So Who’s Next?

Nearly lost in all of the excitement over today’s confounding signing of Ronnie Belliard (though Dylan Hernandez says it isn’t guaranteed) and somewhat disappointing signing of Brad Ausmus was this tweet from Ken Gurnick:

The Dodgers are still looking to add a left-handed hitting outfielder to the bench.

You can read a lot into this. Most likely, it means that Blake DeWitt just earned himself a trip back to AAA, because having Ronnie Belliard and Jamey Carroll on the bench makes no sense, so if that forces DeWitt down to the minors then the Dodgers don’t have a lefty bat off the bench. It could also mean that Jason Repko and Xavier Paul have almost no shot at making the roster, since it’s likely the Dodgers carry just one backup outfielder.

But what I’m mostly interested in right now is, who? Let’s assume that we’re talking about free agents, since teams are unlikely to want to dump a power-hitting lefty outfielder, and the Dodgers probably wouldn’t want to trade for one anyway.

TrueBlueLA (jokingly, I hope and assume) offers up the names of the corpses of Garrett Anderson and Jim Edmonds, who is choosing between two unnamed teams. Otherwise, looking at the list of available outfielders… let’s just say, it’s not pretty. The most prominent lefty outfielder still available is Johnny Damon, who’s certainly not going to accept a pure backup role or the limited funds the Dodgers have left. Other viable lefty options include…

Randy Winn. Winn’s actually a switch-hitter, which is nice. He’s also an original Devil Ray (!) who’s 35 and coming off his worst season in a decade (.671 OPS), which is much less nice. Still, he’s a pretty fantastic outfielder (20.1 and 16.6 in UZR/150 the last two years) and he’s been a solid hitter for years, before his 2009 downturn. I actually wouldn’t hate this, assuming it was a one-year deal at the right price. Wednesday update: Winn signed with the Yankees.

Endy Chavez. Chavez, when healthy, is one of the – if not the best – fielding outfielders in the game. Seriously, look at his UZR numbers at FanGraphs and bow to his awesomeness. Unfortunately, he’s not much of a hitter (OPS+ the last three years of 84, 69, and 80) and he blew out his left knee last July. At 32, it’s hard to say what the knee injury will do to his defense, and if he can’t be an outstanding glove, then he’s not worth having at all. Pass.

Gabe Gross. Now here’s an interesting one, pointed out to me by Twitter follower TheJonLee. Gross is 30, just got non-tendered by Tampa, and hit just .227 last year. So why should we care? FanGraphs just ran an article about the lack of interest he’s received this offseason. Here’s the relevant passage:

And yet, even in this down season, Gross still was worth a pro-rated 1.5 wins per 600 plate appearances. CHONE and Marcel both expect for him to return to roughly average with the bat, and even accounting for regression on defense, Gross is a good bet for another 1.5 WAR/150 G season.

Eventually, some team will land a great asset in Gross, as no raise he gets will approach the $5M-$7M value that he is likely to provide. It’s only a matter of time until we find out which team that is.

Like the first two names, Gross is an excellent defender, so if his bat does bounce back, he could be very valuable. I’m not sure I like him more than Winn, just due to Winn’s track record.

Alfredo Amezaga. This is the scariest name on the list, if only because we know the Dodgers have previously shown interest in him. Remember what I said at the time?

What, going after any old 32-year-old who can’t hit isn’t enough, we need to find one who’s coming off major experimental knee surgery? To say that Amezaga isn’t an offensive threat is understating the situation; in parts of 8 seasons spanning nearly 1500 PA, his line is a sparkling .251/.311/.341. Do we really think Chin-Lung Hu couldn’t put up that line in the bigs?

Amezaga’s terrible bat and recent injury scare the hell out of me. Now, the one benefit with him is not only is he a plus defender in the outfield, he’s also got experience at shortstop. If you carry Amezaga, you can save a roster spot and you probably don’t need to suffer through Nick Green. On the other hand, is that worth having his lousy bat rather than someone with more potential, like Winn or Gross?

I’m not sure I’d prefer any of these guys to the lefty outfielder the Dodgers already have – Xavier Paul. But I could see the argument for Winn, Gross, or – I suppose – Amezaga. Thoughts?

Non-Tender Saturday

Digging in the bargain bin of the winter as the Dodgers are, the non-tender list stands to be a prime hunting ground. There’s still a few hours left for decisions to be made, so the list could get longer, but for now, here’s a look at some of the names we’ve seen so far who might interest the Dodgers.

