Crisis Averted!

Normally the release of a non-roster middle infielder wouldn’t warrant its own blog post. But Angel Berroa is no normal player, which is why the news from Dodger Thoughts is so welcome:

Gurnick also notes that the Dodgers released shortstop Angel Berroa.

I have neither the time nor the space to recount my entire blogging history regarding Angel Berroa, but I encourage you to look through the archives and enjoy such gems as…

“Berroa is so bad that he might actually open a hole in the goddamn space-time continuum.”

and

“the so-bad-I-may-renounce-my-fandom-if-he-sticks Angel Berroa.”

and

“and Berroa, well, he’s basically the worst major leaguer in baseball history.”

And that’s only since he was signed this winter, much less when he played every day in 2008.  If you’re a real masochist, I’d start from the day he was acquired. Even better, he wasn’t just sent to minor-league camp, he was flat-out released. Hooray!

Proof That There Is No God

Diamond Leung is intent on ruining my day:

Dodgers are inviting Justin Miller, John Lindsey, Prentice Redman, Francisco Felix, Juan Perez, Josh Towers, Doug Mientkiewicz, Luis Ayala and Angel Berroa to spring training

Okay, we knew about Miller, Redman, Perez, Towers, and Ayala already. Mientkiewicz is no surprise at all, and he might actually have a shot to win a job, seeing how unsettled the bench is. Felix and Lindsey were Dodger minor leaguers last season, so no issue there.

If that was it, then fine. A basically unimportant bit of off-season housekeeping. But there it is, that name on the end, stalking me. It’s staring at me, and sending shivers down my spine.

Angel Berroa.

I’m well aware, of course, that it’s just a minor-league deal with a spring training invite. It’s just that we’ve seen this movie before. What exactly about his 2008 line of .230/.304/.310 and -9.3 UZR/150 makes us want to re-live that again?

Even if he just ends up in AAA, he’s hardly harmless. We all know about Rafael Furcal’s injury history, Jamey Carroll isn’t much of a shortstop option other than emergencies, and Chin-Lung Hu’s name is being brought up in possible trade scenarios. He could be back in Los Angeles quicker than you think, and while I don’t want to overstate this, it’s pretty much a fate worse than death. I say that, of course, because Angel Berroa is pretty high on the list of my least favorite Dodgers of all time.

Let me leave you with a sampling of how we felt during his time in Blue, shall we?

June 7, 2008:

Angel Berroa is incredibly bad at the game of baseball. There’s about forty different ways I could go about this, but this one stands out for me the most. This morning, I was reading Baseball Prospectus’ daily game previews, and in the Royals discussion, they pointed out just how historically horrible current SS Tony Pena Jr. has been. I won’t copy and paste their entire statistical argument here, but this is the take-home point:

There have been a mere handful of hitters over the last 30-plus seasons who performed as poorly as Tony Pena Jr. has this year. Since 1970, Pena has the third lowest EqA among players with a minimum of 164 plate appearances,

Remember that – current Royals SS Tony Pena Jr. is on pace to set records for horribleness. Just keep that in mind, read this, and try not to jam your thumbs into your eyes:

The defense for Pena last year, when he hit .267/.284/.356, was that his defense made up for his bat to the degree that he was a better option than the recently ousted Angel Berroa, who could neither hit (.248/.271/.356 with a .209 EqA) nor field (-6 FRAA) in 2006. Pena was able to field, with +13 FRAA last year, which helped make up for his -25 BRAA to a degree—sadly 12 runs below average was an improvement over Berroa’s -23 from the year before—but this year he’s having difficulty fielding as well.

“Sadly, 12 runs below average was an improvement over Berroa’s -23 from the year before.”  He’s clearly a brutal fielder. In 2006, his last full season as the Royals’ starter, he put up an almost unbelievable line of .234/.259/.333, for a 52 OPS+. That made him just about half as effective at the plate as your completely average player – and he was a butcher at the most important defensive position. So right now we’ve got a SS who’s a great fielder and can’t hit, and a SS who’s a good hitter but not much of a fielder. Replacing them with a guy who can’t hit or field (and will cost that $500,000 buyout) is a better option how?

