Bill Hall‘s gone, Scott Podsednik‘s a sorry alternative, and no one really believes the Dodgers will just let Jay Gibbons, Xavier Paul, & Tony Gwynn handle left field, right? Ken Gurnick says that the club has at least reached out to a few of the remaining options on the dwindling free agent market, and there’s some new names here:
the Dodgers have been in contact with Marcus Thames and Scott and Jerry Hairston as possible free agent candidates for left field.
Thames is someone we’ve talked about a few times, and he’s really the only one of the three who brings any offense. He’s put up double-digit homers in six of the last seven years to go with a career .802 OPS; last year’s .288/.350/.491 performance was more or less his career year – his career OBP is just .311. Over his career he’s got a marked platoon split, as he’s put up an .838 OPS vs lefties, though that was oddly not the case last year.
The problem with Thames, of course, is that while he can play both left field and first base, he really shouldn’t be playing either. His fielding is so poor that his fWAR came in at only 0.6 last year, because his lousy glove took away so much of his value. If put in an outfield alongside Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, the pitching staff Ned Colletti worked so hard to assemble may revolt.
Scott Hairston‘s had his moments, hitting double-digit homers four years in a row, but he’s coming off a particularly rough 2010. In 104 games for San Diego, he had a line of just .210/.295/.346. That’s the latest in a string of years with poor OBP. Like Thames, he’s stronger against LHP in his career, but last year’s disaster makes it hard to count on that. The former 2B grades out as average to above-average on defense.
Scott’s brother Jerry comes off a terrible year as well, with just a .652 OPS, and he turns 35 in May. He can play six different positions with varying degrees of skill, though as we talked about with Bill Hall, that versatility is nice but not really needed on this club.
So who do we like? Any? None? Let’s say right off the bat that Jerry Hairston is a terrible option; guys who were never great hitters to begin with and are coming off a terrible year at 34 aren’t exactly great options. Scott’s better, I suppose, though his horrendous 2010 makes me think he should be a non-roster invite at best.
And then there’s Thames. He’s got the best bat of the three yet can’t really be depended on to repeat his 2010, and his glove is absolutely atrocious.
I think it’s fair to say at this point that the Dodgers are not going to be able to pick up a starting left fielder off the free agent wire. That’s true whether it’s any of these guys, or Podsednik, or Austin Kearns, or whomever else. It’s unfortunate, but true. So any decision needs to be seen through the idea of “what fits on this team?”
Marcus Thames cannot be your everyday left fielder; his defense is just too poor. But let’s not pretend as though the team doesn’t have a need for right-handed bench power, especially in late innings against tough lefties. When the other side brings in their LOOGY, do you really want Tony Gwynn up there? Andre Ethier? You can’t bring Jay Gibbons off the bench for that, and Jamey Carroll‘s not a great option either. A righty with some power is a good option to have. Now, can Thames be that? I’d be willing to find out.