Chien-Ming Wang, RHP
We’ve been hearing his name attached to the Dodgers for a while, thanks to his history with Joe Torre. Wang was probably never as good his career 55-26 record (along with two 19-win seasons) makes him look, since we know how pointless wins are. Still, he was pretty effective in 2005 and ’06, pitching over 400 innings in those years with ERA+ scores of 124 and 122. He started off 2008 in much the same fashion before breaking his foot in June, missing the rest of the season. He made it back in 2009 to be, well, absolutely horrible. Allowing 14.1 hits per 9 and a 9.64 ERA in 12 games isn’t going to get you anywhere except for the unemployment line or the operating table, and the latter is exactly where he went with a shoulder injury.

Wang’s unlikely to be ready to go before May or June, which will make it nearly two full years since he was last effective. Still, that means he’s not going to come close to the $5m he made in 2009, which is probably more important than any other statistic I can put out there.

Odds: Probably pretty good due to both the Yankee connection and the Dodgers’ Taiwanese crew, but his impact is probably low at best. Let’s say 5-1.

Kelly Johnson, 2B
I had a pretty decent back-and-forth with TrueBlueLA on Twitter this morning (I’ll be honest, I have no idea which TBLA member runs their Twitter), and it basically came down to two competing ideas. For my part, I looked at his declining offensive stats in each of the last three years (.831 to .795 to .692) and his subpar defense (-7.4 career UZR/150 at 2B) and kind of threw up in my mouth a little. TBLA replied, fairly, that Johnson’s .249 BABIP in 2009 was pretty poor luck and likely to rebound.

That’s a fair point, to be sure. If the Dodgers did go out and sign Johnson, my opinion would probably rest entirely on what his role is. You can’t just hand him the 2B job over Blake DeWitt after how horrible he was in 2009, and if that’s the case then you can count me as being strongly against it. Initially I felt that it would be okay if Johnson was brought in to compete with DeWitt or as part of a platoon, but that won’t really work here. Despite being a lefty batter, he’s actually been stronger against lefty pitching in his career (.808 OPS career, .968, though in just 90 plate appearances, in 2009). That may sound like a good reason to have him be one half of a keystone platoon, except that for whatever reason Blake DeWitt is a lefty with the exact same issue. DeWitt’s hit .842 against lefties, but just .682 against righties. So that wouldn’t really work.

Odds: Clearly the Dodgers have a need at 2B, but they already have a questionable fielder who hits lefties despite being lefty; no need to add another. If you’re going to add someone who can’t hit righties, he might as well be a slick fielder. 20-1.

Jonny Gomes, OF
Can we talk about the Reds for a second? What a mess over there, because you’ve got GM Walt Jocketty crying poor about payroll issues, yet he goes out and trades for broken-down Scott Rolen and his $11m salary, gives old & injured Ramon Hernandez $3m with a $3.25m option, and now non-tenders Johnny Gomes, who merely slugged .541 and hit 20 homers in just 98 games.

Gomes really only does that one thing – hit for power – but he sure does it well. Despite never getting 500 plate appearances in a season, he’s hit 17 homers four separate times. His OBP is merely okay (.330) and he’s a horrific outfielder (-22.3 UZR/150 career), but he sure can hit the hell out of the ball. If anyone actually let him play full-time, he’d be a 30-homer threat, easily. I’m not ignoring his flaws, but when Brad Ausmus was arguably your biggest power threat off the bench, it’s not hard to see that you need a lumber upgrade.

Odds: With that glove, he really needs to be in the DH league, and the Dodgers have no outfield room anyway. Besides, power like that will be in demand, so the Dodgers will be outbid. 100,000-1.

Garrett Atkins, 3B/1B
Speaking of needing power off the bench, you may remember that my solution to that in the 2010 plan was to sign Troy Glaus as a corner infielder and power bat. If Glaus is either not healthy or too expensive, Atkins could be a low-cost solution. Atkins, who went to high school in Irvine, seemed to be on the path to stardom after a 2006 season in which he hit 29 homers with a .965 OPS. But to say his career has gone downhill since then is a bit of an understatement. An OPS+ that was 136 in 2006 has slid to 113, 96, and then finally 66 in a horrendous 2009 in which he lost his job and was nearly demoted to the minors.

Now, if you think you can fix him, he’s worth a shot to see if you can get a jolt off the bench and some average-ish defense at 1B and 3B. The worry is that you can’t fix him, and the fact that he’s always been somewhat of a Coors Field monster (.892 at home, .735 on the road) isn’t helping either.

