One More Day

We’re barely 24 hours from pitchers & catchers officially reporting to camp, and it’s not a moment too soon; other than Todd Coffey arriving, it feels like we haven’t had any real movement in months. But first, let’s celebrate an anniversary: 20 years ago today, the classic Simpsons episode “Homer at the Bat” first aired. In addition to being the episode which lent this blog its name, it’s still famous for the collection of 80s and 90s baseball stars which graced its guest list, and so both Larry Granillo at Baseball Prospectus & Chris Jaffe at The Hardball Times present well-deserved retrospectives. In addition to making me feel old that this episode is now two decades old, isn’t it amazing what a different connotation you get from Ken Griffey Jr. getting a giant head after drinking a mystery liquid now as opposed to then?

* Sorry, Blake DeWitt fanboys. After being DFA’d last week by the Cubs, DeWitt has chosen to stay within the Chicago organization and battle for a job in camp.

* No inside info here to back this up, but the more I think about it, the more I think Jamey Wright is going to break camp with the team. He won’t last the season, but you’ll see him in blue. Um, yay?

* Remember the MLB Fan Cave from last year? Presented as an “MLB Dream Job”, two fans were selected to live in a New York City apartment all year, watch every single MLB game, and write about their experiences. While it was an interesting idea, the execution seemed somewhat lacking, since the two winners were A) actors and B) tremendously annoying. This year, they’re opening it up to fan voting, so if you want to help Dodger fan Jeremy Dorn get one of the two spots, you can vote right here.

* Ownership update: the list of 11 current bidders is expected to be sliced to five on Thursday, Feb 23. Those five finalists will go through a more rigorous MLB approval process, and then the winner will be selected by Frank McCourt, who has a maximum of 40 days from now to announce who he has selected. Can’t come soon enough.

Jared Kushner Emerges In Dodger Bidding, But That’s Not a Good Thing

It’s somewhat amazing to me that in an ownership battle as high-profile as this one has been, we’re still finding out about bidders who have somehow managed to keep their interest in the dark. Bill Shaikin breaks another name this morning, but, well, don’t get too excited:

Jared Kushner, born into a prominent New York real estate family and son-in-law of Donald Trump, has emerged as a candidate in the bidding for the Dodgers.

Kushner, who became owner and publisher of the New York Observer in 2006, has played a key role in expanding the family business beyond real estate. At 31, he would be the youngest owner in Major League Baseball.

I’ll admit that the idea of a youthful owner is attractive. It’s part of the reason why the potential of groups led by Joe Torre or Peter O’Malley don’t really interest me. I’d much prefer someone energetic and with new ideas, rather than relying on dinosaurs with the same tired direction. On the other hand, well, I’m not all that far away from being 31, and if someone who is just a few months older than me were to own the team while I am decidedly not anywhere near the stratosphere of owning a baseball club, I’d probably find that a bit depressing. (Thanks, mom and dad, for not being media moguls.)

Age aside, of course, there’s some giant red flags here. Regardless of your political viewpoint, I have a hard time seeing Donald Trump as anything but an enormous scumbag who ought to be avoided at all costs. Kushner’s father, Charles, was sentenced to two years in prison back in 2005 for tax evasion and illegal campaign contributions; the elder Kushner’s brother-in-law Robert was convicted on similar charges in 2009. (Okay, I’ll get political for just one second: Charles Kushner is a major donor to Democrats. The Donald, obviously, is a far right-wing Republican. That must make for some hilarious family meals for poor Jared.)

Now, Shaikin notes that the bid does not include Charles, but would be funded primarily by the Kushner family and… you know what, let’s just stop right here. Two nightmare fathers with criminal pasts, a guy who married into Trump money, seems to have little professional experience other than playing with his family’s money, has no sports experience… just no. If you remember all the reasons why I disliked Steven Cohen, this falls into the same category. I don’t want any part of this, no matter what kind of money they have.

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In a related topic, no one – Shaikin included, and he’s unquestionably the media leader as far as this story goes – seems to want to acknowledge the existence of upstart Josh Macciello. We still haven’t seen any official word that he’s made it to the second round of bidding, other than suggestions from his own Twitter feed, but it’s beginning to sound like he’s prepared to drop a ludicrous amount of money to get in the game. How much? He tweeted last night that his bid was “almost double” that of others, and then this morning Mike Szymanski in something called the Studio City Patch (where the picture at right is from) puts a number to that bid:

Sources close to the deal confirm that the bid he laid out recently is about $2.2 billion for the Dodgers and the stadium. Macciello would only confirm that, “with the money I’m bidding, I could buy three sport teams.”