July 14, 2008:

Angel Berroa (.192/.253/.219 0hr 0rbi) (F)
I have to say, of all the stats I looked up for this article, Berroa surprised me more than anybody. He really has zero RBI? Not even one? Despite starting 21 games? That would be incredible, if it weren’t so depressing. Look at it this way, Berroa’s had 72 at-bats without an RBI. That’s the most in MLB by a large margin, nearly double the 40 at-bats by Washington’s Roger Bernadina. Yikes! Actually, now that I think about it, maybe Berroa doesn’t deserve an F here. Maybe he should be getting a C. I mean, it’s not like we didn’t all know he was going to suck from day one. And to the surprise of no one except perhaps Ned Colletti, he has. He’s been exactly as bad as we thought, not that it was possible to be any worse, so in that sense he’s been the average Angel Berroa.

Nah, forget it. Big. Fat. F.

August 7, 2008:

it’s time for Angel Berroa to hit the road to, well, anywhere that’s not Los Angeles. And it’s time to get Chin-Lung Hu back to the bigs.

Sure, there was a time where you could maybe, sort of, kind of make an argument for Berroa – back when Nomar and Furcal were both DL’d and the slim possibility of Berroa’s resurgence was preferable to Hu’s .159 struggles in the bigs. Maybe.

But to no one’s surprise, Berroa’s been terrible, despite his 2-4 performance tonight. Even in the emergent circumstances that have allowed him to play, a .206/.267/.243 line (coming into tonight) in a pennant race just isn’t going to cut it. Of the 72 men who’ve played shortstop in the big leagues this year, Berroa is 67th in VORP.

August 17, 2008:

There’s something unbelievable in there, so in case you glossed over it, I’ll present it again.

“I tried to reason who was going to give me the better at-bat – Berroa or Loney,” Torre said.

This. This, friends, is what will drive a man to insanity. I didn’t see Torre say this, of course, but I wish there was video of it. Was he able to say this with a straight face? Isn’t a quote like that grounds for immediate firing?

November 20, 2008:

Look, I know the team was in a bad situation at shortstop, but come on. Angel Berroa? We were aghast at the move from the second it came down, and Berroa – despite the inane protestations of the local media – was predictably awful. I don’t care how bad things were at shortstop; there’s always a better option than Angel Berroa. Always.

November 30, 2009:

No, no, no. No. Just no. $3.8 million for Angel Berroa? I wouldn’t take him at the major league minimum, even if someone else was paying it. I’m not even going to link to our previous articles about him, because you know it all by now. He’s a complete black hole at the plate and despite Rosenthal’s assertion of him as a “capable” fielder, is average at best. As we’ve said before, if we’re going to have to play a shortstop who can’t hit, it might as well be Hu, the superior fielder who’s at least got a prayer of offensive improvement.

Please, please don’t make us live through this again.

Hells Bells in Los Angeles?

Not that this isn’t an idea that hasn’t already been kicked around for months, but Yahoo’s Tim Brown says that the Dodgers have actually acted upon it

The Los Angeles Dodgers have offered Trevor Hoffman a one-year contract with a club option for 2010, according to a source familiar with the negotiations.

Hoffman, the all-time saves leader, also has discussed a contract with the Milwaukee Brewers, and is likely to have received a formal offer from them, as well.

Discarded by the San Diego Padres, Hoffman is thought to prefer Southern California, having spent 15 ½ of his 16 big-league seasons in San Diego.

TrevorHoffman_2006_002.jpgNow, let me say this: I don’t believe the Dodgers need a closer, at least not in the sense that they need a starting pitcher or needed to get rid of Andruw Jones. Despite the likely losses of Joe Beimel & Takashi Saito and the already-gone Chan Ho Park, the Dodgers still return their top three relievers in terms of WXRL – Cory Wade, Hong-Chih Kuo, and Jonathan Broxton. Not only that, Ramon Troncoso (who was adequate in his time up last year) is tearing up winter ball (2.25 ERA, 11/1 K/BB in 16 innings) and youngsters Scott Elbert and James McDonald, who both showed flashes in their limited time in the bigs in 2008, are each likely to contribute. Yeah, losing Saito hurts, but no one knows if he’s healthy anyway, and the club was successful without him for most of last year as it was. The point is, the Dodgers pen is strong, and despite the unfounded worry over Broxton as the closer, doesn’t require a major upgrade.

