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Rays send Joel Peralta and LHP to Dodgers for two RHP prospects

RHP Joel Peralta and LHP Adam Liberatore were sent packing to Los Angeles for RHP Jose Dominguez and RHP Greg Harris.

RHP Jose Dominguez, now a member of the Tampa Bay Rays.
RHP Jose Dominguez, now a member of the Tampa Bay Rays.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

What was sure to be an awkward conversation, new Dodgers President of Baseball Ops Andrew Friedman and GM Farhan Zaidi hooked up with new Rays GM Matthew Silverman in a deal this past Thursday. Four pitchers switched teams in the two-for-two deal with the Dodgers shoring up their bullpen by adding soon-to-be 39 year old RHP Joel Peralta and 27 year old lefty Adam Liberatore. Heading to Tampa is 24 year old RHP Jose Dominguez and 20 year old RHP Greg Harris. Lets break the deal down a little bit and look at he prospects involved in the deal first.

Acquired by Tampa Bay

RHP Jose Dominguez

jose dominguez

Photo courtesy of Section116Pix (Flickr)

The Dodgers signed the six foot Dominican righty on July 2, 2007 for an undisclosed amount. It took him three years to get out of the Dominican Summer League (including a 50 game suspension for Stanozolol in 2009), but really hit the ground running in 2012. He turned things up another notch in 2013, posting a 1.78 ERA through 25.1 innings split between AA and AAA, allowing just nine hits with 40 K's (40.8%) and 13 walks (13.3%). Dominguez topped it off with 8.1 innings at the highest level with a 2.16 ERA before a left quad strain ended his season. He was dominant with elite strike out rates and limited to hitters to a .107 batting average. A regression in BABIP was expected being at .205, but still posted a 3.08 K/BB ratio.

Flash forward to 2014 and Dominguez spent the majority of the year back in AAA Albuquerque, one of the better hitter's parks in the PCL. He spent 33.1 innings there with a 3.24 ERA, 3.73 FIP, and 1.47 WHIP while striking out 39 (25.8%) and walking 18 (11.9%). Dominguez also spent 6.1 innings in the Dodgers bullpen in April, only turning in one scoreless appearance out of five with a 11.37 ERA and 6.61 FIP, striking out eight and walking three. At the end of the year he also made two appearances in advanced rookie league Ogden Raptors of the Pioneer League. On the whole, the opposition hit .247/.358/.386, a far cry from the dominance he showed the year before. He didn't show any home/road splits and was actually better against lefties (.222/.317/.347) than same handed hitters (.267/.390/.419). He still struck out hitters a good 6% better than the league average while consistently walking 3% more, and he was inducing ground balls at an excellent 50% rate in AAA.

The linchpin in Dominguez's development as a dominant bullpen piece comes down to health and control. His season has ended early the last two years due to injury, but his control has improved the last two years from walking 13.3% in 2013, to 12.0% this past season. Even baby steps are encouraging as his arm is absolutely electric. Fastballs in the high 90's, touching up to 102 mph with life, and a wicked mid 80's slider with short, cutter-like action make up his one-two punch.  Possessing stuff like that will ensure many chances at him finding a spot in the bullpen with late inning potential if that control comes around.

This was John's take on him prior to this season:

Jose Dominguez isn’t a big guy, listed at just 6-0, 160, but he’s got plenty of life in his arm, with a 95-100 MPH fastball. He has a good slider, too, but the Dodgers gave up on him as a starter when it became obvious that his changeup was never going to be more than show-me pitch. The fastball and slider are enough for him to dominate when his command is working, a typical relief profile. He’s behind Chris Withrow on the hard-throwing rookie depth chart, but could wind up being a very useful asset. Grade C+.

RHP Greg Harris

greg harris

Photo courtesy of Bruce Gunther

Harris has the potential to be the steal in this deal as a teenager who just completed his first go-round at Low A. The Dodgers took Harris, son of the 15 year major league veteran of the same name, in the 17th round of the 2013 draft out of Los Alamitos High School in California. The 6'2, 170 pound right hander signed for $175,000 and turned in a rough debut, throwing 34 innings of 5.29 ERA ball for the rookie complex level Arizona League with a 5.30 FIP and 1.24 WHIP, striking out 22 (15.3%) and walking 9 (6.3%) with 33 hits allowed. Opposing hitters tagged him with a .256/.315/.426 line and four home runs.

The Dodgers gave him an aggressive assignment to start this past season, jumping him to Low A Great Lakes as a 19 year old. He made 16 starts and 6 relief appearances for the Loons, totaling 87 innings pitched with a 4.45 ERA, 3.55 FIP, and 1.33 WHIP. He struck out 92 (24.5%) while issuing 28 (7.5%) free passes with 88 hits allowed and seven long balls. The jump in strikeouts was welcomed with little increase in his walk rate while limiting hitters to a .258/.323/.408 line with a high .332 BABIP and low 63.9% strand rate. Harris is a fly ball pitcher (35.9% fly ball rate), generating fly balls nearly 8% more than the average Midwest League pitcher.