Is that for real? I have absolutely no idea. But I do know that if someone like him is going to have a prayer of a chance in this, he’s going to have to completely blow all of the other bids out of the water, and I can’t imagine anyone’s topping $2.2b right now.

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In happier news, David Laurila at Fangraphs has a pretty nice interview with Logan White today, touching on the process in drafting high school pitchers and specifically speaking about Zach Lee, Nathan Eovaldi, Chris Reed, Allen Webster, and Ethan Martin. Some highlights…

On Lee:

The Biomechanical assessment was very important to our decision to draft Zach. We rank guys on athleticism, and he’s in the upper percentage in terms of that. Mechanically — how his delivery works — he was in the upper echelon. The only negative he had in his delivery was that he threw across his body a little bit, but we feel that is correctable. A lot of significant pitchers have thrown across their body, so you just have to fix their line a little bit. But in terms of arm action, Zach’s front side, his lead arm, how his legs work, his lower half and stride to the plate — all of that — was in the top percentages. I’d say he was in the upper 10 percent of the draft.

On drafting Clayton Kershaw over Tim Lincecum:

Getting back to the original question, we didn’t have any of those guys ahead of Kershaw on our list. We took him based on the fact that he was the best player. From there, everything came together.

On Reed:

He’s 6-foot-4 and athletic as can be. He’s in great physical shape. He throws 95 from the left side, with a hard slider and a good changeup. We’re also talking about a guy with good makeup who is bright. To me, if he would have gotten seen more, I don’t think there’s a chance he gets to the 16th pick. I think we got lucky. Time will bear that out. We might be wrong.

The entire piece is a fascinating look at the draft process, and it’s well worth your click.

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In addition to Russ Mitchell getting DFA’d by the Dodgers yesterday, former Dodger Blake DeWitt was cut loose by the Cubs. I have to say, I’m somewhat surprised by how many fans I’ve heard from suggesting that the Dodgers go and pick him up. I suppose I understand the thought, because Adam Kennedy is both ten years older & useless, and DeWitt was a popular player here, but what people need to keep in mind is that DeWitt really hasn’t done much to prove himself in Chicago. A .265/.305/.413 line in 2011 isn’t a whole lot to lust after, and it says a lot that he was cut in favor of Adrian Cardenas, who has no position and not enough of a bat to make it anywhere but the middle infield.

All that being said, DeWitt is still young and was a plus defender at third base, where the Dodgers have absolutely zero organizational depth, so if he’s willing to take a minor-league deal and start in Albuquerque, then sure, why not. Otherwise, let’s not lose any sleep over it.

MSTI’s 2010 in Review: Second Base

Blake DeWitt (C)
.270/.352/.371 .723 1hr 1.1 WAR

I know a lot of people focused on the fact that DeWitt hit just one homer as a Dodger, and I won’t act as though that’s acceptable. But note that his OPS was .723, and then realize that James Loney and Casey Blake, playing the more traditional power positions of 1B and 3B, ended up at .723 and .727, respectively. If DeWitt wasn’t the answer, nor was he high on the list of problems.

After winning the second base job with a strong camp, DeWitt had just two extra-base hits (both doubles) in April, though he made up for it with an excellent .382 OBP. Despite ridiculous rumors that he’d be sent down in May, he managed to increase his OPS each month of the season he was with LA, from .681 in April to .745 in July.

In June, I noted that I was impressed with his gradual progression:

Just as I was about to write a post saying that while I’m pleased with Blake DeWitt‘s play this year, sooner or later he’s going to have to show some power, he crushes a three-run shot deep into the night, setting in motion a much-needed offensive showing by the Dodgers in a 12-4 win.  DeWitt’s got an .801 OPS since May 1, along with an improving glove, but he hadn’t been able to leave the yard until last night.

Though the various fielding metrics ranked him from average to slightly below, it was clear that all the hard work he’d put into the position switch was paying off, because the DeWitt we saw in July was far ahead of the DeWitt we saw in April.

