MSTI’s 2009 in Review: Third Base

85toppscaseyblakeCasey Blake (B+)
(.280/.363/.468 18hr 79rbi)

I just want to make this abundantly clear, because I’ve been getting grief over this for months: I don’t hate Casey Blake. I like him just fine, as he’s a solid 3B who had a pretty good year, and that’s not even considering the outstanding beard. I just think that far too much was given up in the trade that brought him to LA, and I think that giving him a guaranteed third year for 2011 last offseason was unneccessary. That’s all. Look, this is even what I said in the very first post regarding his arrival:

Look, I don’t really mind getting Casey Blake. He’s a useful guy. I just think that what Colletti gave up to acquire him is mind-blowingly out of proportion.

And that’s exactly the case today, though we of course know a little bit more about why Colletti had to give up Carlos Santana just to save a measly $2m. Back to 2009, Blake had, surprisingly, one of the best years of his career. What was more impressive to me was the timing, because while Blake had hot streaks and cold streaks, he got hot exactly when the club needed it the most – when Manny was suspended. As I said in our first half review:

Say this for Casey Blake, the man knows that timing is everything. On May 6, the day before Manny was suspended, Blake was hitting just .225/.324/.427. In the 46 games Blake played during Manny’s absence, Blake really stepped up, putting up a .319/.371/.530 line, with 6 homers. As the 11th most valuable 3B in MLB by VORP, the Most Interesting Man in the World has been more than serviceable at the hot corner.

Now sure, he suffered a severe power outage after that (just 3 homers in 2 months), and it’s true that he completely disappeared in the playoffs (just 5 singles in 32 plate appearances), which is what’s keeping me from giving him an A. The fact of the matter is, Blake ended up being the 9th most valuable MLB 3B by VORP, and if I’d have told you that he’d be a top 10 3B before the year, you’d have taken that in a heartbeat, right? Even better, his fielding, which was suspect, actually improved. I think you could see this with your naked eye, but even the relevant fielding stats – which had him as a slightly below-average 3B in previous years – had him pegged as being about 7-8 runs above average. So if you take all that into account and forget how he arrived in LA, all you can say is, “well done, Casey. Well done.”

Now let’s work towards making you the four-corners power bat off the bench in 2011 that you really ought to be. 

85toppsmarklorettaMark Loretta (F-)
(.232/.309/.276 0hr 25rbi)

Hey, look at Mark Loretta’s card! He’s doing exactly what he does best, and that’s congratulating others on a job well done. You’ll notice there’s not a whole lot of pictures out there of Dodger teammates congratulating Loretta on his own achievements, because, well, there really weren’t any (game-winning single in NLDS Game 2 aside, of course).

Let’s look back and see what exactly Loretta was signed to do, which, admittedly, I loved at the time:

I know I’ve been pretty negative about everything lately, but I love this signing, especially for just $1.4 million over one year. In fact, when the rumor first popped up a week ago, I was completely in favor of it – why wouldn’t I want a guy who could play all four infield positions and absolutely destroys lefties, especially when it seems as though at least half of the infield will be lefty batters? DodgerThoughts points out that Loretta’s had an OBP of .345 or better since 1997, and that’s fantastic. He’s basically Nomar, but better: he might have never had Nomar’s pop, but he can play more positions, and he won’t rack up an extra $10 million in doctor bills.

So how’d that work out? Well, not only did he have the worst season of his career, (345 major leaguers had at least 200 plate appearances this year, and by VORP, Loretta was 330th) he got worse as the year went on. A very nice April (1.050 OPS) was followed by five months in which he never managed a monthly OPS over .703 – and included an absolutely horrific July in which he had 3 singles in 30 plate appearances.

I’m not going to kill Ned Colletti for this one, because I thought it was a great idea at the time, and it just didn’t work out. For just $1.4m, anyway, it was a worthy gamble – as long as they cut the cord and don’t try to bring him back, Mark Sweeney-style.

