It didn’t rock the boat, but the Dodgers are hoping their first acquisition before Saturday’s trade deadline can help steady the ship.
The team added veteran right-handed reliever Chris Martin in a deal with the Chicago Cubs, a person with knowledge of the situation confirmed, adding an experienced arm to a bullpen that expects to pick up several other key relievers from injuries.
The trade was more functional than flashy.
In 34 games this year, the 36-year-old has a 4.31 ERA and one of the best strikeout rates (30.1%) and walk rates (3%) in the major leagues. He relies primarily on a mid-90s fastball, but has six total pitches in his arsenal. He has recent postseason experience, having been with the Atlanta Braves the past three Octobers.
“A guy who throws strikes, who punches out, puts the ball on the ground,” manager Dave Roberts said, “we’re excited to have him.”
In return, the Dodgers send to the Cubs outfielder Zach McKinstry, the little-used left-handed reliever who looked like a rookie at the start of last year but has since slipped into the organizational depth, making just two major league starts. year.
Although the Dodgers have the sixth-best ERA among relievers, their bullpen is in limbo in the final months of the season – not sure exactly who they could count on in the playoffs.
Right-handers Blake Treinen (shoulder) and Danny Duffy (flexor tendon) have started to face pitchers again, but are several weeks away from returning to action.
Brusdar Graterol (shoulder) has been sidelined for nearly three weeks as the team continues to be cautious with his recovery.
Left-hander Victor González (elbow) is expected to return, though his timetable remains unclear. Right-hander Tommy Kahnle (forearm) is more than a toss-up to return before the end of the year. Setter Daniel Hudson (torn ACL) is out for the season.
The Dodgers also face questions at closer, with veteran Craig Kimbrel continuing to struggle during an up-and-down year.
Evan Phillips, Yency Almonte, Caleb Ferguson and Alex Vesia have meanwhile stepped into leverage roles.
If Walker Buehler and Dustin May return healthy before the end of the season, the Dodgers could have a surplus of starting pitchers who could help cover the innings.
Still, with so many unknowns looming, adding another reliable — if unspectacular — reliever made sense for the front office.
Martin fit the bill.
“We have guys coming back, but there are no guarantees,” Roberts said. “So he’s definitely a high-level player, in the sense of playing in big spots, a veteran player.”
Martin didn’t make his MLB debut until 2014, when he was 27 years old. After struggling with the Rockies and New York Yankees over the next two years, he went overseas to try to revive his career, spending two seasons in Japan with the Nippon-Ham Fighters – where Angels star Shohei Ohtani was a teammate.
Martin returned to the big leagues with the Texas Rangers in 2018 and was then traded to the Braves before the 2019 trade deadline.
He had his most successful season in 2020, posting a 1.00 ERA in 19 regular-season games and a 2.25 ERA in nine postseason games — though he gave up the decisive game in Game 7 of the NLCS to the Dodgers on a Cody Bellinger home run.
After posting a 3.95 ERA last year, Martin signed a one-year, $2.5 million contract with the Cubs this offseason.
While he has struggled with the home ball this year, giving up five in 31 1/3 innings, the Dodgers like his ability to pound the strike zone and battle at bats on both sides of the plate.
Martin certainly won’t be the most notable name moved next week, and he might not even be the biggest acquisition the Dodgers make before Tuesday’s deadline, with superstars like the Washington Nationals’ Juan Soto, the Angels’ Ohtani and several other bigger names likely available.
“I’ve been surprised many times before, pleasantly surprised,” Roberts said when asked if he expected more moves before Tuesday. “But, as I’ve always said, I really like this club. My job is to keep these kids moving forward. So that’s what I’ll do and if something happens, we’ll read and react.”
And for now, the team is hoping Martin can play a role the rest of the season, giving them another arm to bolster the bullpen as they look toward October and the playoffs.
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.