Let’s break this mess into two pieces…
1) Ted Lilly comes to the Dodgers. In a vacuum, I don’t hate the idea of adding Lilly to your staff. Even though starting pitching is the least of the Dodger problems, Lilly’s an improvement over current #5 starter Carlos Monasterios. Considering Monasterios was a Rule 5 pick, just holding his own has been impressive, but his 3.61 ERA is obscured by his 5.34 FIP and -0.4 WAR; a 4.3 K/9 rate and .264 BABIP just aren’t sustainable.
So is Ted Lilly an improvement there? Sure, why not. He’s overrated – his K rate has dropped three years in a row, his FIP is 4.50, and his velocity has dropped for five years in a row down to about 86 MPH this year, but I’d probably rather trot him out there every 5th day than Monasterios, or even John Ely. I don’t think it’s a huge improvement over Ely, but I won’t argue the point.
That’s not the issue, though. Even if it is an improvement, is it one worth making? Lilly’s the 5th starter. You’ll never convince me he’s better than Kershaw, Billingsley, Kuroda, or Padilla right now, and the problems we’ve seen lately have been caused by non-existent offense and unreliable bullpen work, not poor starting pitching. Other than Ely’s poor last two starts, the most recent outings by #5 guys (Monasterios/James McDonald/Ely before those starts) have been overall a soup of mediocrity, no different than any other team. So if you’re using some of your trade chips, you really ought to be doing it on an area that’s a big problem, not to mildly improve an area that’s not desperately in need of it.
Again, I don’t mind seeing Lilly as a Dodger, but trading anything more than a non-prospect for him makes it completely not worth it. Ted Lilly is not the piece that propels you into October. And since he’s making $12m this year, you know he won’t be offered arbitration, so you can’t even look forward to any draft picks. If you were going to trade for a middling lefty who won’t really help that much this year, it might as well have been for Paul Maholm, who’s at least signed for 2011.
2) Ryan Theriot comes to LA, with Blake DeWitt headed to Chicago. I can’t express my disappointment in this enough, and I don’t even like DeWitt all that much. I think he’s done a decent job, but with absolutely zero power and defense that’s average at best, he’s not really proving himself to be a piece you build around. I just want to repeat that; the Dodgers are giving up someone I’m not an enormous fan of, and this is still a big mistake.
Let’s count the ways!
Theriot is older: DeWitt turns 25 in about three weeks. Theriot turns 31 in December.
Theriot is more expensive: DeWitt’s making the minimum and can’t be a free agent until after 2014. Theriot’s making $2.6m and is eligible for arbitration in 2011 and 2012.
Theriot’s hitting worse this year: DeWitt’s not hitting for much power, but his wOBA is .319 and he’s been worth 1.0 WAR, largely because he’s been doing an okay job at getting on base (.352 OBP). Theriot’s been dreadful – his wOBA is .291 and he’s been a negative value, at -0.1 WAR.
Theriot’s regressing, while DeWitt is improving: Theriot’s OPS the last three seasons come in at .745, .712, & .645. DeWitt’s OPS this year is .723, but check out his monthly OPS numbers: .681, .726, .734, .745. In July, he’s hitting .295/.368/.377. At just 24, those numbers are headed in the right direction.
Theriot’s not even really a fielding improvement: I understand that UZR, in one season, is generally not the most reliable. Keeping that in mind, DeWitt’s ranked at -0.8 runs at 2B in 2010; Theriot is -3.3 at SS and -1.0 at 2B. That’s even though DeWitt was learning a new position this year.
Even Cub fans don’t like Theriot: His sponsored baseball-reference page reads:
The longest streak of starts by a Cub without an extra-base hit since 1992 (Joe Girardi) and the seventh-longest streak since 1920. I hear Milton Bradley is to blame.
So the Dodgers just downgraded their 2B situation to someone who’s older, more expensive, and worse, all to get a 5th starter they don’t really need. And you wonder why I get so negative sometimes here?
But wait! There’s more. I’d have hated just DeWitt for Lilly and Theriot. That by itself would be a bad deal. But it’s worse than that, because the Dodgers had to throw in minor league pitchers Kyle Smit & Brett Wallach to complete the deal (the Cubs tossed in $2.5m as well.) I admittedly don’t know a ton about either, but I do know that the 22-year-old Smit is striking out nearly 5 times as many as he’s walked with a 2.35 ERA in the minors, and the 21-year-old Wallach is striking out more than a man per inning at Great Lakes this year. Neither were seen as top prospects (Wallach was #17, Smit #34 in MOKM’s pitcher prospect rankings a few weeks ago) so I’m not crushed that they were dealt, but it’s definitely bothersome that they had to be added to a trade that was bad in the first place. Brett is also Tim Wallach’s son, by the way.
Hilarious exchange on MLB Network as the trade was announced. The panel roundly liked the deal, saying things like “Hats off to Ned Colletti”, “This was a deal the Dodgers had to make”, & “this is designed to get Dodgers to postseason.” Then Harold Reynolds, of all people, was the only one who brought the reality:
I’m missing it. Ted Lilly doesn’t take you to the playoffs. I don’t get the trade.
When Harold Reynolds is the only one getting things right, you know there’s a problem.