85toppsblakedewitt

Blake DeWitt (inc.)
(.204/.245/.388 2hr 4rbi)

I probably should have used a picture of an airplane or a postcard from New Mexico, because DeWitt spent pretty much his entire season flying back-and-forth between Los Angeles and Albuquerque. How many times did he get recalled? Five? Six? I don’t even remember, and the exact number isn’t even important, because DeWitt was the definiton of “26th man” this year. Talk about a slight difference from his 2008 of “out of nowhere Opening Day 3B and playoff 2B” to his scenic tour of the southwestern United States in 2009, right?

You can’t put any stock whatsoever into his MLB stats, because 53 plate appearances spread out amongst 6 stints on the team are meaningless. That said, his minor league line from this year is indeed troubling. In 2008 at AAA, he had a line of .306/.366/.486 – an .852 OPS (granted, in just 124 AB). In 2009, every part of that line fell, to a .776 OPS.

Still, DeWitt will be just 23 for the majority of 2010, and it’s hard to really kill him on his AAA numbers considering how much he was jerked back and forth – and if there is a bit of hope, it’s his 44/48 K/BB line in the minors. I suppose at this point he’s at least got a prayer of being 2010′s Opening Day 2B, if the Dodgers decide to go the cheap route, but it seems incredibly unlikely. If that’s the case, it’s nice to know that you’ve got a guy like DeWitt in the minors, who should hopefully still be improving and might be a starter on other teams, ready to step in.

Next! Rafael Furcal’s back recovery! Juan Castro’s zombie-like ability to stay employed! Chin-Lung Hu’s token appearance! It’s shortstop!

Starring Matt Holliday As Bill Buckner!

lorettakempcheer.jpgWow.

Just… wow. I mean, a special brand of “holy good god are you f-cking kidding me” wow, but still… wow.

I had written up an entire piece about how today’s game, a tightly played pitcher’s duel, couldn’t have been more of a polar opposite from Game 1′s cripplefight of wasted opportunities. Not to glaze over that, but let’s give credit to Clayton Kershaw for keeping the Dodgers in the game, skip right past Adam Wainwright’s dominating performance, and go right ahead to the HOLY CRAP DID YOU SEE THAT?! 9th inning… my word, that 9th inning.

Andre Ethier pops to second, and after Ryan Franklin enters, Manny Ramirez flies out. Up comes James Loney, 0-3 to this point. As Loney flies out weakly to left field for the third out, the Cardinals had managed to survive Los Angeles with a split. They’d be headed back to St. Louis tied, facing the questionable Vicente Padilla, and with momentum squarely in their favor.

Except…

it can’t be…

Holliday tries to catch the ball with his junk, and Loney’s safe on second, soon replaced by pinch runner Juan Pierre.

Casey Blake strides to the plate, and if anyone’s going to make a statement against Franklin, it’s going to be Blake, who had an absurd OPS of 1.275 in 14 at-bats. Blake, in a hard-fought nine pitch at-bat, draws the walk, putting the winning run on base for the continuously struggling Russell Martin.

So with two men on, the much-maligned Ronnie Belliard comes up, hitless today. First pitch? Line drive up the middle! Pierre scores! Tie game! Matt Holliday looking like he’s going to be sick in left field.

That by itself is a pretty nice gift, because with two outs and the horribly struggling Russell Martin next and mostly useless pinch hitter Mark Loretta afterwards, I was ready to settle in for extra innings. But then Yadier Molina’s passed ball advances Blake and Belliard to second and third. And then Franklin loses the plate, walking Martin to load the bases for Loretta.

I’ve been pretty critical of Loretta this year, with good reason I think. He’s been dreadful, and I didn’t even want him on the NLDS roster. Over at the Big Blue Wrecking Crew, where I was enjoying the game, I said this as Loretta came to the plate:

lorettagamewinner.jpg
Dear Mark Loretta,

I’ve said nothing but bad things about you all year.

I keep calling you “the corpse of Mark Loretta”.

I didn’t want you on the NLDS roster.

Please make me eat my words.

