Dodgers acquire reliever Chris Martin in trade with Cubs

Chicago Cubs' Chris Martin pitches during the eighth inning of a baseball game, Sunday, July 24, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Right-handed reliever Chris Martin, 36, has a 4.31 ERA this season in 34 games. (Matt Rourke / Associated Press)

It didn’t rock the boat, but the Dodgers are hoping their first pre-trade deadline acquisition Saturday can help steady the ship down the stretch.

The team added veteran right-handed reliever Chris Martin in a deal with the Chicago Cubs, a person with knowledge of the situation confirmed, adding an experienced arm to a bullpen still waiting to get several other key relievers back from injuries.

The trade was more functional than flashy.

In 34 games this year, the 36-year-old has a 4.31 ERA, but also one of the best strikeout rates (30.1%) and walk rates (3%) in the major leagues. He relies mostly on a mid-90s mph fastball, but has six total pitches in his arsenal. He has recent postseason experience, having been with the Atlanta Braves each of the past three Octobers.

In return, the Dodgers are sending the Cubs outfielder Zach McKinstry, the little-used left-handed reserve who flashed potential as a rookie at the start of last year but had since slid down the organizational depth chart, making just two big-league starts this year.

While the Dodgers have the sixth-best ERA among relievers, their bullpen is still in uncertain shape heading into the season’s final months — still unsure of exactly whom they might be able to rely on come the playoffs.

Right-handers Blake Trienen (shoulder) and Danny Duffy (flexor tendon) have begun facing hitters again, but are several weeks away from returning to action.

Right-hander Tommy Kahnle (forearm) is likely further behind them, while set-up man Daniel Hudson (torn ACL) has been lost for the season.

Brusdar Gratrol (shoulder) has been out almost three weeks as the team continues to be careful with his recovery.

The Dodgers are facing questions at the closer role, with veteran Craig Kimbrel continuing to struggle during an up-and-down year.

Evan Phillips, Yency Almonte, Caleb Ferguson and Alex Vesia have all stepped into leverage roles in the meantime.

If Walker Buehler and Dustin May both come back healthy before the end of the season, the Dodgers could have a surplus of starting pitchers who could help cover innings.

With so many unknowns looming down the stretch, the addition of another reliable — if unspectacular — reliever made sense for the front office.

Martin fit the bill.

Martin didn’t make his MLB debut until 2014 when he was 27 years old. After struggling with both the Rockies and New York Yankees the next two years, he went overseas to try to revive his career, spending two seasons in Japan with the Nippon-Ham Fighters — where Angels star Shohei Ohtani was one of his teammates.

Martin returned to the major leagues with the Texas Rangers in 2018, then was traded to the Braves ahead of the 2019 deadline.

He had his most successful season in 2020, posting a 1.00 ERA in 19 regular-season games and a 2.25 ERA in nine postseason games — though he did give up the deciding run in Game 7 of the NLCS to the Dodgers on a Cody Bellinger home run.

After posting a 3.95 ERA last year, Martin signed a one-year, $2.5-million deal with the Cubs this offseason.

His biggest purpose for the Dodgers, however, will come in the next three months.

It won’t be one of the most notable trades of this year’s deadline, but the Dodgers are hoping he can further solidify their bullpen depth as they look to October and the playoffs.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.