Now, let’s be clear. He’s likely never going to be an All-Star, and I think his ceiling is as a solid everyday player with a good OBP and a bit of pop. Still, there’s value in that, especially considering he was just 24, and so you can imagine why I was so disappointed when he was dealt to Chicago in the Ted Lilly deal for the useless Ryan Theriot, who you’ll be reading more about in a second:

I can’t express my disappointment in this enough, and I don’t even like DeWitt all that much. I think he’s done a decent job, but with absolutely zero power and defense that’s average at best, he’s not really proving himself to be a piece you build around. I just want to repeat that; the Dodgers are giving up someone I’m not an enormous fan of, and this is still a big mistake.

I suppose that’s a topic we’ll get into more in the Ned Colletti review, though. As for DeWitt, between his miraculous initial success as the emergency Opening Day 3B in 2008, resurrection as the playoff second baseman later that year, driver of the LA-to-ABQ express in 2009, and fulltime second baseman in 2010, DeWitt built quite the career into his relatively short time in LA. He will be missed.

Ryan Theriot (F)
.242/.323/.283 .606 1hr -0.1 WAR

In what you’ll soon see is a recurring theme in these reviews, I’m trying not to blame the player for the misguided decisions of others. It’s not Ryan Theriot‘s fault that he was part of the regrettable Blake DeWitt/Ted Lilly deal, and it’s not his fault that Joe Torre insisted on hitting him 2nd all the time. And I’ll even admit that (probably in large part due to low expectations) I was pleasantly surprised with his defense at second base.

But it is Theriot’s fault that he made a lousy impression by getting on base just three times in his first eighteen plate appearances as a Dodger, and it’s definitely his fault that he started September on a 2-29 skid on his way to hitting .159/.260/.159 for the month. It is fault that his Dodger OPS was about 120 points less than even DeWitt’s modest mark, and it certainly doesn’t help that his last extra base hit of the season was a double on August 26th.

Really, I already went into detail about how awful Theriot is when I noted him in our arbitration decisions series, so let’s revisit that quickly:

Where should I start? Oh, I don’t know. How about with the fact that there’s 157 players who have accumulated at least 475 plate appearances in 2010, and Ryan Theriot is the 3rd-worst in baseball in OPS+? Beating out Alcides Escobar and Cesar Izturis is hardly an achievement:

Rk Player OPS+ PA Year Tm R H 2B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1 Miguel Cabrera 180 648 2010 DET 111 180 45 38 126 89 95 .328 .420 .622 1.042
153 Jason Kendall 70 490 2010 KCR 39 111 18 0 37 37 45 .256 .318 .297 .615
154 Jose Lopez 69 618 2010 SEA 48 141 28 10 58 22 65 .239 .269 .337 .606
155 Ryan Theriot 69 618 2010 TOT 68 153 15 2 29 38 73 .270 .319 .314 .633
156 Alcides Escobar 66 530 2010 MIL 56 115 14 4 40 33 66 .236 .287 .326 .612
157 Cesar Izturis 53 500 2010 BAL 42 109 13 1 28 24 53 .236 .282 .275 .557
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/28/2010.

“But,” you say, “OPS doesn’t measure defense, or position, or baserunning. That’s an unfair comparison.” Okay, then. Let’s go with WAR, and compare against only fellow second basemen. How does that turn out for Mr. TOOTBLAN? Well, he’s only the worst second baseman in baseball in 2010 (min. 300 PA):

Rk Player WAR/pos PA Tm R H 2B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
1 Robinson Cano 5.5 672 NYY 100 193 39 28 105 55 76 .318 .378 .530 .908
25 Skip Schumaker 0.2 513 STL 64 122 18 5 41 43 63 .265 .331 .341 .671
Rk Player WAR/pos PA Tm R H 2B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
26 Cristian Guzman 0.0 396 TOT 48 97 12 2 26 20 63 .266 .311 .337 .648
27 Gordon Beckham -0.3 498 CHW 58 112 25 9 49 37 92 .252 .317 .378 .695
28 Ryan Theriot -0.9 618 TOT 68 153 15 2 29 38 73 .270 .319 .314 .633
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/28/2010.

Man. I’m starting to wonder if the F grade was a bit generous. Now as I said, his defense was surprisingly nice, as should probably be expected from a former shortstop. But he’s going to be make something like $3.5m in arbitration this winter, perhaps more. He’s an offensive black hole. You can’t find good defense and comparable offense for about $3m less than that? Of course you can.

