One thing the Dodgers’ starting rotation heavily struggled with in the 2023 season was finding an arm that could toss anywhere between six to seven innings while preserving a lead. Valdez would solve those problems if added to the Dodgers’ pitching staff.
In the 2023 season alone, Valdez started 31 games and had 20 quality starts while tossing two complete games, with one of them being a no-hitter against the Cleveland Guardians on the same day the Astros brought back Justin Verlander via trade. Those 20 quality starts tied him with several pitchers, including 2023 NL Cy Young award winner Blake Snell, for fifth in all of baseball.
In addition to Valdez’s ability to work through the later innings, he was tied at seventh with former Dodger Lance Lynn for the most batters faced in the 2023 season with 808 hitters. He proved last season that not only could he work into the latter third of the game, but also still keep the composure to go out and toss 30 starts in a season.
The chances of acquiring Valdez this winter are low, as the Astros don’t have a need to deplete their starting rotation and are coming off of their seventh straight ALCS appearance. If the Dodgers want to continue improving their pitching staff, even after acquiring Tyler Glasnow, then Valdez would help balance the rotation somewhere in the two or three spots. Adding an arm like Valdez would give the Dodgers a much needed left-handed starter that can pitch 30 starts in a season, has already displayed high talents at the World Series, and can alleviate the bullpen of having to pitch before the sixth inning comes to an end.