Dodger General Manager Ned Colletti acquired the bullpen help he was searching for by trading third baseman Josh Bell and pitcher Steve Johnson to Baltimore for All-Star closer George Sherrill with a day to go before the trading deadline.
“Adding a quality reliever to our bullpen is important down the stretch and George is an established closer and an established left-handed pitcher, both of which are not easy to find,” said Colletti. “He will help us bridge the gap to Jonathan Broxton and we’re glad to have two All-Star closers at the back end of the bullpen.”
“It’s a great move for us,” Broxton said in St. Louis. “It gives us an extra arm, and he’s got some innings under his belt. If some nights I need a night off or whatever, he can pick up big innings for us.”
The lefthanded Sherrill, 32, is a remarkable talent. He ranks eighth in the American League with 20 saves and 0-1 with a 2.40 ERA in 42 outings for the Orioles this season. He has limited opponents to a .219 batting average in 2009.
After serving as the Mariners’ setup man in 2006 and 2007 when he ranked fifth and seventh, respectively, in games pitched in the American League, he was traded to Baltimore prior to the 2008 season. Last year, the southpaw ranked seventh in the league with 31 saves and was named to the All-Star team.
“He will certainly help us. Obviously, Broxton is our closer,” Los Angeles manager Joe Torre said before his team played the Cardinals. “But we’ll use him late in the game—eighth, ninth inning. It gives us a backup, an experienced backup.”
The Memphis native has held left-handed hitters to a .133 average this season and .167 mark in his career. Sherrill has more saves (20) than any other pitcher acquired by the Dodgers during a season since Cincinnati’s Jeff Shaw (23), who was traded to Los Angeles on July 4, 1998.
He set a career high with 31 saves last season, his first with the Orioles. He came to Baltimore from Seattle as part of a five-for-one deal that sent pitcher Erick Bedard to the Mariners.
On their way to a 12th straight losing season, the Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail reluctantly moved his closer for two young talents.
“There a time when we have to address our needs down the road, and we think that’s what this trade represents,” MacPhail said. “We will have to endure short-term pain, but we’re pretty sure we’ll get some long-term gain.”
The Baltimore third baseman, Melvin Mora, is 37 and in the last year of his contract. That made Bell the key to the transaction.
“Anytime you trade for a player who hasn’t established himself in the big leagues there’s a certain amount of risk, particularly when you’re giving up an all-star. But you’ve got to look at the potential reward down the road,” MacPhail said. “Josh was a very attractive at a position where, at the high level of the minor leagues, we really weren’t satisfied where we were.”
Sherrill is expected to join the Dodgers on Friday in Atlanta.
Bell, 22, is batting .296 with 11 homers and 52 RBI as the third baseman for Double-A Chattanooga. He was originally selected in the fourth round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft and entered the season ranked as the fifth-best prospect in the Dodgers’ farm system by LADugout.com.
The Dodgers have a dee- stock of third basemen with Casey Blake in the first year of a three-year contract and Blake DeWitt. Although he wasn't happy to leave the Los Angeles organization, Bell welcomed the chance to get on a faster track to the big leagues.
“It’s definitely mixed emotions,” he told the Associated Press. “But when it comes down to it, I feel like I’ve got a good shot with the Orioles. If I keep up with what I’ve been doing and get better, I’ve got a straight shot there, whereas here I was blocked.”
Johnson, 21, is 9-5 with a 3.61 ERA in 20 games (18 starts) with Single-A Inland Empire and Double-A Chattanooga. He was originally selected by the Dodgers in the 13th round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft and was rated the ninth-best prospect by LADugout.com. The Baltimore native is the son of former Orioles pitcher Dave Johnson, who pitched for the club from 1989-91 and is currently an Orioles broadcaster.
“It’s always nice to play for the hometown team,” Steve Johnson said. “I’ve proved myself, and hopefully I’ll get the chance to make it up there with the Orioles sometime soon.”
In Kansas City, Sherrill said he appreciated joining a contender.
“It’s flattering to have somebody want you on another team, particularly one that is leading it's division, but it’s also flattering to have your own team set the bar high and not just give you away,” he said.
After the deal for Sherrill was announced, Colletti said he "exchanged communications" with the Toronto Blue Jays earlier in the day but said his focus was to get another reliever because the choices were scarce and the price asked was very high.
"The starting pitching market is down to a precious few, so we're looking hard at two or three relievers," he told Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. "We'll see if something comes to fruition in the final day.
"But as of right here, right now, chances are very slim," he said, with the non-waiver Trade Deadline coming at 1 p.m. Pacific Time today. "After that, there will be others available."
"You know in Sherrill you're getting somebody a cut above," he said.
George Frederich Sherrill
Bats left. Throws left. Height 6-0. Weight 210.
Born April 19 1977
year team w-l era gm gs sv inn h bb so whip
2004 Seat 2-1 3.80 21 0 0 23.2 24 9 16 1.39
2005 Seat 4-3 5.21 29 0 0 19.0 13 7 24 1.05
2006 Seat 2-4 4.28 72 0 1 40.0 30 27 42 1.43
2007 Balt 2-0 2.36 73 0 3 45.2 27 17 56 0.99
2008 Balt 3-5 4.72 57 0 31 53.1 47 33 58 1.50
2009 Balt 0-1 2.40 42 0 20 41.1 34 13 39 1.14
Totals 13-14 3.67 294 0 55 223.0 175 106 235 1.27