Sep 1, 2009, 1:19 AM EDT
The Brad Penny pickup set off a chain reaction in the NL West, as the two remaining contenders also picked up pieces before the Monday night deadline to have new acquisitions qualify for postseason play.
The Dodgers landed a potential Hall of Famer in Jim Thome, but right-hander Jon Garland may well prove to be the bigger pickup. That’s because even if the Dodgers were willing to sacrifice defense at first base, Thome just isn’t much more than an emergency option in the field at this point of his career. He’ll be used strictly off the bench for his fourth major league team, at least until the World Series. He’s hit .206/.354/.365 in 63 at-bats as a pinch-hitter in his career. Over the last two years, he’s 1-for-15.
Garland is the second addition to the Dodger rotation in as many weeks, joining Vicente Padilla. He struggled in his first two months in the NL, but he’s amassed a 3.56 ERA in 16 starts since the beginning of June. Also encouraging is his 50/15 K/BB ratio in 78 1/3 innings over the last two months. He figures to replace Charlie Haeger for now, putting him in the rotation alongside Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw and Randy Wolf. If Hiroki Kuroda can return in a week or two as hoped, then Padilla would likely head to the pen.
The Rockies also wanted Garland, but settled for Jose Contreras, who was 5-13 with a 5.42 ERA in 114 2/3 innings for the White Sox. Surprisingly, they’re sending back a decent prospect in Brandon Hynick, who was thought to be a possibility to take over as their new fifth starter. Hynick has a below average fastball, but his splitter is a nice pitch and he displays very good command. He might take over the fifth spot in the White Sox rotation. Contreras will try to help replace the injured Aaron Cook in Colorado. He seems to be on his last legs, but the league switch might do him some good.
Along with acquiring Hynick, the White Sox picked up infielder Justin Fuller for Thome. A 2006 11th-round pick, Fuller has hit .254/.340/.418 in 177 at-bats for high-A Inland Empire this year. He has a quality glove and he bats left-handed, so if he starts to show some offensive ability, he’ll get looks as a utilityman. He’s a long shot, though. With Thome gone, they’ll likely give Josh Fields significant time at DH in September. It could be his last chance with the club.
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