Yours, MSTI

Of course, Loretta singles up the middle for the game-winning hit, and he’s earned a “Get Out of Jail Free” card on this site until the end of time. You heard it here; I will never be critical of Mark Loretta again.

This is going to be one of those games that’s talked about, oh, I don’t know, forever, and I don’t feel like I’ve done it even the slightest bit of justice. This, friends, was a gift from the baseball gods, and sometimes – just sometimes – those are the teams that end up having an October to remember.

Up 2-0 headed back to St. Louis… with a chance to close out the series. Un…believable. God damn, do I love baseball sometimes.

Free Blake DeWitt!

87toppsblakedewitt.jpgNot to completely nitpick here, since these games are obviously not the most meaningful in the world, and if they were meaningful, then Casey Blake and Ronnie Belliard would almost certainly be playing through their minor injuries. 

But can someone explain to me the lineup choices at the hot corner the last two nights? Last night it was Mark Loretta, who’s been absolutely worthless all season (particularly lately, with a horrific .246/.274/.281 in the last two months) and contributed a killer error. Tonight, it’s Juan Castro, whose season line might look okay, but that’s mostly because he had a 1.006 OPS on May 26 and a .511 OPS since.

Meanwhile, Blake DeWitt sits on the bench. No one’s suggesting that DeWitt’s the savior, and he was admittedly mediocre in AAA this year. It’s just that Castro’s 37 and has been an all-glove, no-hit guy for years. Loretta’s 38 and has been so bad this year that he’s probably looking at the end of his career. Conversely, DeWitt’s just 24 and showed plenty of promise when being pressed into service last year.

“Well, MSTI,” you’d say, before I punched you in the face. “The Pirates started a lefty yesterday, and the Padres are doing the same today. Loretta and Castro are both righties, while DeWitt’s a lefty. Gotta play the percentages!”

Hey! That would make sense! And it’s almost certainly what Torre’s thinking! Except, well, it doesn’t make sense. Partially, it doesn’t make sense because Loretta and Castro couldn’t hit off a tee right now, but mostly because DeWitt has a reverse split and is far better against lefties: in his career, he’s got a .676 OPS against righties, while he’s hitting .851 against lefties.

So, here’s what we’ve got. The younger player who can hit lefties and had some upside sits while two older players who can’t hit anyone – and let’s face it, their careers are over – play. Makes total sense!

MSTI’s First Half Review: Offense

With the first “half” in the books after 88 games of the best record in the majors, it’s time to revive an MSTI tradition and do a quick first half review. Today we run through the offense, Tuesday it’s pitching, and Wednesday it’s the coaching and overall review.

Just like last year…

First, some quick ground rules. Completely unscientific and arbitrary, this is how we’ve seen the results of the season. One important distinction, is that the letter grade is based upon what we reasonably could have expected of the player entering the year, not comparing him to other MLB players at his position.

That last part’s important, because otherwise no one who’s not Albert Pujols would be getting an A. Anything less than 50 at-bats get you an “incomplete”.

Catcher
Russell Martin (.258/.373/.314 2hr 27rbi) (F…. ML)
Holy hell. Where do you even start here? It’s inconcievable to me that in last year’s first half review, Martin got an A+ and the high praise of “Without question, the best offensive player so far.” Turtle nose-dived through the rest of 2008, and fell so far this year that by mid-June, I was openly wondering how long we could stick with him. Seriously, how lousy has he been? This is what I wrote last month:

OPS!
Martin is at: .625
Which puts him: 160th in MLB (of 172 qualifiers)
Behind the likes of: Howie Kendrick (just demoted to AAA), Jhonny Peralta (just benched), and magical pixie elf David Eckstein (is David Eckstein). 
And that means… what’s worse, that he’s hitting worse than guys who are losing their jobs, or that he’s less potent than David Eckstein? The truly scary part here is that his .347 OBP is still pretty respectable thanks to the walks he draws, which means that when you look at just his slugging percentage…

Granted, Martin’s been much better over the last month (.308/.438/.397), but it’s taken just that to get him to 17th in catching VORP. Is that enough to kick him up from an F? No, it just kicks him up to an F, rather than the jokey non-letter grade he might have otherwise received.

