Should the Dodgers Trade For a Lefty Bat?

Brian Giles is gone. Doug Mientkiewicz may not be able to play the field, and is hardly a power bat anyway. Garret Anderson is nearly 38, on a three-year decline, and hasn’t looked fantastic so far in camp. Xavier Paul has the tools and the defensive chops, but the club doesn’t seem to be seriously considering him. And despite rumors that the club would go without a lefty on the bench, that seems completely improbable.

So who is going to be the left-handed bat off the bench? While I agree that it’s still highly, highly likely that either Anderson or Mientkiewicz ends up with the job, I’d propose that going with subpar options simply because they’re the best you’ve got isn’t a good enough answer. If the team won’t go with Paul for whatever reason, then perhaps the answer is on another team that’s facing a roster crunch of its own.

As Tony Jackson reports, the Dodgers may have put Eric Stults, Jason Repko, and Chin-Lung Hu on the trading block. Each has their own reasons for possibly not making the roster, and none would bring back a huge return – but they may be enough to get an extra bat for the bench.

So what kind of player are we looking for? Lefty, obviously. Cheap, for sure. More likely a veteran who can handle coming off the bench than a young player, since playing time would be limited. Preferably with some power, and who can at least handle a first baseman’s mitt or corner outfielder’s glove without completely embarrassing himself. He’ll need to be in a situation elsewhere where he may be expendable, and while it doesn’t have to be a team that needs Stults, Repko, or Hu, it would certainly be a lot easier if they did.

After a quick look around MLB spring rosters, here’s some options. Be warned: they’re not all good options. They’re listed alphabetically.

Frank Catalanotto. The Cat turns 36 in April, so time isn’t on his side. Still, he’s only once in his career ever had an OPS+ under 95 and he’s had OBP of .342 and .346 in the last two years. Plus, he’s seen time at 1B, 2B, LF & RF in recent years. He’s not really a great option, I’ll grant. Then again, neither are Anderson and Mientkiewicz, and they can’t really play the field.

Willie Harris. Talk about a guy who’s turned his career around. After the 2006 season, Harris was 28 years old and had played parts of six seasons in the bigs, with a putrid line of .238/.306/.294. Yet after a 2007 stop in Atlanta, Harris became one of the only players to go to Washington and love it, since he’s put up a 101 OPS+ in two years as a Nat while seeing time at 2B, 3B, LF, and CF. He may not have the power you’d ideally like, but between the positional flexibility and the decent on-base ability, he’s a player wasted on a loser who could really help a contender. I’d definitely prefer him to Anderson, and you’d think the Nats would love any one of the numerous 5th starter candidates the Dodgers won’t be able to keep.

Eric Hinske. Hinske’s exactly the type of player the Dodgers could use. Not only is he a lefty, but he can play both infield and both outfield corners, which is perfect. Plus, he’s been a solid hitter off the bench for most of his career. Unfortunately, the Braves have two very fragile starters in the infield in Chipper Jones and Troy Glaus, so it’s unlikely they’d want to move Hinske unless they were blown away. Too bad; he’s a perfect fit.

Micah Hoffpauir. Hoffpauir’s an interesting case. Though he’s just turned 30, he has only 337 almost league-average (96 OPS+) MLB at-bats. Yet in the minors, he’s been a monster, putting up OPS of .917 and 1.145 in AAA in 2007 and 2008, including mashing 25 homers and 100 RBI in just 71 AAA games in 2008. He’s never really gotten a chance with the Cubs, partially because he’s a terrible fielder, and partially because he’s been stuck behind Derrek Lee and Alfonso Soriano. He’s not really a serious candidate here, because the team would never give the job to someone so inexperienced at the big league level, but that power sure is tempting, especially from a lefty 1B/OF. Still, if minor league power interested the Dodgers, they could have just kept Mitch Jones.

Mark Kotsay. Like Anderson, Kotsay isn’t, you know, good. That said, over the last two years, Kotsay has a .727 OPS, while Anderson has a .733, so he’s basically the same. While Anderson’s an outfielder in the same way that Manny is an outfielder, Kotsay’s a plus glove at 1B, and though he’s no longer the top center fielder that he once was, he’s playable in the outfield. With the White Sox loading up on every lousy Dodger outfielder of the last few years, Kotsay may be the last man to miss the roster. He’s probably not any better – if even as good as - Anderson (though he is crushing the ball in camp with a .944 OPS), but if you’ve got two evenly mediocre hitters, I’d certainly rather the one who can help you more in the field.

