It doesn’t involve Matt Chapman, as most Dodgers fans hoped it would, but the organization and the A’s completed an intriguing four-player trade on Friday.
The deal sends infielder
Dodgers get: INF Sheldon Neuse, RHP Gus Varland
A’s get: LHP Adam Kolarek, OF Cody Thomas
Neuse, 26, was a second-round pick by the Nationals in 2016 after a strong collegiate career at Oklahoma. He was one of the key pieces in the deal that sent Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson to Washington in 2017. Since then, Neuse has continued to develop in the Minors, including a 27-homer season with Triple-A Vegas in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League in 2019.
According to MLB Pipeline, Neuse was the No. 5 overall prospect in the A’s organization, and his ability at the plate is a big reason why. Varland was the No. 28 prospect in the A’s organization.
Because of Chapman’s presence at third base, Neuse hasn’t had many opportunities to make an impact at the big league level. He made his Major League debut in 2019, hitting .250 with seven RBIs in 56 at-bats. He didn’t get any playing time last season, spending his time at the A’s alternate training site. Neuse still has two option years remaining.
Adding Neuse doesn’t shut the door on a reunion with Justin Turner or the pursuit of another right-handed bat. Neuse gives the Dodgers a much-needed depth piece at the position and a player that is capable of filling in nicely at multiple positions, including second base and left field. Zach McKinstry and Chris Taylor are expected to fill in for the departed Enrique Hernández in the utility man role. Neuse gives them another option.
In the seemingly unlikely case that the Dodgers don’t add another third baseman to the roster, Los Angeles would give the bulk of the playing time to Edwin Ríos, with Neuse serving as a good right-handed platoon option at the position. The club, however, is likely not done adding this offseason.
Varland, 24, is 2-2 with a 1.54 ERA and 77 strikeouts in 18 career Minor League games. He gives the Dodgers another depth piece in the Minors.
Trading Kolarek and Thomas wasn’t an easy decision for the Dodgers, but it’s representative of what the organization thinks of Neuse. Kolarek, 32, went 3-0 with a 0.95 ERA in 20 appearances with Los Angeles last season. He went 5-0 with a 0.88 ERA in his Dodgers career. Kolarek was particularly excellent against left-handed hitters, holding them to a .077 average last season. He’ll always be remembered for his duels against superstar Juan Soto in the postseason. Neuse will replace Kolarek on the 40-man roster.
With Kolarek no longer on the roster, the Dodgers will rely on Victor González, Scott Alexander and Garrett Cleavinger to be the top left-handed relievers this season.