Brad Ausmus (.286/.355/.375 1hr 5rbi) (B)
Well, he’s not Gary Bennett or Danny Ardoin, so that’s something. I didn’t really like the idea of giving a million dollars to the geriatric Ausmus, and he’s been predictably punchless, with just three extra base hits. That’d all be a recipe for a solid “C”, as in, “exactly what I’d thought he’d be”, but he may have actually turned Guillermo Mota around, so that’s worth a kick in the grading pants.

And hey, if Bill Shaikin gets his way, he’ll be the starting catcher!

A.J. Ellis (.000/.000/.000 0hr 0rbi) (inc.)
Three games, four at-bats. I’m sure there was a reason I decided to grade every player, but talk about being the definition of “incomplete”. But hey, at least his AAA OPS has dropped 162 points from last year’s impressive figure!

First Base

loneyfielding.jpgJames Loney
(.281/.350/.402 7hr 54 rbi) (C-)
Loney continues on his “not bad, but not all that great, either” streak of last year. It’s odd when you think about it, because a .281 BA is acceptable, and a .350 OBP is fine. But they’re not enough to overcome the .402 SLG – especially when you consider how stacked 1B is otherwise. Quick, off the top of your head – how far down the list of 1B do you have to go before you get to Loney? In a league that has guys like Pujols, Gonzalez, Howard, Fielder, Votto and Berkman right at the top, it’s not hard to see that Loney’s below-average. The stats back it up; he’s 11th of 13 NL 1B in OPS, and 14th in VORP. Even worse, this is the third year in a row his stats have declined. Sure, his glove has been great, and he’s never been killing the team at any point… but first base is hardly a highlight of the Dodgers right now.

Second Base
Orlando Hudson (.283/.353/.426 7hr 48rbi) (B)
Okay, I’m not above admitting I may have been wrong, and when I was so fervently against giving up a first-round pick to sign Hudson this offseason, that may have not been a high point on this blog. In my defense, there were still huge questions about his health (remember when we were reading that he couldn’t even bend his left wrist back?) and no one could have predicted the hot start he’d get off to. Plus, while his defense may not be what it was at his peak, compared to what we’d seen from Jeff Kent in years past, it’s like upgrading from Jessica Lange to Jessica Alba.

So why just the B grade? Because while Hudson may have made an enormous first impression (come on, a cycle in your first home game for your new team? Who does that?) I think it may have obscured just how horrible he’s been over the second half of the first half. (Shut up, that’s a thing.)

Apr. 6 – May 13: 35 games, .348/.429/.539
May 14 – Jul. 10: 49 games, .237/.300/.320

For some reason baseball-reference hasn’t updated to include yesterday’s games yet, so I am missing his 2-homer outburst in that latter section, but still: the difference is glaring. You’d like to think that was the start of something, because at some point he’s going to need to turn this around, or all of the good feelings of April are going to dissipate.

Third Base
Casey Blake (.285/.364/.486 12hr 55rbi) (B+)
Say this for Casey Blake, the man knows that timing is everything. On May 6, the day before Manny was suspended, Blake was hitting just .225/.324/.427. In the 46 games Blake played during Manny’s absence, Blake really stepped up, putting up a .319/.371/.530 line, with 6 homers. As the 11th most valuable 3B in MLB by VORP, the Most Interesting Man in the World has been more than serviceable at the hot corner.

Fortunately for Blake, we’re just grading the first half, because he’s notorious for running out of steam down the stretch – losing 50 points of OPS in the second half over his career. At least he’s still got that beard!

