So How Do You Feel About Bill Hall?

Ken Rosenthal reports that Bill Hall may be getting closer to coming to town.

The Dodgers are in discussions with free agent Bill Hall, who would be their primary left fielder. Hall, who hit 18 home runs in 344 at-bats for the Red Sox last season, likely would be the Dodgers’ last significant addition; the team is nearing its budgetary limit.

Now, I posted on Twitter earlier today that I was surprised to see Hall’s reverse split in 2010 – a putrid .199/.276/.404 against lefties – and that it made me less interested in him, since the main priority right now is an outfielder who can hit lefthanded pitching. I was kind of surprised at the reaction I got, with several people rightly pointing out that Hall’s 2010 splits were an aberration and that over his career, he’s been better against southpaws than righties (.790 vs .736). That’s true, and I’m not going to claim that one odd year carries more weight than his career, but there seemed to be a lot of people who were vocally defending him, and I’m just having a hard time seeing it.

Most of the people who seem to like Hall quoted his career stats, which aren’t awful (.310 OBP, 94 OPS+, several seasons with good stats vs. LHP) but certainly aren’t much to hang your hat on, either.  Sure, he was great in 2005, with an .837 OPS, and 2006, when he had 35 HR to go with his .899 OPS. But since the end of the 2006 season, he’s been dreadful – in 1534 PA for three teams, he’s at .233/.297/.405. Over 1500 PA is a pretty good sample size, and that adds up to a .702 OPS, not exactly what you want from your starting left fielder.  

I’ve also seen people trumpeting Hall’s versatility, as he’s seen time at every position except for 1B and C. I just don’t see how that applies here, though. If that’s the role they were signing him for – utilityman with some pop – I’d have no problem with it. But that doesn’t sound like what they’re after him for at all; as Rosenthal says, he’d be “their primary left fielder”, and the Dodgers are actually setting themselves up with a flexible squad. Sure, Hall can play shortstop. But if Rafael Furcal goes down, is Hall playing shortstop? No, Juan Uribe would slide over, or even Jamey Carroll. You can use the same permutations at 2B and 3B, without even considering Russ Mitchell and Ivan DeJesus in the minors. So while I like the flexibility Hall brings, it’s not a major selling point right now.

Of course, at this point in the winter, the other options are slim. Austin Kearns brings OBP (.351 last year, .353 career), but little power. Lastings Milledge brings youthful promise and a nice split against lefties, but has yet to really see that potential translate on the field. Magglio Ordonez brings power but can’t really play left field. Then there’s those who suggest having Casey Blake be the righty portion of a LF platoon, and I must admit I don’t hate that idea. But who plays third base? Adrian Beltre‘s salary is out of reach, and I’m terrified that Colletti might push for the expensive, aging, Michael Young, who Texas is rumored to be interested in moving. Young’s an upgrade over Blake at the plate, but is a poor fielder and is owed $48m over the next three years. Still, that’s unlikely, so there’s not much chance of hoping for Blake to move to the outfield – unless you want to see Uribe at 3B with Carroll or DeJesus as the full-time 2B.

The point here is not to bash Bill Hall. He is what he is. If and when Hall is signed, I won’t complain too much, because he may be the best of a poor lot (assuming it’s a one-year deal, because, come on). The problem is just that the Dodgers managed to get this far without solving the problem in the first place.

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In addition to Juan Castro, who I discussed at length yesterday as being one of the worst hitters in major league history, and catcher JD Closser, who was already in the organization, the Dodgers announced today that they’ve signed Eugenio Velez to a minor-league deal with an invite to spring training.

Yes, that’s another ex-Giant, one who has a .688 OPS in parts of four seasons in San Francisco, and not only was non-tendered last month, but wasn’t offered a contract despite not even being arbitration-eligible. That’s right, the Giants could have had him back for the minimum, and said no thanks.

Still, I don’t hate this as much as you’d think I might. Yes, he was a Giant, and no, he’s not been very good in the bigs. But he’s been pretty decent in the minors, because in parts of four seasons at AAA his line is .302/.355/.455, and he’s flexible enough to play 2B and all three OF spots. It’s a minor league deal at the minimum, so there’s no risk, and the Isotopes need players too. I don’t think he’s got much chance to make the MLB roster out of camp, and even if he does, he’s still preferable to Castro. So yes, let’s all have fun with the “ex-Giant” jokes, but this signing is hard to argue.

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