As Hiroki Kuroda and the Dodgers attempt to complete a sweep of the even-worse-than-we-thought-they-were Astros today, Tom Hoffarth of the Los Angeles Daily News brings us a detailed Q&A session with Ned Colletti.
The whole thing is interesting to read and worth the click; some of the more interesting exchanges…
Q: So with the September call-ups, is there anything in particular you’re looking for? Mattingly has talked about not bringing too many guys up if they’re not going to play. What’s the strategy to that?
A: Well, we’ve got some guys in mind already. I probably shouldn’t give them to you right now. Most of them I want to see play. Maybe one or two I just want them to get acclimated. But I don’t usually do it without a purpose.
We’ve long figured that guys like A.J. Ellis, Jerry Sands, Ivan DeJesus, etc, will come up in September to flesh out the roster. But we’ve seen them already this year; Colletti mentions that “one or two” might come up “to get acclimated”. That infers that they’d be players who haven’t yet seen time in the bigs. With injuries and ineffectiveness causing a greater-than-usual amount of turnover this year, there’s not so many obvious candidates in AAA. Looking at the current 24-man Isotope active roster, 11 have played with the Dodgers at some point over the last two seasons; three (Dana Eveland, Roy Corcoran, & Roman Colon) have played with other teams. There’s also several guys who are in their late 20s and/or were signed from independent leagues this year, and aren’t considered prospects. The only Isotope who would seem to fit the criteria is newcomer Tim Federowicz – more on him later – but unless Rod Barajas or Dioner Navarro are miraculously moved in the next two weeks, starting his clock to be the team’s fourth catcher in September seems unlikely.
Looking down to AA Chattanooga, some possibilities might be 1B/OF Scott Van Slyke, who has had something of a breakout year, or impressive young pitchers Shawn Tolleson, Steven Ames, or possibly even Allen Webster.
Q: So there has to be frustration from you when you hear anyone say, “This trade makes no sense,” when there’s a reason why you can’t really explain all that goes into it, whether it’s impossible to do or you don’t want to give away any secrets?
A: Well, I never want to disparage anybody. And, sometimes it’s not just a disparaging situation. You know, we just made this deal with Boston and Seattle. People wonder how we could trade a local player, Trayvon Robinson. And I like Trayvon. But I have to look at the team on July 31, 2011. And on April 1, 2012. And on … I’ve got to take a short look and a long look.
But one of the key guys to acquire in that deal was a catcher (Tim Federowicz). We’ve got, maybe, a couple of prospect catchers in our system. One I think is a pretty good catch-and-throw guy. Another is a younger player that by all accounts is three years away, but that’s just showing up here, not an every-day contributor. So the kid we acquired, we feel, is within months of being up here. He’s got a great mind, he knows how to catch and catching to me is one of the most important positions on the field. He can catch and throw, he’s got some ability to hit and he’s got the right perspective and the right demeanor.
I couldn’t go into this offseason without more at that position. If you’re short a left fielder, you can take one of a couple of right fielders and move him over. If you’re short a third base or second base, you move an infielder around. But if you don’t have a catcher, you don’t have a catcher. That’s the one position you can’t invent out of thin air.
So, a few things here. Colletti claims that the Dodgers have two prospect catchers, the first being “a pretty good catch-and-throw guy,” the second being “a younger player that by all accounts is three years away.” Let’s check the organizational catching depth chart and try to identify who he’s referring to. As you can see, the pickings are pretty slim; you could argue that Ellis is the first guy, as he’s a solid defender without much of an offensive reputation, and he’s technically still a “prospect”, though at 30 and unable to get a shot ahead of the current two failures it’s unlikely that he’s even on Colletti’s radar. More likely, he’s referring to Matt Wallach, who isn’t much of a hitter (.230/.380/.345 at 25 in AA) yet has a good defensive reptuation.
