I dipped out of a slow day at work early today to enjoy the weather and run some errands, keeping one eye on Twitter for the inevitable roster move news. We’d all expected that when Blake Hawksworth, Marcus Thames, & Juan Uribe were activated, John Ely, Ivan DeJesus, and probably Jerry Sands would be shipped off to take their places. Yesterday, I had prepared a post about how Sands heading down wouldn’t be a bad thing, despite the negative response I expected from fans, planning to hit publish while out and about today. In it, I noted that Matt Kemp & Clayton Kershaw had each returned to the minors after making their debuts, and how doing the same for the slumping Sands might not be the worst thing in the world – and I got to compare Juan Castro to a potted plant. It would have been great.
Well, that’s a post that will never see the light of day, because the Dodgers threw us a series of curveballs by making four roster moves today. Yes, Hawksworth, Thames, and Uribe are all back. Yes, Ely and DeJesus got shipped out. But so did veterans Juan Castro and Jay Gibbons. And joining the club, most surprisingly of all, is young shortstop Dee Gordon. As I write this draft on a crowded subway train home, I am, quite frankly, stunned.
Let’s start with the small fish first. Hawksworth for Ely was expected, particularly after Ely threw over 50 pitches yesterday, and so was Uribe for DeJesus. Each move represents an upgrade. Gibbons getting a DFA for Thames is far more surprising, though not entirely unwelcome. I’ve been pretty clear for a while in saying that Gibbons provides little value on either offense or defense, though I didn’t think they’d send out the lefty bat, and I wasn’t against Sands getting a minor league breather. Gibbons is almost certain to pass through waivers and report to ABQ anyway, so we might not have seen the last of him. This decision to stick with the young Sands over the veteran Gibbons is really one that deserves more attention, but it’ll be brushed under the rug because of the Gordon move.
I really can’t say enough how surprised I am that Gordon is coming to replace Castro. First and foremost, credit is due the Dodgers for finally deciding to stop wasting a roster spot on the completely useless Castro, though I suppose it’s not like he is any more useless now than when they chose to sign him in the first place. (Or the time before that, or the time before that…) Like Gibbons, he won’t be claimed so we may yet see stint #5 from the ageless, hitless, gloveless wonder.
All of this takes us to Gordon, and I must admit that I am torn. He’s the most exciting player the Dodgers have in their system, and a roster spot used on him rather than Castro pushes the team light-years ahead as far as watchability and interest. Yet, the speed of his promotion is difficult to wrap my head around. Many observers, myself included, expected him to start 2011 in AA, and were somewhat surprised that he was pushed to ABQ to start the year. In an offense-heavy environment, he has a good-but-not-stellar line of .315/.361/.370. (Lest you think I’m being too harsh, remember that this is the team on which career nothing JD Closser is hitting .298/.389/.529.) Not a single reputable analyst expected him here this quickly, and when I interviewed Christopher Jackson, who covers the ‘topes daily, he joked that if Gordon were put in the majors right now, he’d break Jose Offerman‘s errors record. As we’ve all heard so many times, Gordon, who didn’t play baseball seriously until high school, is an extremely raw prospect, and not the type likely to be rushed.
I bring this up not to be the wet blanket. I’m excited to see Dee Gordon play. I’m really excited to not see Juan Castro play. I’m just curious about the timing of all this, and how the Dodgers see themselves in the 2011 season. If you bring him up, you have to play him every day. It does no good for his development to be sitting on the bench. But if he plays every day, he’s likely to commit a ton of errors and may or may not be able to hit major league pitching. As I said in the tabled Sands piece, Kemp and Kershaw each had early struggles and were sent back down, and both were more highly touted than Gordon. If the Dodgers see themselves as a team that can win in 2011, will they suffer through the inevitable growing pains? Will they be okay with the fact that he’s almost certain to cost them a game or more with a defensive miscue? Will they really bench Juan Uribe and/or Jamey Carroll on a regular basis to let Gordon play?
We’ll have to see how this plays out to get the answers to those questions. I’ll say this about the Dodgers, however; though much of this is because of all of the injuries they’re fighting through, the 2011 edition has committed to youngsters like we haven’t seen in years. We’ll see that in full display this week against one of the NL’s top teams in Philadelphia, where Sands is starting tonight, Rubby De La Rosa goes tomorrow, and Gordon is likely to make his debut.
Welcome aboard, Dee. Can’t wait to see what you can do.
Not to be lost in all the furor today – as I joked on Twitter, “based on my Twitter feed of the last 2 hours, Anthony Weiner tweeted a Dee Gordon dong shot to Paul Revere” – is the creative lineup that Don Mattingly has put together tonight:
Tonight’s #Dodgers lineup: Carroll SS, Miles 2B, Thames LF, Kemp CF, Uribe 3B, Blake 1B, Sands RF, Barajas C, Lilly P
Okay, I suppose I’m not a huge fan of Thames hitting third, but look at what he’s done against one of the toughest lefties in the game, Cliff Lee. Andre Ethier, benched. James Loney, benched. Three righties in the outfield! Casey Blake at first! Whether this works or not – and don’t bet on it, since Lee has held current Dodgers to a .088/.099/.113 line in 81 PA – it’s what we’ve been calling for forever, and I love Mattingly for it. Actually, maybe that’s the answer to the “will the Dodgers play Gordon over Uribe or Carroll” question above. Put one of them at 3B, play Blake at 1B, and now you’ve got Gordon over Loney. Now we’re getting somewhere.