But make no mistake, he’ll be back. Of that, I have no doubt. And he’ll be hitting 2nd, because that’s what gritty 2nd basemen do.

Ronnie Belliard (Putting the F in DFA)
.216/.295/.327 .622 2hr -0.4 WAR

I suppose it was overshadowed by Garret Anderson‘s assault on the record books in all the wrong ways and the overall ineptitude of the offense, but I always thought that Belliard’s horrendous year flew under the radar a bit more than it should have. Sure, I suppose he earned some small benefit of the doubt with his performance in 2009 after coming over from Washington, but when he’s not hitting, he’s not valuable, since he’s a lousy fielder.

To be honest, I wasn’t really sure why he was re-signed in the first place, and yes, I’m regretting bagging on Jamey Carroll‘s shortstop skills right now:

Except… isn’t this exactly what Jamey Carroll was for? You know, a mediocre veteran who can play some 2nd and 3rd as needed? Because Belliard can’t play shortstop any more than Carroll can, and it was that “lack of a shortstop” issue that led to Nick Green getting a spring training invite.

So if this isn’t to fill that backup shortstop hole (since Belliard can’t do it) and it isn’t to be the 2B/3B backup bat off  the bench (since that’s ostensibly what Carroll’s here for), what the hell is Belliard’s role? Please don’t tell me he’s the Opening Day 2B, not until Blake DeWitt is given a chance to fail, and not with guys like Felipe Lopez and Orlando Cabrera still out there with rapidly falling contract demands.

Throughout the spring, the main intrigue with Belliard was whether he’d manage to make it under the magic number of 209 pounds, which he was contractually obligated to in order to see his contract become guaranteed:

Part of me wonders: do we even want him to? Blake DeWitt seems all but certain to win the second base job. Belliard’s presence (combined with Jamey Carroll) was mostly to have two options in case DeWitt flopped – but if he doesn’t, Belliard could be a little redundant.

To his credit, Belliard got off to a nice start, with an .849 OPS at the end of April. But it was all downhill from there, hitting just .194/.279/.274 until he was cut in August. When he was finally let go, I wondered why we’d never focused on it as much as we should have, and then tried to slip in a bit of a conspiracy theory:

Belliard’s incompetence is something I touched upon a few times this year, but probably never as much as it really deserved. I mean, since the beginning of July he was hitting just .175/.232/.222, with three extra base hits, and offering a lot of negative value on defense. His spot could have been put to better use months ago, and it wasn’t.

The timing of it makes me wonder. Just how much of Belliard’s continued employment was an attempt to make Manny Ramirez happy, since it’s well known that the two were good buddies? Manny’s been gone for barely a week, and now Belliard is out the door, despite no desperate roster need to do so, and no new on-field evidence to demand it (by that I mean, he doesn’t suck any more now than he already has all season).

I always figured that Belliard’s friendship with Manny was just a nice additional perk from a mostly useless backup infielder. Perhaps it was his only use to the club at all.

Ah, well. So long, Ronnie. We’ll always have the awkward way in which Orlando Hudson was minimized though, won’t we? Good times.

Nick Green (inc.)
.125/.222/.125 .347 0hr 0.0 WAR

I wanted to make a joke saying “Nick Green was a member of the 2010 Los Angeles Dodgers” and nothing more, because he got just nine unimportant plate appearances and I’d sort of forgotten he ever existed. But, this is probably a good time to look at how badly the team wanted to both acquire and keep him for some reason which I never did understand.

Remember, this is how I spoke of him when we first heard rumors:

If you don’t know much about Green, that’s because you shouldn’t. This is a guy who is 31 and has played for five teams in parts of five seasons, almost entirely as a backup. In 2009, he was pressed into service as Boston’s starting shortstop for nearly half the season thanks to a multitude of injuries, and responded with a pretty bad .236/.303/.366 line. That’s not even a case of a guy being exposed due to too much playing time; that mirrors exactly his career line of .239/.307/.352. Even in over 3000 PA appearances in the minors, his OBP is just .324. “Getting on base” is clearly not Nick Green’s strength, no matter where he plays.

“But hey,” you might say. “He’s a shortstop, so if he really can’t hit, he must be a whiz with the glove, right?” You’d say that, and you’d be wrong. For his entire career, he’s a whopping 0.6 fielding runs above average. That’s not horrible, but nor is it an asset.

