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…
Jack 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?
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.
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.
Renteria, 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