Dodgers Add Hendrickson To Rotation

In a trade that bolstered their rotation Tuesday, the Dodgers acquired lefthander Mark Hendrickson and catcher Toby Hall from the Devil Rays for catcher Dioner Navarro and righthander Jae Seo.

Hendrickson, 32, is in the midst of the best 2006 season of the four, currently sporting a 3.81 ERA. Best known for his 6-9 frame that enabled a career in professional basketball, Hendrickson did not debut in the Major Leagues until 2002, at the age of 28. Since then, Hendrickson has developed into an innings-eater, making 30 starts in each of the previous three seasons. Despite a 4-8 record on pace to be the worst of his career, Hendrickson’s ERA indicates he’s enjoying his best season on the mound yet. In 122 career appearances, Hendrickson is 37-40, 5.01.

Hall, 30, was never able to turn the corner on a successful career after winning the 2001 International League MVP award. While his OPS has never topped .700 in a full season, Hall is on pace for his fourth straight season catching more than 110 games. Hall’s offensive talents are founded around fantastic contact abiltiies; the catcher has never struck out more than 41 times in a season. However, his inability to walk and hit for power has led to a .262/.298/.382 line in 586 Major League games. Defensively, he’s been great, throwing out 137 of 371 attempted base stealers (37 percent) over seven seasons.

Seo, 29, looked to have turned a corner in 2005, but instead his current 5.78 ERA is a career worst. A rookie starter in 2003 with the New York Mets, Seo went 9-12, 3.82, but was not able to consistently hold down a starting spot in the two years following in the Big Apple. Pitching every fifth day for the Mets after August last year, Seo finished the season with a 2.59 ERA in 90 and 1/3  innings. In the winter, the Mets traded Seo to the Dodgers for bullpen help. Los Angeles was further confident they had acquired a dependable starter in the World Baseball Classic, as they saw Seo allow just one earned run in three starts for Korea. In 90 appearances, Seo is 24-28, 4.13 for his career.

Navarro, 22, began the season as the Dodgers starting catcher, but a recent injury opened the door for Russ Martin. Already in his third organization, Navarro should finally have the opportunity to catch everyday. Nicknamed “Pudgito” in the Yankees system after Pudge Rodriguez, the Yankees traded Navarro in the three-team trade that landed them Randy Johnson. A switch-hitter, Navarro impressed Dodger brass in a 50-game trial at the end of last season, hitting .273. However, Navarro has struggled mightily behind the plate, throwing out just 16 percent of runners in his career. In 258 Major League at-bats, Navarro is hitting .279/.361/.380.

July 20 update: The teams completed the trade with the Dodgers sending minor league outfielder Justin Ruggiano to the Devil Rays. Ruggiano, 24, has exceeded expectations since signing as a 25th-round pick out of Texas A&M in 2004. Ruggiano batted a combined .324/.414/.527 in his first two pro seasons before hitting .260/.367/.438 with nine homers, 45 RBIs and 10 steals in 89 games at Double-A Jacksonville this year. His hitting ability, on-base skills, gap power and speed are all solid. He also tends to strike out a lot (74 times in 292 at-bats this year), a weakness pitchers may exploit more at higher levels. He has enough athleticism and arm to play right field.

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