So please, enlighten me. When you’re trying to come up with backup infielders, paying Nick Green more than you’d have to pay Chin-lung Hu to be 5 years older, a far inferior fielder, and a likely inferior batter (Hu at least has a .342 OBP in the minors, and at his age still has time to improve) makes sense in what way exactly?

Of course, when he signed the next month, I had this to add:

But you know what makes it even better? That’s three paragraphs about how Nick Green is a lousy ballplayer and a bad idea, and that was before I heard that he had back surgery this offseason. Back surgery, which he is behind schedule in recovering from.

Green didn’t make the roster, but he did report to ABQ until being called up when Rafael Furcal was injured, which I was thrilled about:

So what’s changed since then? The correct answer is “well, it’s only a month into the season, so unless Green’s already put up 20 homers while Hu broke his leg, that’s not nearly enough time to be more important than the last several years of established history”. But we all know it doesn’t work like that, because if it did we wouldn’t have seen any Ortizii on this squad.

In spring training – and yes, I know that these stats don’t mean much, but don’t pretend they don’t often decide jobs – Hu had a line of .281/.324/.281. Obviously there’s no power there, so it’s not stellar… but it’s also streets ahead of Green’s .139/.324/.167. After camp broke, neither one has been hitting very well in the first month at ABQ - Hu at .227/.261/.242, and Green at .219/.242/.438.

Of course Green got just one hit, and was eventually DFA’d when Scott Elbert came up. Let’s be honest; he was totally irrelevant, and I probably spent more time digging up those quotes than he did on the active roster. Don’t you love these infuriatingly bad veteran signings?

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Next! Rafael Furcal just can’t stay healthy! Jamey Carroll was actually pretty rad! Chin-lung Hu makes his yearly cameo! And wait, that’s Juan Castro? It’s shortstop!

Three Trades: The Other Side

Now that everyone’s had a night to sleep on it… well, yesterday was still pretty bad, and I’m not even just talking about the painful loss to the Giants (yes, I’m getting a bit worried about Jonathan Broxton, though it’d be nice if the offense would score more than one run every once in a while too.) Really, my main problem with the deals yesterday was not just that I think the price was too high for improvements which are minimal at best, but that it’s just too late to bother. This isn’t a team that only needed a few rough edges smoothed out, so trading prospects for veterans who aren’t likely to make a difference seems like a mistake, especially when the biggest problem (the offense) was not only not upgraded, but arguably made worse. On top of that, for the number and quality of players who were traded, it would have been far better to get one impact player rather than four decent-ish guys.

Still, thousands of words were written about that yesterday, and SOSG did a great job of showing how the “mainstream” writers all liked the Dodger moves while Dodger bloggers almost uniformly hated them. What I’m interested in right now is how the other side felt. If we all hated the deals, how did fans of the Royals, Pirates, & Cubs see them?

This, ah, is probably not going to make you feel any better.

On the Octavio Dotel deal….

Where Have You Gone, Andy Van Slyke?:

McDonald is the great get here; he’s 25 and though he’s had trouble cracking the Dodgers rotation the last two years, he’s got great minor league numbers. Before the Dodgers used him in the bullpen through most of 2009, he was Baseball America’s 56th best prospect. He’s in Triple-A right now, but presumably could be called up and put in the Pirates’ rotation right away.

Lambo’s a decent prospect with a PED suspension drug of abuse suspension in the past, but he’s 21 and putting up decent numbers in Double-A, which is encouraging. The numbers aren’t great for a four-corners type player (which is what Lambo is), but to get him and McDonald in return for a 36-year old closer who could have been a free agent next year, well, it’s really hard not to be pleased with this trade.

Where Have You Gone, Andy Van Slyke?, part 2:

James McDonald is a solid upper-middle rotation prospect who at the very least should be a very useful bullpen player. Andrew Lambo is a very young, raw player who’s had some struggles but who is still a good prospect. To pull those two in for a 36-year old reliever is a pretty impressive haul and it’s the sort of trade I’m still smarting from being on the other end of so many times in the past.

Bucs Dugout:

The players the Pirates got are mostly help-now types, but McDonald, in particular, used to be a very well-regarded prospect, and his performance actually hasn’t faded all that much since that was the case. His upside is probably something like a #3 starter, which isn’t usually the sort of thing you can say about a 25-year-old Class AAA pitcher.