Laynce Nix. Nix is a plus outfielder at all three spots with some nice power – 15 homers in 337 at-bats for the Reds in 2009. Unbelievably, he’s not a creation of Great American Ball Park, since he hit 10 homers (.531 SLG) away from Cincinnati as opposed to just 5 (.428) at home last year. The Reds have a serious outfield jam, since CF and RF are committed to Drew Stubbs and Jay Bruce while LF is up for grabs amongst about a dozen contenders, including Nix, Jonny Gomes, Chris Dickerson, Wladimir Balentien, and what the hell, let’s throw Eric Davis in there as well. Unless Aroldis Chapman breaks camp with the team, the Reds could have an all-righty starting rotation, which could make for a nice fit for Eric Stults. A power lefty who’s a plus glove? I’ll take that over Anderson nine days a week. Remember, while Reed Johnson is going to spot for Manny on defense, it’s not like Andre Ethier’s a Gold Glover out there either.

Delwyn Young. Nah, just kidding. Still, would be nice to have a left-handed bat who’s torn up AAA in camp right now…

As I said, not a ton of great options, and perhaps none that really stand out over Xavier Paul (other than Nix, who I was surprised to find that I really liked). Really, the point here is that since neither Anderson or Mientkiewicz are going to help you in the field (either in quality or flexibility) and neither are likely to be huge pluses at the plate, you might as well try to improve where you can.

Update: Figures, I post this and then Anderson gets 3 hits today. Still, that doesn’t change my opinion. There’s better options out there than him.

It’s Time to Make Some Moves

No, this isn’t “panic”. Yes, the Dodgers have been thoroughly mediocre over the last three months, but the fact that this is now a race is almost entirely due to the Rockies being an otherworldly 52-25 over their last 77 games. If the Rockies don’t go crazy, the Dodgers are still 6-7 games up. 

Still, what they’re doing isn’t working, and it’s time to do something about it. For everyone who was freaking out about the pitching, don’t overlook the fact that the arms have been fantastic. Last night marked the 14th game in a row that the Dodgers have allowed 4 runs or less (in the first 9 innings, anyway), and it came on the heels of 9 in a row allowing 3 or less. That’s not just a staff you can win with; that’s a staff you should be winning a lot with. It just goes to show how awful the offense has been that they’re now 3 games under .500 for the month at 10-13.

No, despite all of the assertions earlier this year – on both this site and many others – that the 2009 Dodger offense was the best we’d seen in decades, the bats have been absolutely horrible. As much as we’ve enjoying having a stable lineup for the first time in, well, ever, it’s time for Joe Torre to stop just penciling in the same lineup every night and hope for something new. It’s time to shake things up, and while I have faith in exactly zero of these things happening, here’s what I would do:

1) Make Matt Kemp the new leadoff hitter. Kemp’s got it all – something for the new school (.370 OBP, best non-Manny OBP among the starting 8) and something for the old school (27 SB). Rafael Furcal’s just not getting it done from the leadoff spot, and his abysmal .321 OBP is really killing rallies before they even get started. Kemp’s been consistently good all season, but he’s really been hot over the last 14 days (.986 OPS), and why wouldn’t you want your best hitter getting the most at-bats? In 43 career starts at the top, he’s got a .304/.360/.490 line, so I don’t want to hear any arguments that he couldn’t do it.

Conversely, Furcal’s been lousy all season and has been at his coldest at the worst possible time – .182/.200/.227 in the last 14 days. Furcal’s not getting it done. Kemp, by almost any measure, would be a huge improvement. What’s the problem here?


mitchjones.jpg2) Free Mitch Jones! – and take time away from James Loney to play him
. I was originally going to say “DFA Mark Loretta” to make room, since he’s been downright Sweeneytastic, but since the rosters expand in just a few days that’s probably unnecessary. However, Loney’s been downright putrid. You can split his stats any way you like, and you’re not going to get anything good. Over the last 28 days? .188/.270/.225. The last 7 days? 1 whole hit for a line of .083/.154/.083 – and he somehow looks even worse than that.

Look, there’s going to be a lot of conversation in the offseason about whether Loney should be our first baseman in 2010 and beyond, but that’s not important right now. What’s important now is that the offense is wasting a ton of good pitching, and Loney is Offender #1. Loretta’s no better, so while I’m not going to be so unreasonable as to suggest that career minor leaguer Jones should be the new starting first baseman in a pennant race, you also just can’t let Loney keep sucking up outs.

Jones continues to destroy AAA pitching (.282/.356/.622 with 30 HR and 86 RBI) and it’s not as though we haven’t seen other older minor leaguers come up and get absurdly hot this year – just look at Garrett Jones and Randy Ruiz. So call up Jones. Don’t make him the everyday starter, but at least put him in a semi-platoon with Loney until one or the other gets hot. It’s not ideal, but neither is letting Loney play every day right now, either. 