That said, make no mistake – even though closer isn’t a huge need in my book, it’s never a bad idea to upgrade the bullpen if the price and situation is right. Trevor Hoffman might be 41 years old, and he might be coming off his highest ERA since 1995, but he’s still got it. In yet another example of why ERA isn’t always a foolproof method of evaluation, note that despite his ERA jumping nearly a full run between 2007-08 to 3.88, his WHIP decreased markedly (his 3rd lowest in the last 8 years, and actually lower than his career average) and his K rate jumped back up to one per inning. Even better, he got stronger as the season went on, which is always a worry for old players. After a lousy first half (5.08 ERA) he was dominant after the break, allowing just 10 hits in 17 innings for a 1.59 ERA. Oddly enough, unlike every other San Diego pitcher ever, he was much more successful away from PetCo Park.

As I said, I think the bullpen would be just fine without Hoffman, and I have confidence that Broxton can get the job done. But I’d be more than happy to add Hoffman and push everyone back. Then you’ve got Broxton being the best setup man in the league, and Wade & Kuo being a deadly 1-2 punch that you can insert whenever you need. How great does that top 4 sound, and we haven’t even gotten to Troncoso, Elbert & McDonald yet?

So let’s get this done. There’s no word on whether Milwaukee’s offer is superior, but unless they’re not even close, it shouldn’t matter. Hoffman’s a SoCal native, even before pitching for San Diego, and has stated he’d prefer to stay near home. Add in that his brother Glenn is a former Dodger player and coach, and that the Dodgers are much better positioned to compete in the weak NL West than the Brewers (sans Sabathia and Sheets) are against the Cubs in the Central, and there’s no downside here. Besides, throwing a few more dollars at Hoffman would save the club money in arbitration hearings with Broxton, because set-up men never get paid as much as closers with fancy save totals, regardless of how good they are. In addition, just like how we enjoyed having Greg Maddux around for our young starters, perhaps Hoffman could teach Broxton that devastating changeup, which would make him completely unstoppable.

Besides, how great would it be to kick Padre fans while they’re down by taking the second best player in team history away from them?  

***In other news, let’s thank the New York Yankees for taking out our trash. Not only did they sign Jason Johnson, who was unlikely to return anyway, they saved us from the looming spector of Angel Berroa 2: Electric Boogaloo by signing him too. Guys, why stop there? Mark Sweeney and Pablo Ozuna are still out there lurking, and I’d love to know they’re contractually barred from resigning with the Blue. 

Jason Repko Lives to See Another Day

As you’ve probably heard, the Dodgers non-tendered five players, making them free agents: Takashi Saito, Angel Berroa, Scott Proctor, Yhency Brazoban, and Mario Alvarez. Forget Alvarez and Brazoban, because Alvarez is a minor leaguer who’s injured (but hey, at least we let him eat up a roster spot while losing Wesley Wright to Houston) and Brazoban is a fat tub of injured goo who’s made it into 11 games over three years. So no big losses there, unless you count the only guy in the room who might have made Andruw Jones feel svelte.

As for Saito, Proctor, and Berroa, this doesn’t necessarily mean the end of them in Dodger blue – but it does mean that any team can now talk to them. For Berroa, that makes complete sense, because after the Dodgers declined his $5.5 million option (!!!) they would have had to offer him at least $3.8m because there’s only so much you can cut a player’s salary in his situation. Considering I don’t think Berroa’s worth $3.80, that’s a pretty easy decision. Proctor, well, you know that Joe Torre will do whatever he can to ensure he’s back. Hell, if Proctor signs with another team, I half expect Torre will quit and try to go get that job.

saito.jpgAnd then there’s Takashi Saito, who by some measures has been the best closer in baseball over the last three years. Just a bizarre situation all around, here. Usually you can look at a baseball or financial decision and draw comparision to similar choices in the past. But can you name any other soon-to-be-39 relievers who don’t have free agency rights who’ve dominated the opposition, yet choose to avoid elbow surgery with experimental injections of blessed pig’s blood? (Okay, it was stem cells.Whatever.) If the Dodgers decided it was time to part ways because of his injury, that’s fine – but they had offered him a contract that was deemed unacceptable by Saito’s agent, which sounds like they’re relatively confident he can pitch next year.

