As I likely don’t need to remind you, the Dodgers have signed two lefty outfielders to major league contracts this offseason, Jay Gibbons and Tony Gwynn, Jr. And as I certainly don’t need to remind you, no one’s really happy with the Gibbons / Gwynn / Marcus Thames hodgepodge in left field. (Even less so, now that Lastings Milledge went to the White Sox for merely a minor-league offer today.)
Yet while we’ve gone back and forth this winter about whether the JaMarcus Gwybbons, Jr. trio (and please help me come up with a better descriptor than that) will merely be a lousy solution or an awful one, an outfielder with a much stronger career record, coming off a solid 2010, quietly announced he’s likely to retire after not getting much interest.
So the question must be asked: should the Dodgers have considered Jim Edmonds?
It’s an unlikely question from me, I realize, as Edmonds is not only yet another lefty, but will turn 41 this winter. To that point, I’ve never raised it before, so this isn’t really about taking the Dodgers to task over it, just a thought exercise as the offseason begins to come to an end. Assuming that signing Thames (or another righty) was inevitable, should Edmonds have been brought in ahead of Gibbons or Gwynn?
I’m not going to embarrass Gibbons or Gwynn by comparing their careers to that of Edmonds, who is a borderline Hall of Famer, so let’s just look at last year:
It’s not even close; even at 40, Edmonds was by far the most valuable hitter. Gibbons’ line must be taken with a grain of salt, because of the small sample size involved. The .313 OBP may be about right, but there’s not a person alive outside his immediate family who thinks he can really slug over .500 or have an OPS over .800 for a full season.
But just looking at the offensive side of things is a bit unfair to Gwynn, who’s in the majors almost entirely due to his glove. What happens when we include FanGraphs’ fielding runs and wrap that into WAR values from FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference?
As you can see, the two WAR systems definitely place a different value on defense, leading to the discrepancy there, but no matter which numbers you use, they each agree that Edmonds is by far the most valuable. If Edmonds isn’t the tremendous defensive outfielder he once was, he’s still an average-at-worst glove, which gives him plenty of value on this particular team, and he’s playable at first base as well. Even better, he also crushed righty pitching last year, putting up a .285/.351/.520 output.
Edmonds may not have been the perfect fit on a team with a lefty-heavy outfield and a lefty first baseman, but then again, neither is Gibbons, and that’s exactly the role he’s filling. Did we all get caught up in the heart-warming “local boy rebounds from disgrace to make good” story of Gibbons last year, and not realize that there may have been better options by waiting? I include myself in that, because I didn’t raise a single concern at the time.
Though I’m sure the point would have been raised, this is not a Garret Anderson situation, where the Dodgers try to capture the last gasps of a once-great ex-Angel’s career. Anderson was a terrible idea from day one. But Edmonds was still productive last year, and despite his age, seems like he could help some team in part-time duty this year as well. He signed a minor-league deal with Milwaukee last season, and could almost certainly have been had for the same zero-obligation offer this year too.
Did the Dodgers – and all of us – miss an opportunity?