I was a little off the grid this weekend thanks to a wedding and other family commitments, and there’s so much going on right now that I could probably write six different posts about it. In the interest of expediency, let’s try to hit as much as of it as I can right here.
ESPN’s Molly Knight brings us news that’s relevant to the only thing more important than winning baseball games: being rid of Frank McCourt. But this isn’t the usual business about Frank’s court fight with Jamie, or even about his fight with Bud Selig and MLB. This story has a quite unexpected hero: Manny Ramirez.
We’ve long known that the Dodgers owe Manny a nice chunk of deferred salary both this year and in years to come, but what’s noteworthy here is the amount and the timing: the Dodgers owe Manny a full payment of $8.33m by June 30.
Here’s how Knight lays out the June responsibilities:
$9ish million for June 15, $9ish for June 30, $8.33 for Manny.
Remember, every two weeks we’ve been wondering if McCourt would make payroll. He had to borrow from sponsors to meet the May 30 payroll, and while he’s reportedly ready to make the June 15 bill, that’s yet to be confirmed. Manny’s bill is essentially a third payroll responsibility for June, and it’s anyone’s guess where McCourt thinks he’s going to come up with that kind of money.
Imagine if, after all of the garbage spewed at Manny (much of it deserved, but certainly not all) by the media and some fans, that he was the one who finally sank Frank McCourt? I’d start measuring him for a statue, if that’s the case.
The Rays have released ex-Dodger Cory Wade from their AAA affiliate in Durham, NC. (They also added ex-Dodger Lance Cormier to Durham, which, ha.) Wade was released not because of his performance, which has been excellent in Durham, but because of a logjam in the Tampa bullpen – and because Wade had a June 15th opt-out.
You probably remember that Wade was a surprisingly effective reliever for the 2008 Dodgers, before spending most of the next two years being injured and ineffective. (You can probably search the archives here and find reference to me pinning that blame on his overuse by Joe Torre in 2008.) After shoulder surgery last season, he was quietly signed to a minor-league deal by Tampa this winter… and he’s been very good. In 36.2 AAA innings, he’s allowed just five earned runs with a 34/6 K/BB, and Rays fans aren’t happy that he was let go.
Wade is a 28-year-old relief pitcher and while he’s no longer a “prospect”, he looked like a player that could help in the Rays’ bullpen this season. After having shoulder surgery last season, Wade was doing very well in Triple-A this year, striking out 8.4 batters per nine, while walking a miniscule 1.5 batters per nine. He’d allowed four homeruns over his 36 innings pitched, but still, he had a 1.23 ERA and 3.34 FIP — he was darn good. Not only that, but Wade had frequently worked two innings at a time, making him a prime candidate to serve as a long man for the Rays.
I’m beginning to wonder what sort of compromising pictures Andy Sonnanstine must have in his possession in order to stick on the roster instead of Wade. Sonnanstine is getting lit up every time he takes the mound, posting a 6.06 ERA and 7.52 FIP, and he simply doesn’t look like a major-league caliber pitcher anymore.
Why, Friedman, why? Do you enjoy subjecting your fans to the horrors of watching Sonny pitch? Are you afraid of those pictures from the playoff celebration last year getting out? Because man, I would have liked to see Cory Wade get a shot.
Other than Sonnanstine, the Rays bullpen has been effective, so the fact that he couldn’t get a shot isn’t a black mark against Wade. (As for Sonnanstine, Tampa has been overly devoted to him for some time, and Rays fans and bloggers have been bemoaning his roster spot for months.)
So getting to the obvious question – why shouldn’t the Dodgers go and try to give him a shot? I’m sure that he won’t be unemployed for long, so I’m sure he’ll end up in the big leagues soon for someone, and why not the Dodgers? It’s not like it’d be hard to make room in the bullpen. Matt Guerrier and Blake Hawksworth aren’t going anywhere, but Ramon Troncoso, Josh Lindblom, Scott Elbert and Javy Guerra all have minor-league options, and Elbert & Troncoso just got lit up in Colorado. There’s also Mike MacDougal, who would have to be DFA’d, but who has done nothing to live up to his shiny 2.01 ERA.
(Update: Wade signed with the Yankees. Of course he did. Oh well.)
James Loney‘s grand slam over the weekend in Colorado was his second career salami, with the previous one… also coming in Colorado. This isn’t the first time I’ve noted his brutal home/road splits (or the second… or the third…), but the success he’s found in Denver is particularly noteworthy.
I’ll be the first to tell you hitting is about more than just home runs, but of all the numbers there, that’s what stands out to me the most. Loney has more than seven times as many plate appearances in Dodger Stadium than he does in Coors Field… and just barely more than twice as many homers. Dating back to last season, three of Loney’s last five homers have come in Colorado, and even one of the others, against Jason Hammel on May 30, came against the Rockies, though at home. (The fifth came against Florida’s Javier Vazquez, possibly the worst starting pitcher in baseball right now.) When Loney gets non-tendered, as we all believe he will, just wait for the Rockies to snap him up. It’s not a perfect fit, since Todd Helton is also a lefty and having a great season, but Helton’s going to be 38 next year – and the Rockies have found a way to squeeze lefty first baseman Jason Giambi onto the roster this year anyway. I look forward to the day when Loney is both not a Dodger and tormenting us from afar.
