Dodgers Acquire Veteran Lefty George Sherrill

One day after the Phillies, a prime National League pennant contender, made a move for starter Cliff Lee, the Dodgers
responded by trading for Orioles closer George Sherrill. Baltimore receives third baseman Josh Bell and righthander Steve Johnson, both of whom were playing for Double-A Chattanooga.

Los Angeles—tied for the best record in baseball with a 62-39 record—had been looking to acquire pitching of any kind for the stretch run. With the asking price for Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay reportedly too much, Los Angeles decided to move on and look for bullpen help. Sherrill, 32, was 0-1, 2.40 with 20 saves for Baltimore this year as the team’s closer. He’s struck out 39 batters in 41 1/3 innings.

A one-time independent league player, Sherrill last season earned an All-Sstar berth by picking up 27 saves in the first half of the season. The lefthander tailed off after the break and finished the season with 31 saves and a 4.73 ERA. He did strike out more than a batter per inning. Sherrill throws a faster/slider combination, with the fastball sitting in the 88-92 range and the slider sitting in the mid-70s.

The Young
Bell, 22, is a switch-hitting third baseman who was batting .296/.386/.497 with 11 home runs and 52 RBIs in 94 games at Double-A before the trade. At 6-foot-3, 235 pounds, Bell has a solid, thick body that has drawn comparisons with Matt Kemp, especially in the lower half. He’s an average defender at the hot corner now, and he can boast of an above-average arm, but some scouts prefer him at first base or in left field. 

Bell has a refined approach at the plate, looking for his pitch to hit and swinging mostly at strikes. Witness his 70 strikeouts compared with 50 walks. He uses his large legs to create leverage with his swing, and has some of the top raw power in the Dodgers organization. Still, Bell has struggled against lefthanded pitchers during his career. He’s hit .212 off of them this year, with five extra-base hits, none of which has left the yard. Against righthanders, Bell has posted a .335 average with 26 doubles and 11 bombs. In his career Bell has 33 home runs against righthanders and one against a lefty.

After playing in just 51 games last season as the result of a knee injury, Bell really came into his own this year and was playing like the front office expected when they selected him in the fourth round of the 2004 draft out of Santaluces High in Lantana, Fla.

Johnson, 21, is a the son of Dave Johnson, who pitched in 77 games for three teams in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and is currently an Orioles’ broadcaster. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound righthander was a 13th-round pick in 2005 out of a high school in Brooklynville, Md. Though he’s taken time to adjust at every level he’s pitched at, Johnson seems to figure things out in time. While repeating low class A last year, Johnson went 9-2, 2.34 for Great Lakes of the Midwest League. He then struggled upon a promotion to high Class A Inland Empire, posting a 3-6, 7.10 record. But this year, Johnson went 8-4, 3.82 in the California League, and earned a promotion to Chattanooga. On July 27, Johnson made his second start for the Lookouts, throwing six innings of three-hit, no-run baseball.

Though Johnson’s stuff rates out as a tick above-average, he’s been striking out opponents at an impressive rate this year. Between both levels, Johnson has struck out 117 batters in just over 107 innings. Still, he has a high-effort, aggressive delivery that can lead to command issues. He’s walked 45 batters this year and sometimes leaves the ball up in the zone when he gets under the ball. He throws a low-90s fastball and complements it with a sharper slider with solid depth, a slower curveball and an average changeup. Johnson projects more as a back-of-the-rotation starter or a bullpen arm.

This is a trade that makes sense for both teams. For Baltimore, trading Sherrill allows them to add a quality third base prospect, which had been something of a deficiency in the farm system, while also picking up another arm. In return, Los Angeles gets another piece to gear up for the playoff run.

The 6-foot, 230-pound Sherrill will assume the role of Jonathan Broxton’s set-up man in the back of
Joe Torre’s Dodgers bullpen. The move should give the veteran skipper confidence any time Los Angeles faces opposing lefthanded hitters, not only because Sherrill is dominant against
them, but also because lefties Hong-Chuh Kuo and
Brent Leach will be waiting in the wings.

Lefthanded batters have managed to hit just .133/.200/.156 against Sherrill
this season without hitting a single home run. On the other hand, righty swingers fare a good deal better
(.255/.322/.409). It’s a move that reinforces Los Angeles’ bullpen one year after the collective had difficulty getting through the
Phillies’ lefty-heavy lineup in the NLCS.