Lambo is the wild card here. Like McDonald, he was once among the Dodgers‘ top prospects, but unlike McDonald, he probably won’t be with the Pirates anytime soon. He’ll probably be at Class AA, where he’s been for the past two seasons. He’s struggled to master the level, but then he hasn’t been overwhelmed either, despite skipping Class A+ and being somewhat young for the league. It would be hard for me to argue that a couple of random Class A arms, which is about the return I would have expected for Dotel, have more upside than Lambo does. He isn’t a surefire prospect by any stretch, but he’s a nice addition.

Raise the Jolly Roger:

I thought McDonald was plenty to get in return for Dotel, someone that wasn’t going to be of much use for the Bucs going forward. Who know’s what’ll happen with Lambo, but we’ll gladly take him in and give him a shot. He only makes the deal better, with the potential to make it a lot better.

RTJR also posted what I believe was Dotel’s entrance video and… well, I can’t not post this here.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=klcFJ-knID0&feature=player_embedded]

On the Ted Lilly/Ryan Theriot deal…

Bleed Cubbie Blue:

About Blake DeWitt, people who call him “a Theriot clone” or “another Fontenot” miss the point. DeWitt is only 24 years old. His OPS this year is almost 100 points higher than Theriot’s, and two years ago at age 22, he hit nine home runs. I am not expecting him to be a power hitter; just hit for a decent average, play good defense and don’t make dumb baserunning plays! He did hit for some power in the minor leagues; it’s possible that might develop more as he gets older. Remember, he is two years younger than Theriot was when Theriot got a fulltime starting job in the major leagues.

Another Cubs Blog comments on the deal, then shows us exactly what a TOOTBLAN is:

I like Wallach, FWIW. Here are his numbers at Great Lakes (MWL):

17 GS, 84.2 IP, 73 H, 39 R, 7 HR, 43 BB, 92 K

And Smit’s numbers between Inland Empire (A+) and Chattanooga (AA):

37 G (1GS), 53.2 IP, 52 H, 17 R, 10 BB, 47 K

Not too shabby of a return for an expiring deal and a nontender candidate.

On the Scott Podsednik deal…

Royals Review
:

Pimentel is a 21 year old pitcher who has been in A-ball. (B-R page) Pimentel has a 3.49 ERA this year, with good strikeout numbers. A definite interesting live arm. He is the second Pimentel from the Dodger organization to be acquired by Dayton Moore. He has a 3.68 career minor league ERA. (I had earlier written the Dodgers had been using him as a reliever, I must have went cross-eyed when I looked at his stats. He hasn’t been. He’s been a starter.)

Lucas May / Luke May is a 25 year old catcher with an .848 this season in AAA. (B-R page) May also hit decently last season in AA. I’m sure Albuquerque is a good hitters park, but for a catcher in his first AAA season, those are interesting numbers. I would have taken one of these guys for Pods.

Well done to the GM on this one.

Kings of Kauffman:

Moriyama and other Dodgers bloggers had Pimentel jumping into their in-seasno top 30 prospects lists, so to get both minor leaguers is a steal for Dayton Moore.  I believe I saw that the Dodgers are also picking up the remainder of Podsednik’s 2010 salary, which is another win. So basically, I’m ecstatic.

Royals Prospects:

The Royals made a very good trade today in acquiring 25 year old catcher Lucas May and 22 year old P Elisaul Pimentel

The Royals currently employ an aging catcher and a backup catcher that does not have much of a future at that position.

Dodgers Downgrade at 2B To Acquire Unnecessary Pitcher

Let’s break this mess into two pieces…

1) Ted Lilly comes to the Dodgers. In a vacuum, I don’t hate the idea of adding Lilly to your staff. Even though starting pitching is the least of the Dodger problems, Lilly’s an improvement over current #5 starter Carlos Monasterios. Considering Monasterios was a Rule 5 pick, just holding his own has been impressive, but his 3.61 ERA is obscured by his 5.34 FIP and -0.4 WAR; a 4.3 K/9 rate and .264 BABIP just aren’t sustainable.

So is Ted Lilly an improvement there? Sure, why not. He’s overrated – his K rate has dropped three years in a row, his FIP is 4.50, and his velocity has dropped for five years in a row down to about 86 MPH this year, but I’d probably rather trot him out there every 5th day than Monasterios, or even John Ely. I don’t think it’s a huge improvement over Ely, but I won’t argue the point.