In the comments yesterday, I made an off-hand remark that Aaron Miles has the emptiest .300 average in team history, and it’s true. He never walks, and he hits for no power whatsoever. That’s why his OPS is a subpar .658. I didn’t say that meaning to bash Miles, but that upset a lot of people who felt I wasn’t giving Miles enough credit. So let me clear that up by saying Miles has been far more than I’d ever expected. His .300 may not be indicative of much by itself, but it’s about 150 points higher than I thought he’d give us. When I give out midseason grades next month, he’s almost certainly going to get a B+ or higher. As a multipositional, switch-hitting backup, he’s been something of a pleasant surprise. You’ll notice that I haven’t been making calls to have him DFA’d or replaced.
The problem here, which is not on Miles, is that he’s not serving as the 5th or 6th infielder. Due to the rash of injuries, he’s been an everyday starter. His 190 PA is fifth most on the team, behind Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Loney, and Jamey Carroll. An empty .300 from a bench player is great, but it’s a problem from a starter. Again, that’s not on Miles; he didn’t create the injury situation, and all he’s done is help fill the holes while playing better than expected. That also doesn’t mean he’s someone we should want to see every night.
Tony Jackson of ESPNLA looked at the infield situation recently, and his takeaway was while Don Mattingly seemingly prefers Juan Uribe and Casey Blake to play every day at 2B and 3B around Loney and Dee Gordon, that Carroll and Miles have outplayed the two enough that they should be playing everyday at 2B and 3B. Jackson’s argument is that Blake & Uribe get preferred treatment because of their salaries, and he’s probably not far off there.
I understand where he’s coming from – after all, I’ve been saying for two years that counting on Blake to be an everyday player this year was a mistake and that the Uribe contract was a terrible idea – but I can’t say I totally agree, and that’s partly because I’m more focused on the future than the present.
Here’s my optimal infield, with the pieces around right now. At first base, Loney and Blake split time. Blake sees all lefties and half of all home starts; Loney gets to bat in all nine positions the next time the Dodgers go to Colorado. At second base, Carroll needs to be the nearly full-time starter if only for his on-base skills, with Miles starting twice a week to get him time and keep Carroll fresh. Gordon is certainly going to play most days at short, though Uribe or Carroll can spot there now and then, and Uribe should play most days at third, with Blake or Miles getting a start or two a week there. I say this because even though I have little faith in Uribe being worth the value of his contract, the fact is that he’s here for 2.5 more years and it’s too soon to give up on that. Besides, he can’t always be this bad. Right?
News on two Dodger prospects from Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus:
Garrett Gould, RHP, Dodgers (Low-A Great Lakes)
A second-round pick in 2009, Gould had a so-so 4.09 ERA in the Pioneer League last year. When scouts saw him, all they could really talk about was projection, as while the skinny 6-foot-4 righty oozed it, his right-now stuff left plenty to be desired. That projection is starting to come through; what was once an upper-80s fastball is now in the lower 90s, and he is maintaining his good control and a very good curveball. He’s looking like one of the best arms in the Midwest League after reeling off back-to-back starts without allowing an earned run. Consistency is a word rarely used in Low-A, but with a 1.55 ERA in 12 starts, in which he has never allowed more than two earned runs, Gould has been just that and maturing.
Trayvon Robinson, OF, Dodgers (Triple-A Albuquerque)
Over the past six weeks, we learned that hitting in Chavez Ravine is very different from hitting in Albuquerque. Just ask Jerry Sands. Still, is it time for Robinson to get the next chance? With a home run on Friday, a double and two walks on Saturday, and five hits on Sunday, he’s now batting .299/.357/.543 in 58 games, and while he might not have Sands’ pure bat, he his speed and ability to play all three outfield slots offers more lineup flexibility. Robinson still struggles against lefties (which is all Sands could hit), so there would be a different dynamic in play, but when Tony Gwynn Jr. is on pace for nearly 300 plate appearances, there has to be a better way.
Gould is someone we’ve never heard all that much about, obscured as he’s been by the Zach Lee / Chris Withrow / Allen Webster types, so it’s good to see some positive news there. We’ve heard plenty about Robinson and I’ve contemplated making a “when will he arrive?” post for a few weeks now. If the Dodgers have surprised at all this year, it’s in that they’ve promoted prospects like Jerry Sands, Rubby De La Rosa, and Dee Gordon far sooner than we’d expected. Robinson’s probably not completely ready yet – a 67/19 K/BB mark at AAA isn’t something I’m dying to add to the lineup – but as Goldstein notes, the production is there and Gwynn (and Trent Oeltjen, and Marcus Thames) are clearly not the answer in left. I’ll say Robinson doesn’t get the call in June, but I could see it any time after Independence Day.