Dodgers strike for top lefty reliever

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Sherrill (Keith Allison)

The Dodgers may have the third-best bullpen in all of baseball, but that hasn’t stopped them from making a move for the best left-handed reliever on the market, George Sherrill, for two prospects: 3B Josh Bell and RHP Steve Johnson.

The Dodgers’ bullpen statistics notwithstanding, the team actually needed a big boost to the bullpen. Eric Milton and Jeff Weaver were and are retreads finding success in Los Angeles, but Milton is already out for the year and who knows if Weaver can stick. Joe Torre ran Ronald Belisario into the ground and Will Ohman and Hong-Chih Kuo are question marks thanks to injury-marred seasons.

32, Sherrill brings immediate quality to a bullpen that only boasted one true shutdown reliever: closer Jonathan Broxton. Sherrill came over from the Seattle Mariners in the Erik Bedard trade and posted a 4.72 ERA and 1.50 WHIP, the latter a career high and the former a career-high if you throw out his 19 inning, 5.21 ERA effort in 2005. The Dodgers figure to lean on Sherrill heavily, which may be a problem considering Sherrill’s career high for innings is 53.1, set last year. Given that he was projected to finish around 66 innings this year already, Joe Torre probably can’t do much more damage.

The Orioles won the deal by far, however. Yes, Sherrill is a very good left-handed reliever. However, he’s already 32 and is about to get extremely expensive in his second year of arbitration. Also, did I mention his career high for innings pitched is 53.1? For that, the Dodgers gave up someone who is certain to anchor the Orioles’ order in a few years and an intriguing arm.

Bell, 22, has a .296/.386/.497 line at Double-A, cranking 11 home runs. Since being drafted in the fourth round in 2005, he has done nothing but hit.

He’s also done nothing but boot balls in the field, as his career .897 fielding percentage at third would suggest. Boy, that’s ugly. He’s at .929 this year, but that’s still not even close to acceptable. That would rank second-to-last in the bigs, just ahead of Chipper Jones‘ current .919 fielding percentage.

Considering Melvin Mora is set to be a free agent after the year unless the team picks up his club option, the Orioles figure to give him every shot possible at sticking at third. Given Bell’s only other competition at first base would be Brandon Snyder, however, and he moves to a league with a designated hitter, he has no shortage of options in front of him. I am personally very impressed with what Bell has done in his career so far. He’s handle every level thrown at him offensively, and I would project him as the Orioles’ starting third baseman in 2011.

Johnson, 21, just received a promotion to Double-A after posting a 3.82 ERA in 96.2 innings for High-A Inland Empire. For Chattanooga, he’s posted a sterling 1.29 ERA in 10.2 innings, whiffing 15 and walking just three. It’s another blue-chip arm to add to the Orioles’ arsenal.

The Orioles did very well here, while the Dodgers clearly overpaid. That doesn’t make the deal from the Dodgers’ perspective particularly bad, though — after all, they are in a great position to head to the World Series. After seeing their stiffest competition acquire last year’s Cy Young winner, they had to do something. It’s a move that smells a bit of desperation, but it’s the Orioles’ gain. And the Dodgers won’t care one whit if they get that ring.

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