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?