That’s not the issue, though. Even if it is an improvement, is it one worth making? Lilly’s the 5th starter. You’ll never convince me he’s better than Kershaw, Billingsley, Kuroda, or Padilla right now, and the problems we’ve seen lately have been caused by non-existent offense and unreliable bullpen work, not poor starting pitching. Other than Ely’s poor last two starts, the most recent outings by #5 guys (Monasterios/James McDonald/Ely before those starts) have been overall a soup of mediocrity, no different than any other team. So if you’re using some of your trade chips, you really ought to be doing it on an area that’s a big problem, not to mildly improve an area that’s not desperately in need of it.

Again, I don’t mind seeing Lilly as a Dodger, but trading anything more than a non-prospect for him makes it completely not worth it. Ted Lilly is not the piece that propels you into October. And since he’s making $12m this year, you know he won’t be offered arbitration, so you can’t even look forward to any draft picks. If you were going to trade for a middling lefty who won’t really help that much this year, it might as well have been for Paul Maholm, who’s at least signed for 2011.

2) Ryan Theriot comes to LA, with Blake DeWitt headed to Chicago. I can’t express my disappointment in this enough, and I don’t even like DeWitt all that much. I think he’s done a decent job, but with absolutely zero power and defense that’s average at best, he’s not really proving himself to be a piece you build around. I just want to repeat that; the Dodgers are giving up someone I’m not an enormous fan of, and this is still a big mistake.

Let’s count the ways!

Theriot is older: DeWitt turns 25 in about three weeks. Theriot turns 31 in December.

Theriot is more expensive: DeWitt’s making the minimum and can’t be a free agent until after 2014. Theriot’s making $2.6m and is eligible for arbitration in 2011 and 2012.

Theriot’s hitting worse this year: DeWitt’s not hitting for much power, but his wOBA is .319 and he’s been worth 1.0 WAR, largely because he’s been doing an okay job at getting on base (.352 OBP). Theriot’s been dreadful – his wOBA is .291 and he’s been a negative value, at -0.1 WAR.

Theriot’s regressing, while DeWitt is improving: Theriot’s OPS the last three seasons come in at .745, .712, & .645. DeWitt’s OPS this year is .723, but check out his monthly OPS numbers: .681, .726, .734, .745. In July, he’s hitting .295/.368/.377. At just 24, those numbers are headed in the right direction.

Theriot’s not even really  a fielding improvement: I understand that UZR, in one season, is generally not the most reliable. Keeping that in mind, DeWitt’s ranked at -0.8 runs at 2B in 2010; Theriot is -3.3 at SS and -1.0 at 2B. That’s even though DeWitt was learning a new position this year.

Even Cub fans don’t like Theriot: His sponsored baseball-reference page reads:

The longest streak of starts by a Cub without an extra-base hit since 1992 (Joe Girardi) and the seventh-longest streak since 1920. I hear Milton Bradley is to blame.

So the Dodgers just downgraded their 2B situation to someone who’s older, more expensive, and worse, all to get a 5th starter they don’t really need. And you wonder why I get so negative sometimes here?

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But wait! There’s more. I’d have hated just DeWitt for Lilly and Theriot. That by itself would be a bad deal. But it’s worse than that, because the Dodgers had to throw in minor league pitchers Kyle Smit & Brett Wallach to complete the deal (the Cubs tossed in $2.5m as well.) I admittedly don’t know a ton about either, but I do know that the 22-year-old Smit is striking out nearly 5 times as many as he’s walked with a 2.35 ERA in the minors, and the 21-year-old Wallach is striking out more than a man per inning at Great Lakes this year. Neither were seen as top prospects (Wallach was #17, Smit #34 in MOKM’s pitcher prospect rankings a few weeks ago) so I’m not crushed that they were dealt, but it’s definitely bothersome that they had to be added to a trade that was bad in the first place. Brett is also Tim Wallach’s son, by the way.

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Hilarious exchange on MLB Network as the trade was announced. The panel roundly liked the deal, saying things like “Hats off to Ned Colletti”, “This was a deal the Dodgers had to make”, & “this is designed to get Dodgers to postseason.” Then Harold Reynolds, of all people, was the only one who brought the reality:

I’m missing it. Ted Lilly doesn’t take you to the playoffs. I don’t get the trade.

When Harold Reynolds is the only one getting things right, you know there’s a problem.