Usually, I’d attack the Dodgers for letting a valuable piece go over a relatively small amount of money, but not this time. Arbitrators like to look at fancy numbers, and Saito certainly has that. It’s not unreasonable to think that he might have received $5 million next year, and that’s too much to gamble on a guy who might never throw another pitch. It used to be that players who were non-tendered weren’t allowed to sign with their old teams before May 1, almost guaranteeing they wouldn’t return. Fortunately that’s no longer the case, so hopefully Saito won’t want to start over somewhere else at this stage in his career and we’ll see him come to an arrangement with the Blue.

But who did get tendered an offer? Jason Repko, of all people. Now I like Jason Repko, I do. It’s just odd to see a team make sure to keep a guy who gets injured at a level that’s Nomar-esque and has a career OPS+ of 76. Actually, Nomar-esque might be insulting to Nomar – Repko missed all of 2007 and has only 148 MLB at-bats in the last three seasons. That said, a .373 OBP in AAA this season is pretty tasty, and with a track record like his he can’t stand to make a lot in arbitration.

On the other hand, teams don’t usually offer arbitration to guys who they plan to keep in the minors all season long, and as we all know the Dodgers have a ton of outfielders, and possibly one more on the way. Maybe our prayers for getting rid of Jones or Pierre really will be answered!

Let’s Talk About Shortstop

For all the talk flying around about CC Sabathia, Manny Ramirez, and whether we should prefer a winning baseball team or helping children, it’s really looking more and more likely that shortstop is going to be the most important decision the Dodgers have to make this offseason. With Rafael Furcal sounding like he’s all but a memory (likely to the A’s or Giants), Chin-Lung Hu hardly impressive in 2008, and Ivan DeJesus, Jr. not ready to be handed the Opening Day gig, the Dodgers are going to have to find a shortstop somewhere.

Any of this sound familiar? It should, because we did almost this exact same thing back in June. You always hear about how third base has been a black hole for the Blue since Adrian Beltre left; well, shortstop hasn’t really been that much better. So let’s take a spin through the intertubez and check out some of the options…

jackwilsonswingsJack Wilson. Believe it or not, Jack Wilson’s garnered a mention in about a dozen posts in the history of this blog, because his name seems to constantly pop up in rumors. So by now, you probably now how I feel about him – he’s pretty mediocre. Oh sure, he’s a good fielder, and he’s had one or two decent offensive seasons. That doesn’t exactly make up for the 78 career OPS+, the .312 career OBP, the 6 of 8 seasons with OPS+’s of 77 or under, or his career shortcomings at Dodger Stadium (.558 OPS). He’s a mediocre veteran on the wrong side of 30, and he’s not cheap – $7.25 million due in 2009 with a $500k buyout on his $8.4 million 2010 salary nor is he coming off of a good season, being the 36th ranked SS in VORP (behind Nomar and David Eckstein) when he wasn’t hurt. Basically, I don’t think much of him as a solution, though I’d probably take him if he only cost a relatively small contract, if we can’t do any better. So you can imagine how I feel about the return the Pirates are looking for:

The Dodgers have prospects, too, and, according to a Wednesday report by Yahoo!, want the Pirates to pay “a huge chunk” of Wilson ‘s remaining money. Fox Sports reported earlier in the week that the Pirates sought shortstop Chin-Lung Hu, outfielder Delwyn Young and a third player, but Los Angeles pulled away.

The Pirates do not see Hu, a .193 hitter in his first 77 major league games, as anything more than a defensive replacement for Wilson , so the rest of the trade component will be key. By no means will Hu be the centerpiece.

The funny thing about that is, I wouldn’t trade Chin-Lung Hu straight up for Jack Wilson. I realize that Hu didn’t show much in 2008, but at least he’s got hope for improvement. We know exactly what Jack Wilson is, and that’s an overpaid older mediocre shortstop. Hu is at least as good of a defender (probably better), and still has time to show the offensive form that got him so hyped in 2007 – at a fraction of the cost. Now I understand that the Pirates and their fans wouldn’t want to trade their starting shortstop for a player who hit as poorly as Hu did this year – it’s a hard sell. But since I don’t really want Wilson at all, there’s a simple solution: don’t bother trading for Jack Wilson!