As for the second guy, the “younger player who is three years away”, that’s a little tougher. You could possibly consider Pratt Maynard, drafted in the 3rd round this year, though you have to do better than hit .211 in rookie ball before you have any sort of MLB ETA. That’s more likely Gorman Erickson, having a solid season between Hi-A and AA this year while showing some nice pop.
Back to Federowicz, Colletti’s remarks on him are telling, especially the bit about how he is “within months of being up here.” He clearly sees him as someone who can contribute in 2012, though personally I think his offensive skills are questionable, and please don’t read too much into nine Albuquerque-fueled games since he arrived. Ellis and Federowicz in 2012? It’s not sexy, but it’s hard to think it could be worse than Barajas and Navarro, and there’s clearly not much available on the market.
Also, thousands of jokes were made at Colletti’s expense for his comment the day of the trade – reiterated here – that you can’t make a catcher by moving a player from another position, since the Dodgers alone have seen success doing just that with Carlos Santana and Russell Martin. But now that he explains it a little further, I think I understand what he was trying tot say a little more: you can do that, but it takes time. You could toss Andre Ethier into left field in time for next season if you wanted. You could put Juan Uribe or Jamey Carroll at any of a few infield spots. But if you’re converting someone to catcher, you need several years for that transition to happen, and you need to do it at a relatively early age. If you’re a team desperate for help next year, that’s not a viable option.
Q: Here’s another question from a reader – and here it is in its entirety:
“Explain to me – to all Dodger fans – why Juan Uribe was signed for any price, let alone the amount you overpaid him. I have been a Dodger fan since 1971, and never has any player been less qualified to be on this team than Uribe. This year proves that he played way over his head last season and you took the bait like a typical former Giants employee. Or do you still work for Frisco? Maybe you thought his World Series ring would make you a champion by proxy? Why in God’s name did you sign him, besides your unnatural attraction to former Giants? I know you probably won’t ask this, but I just saved myself three sessions with my therapist writing that question out and pretending that Colletti might actually read it.” And it’s signed “respectfully” from Kieran C. Scott, a fan from Placentia.
A: God bless Kieran. I understand his frustration, and mine is equal to his. Going into the offseason, we needed someone to play in the middle of the diamond and could be a run producer. We didn’t expect him to duplicate what he did last year, but certainly didn’t expect this type of season. We thought 15, 16 homers and 65, 70 RBIs which, when you look at his track record, isn’t that far off line with what he’s been able to accomplish. But I get it. Signing free agents is the most volatile, toughest thing to really gauge. All I can say is thank you for your fandom.
I included this one mostly because Hoffarth is awesome for asking it. And because when Colletti talked about what he expected from Uribe, one of the first items he brings up is “RBI”. Which, ugh. (Speaking of Uribe, Ben Bolch reports today that his recovery from a hip injury has stalled, and he will visit a specialist to try and identify if his injury is more severe. Surgery is an option, though sadly, it wouldn’t be expected to be career-threatening. Yes, I hesitated before writing that, and it sounds awful, but come on: like any of us want to see him on the field again.)
Hoffarth’s interview with Colletti goes on to touch quite a few off-the-field issues, particularly his relationship with his parents, and for all we say about how Colletti’s performance, there’s little doubt that he deeply cares about the work that he’s doing. That doesn’t mean he’s any good at it, of course, but it’s clear that he’s as troubled by this season as the rest of us are.
Unrelated: the Florida Marlins shipped off sometimes-controversial outfielder Logan Morrison to AAA today, despite the 23-year-old being almost indisputably their third-best hitter, reportedly for reasons beyond his recent slump at the plate. Though Morrison has had trouble keeping his mouth shut at times, the Marlins – on their third manager of the season and with one of the most reviled non-McCourt owners in the sport – clearly own much of the blame here, as this is hardly the first time they’ve been in the news for issues like this. By claiming that the demotion is for baseball issues, the Fish have cratered Morrison’s value, and he’s outspoken enough that it seems unlikely the relationship can be repaired. Morrison isn’t a star, but he’s got a career 114 OPS+ and doesn’t even turn 24 for several more weeks. Time to buy low? Fine by me.