Harris sits in the low 90's as a starter, bumping up to 95 mph in shorter stints with a change up and curve that needs work. I can't really find much on his stuff or delivery but his stats can imply a few things. The low walk rate shows good control while the jump in strike out rate could mean his offspeed stuff took a step forward this year. He's still got time to grow into his frame pitching most of next year as a 20 year old. He'll also benefit from pitching next year in the Florida State League rather than the California League. If the breaking ball and change continue to develop and he posts similar rate stats next year, Harris could start creeping up top prospect lists and turn into a viable option for Tampa's rotation in a few years.

Due to Harris' lackluster debut he was not mentioned in the 2014 edition of The Baseball Prospect Book by John Sickels.

*****

Acquired by Los Angeles (NL)

LHP Adam Liberatore

adam liberatore

Photo courtesy of John Perroto/Times Online

The oldest of the three minor leaguers involved in the deal, 27 year old left hander Adam Liberatore was originally signed by the Rays after being drafted in the 21st round of the 2010 draft out of Tennessee Tech. He underwent Tommy John surgery in college, debuting as a 23 year old in the short season New York-Penn League. By 2012 he had worked himself up to AAA and has been there since (minus a brief, two inning stint at AA to start 2013). In that 2013 season he worked a total of 62.1 innings with a 3.47 ERA, 2.35 FIP, and a 1.22 WHIP, striking out 72 (27.5%) and walking 25 (9.5%) with just one home run allowed and 51 hits. The opposition wound up hitting .226/.302/.292 against him with a .307 BABIP and 66.1% strand rate.

In 2014 he took another step forward, turning into the ace of the Bulls bullpen despite only saving four games. He pitched to a 1.66 ERA and 1.65 FIP over 65 innings of work; striking out 86 (34.8%) and walking 15 (6.1%) with a 0.89 WHIP and just 43 hits allowed. Opposing hitters only managed a .187/.240/.248 triple slash with one home run and just 11 extra base hits total. He didn't show any platoon split, limiting same handed hitters to a .471 OPS and righties to a .496 OPS. On the road he was even deadlier, only allowing 16 hits all year with a .154/.221/.186 slash line in 114 plate appearances . To put it another way, Liberatore allowed four more total bases on the road than walks the entire season. The BABIP gods didn't hate him with a .292 BABIP and he also managed a 78.1% strand rate. He also generates ground balls at about league average rates of 42.8% in 2014.

Going into his age 28 season, his arsenal consists of a fastball that sits 90-92 mph, with a good slider and well below average change up that is used sparingly. Liberatore features a deceptive delivery, hiding the ball well with a release similar to a shot put. The deception he creates allows his mediocre velocity to seem faster, and when paired with his above average slider he causes lefties fits. He fits into the Dodgers' plans as they are short on left handed pitchers and he has consistently shown the ability to get out same sided hitters. He's got a LOOGY floor with the potential to handle more stressful innings later in the game.

Due to his age and general non-prospect status entering the year, John did not write up Liberatore in the 2014 edition of The Baseball Prospect Book.

Joel Peralta

joel peralta

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

Peralta is a veteran of nearly nine major league seasons, he was originally signed as an international free agent in 1996 by the Oakland Athletics as an infielder. He was then released by the A's in 1998 and signed with the Angels in the Spring of 1999. He didn't make his major league debut until 10 years later in 2005 with the Los Angeles Angels, Stints in Kansas City, Colorado, and Washington preceded his time in Tampa, where he spent the last four seasons where he posted a 3.58 ERA and 3.40 FIP over 269.1 innings with 293 strike outs (27.2%), 84 walks (7.8%) and 200 hits (6.7 H/9).

His ERA slipped a full run in 2014 though, going from 3.41 to 4.41 despite his FIP dropping from 3.68 to 3.40, and his SIERA dropped from 3.69 to 2.54. He struck out 74 (27.9%) with just 15 walks (5.7%) and 60 hits allowed in 63.1 innings. The opposition hit .244/.289/.419 off him with nine home runs allowed with a .307 BABIP and 71% strand rate. According to FanGraphs, Peralta was good for 0.6 fWAR while Baseball Reference tabbed him for -0.1 bWAR.

The Dodgers now have Peralta in the fold for potentially three more years at very affordable rates of $2,500,000 per year, with a club option on each year without a buyout. Though he's entering his age 39 season, he's shown to be an effective bullpen piece which is just what the Dodgers needed. He'll be joining Brian Wilson, Brandon League, and Pedro Baez as right handed pieces to bridge the gap to their dominant closer Kenley Jansen.

*****

For the most part, I like this deal for Tampa better than Los Angeles. The Rays leveraged an effective reliever getting dangerously close to 40 years old and a soon-to-be 28 year old with no MLB experience for a high-risk, high-reward lottery ticket in Dominguez and a young, projectable righty with MLB bloodlines. While I respect what the Dodgers are doing, building their bullpen with a cheap, experienced arm, but I like the arms heading to the Rays better. The best player in this trade five or six years from now may just end up being Harris.