In situations like these, it’s always interesting to see what fans of the other team say. At the BuccoBlog, they don’t see much about Hu or Young to get excited about, and while I disagree it’s not hard to see why they’d feel that way. From the comments of that same thread, though, it seems that some of their fans realize that Wilson isn’t all that much to get excited about:

Can Huntington sell Wilson’s valuable defense, contact hitting and agressive baserunning to get back top value or maybe more?
by DITO

Yeah, all NH has to do is find a team that’s never employed a scout, has no internet connection and no subscription to any magazine that has baseball stats.
by WTM

No wonder they’re coming to Colletti! Just kidding. Sort of. Anyway, since I’d barely give him a job if he came for free, much less at a cost of prospects, let’s just drop the whole “Jack Wilson” thing, can we?

Edgar Renteria… or Orlando Cabrera. Ken Rosenthal (via MLBtraderumors) chimes in on Wilson, but also drops this nugget:

On the free-agent front, they are showing mild interest in free-agent shortstop Edgar Renteria but not Orlando Cabrera, believing that Cabrera would require too long a contract, sources say.

renteriatigersRenteria, as you might remember, had apparently signed a two year, $18 million deal with the Giants last week before reports were proven false. I’d been all set to laugh at San Francisco for that deal, because what the hell does a rebuilding team need with an over-the-hill shortstop who’d cost a draft pick? It makes slightly more sense for the Dodgers, as they’re a contender. Frankly, I’m not exactly sure why Cabrera is expected to get a better deal than Renteria. I’ll grant that Cabrera is the superior fielder, but he’s also a year older, has historically been a weaker offensive player than Renteria, and in a season in which Renteria was killed for having “lost it”, they each ended up with identical 84 OPS+ scores.

Renteria’s not the player he once was, but I don’t think that he’s as cooked as most believe. In 2007 for Atlanta, he had the second best season of his career (.390 OBP!), and he’s now proven twice that while he thrives in warm weather NL cities (Miami, Atlanta, St. Louis), he struggles in cold weather AL cities (Boston, Detroit). Well, guess what: the Dodgers aren’t based out of Minnesota. Besides, while Renteria was – like the rest of the Tigers – absolutely brutal in the first half last year, he definitely turned it around in the second half, putting up a line of .296/.343/.469. He’s hardly the ideal solution, I’ll admit. But if he’s somehow undervalued enough to agree to just a one or two year deal, I’m okay with a line like that, and with a contract that short it’s not blocking DeJesus.

Angel Berroa. Again from Rosenthal:

If Furcal signs elsewhere, the Dodgers’ top in-house candidate to replace him could be Angel Berroa, a capable fielder who batted only .230.

Berroa, who was acquired in a trade with the Kansas City Royals and started for most of the time when Furcal was out, had his $5.5-million option for next season declined. Because Berroa hasn’t accrued enough major league service time to become a free agent, he remains under the Dodgers’ control.

The last day to tender contracts to such players is Dec. 12, and if the Dodgers don’t re-sign him by then, they’ll probably let him go because the collective bargaining agreement forbids clubs to re-sign or tender contracts to players that would cut their salaries from the previous season by more than 20%. Berroa earned $4.75 million in 2008, meaning the Dodgers would be forced to pay him at least $3.8 million if they tender him a contract.

No, no, no. No. Just no. $3.8 million for Angel Berroa? I wouldn’t take him at the major league minimum, even if someone else was paying it. I’m not even going to link to our previous articles about him, because you know it all by now. He’s a complete black hole at the plate and despite Rosenthal’s assertion of him as a “capable” fielder, is average at best. As we’ve said before, if we’re going to have to play a shortstop who can’t hit, it might as well be Hu, the superior fielder who’s at least got a prayer of offensive improvement.

Now at this point you’re probably thinking, “MSTI, you’re against everyone. Who do you want?” Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer to that. My thinking is that either Hu or DeJesus is going to be the man at the position, but that you can’t depend on either in 2009. So you want to get a player on a one-year deal, two at the most, who won’t kill you in 2009, but also won’t cost a ton in prospects to acquire. That counts out Jack Wilson, who the Pirates want a ton for, and Angel Berroa, who would kill us. So as much as I hate myself for saying it, I can’t see a better option right now: Edgar Renteria on a very short term deal.

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