By J.J. Cooper
January 5, 2006
Looking to add another starting pitching option, the Dodgers picked up Mets righthander Jae Seo and lefthander Tim Hamulack for righthanders Duaner Sanchez and Steve Schmoll in the first significant trade of 2006.
Seo will compete for a job in the Dodgers rotation, after putting together a strong 2005 season for the Mets. Seo was 8-2, 2.59 for the Mets in 14 starts, his best season since making his big league debut in 2003. Seo was able to severely cut down on his walks in 2005, which was the key to his success. The 28-year-old Korean issued only 16 walks in 90 innings after walking 50 in 118 innings in 2004.
In dealing Hamulack, the Mets turned a minor league free agent find into a trade commodity. Hamulack has bounced around the minors for years, originally signing with the Astros as a 32nd-rounder in 1996 out of Montgomery (Md.) CC. He was a minor league Rule 5 pick in 2000, a minor league free agent in 2002 and again in 2003 and 2004. After signing with the Mets before spring training he went out and fashioned the best season of his 10-year career. He was 5-3, 1.12 in 64 innings with Double-A Binghamton and Triple-A Norfolk, earning him his first taste of the big leagues–a six appearance stint where he went 0-0, 23.14.
Hamulack’s fastball is the key to his success. It’s only an average pitch velocity wise (89-91 mph), but he is able to locate it well. His secondary offerings are not as refined, as he struggles to locate his slurve.
For the Dodgers, the trade is a sign of their ability to find value from scouting finds. Schmoll was a fifth-year senior sign whom the Dodgers nabbed before the 2003 draft, while Sanchez is a former waiver-wire pickup they turned into a solid setup man.
Scout Clair Rierson spotted Schmoll during his senior season at Maryland, and as a fifth-year senior he was eligible to sign before the draft. The Dodgers landed him for a $75,000 bonus before the 2003 draft. He quickly worked his way through the system, using a sidearm delivery that was deadly to Class A and Double-A hitters (1.81 ERA in 85 relief innings in 2004). He was a surprise addition to the big league club coming out of spring training in 2005, although big league hitters exposed Schmoll’s biggest weakness. Like many sidearmers, his 88-90 mph fastball and cutter make him tough on righthanders (.228 average against at Triple-A Las Vegas last season and .244 for Los Angeles), but he has much more trouble against lefties. Lefties hit .303/.376/.494 against him in the big leagues, and he has to continue to work on his changeup to give him a pitch to give lefties another look.
Sanchez is a former top prospect in the Diamondbacks system who has settled into a solid role as a middle reliever/setup man in the past two years. A former starter, Sanchez quickly caught scouts eyes after being moved to the pen in 2002. He topped 100 mph at Double-A El Paso as he quickly rocketed his way to the big leagues, and then was dealt to the Pirates for Mike Fetters. But after the trade, he struggled mightily with the Pirates, and was eventually placed on waivers after the 2003 season. After being claimed by the Dodgers, he went 7-8, 3.56 with eight saves over the past two seasons.