3) If you’re the manager, stop doing stupid things. I know I harped on this last night, but I’m still not over it. There’s no rational explanation for it. Worse, we haven’t seen any explanation from Torre about why Sherrill and Broxton sat idly by, nor have any of the reporters asked the question. Dylan Hernandez wrote a standard game recap, T.J. Simers has a puff piece on Jim Tracy, and Bill Plaschke is MIA (though, that’s probably a good thing). Way to ask the tough questions, guys.

—————–

Speaking of which, I’ve been following Delwyn Young’s Pirates career ever since his ill-advised trade, and while I know that at some point I’ll have to let it go, I found something in the comments of the Dodger Thoughts post that linked to my Mets/Dodgers injury post that intrigued me:

Ok, who is the best hitting 2nd baseman in the NL? Well, after Chase.

OPS+

Pee Wee 117
Uggla 108
Castillo 108
Hudson 106

This informational interlude is courtesy of the Pee Wee Marching and Chowder Society

At second base, Delwyn Young has plenty of work ahead to reach the point of being average defensively, but he clearly is willing to put in that work — he and Hill are on the field early every day — and his .312 average and power have the Pirates sounding like they would sacrifice a little defense to keep him in the lineup.

And There’s Your Ace

kershawshutsoutcards.jpg(Update: Okay, I wrote this as the Dodgers were in the process of blowing two saves. They’re currently in the 12th inning, tied 2-2. Depending on how this ends, this post might look really out of place. But you know what? Clayton Kershaw RULES, and nothing that happens in this game is going to change that.)

You want an ace? You’ve had a problem with recent weak outings from the rotation? Or with the fact that they don’t work deep into games? Well, how’s 8 shutout innings against a team with the best hitter alive strike you? Not only that, but in a one-run game on the heels of the first three-game losing streak of the entire season? I wasn’t kidding when I said I wouldn’t trade Clayton Kershaw for Roy Halladay straight up, because even though I hate the word, Kershaw’s been absolutely nothing if not ace-like. Now, it’s true that Jonathan Broxton just blew it for Kershaw in the 9th (reason #10830371 why wins are a terrible pitching metric!!), but while that’s a worthwhile conversation, it’s also a separate one – it takes nothing away from how good Kershaw was in this game.

Look, what Kershaw is doing right now is simply unbelievable, as his 2.76 ERA is good for 11th in all of baseball. Forget his age for a moment, because the performances we’re seeing are outstanding no matter what year his was born. In the 9 starts since his 2.2 inning struggle on June 10, Kershaw’s pitched 56 2/3 innings… and given up all of five earned runs. That’s an ERA of 0.80, which would be awesome if it didn’t make the blood rush to my head hard enough to make me think I’m going to pass out. Really, you think there’s anyone in baseball that’s going to improve on that? There’s a pretty solid case to be made that Clayton Kershaw has been the best pitcher in baseball for the last two months, and that’s even with Mark Buehrle doing nothing but throwing perfect games lately (he gave up 8 ER in 3.1 IP four starts ago).

Oh, and he’s 21, and still improving. So there’s that. I don’t think this was ever really going to be an issue, so I can’t even get too mad about it, but how’s about we stop with the idea that it’d be fun to trade him, okay? Yes, I’m looking at you, Steve Phillips. Yes, it’s my own fault for ever listening to a word Steve Phillips says.

As for trades that were made today, let’s all take a moment to laugh at the Giants for trading top prospect Tim Alderson for second baseman Freddy Sanchez. Granted, second base is a huge black hole for San Francisco, and Sanchez is indeed an upgrade – except that he just missed the entire Giants/Pirates series with a bad knee. But at this cost? Well, it’s always fun to look around the internet and see Giant fans freaking out…

El Lefty Malo:

That’s the
report
. I’m not disappointed the Giants have traded Alderson, but for a guy
who won’t hit with any power? Why? Why why why why why? Was it not possible to
put Alderson and a couple other prospects together for someone who can hit
cleanup? If Sanchez hits .330 / .380 / .460 down the stretch and the
Giants score five runs a game, I’ll be happy in a general sense. But I still
won’t be happy about this trade. Even worse, I’ll have to read for the next two
months the national punditry revving their LOLSABEAN engines yet again.
Sigh.

McCovey Chronicles:

But this was an awful, stupid, and unbelievably short-sighted move. Bengie Molina
is on pace to become one
of the worst cleanup hitters in the last 50 years
. Think about how special
that is. A lot of people have stunk in the last half-century, but we’re watching
one of the greatest stinks in the history of stink. As such, a
productive-for-his-position second baseman and a productive-for-his-new-team
first baseman isn’t the boiling water to our contending-flavored ramen. The
Giants needed someone who would have pushed Molina out of the cleanup spot.

