SUNDAY: The Dodgers have released Fields, Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register tweets.
THURSDAY: The Dodgers have claimed left-hander Donnie Hart off waivers from the Orioles, per an announcement from both clubs. In order to open a spot for Hart on the 40-man roster, Los Angeles surprisingly designated right-hander Josh Fields for assignment. The Dodgers will now have a week to trade Fields, release him, or pass him through outright waivers. Hart had previously been designated by the O’s when they re-claimed Hanser Alberto from the Giants.
Hart, 28, posted solid numbers for the 2017 Orioles when he worked to a 3.71 ERA with 6.0 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, 1.03 HR/9 and a strong 53.1 percent ground-ball rate in 43 2/3 innings of work. That performance came on the heels of strong showings in Double-A and Triple-A, and it looked as if Hart was well on his way to cementing himself as a fixture in the Baltimore ’pen.
The 2018 season, though was demonstrably worse for Hart. While he tore through younger competition at Triple-A (2.41 ERA, 9.9 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, 0.22 HR/9, 60.7 percent grounder rate), he was clobbered for 13 runs on 31 hits and 12 walks with 13 strikeouts in 19 1/3 frames at the MLB level. While it’s obviously a small sample of work, it seems that the new-look Orioles front office wasn’t overly impressed with Hart’s abilities. He has a minor league option remaining, which could serve the Dodgers well this year, given their penchant for cycling relievers back and forth between the Majors and upper minors in an effort to keep a fresh slate of arms available to manager Dave Roberts.
Designating Fields for assignment was unexpected both due to his regular-season results over the past couple seasons and due to the fact that the Dodgers had already agreed to a $2.85MM salary with the righty. That’s a non-guaranteed sum, as is the case with all arbitration contracts, but unless the Dodgers find a taker in a trade at that price point, they’ll be on the hook for one-sixth of that sum ($475K) even if they release him and get nothing for him. Fields has more than enough service time to reject an outright assignment, as well, so this seems quite likely to lead to either a trade or Fields becoming a free agent.
Since being acquired by the Dodgers, the 33-year-old Fields has tallied 117 1/3 innings of relief and pitched to a terrific 2.61 ERA with 8.8 K/9, 2.6 BB/9 and 1.22 HR/9. He’s an extreme fly-ball pitcher, never more so than in 2018 (22.9 percent grounder rate, 51.4 percent fly-ball rate), but Fields averages nearly 95 mph on his heater with solid swinging-strike and opponents’ chase rates. Fields’ heater comes with a middle-of-the-pack spin rate, however, and his curve ranks in just the eighth percentile among MLB hurlers in terms of spin rate, though Hart’s breaking ball ranks even lower.
For one reason or another, it seems that the Dodgers don’t believe Fields to be capable of replicating his previous success. If that’s the case, though, it’s puzzling that they opted to tender him a contract in the first place.