Ned Colletti and the Replacement Level GM

Editor’s note: The less said about last night’s Aaron Harang-tastrophe the better, right? Not that I can be totally surprised that Brandon McCarthy is shutting teams down, because he’s awesome, but it’s probably healthy for us all to keep in mind that guys like Bobby Abreu, Elian Herrera, and – gasp – even A.J. Ellis aren’t likely to keep their BABIP near or over .400 all season long. In lieu of recapping that mess, today please welcome a guest opinion piece from a long-time member of the online Dodger world, Andrew Grant. Andrew was the original proprietor of TrueBlueLA and is currently bringing us useful minor league stats and splits at Minor League Central. Give him a welcome, and maybe we can convince him to write more often. -Mike

Baseball Prospectus published an article yesterday asking a question I’ve seen come up a lot recently: “Is Ned Colletti really that bad?” R.J. Anderson makes the case that most people make: most of the prospects Colletti has traded away have amounted to a hill of beans, and hey, the Dodgers still have Kemp and Kershaw. In a vacuum these sound great, but if you assume that a GM should have a basic level of competence, Ned’s track record looks much less stellar. Let’s look at the two arguments for Ned.

“Most of the guys he’s traded away amounted to nothing”

According to the BP article, Ned has traded away 36 minor league players, and only five have amounted to anything. Five actually might be stretching it, since that includes Dioner Navarro. Great, Ned comes out ahead 8 out of 9 times, but consider a few things:

-That list includes names like Julio Pimentel, Kyle Smit, Jarod Plummer, and Justin Fuller, also known as “players with no expectations of ever being productive big leaguers”. Giving up nothing for one month of a bench bat or as part of an incentive to eat Odalis Perez’s contract isn’t something that should be applauded, it’s something that should be expected.

-The most likely career path for a top 100 prospect is washing out of the majors after struggling for a couple years. 69% of top 100 prospects will never do anything more than become a below average big league regular. If the best of the best washout that often, the odds of a good but not great prospect like Delwyn Young or Chuck Tiffany coming back to bite you are incredibly small. Or to put it another way, if Ned traded away his top two prospects every year, on average he would only give up four useful players – or not much different than what actually happened. Ned not intentionally getting rid of every good prospect has arguably produced worse results, since the return coming back to Los Angeles was less in the first place.

-The Dodgers have drafted and signed more of the pre-free agency talent than any other team. However, they’re in the bottom third of production from pre-free agency players. The Dodgers, by a good measure, send more young talent away than any other organization. This isn’t all Ned’s fault, since Shane Victorino and David Ross make up a good portion of this value, but it’s another sign that “only” losing four useful players isn’t something to be applauded.

The knock on Ned has never really been “he trades away too much young talent”, it’s that he doesn’t get nearly enough in return. In return for the regulars he’s dealt away Ned has received:

- Two months of Manny Ramirez

- Two months of Casey Blake

- Danys Baez who became Wilson Betemit who became Scott Proctor

- One month of Octavio Dotel

And it’s not as though his other trades of young players have produced much other than a couple magic months from Marlon Anderson and Ronnie Belliard. If Ned truly understood the value of his players more than anyone else, shouldn’t he be getting more in return?

“He didn’t trade away Matt Kemp or Clayton Kershaw

There are very few great players that were traded less than two years into their big league career in baseball today. Josh Hamilton, Carlos Gonzalez, and Adam Jones cover most of the list. Heck, you could easily argue that two of the top 10 players that were traded early in their careers were Dodgers. Holding on to your best young players is a vital part of the job, but its part of the bare minimum we should expect out of a GM.

Ned Colletti isn’t without his merits. He’s good at assembling a bullpen on the cheap and the Dodgers get more mileage out of their veteran utility guys than most teams, but these are minor things in the big picture. Colletti inherited a dream situation, the best farm system in baseball with a payroll in the upper echelons of the league and the more it has become his team, the worse it has gotten.  If you compare Ned’s moves to Bobo the General Managing Chimp he looks great, but if you assume a base level of competence from your GM Ned falls massively. James Loney’s monthly home run doesn’t make him a good player, so all of Ned’s moves not failing miserably shouldn’t make him a good GM.