And, just for fun, FanGraphs:

One of the most enjoyable parts of writing for a site like Fangraphs is
“hearing” the banter between writers behind the scenes. After news broke of the
Pittsburgh-San Francisco deal that saw second baseman Freddy Sanchez head from the Pirates to the Giants, these
comments were made from some of Fangraphs’ finest:

“What the hell?”

“The best pitching prospect of the day doesn’t get traded for Cliff
Lee
, but for Freddy Sanchez. Awesome. Nice job, Cleveland.”

“My lord, Sabean, what are you doing?”

Just when you thought it was safe to love San Francisco prospects again,
general manager Brian Sabean tossed away the club’s second best pitching
prospect for an injury-prone, veteran second baseman in his free agent year
(although he has an $8 million option that is way too high). Oh, and the Giants
organization just gave away its third best pitching prospect (Scott Barnes) to the Indians for a league-average first
baseman. Madison Bumgarner is suddenly very, very lonely.

If you want to imagine what it’d be like if the Dodgers traded Kershaw, take that vitriol and multiply it by the intensity of forty billion suns. Not to be hyperbolic or anything, but I’m pretty sure that it would be the worst thing in the history of the human race. 

The other big winner to come out of the Sanchez trade? Old friend Delwyn Young!

What the deal does is give Delwyn
Young
a chance to get regular at-bats as the Pirates’ second baseman. The
27-year-old has definite offensive potential and has been waiting for a chance
to play every day, and it appears he might finally get his opportunity as the
team evaluates if he can be an option there in 2010. Young’s defense at second
base is still a work in progress, and is likely going to be a negative in terms
of holding on to a starting job. However, he could be a quietly effective
producer in deep mixed leagues, hitting for batting average with a little pop if
he gets regular at-bats down the stretch.

If you’ve followed this blog at all, you know we’ve been huge Delwyn supporters, so it’s great to see him finally get a chance.

But it can’t all be good news, can it? Of course not, because despite my best efforts, Jason Schmidt is getting another shot to start on Friday. The question I can’t seem to answer is, why? He’s proven completely that he’s cooked, and even Joe Torre admitted that Schmidt’s bullpen session was just “okay”. Why not bring back Eric Stults? He’s pitched exactly 6 innings in each of his last 4 AAA starts, giving up 2, 3, 2, and 2 earned runs. It’s not great, but you’re not looking for “great”. You’re looking for “5th starter acceptable,” and that’s exactly what Eric Stults is. Either way, it’s much better than “busted old man who ruins the bullpen,” i.e., “the Jason Schmidt special.”  

Andruw Jones Should Be In Prison

I have no animosity for former Dodgers; quite the contrary, in many cases, we’ve focused so much time and attention on these guys while they were in the Dodger system that you can’t help but follow what they’re doing once they’re no longer wearing the blue. It’s no secret around here how much I backed Delwyn Young and hated seeing him go, and so of course I’ve been following him as he breaks out in Pittsburgh (.315/.388/.403, currently). The same goes for Cody Ross, who made such an impression in his short time in LA (hard to forget that 2 HR, 7 RBI day about ten minutes before he was DFA’d) and has been a solidly above-average power performer in Florida for several seasons now.

You could go on and on – for example, Edwin Jackson was rushed to the big leagues by the Dodgers, never really given a fair chance (really, 14 starts, was that all?) and after being allowed to gain some experience in Tampa, is now an All-Star and one of the top AL starters for Detroit. I’m happy for these guys, despite it not working out for whatever reason in LA – be it lack of opportunity, a roster crunch, or just outright inexperience.

Which brings us to a former Dodger who, let’s just say, does not fit that mold. If you’re like me, you’ve tried to put anything related to Andruw Jones in Dodger blue out of your mind after his disastrous 2008, but it’s a little hard to ignore when he hit as many homers in last night’s Rangers game than he did in all of 2008 for the Dodgers.

Fatty’s now up to a .929 OPS – granted, only through 160 at-bats – which would be a new career high if he can keep it up. This is only slightly in contrast to last year, when he was hitting .158, competing for the “worst season of all time”, and plotting his escape while blaming everyone else.

Are we really supposed to believe it was the tenacious Dodger Stadium crowd that hurt Fatty’s feelings so much? I suppose it could have been the proximity to In-N-Out, but Texas is hardly known for its svelte population either. The point is, when guys like Young and Ross do well, I’m glad to see it. When I see that this abomination is doing well, it just makes the memories of last year sting even more.

Hey, sportswriters. You want to complain about Manny Ramirez and his sins? At least he produces when he’s on the field. Why don’t you go after a worthless piece of crap who literally stole – and continues to steal – money from the Dodgers?