Odds: Just looking at the good seasons on his resume, you know some teams will sniff around. That might drive the price up, but you can never overestimate someone wanting to come back home. 25-1.

Bonus: Atkins was non-tendered today… on his 30th birthday. Happy birthday?

Scott Olsen, LHP
Like Gomes, there’s been no connection I’ve heard of between Olsen and the Dodgers, but he’s a young lefty (26 in February) with starting experience (112 starts), so you can be sure he’s on the Dodger radar. There’s some complications here, though…

He’s been hurt. Olsen missed time in 2009 with left shoulder tendonitis, returned for a few weeks, and then had surgery on his left labrum in July, though he’s expected to be ready for spring training.

He’s hardly been a stud. At 6’5″, you’d expect him to be a power lefty, but his fastball tops out around 90, with his slider being his out pitch. He’s played on some pretty bad teams in Florida and Washington, so I’ll give him a pass on his win/loss record, but his FIP is pretty close to his actual career ERA of 4.77. It’s hard to tell how he’ll come back from the labrum surgery, but again he’ll just be 26, so it’s not that long ago that he was a nicely-regarded prospect.

He’s kind of a dick. For a guy so young, he’s got quite the history. There was the time he was punched out by a teammate. Or the time he fought a different teammate. Or the time he got a DUI and tried to fight a cop. Or the time he gave Brewer fans the bird.

Odds: If he’s healthy and you can look past his personal issues, almost all of which came while with Florida, I think he’s worth a shot. He’d hardly be the first 23- or 24-year-old to do some stupid things, and getting to the other side of the country to a team with some talent might do wonders. Either way, he’s unlikely to score a big deal coming off of injury and with his history. 15-1.

Alfredo Amezaga, 2B/CF
I can’t stand the thought, and I’m only listing him because there’d been reported interest in him last week. Here’s what I said about him at the time:

Oh, good lord. What, going after any old 32-year-old who can’t hit isn’t enough, we need to find one who’s coming off major experimental knee surgery? To say that Amezaga isn’t an offensive threat is understating the situation; in parts of 8 seasons spanning nearly 1500 PA, his line is a sparkling .251/.311/.341. Do we really think Chin-Lung Hu couldn’t put up that line in the bigs? I’ll grant that Amezaga is a pretty good fielder, as FanGraphs has him with positive values at CF, SS, and 2B. That doesn’t change the fact that he’s 32 and coming off major experimental knee surgery.

At least now he’s a free agent and you don’t have to trade anything for him. I just don’t see the fit here. He’s not going to see much time in CF (especially if Juan Pierre remains), and like I said, his nice infield glove and lousy bat doesn’t do much for me over just going with Hu.

Odds: Well, they already asked about trading for him, so now that he’s free? Probably higher than I care to admit. 10-1.

Geez, At Least Nick Green is Ambulatory

I know they’re “just rumors”, but it’s like they’re trying to come up with the worst possible infield options here. First it was 35-year-old Jamey Carroll, who’s at least not without his virtues. Then it was 31-year-old Nick Green, who can’t really hit and isn’t a big asset with the glove. What horror awaits us today?

The Dodgers are inquiring on Marlins utility man Alfredo Amezaga, tweets MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro.  Amezaga, 32 in January, missed most of the season due to a knee injury that eventually required microfracture surgery.  He’s one of the Marlins’ 11 arbitration-eligible players and shouldn’t cost much to acquire.

Oh, good lord. What, going after any old 32-year-old who can’t hit isn’t enough, we need to find one who’s coming off major experimental knee surgery? To say that Amezaga isn’t an offensive threat is understating the situation; in parts of 8 seasons spanning nearly 1500 PA, his line is a sparkling .251/.311/.341. Do we really think Chin-Lung Hu couldn’t put up that line in the bigs?

I’ll grant that Amezaga is a pretty good fielder, as FanGraphs has him with positive values at CF, SS, and 2B. That doesn’t change the fact that he’s 32 and coming off major experimental knee surgery. Plus, he’s not even a free agent – while the price wouldn’t be high, you still have to give the Marlins something to acquire him and then you’d have to put him through arbitration.

I’m clearly against the idea of acquiring Amezaga, but don’t take this to mean that I’m killing the Dodger front office here. Hamstrung as they are by the McCourt debacle, they have to take some unique measures this offseason, turn over every stone, and I get that. Due diligence, and all that. But let’s just be grateful that most of these rumors never come true.