The Los Angeles Dodgers added an experienced arm to their short-handed rotation and a familiar face to the back end of their bullpen Friday, acquiring starter Lance Lynn and reliever Joe Kelly from the Chicago White Sox, the teams announced.
In exchange, the White Sox received outfielder Trayce Thompson, who was originally drafted by Chicago in 2009, along with minor league starter Nick Nastrini and minor league reliever Jordan Leasure.
Lynn and Kelly join shortstop Amed Rosario and utilityman Enrique Hernandez among the Dodgers' acquisitions this week, all of whom could be free agents after the season. Lynn and Kelly both have club options for next season and are making a combined $27.5 million in 2023.
Lynn, 36, has struggled mightily through the second season of a two-year, $38 million extension he signed with the White Sox in July 2021, posting a 6.47 ERA in 119⅔ innings while allowing a major-league-high 28 home runs. Lynn waived his no-trade clause to accept the move to Los Angeles.
"Outside of the batted-ball stuff, his under-the-hood stuff is not that much different than it's been in the past," Dodgers general manager Brandon Gomes said. "As well as doing some digging, we think there's some suggestions we have with pitch usage that should be helpful. So getting him in our environment with our pitching guys and the energy that guys will have around him is really exciting."
Kelly -- who, like Hernandez, was a fan favorite on the 2020 Dodgers team that won the championship to end the COVID-19-shortened season -- has posted a 4.97 ERA in 29 innings, striking out 41 batters and walking 12. The 35-year-old right-hander has served two stints on the injured list this season because of a groin strain and elbow inflammation.
"The people of Los Angeles know Joe, and I would argue that his stuff is even better than it was when he was with us - the velocity, the curveball, all that stuff," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "I think for Joe specifically, there's been some on the IL, off, and I also think that, he's a guy, like most players, when they're in a winning environment, they thrive."
The Dodgers began the week in desperate need of starting pitching and had been among the most aggressive suitors for Lynn, despite his underwhelming numbers. The Dodgers are in first place in the National League West and sit 15 games over .500, but they have thrived despite issues throughout their rotation.
Julio Urias has had an up-and-down year, Clayton Kershaw is on the injured list, Dustin May has been lost for the season, Walker Buehler is still working his way back from Tommy John surgery and Noah Syndergaard struggled mightily before getting sent to the Cleveland Guardians in the Rosario deal, forcing rookie starters Emmet Sheehan, Bobby Miller and Michael Grove to take on more of a workload than the Dodgers initially hoped.
The bullpen was also an issue in the early part of the season, but Dodgers relievers have posted a major-league-best 2.67 ERA this month, with the likes of Caleb Ferguson, Ryan Brasier, Phil Bickford, Yency Almonte and Brusdar Graterol stepping up late in games.
In Lynn, Kelly, Rosario and Hernandez, the Dodgers have acquired four veteran players who are having relatively underwhelming seasons. Rosario and Hernandez will bounce around the middle infield and not spend most of their time at shortstop, the position they've played full-time in 2023.
All four believe they can improve in L.A.
"I would argue we've raised the floor and the ceiling," Roberts said. "With [Hernandez], there's a familiarity, there's something that we feel like we can tap into, essentially give him some opportunities versus [left-handed pitchers], use the versatility on defense. And I think that with Joe, familiarity, and I mentioned the culture part of it. I think there are some things with Lance -- the sequencing, the strikeout rates, there are certain things that can raise that ceiling. And then with Amed -- his buy-in, his athleticism. He's now the fastest player on our ballclub, so that speed element, the ability to move around the diamond, to lengthen our ballclub versus left-handed pitching has raised the ceiling."
Thompson hit .155 in 36 games for the Dodgers this season, his second in his latest stint in Los Angeles. He hit three of his five home runs this year in his first game of 2023, on April 1 against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Thompson has been on the injured list since June with a left oblique strain and had recently started a rehab assignment with the Dodgers' Arizona Complex League affiliate.
The White Sox, 22 games below .500 and 13 games out of first place despite playing in the weak American League Central, sent starter Lucas Giolito and reliever Reynaldo Lopez to the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday and are expected to shed more veterans before Tuesday's trade deadline. The White Sox had gone into a rebuilding phase hoping to establish themselves as a legitimate contender, but a division title in 2021 was followed by a .500 finish in 2022.
The end of the 2023 season, the first under rookie manager Pedro Grifol, could trigger another rebuilding cycle on the South Side.