Let's Spend Millions on Center… wait, what?

Sure, we just went through some unbelievably insane rumors a few days ago. Now that I’ve had the weekend to recover from that idiocy, I thought we’d look at some of the rumors bouncing around about one position: center field.

“But MSTI,” you say. “I thought we had a center fielder. And I thought we just signed him to a expensive long-term deal only one year ago. He’s still got 4 years and $36 million left. Why would we be throwing more money into center field?”

“Well, there’s an easy answer to that. Juan Pierre, as you may have read, is very bad at the game of baseball. Very bad. You’ve seen the Native American who cries, ostensibly because of littering? He doesn’t care about non-biodegradable trash. He’s just watched Juan Pierre go 0-5 with 4 flyouts to right, and seen a runner tag from first on a short pop to center.”

That said, that hasn’t stopped the rumors from flying about the Dodgers pursuing one of the big ticket free agent centerfielders, namely Torii Hunter, Aaron Rowand, or Andruw Jones, and then moving JP to left (which would be a terrible idea) or dealing him elsewhere somehow (would would be the greatest coup in sports history, regardless of what was coming back.)

So here’s my thing: if we can move JP to another team/league/sport/planet, then I don’t really have a problem with putting some money into a centerfielder, with Ethier and Kemp in the corners beside him. Unfortunately, since Pierre is so overpaid and unproductive, I’ve got to think that moving him is very unlikely – especially since it would represent Colletti admitting a big ticket mistake.

But moving Pierre to left, a free agent to center, and Ethier or Kemp to the bench? A horrible, terrible, wildly inefficient idea. Let’s see:

OPS, 2005-07
Jones: .848 (but coming off a .724 in 2007)
Kemp: .840padres_dodgers_baseball_6_400.jpg
Ethier: .822
Hunter: .822
Rowand: .797
Pierre: .694

2007 EQA (includes park adjustments)
Kemp: .294
Rowand: .294
Hunter: .278
Ethier: .269
Jones: .251
Pierre: .248

Age on Opening Day 2008
Hunter: 32
Rowand: 30
Jones: 30
Pierre: 30
Ethier: 25
Kemp: 23

Contracts/Rumored Demands
Hunter: 6 yr/ $90 mil
Rowand: 5 yr / $60 mil
Pierre: $44 mil due through 2011
Jones: who knows, but a boatload
Ethier: minimum salary for 2 more years, ineligible for FA until at least 2011
Kemp: minimum salary for 2 more years, ineligible for FA until at least 2011

What does this prove? Well, besides for Juan Pierre being a really, really bad signing last year. Seems pretty obvious to me. We’ve got 6 players to consider. 4 are 30 or over. The same 4 are receiving or will recieve mammoth salaries. Then there’s 2 players, both 25 or under (i.e., likely to improve over time, unlike the 30+ players), who are making the minimum and are under Dodger control for the next several years. Not only are they young, cheap, and likely to improve, but they’ve already equaled or outperformed some of the bigger names on the list – and that’s even taking into account the fact that each of them has suffered through some rookie/sophomore slumps and managerial lack of confidence.

The answer, as always is – Juan Pierre sucks. Sorry, I meant “play the awesome young kids you have instead of pouring millions into players who aren’t very likely to outperform them.” I don’t mean to come off like I want the Blue to be a small-market team and not spend money – I thought last year’s signing of Jason Schmidt was a great signing (doh!), and I also liked the Furcal signing a few years ago. Except, in each case, the big ticket signing filled a need. In this case, there’s no need to spend millions on players who aren’t likely, over the life of the contract, to do better than the players you already have who you are paying minimum wage to.

- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness msti-face.jpg