Shortstop

furcalrunning.jpgRafael Furcal (.256/.331/.350 4hr 21rbi) (D)
Well, the good news is he hasn’t had to hit the DL with any back problems, so that’s nice. Look, I never expected him to repeat last year’s ridiculous hot start, but I think we were all hoping for a little more than this, right? He’s just 12th in the NL in VORP, which is bad enough in a 16 team league – until you realize that Juan Castro is 11th, and that’s just downright depressing. Furcal’s OPS of .681 would be the worst of any season of his career, if it holds.

Now, the good news is that he finally seems to be turning the corner, hitting .417/.488/.556 in July. Whatever it is, he’d better keep it up – you just can’t have a guy who struggled as hard as he did hitting leadoff for a playoff team. Not exactly what we expected when we all celebrated his signing in December, is it?

Oddly enough, he’s split his year pretty equally between hitting first and hitting second, and while he was dreadful batting second behind Juan Pierre (.548 OPS), he’s been pretty effective as the leadoff man (.719 OPS). I have no idea why that would be, but with Manny’s return, Pierre is of course nailed to the bench, so Furcal should get plenty more leadoff at-bats.

Infield
Mark Loretta (.245/.344/.292 0hr 16rbi) (D)
You know, when Loretta signed, I was totally in favor of it - a quality veteran, crushes lefties, can play all over the infield? Considering the deal was only for $1.4m over one year, it was perfect. But here’s the funny thing; I never really noticed it until just now, but Loretta hasn’t even been all that great. If it holds, his 73 OPS+ would be the worst he’s had since his second year, back in 1996. Actually, part of the problem may lie with Joe Torre, because while Loretta’s still doing pretty well against lefties (.792 OPS), he’s been terrible against righties (.600 OPS). I know the D seems harsh, but remember our grading scale – he’s not been as good as we’d hoped, so that counts as below average.

Juan Castro (.352/.397/.437 1hr 9rbi) (A….re you kidding me?!)
Where’s the outcry for drug testing of Juan Castro? We’ve got a guy with a career OBP of .271 who has never put up an OPS+ of more than 79 in his entire life. Now, at 37, he’s putting up Manny numbers? Don’t get me wrong, I dig it, and I know it’s a small sample size of 70 at-bats; I just can’t concieve of a reality in which Juan Castro may possibly be a better shortstop than Rafael Furcal – and that’s without even considering that Castro is absolutely the better defender.

What a world we live in. You better believe that’s an A.

Blake DeWitt (.174/.240/.304 1hr 1rbi) (inc.)
Talk about a guy who’s seen his fortunes change from last year; here’s part of what I had to say about him in 2008′s mid-year review:

Just like Kent, this is a tough grade to assign. I know it seems like a long time ago now, but do you remember how desperate this team was at the hot corner at the end of March? Nomar was hurt, LaRoche was hurt, Abreu was hurt, and the trade options were either unavailable or unappealing. So we turn over the job to the guy who was guaranteed to put up Hu-like offensive numbers. Except that.. he was good. Really good, slugging .517 in May. He was a lock for Rookie of the Year and surprise of the year. Go Blake!

Of course, he couldn’t keep it up, got sent down, replaced by Casey Blake at 3B, and then resurfaced as the 2B in the playoffs, before getting replaced there by Orlando Hudson. So far in 2009, he’s spent more time traveling between LA and Albuquerque than he’s actually spent playing in either place.

My prediction? He gets traded before the month is out as part of a deal for a pitcher.

Doug Mientiewicz (.400/.400/.600 0hr 2rbi) (inc.)
If Eyechart was getting a grade, it’d probably be a 5.8 for the swan dive into second base that caused him to get injured in the first place. More importantly, it gives him plenty of time to be the most active athlete on Twitter I’ve ever seen. He had to fly through Detroit to get to Miami from Milwaukee yesterday!

Mitch Jones (.308/.400/.385 0hr 0rbi) (inc.)
If you remember Mitch Jones’ sad, sad song, then the fact that he even got a big league at-bat should be considered a huge victory. In fact, he got thirteen of them – eleven as PH or DH – and actually put up some production in that short time, before he was DFA’d to make room for Manny. See? If Manny doesn’t get himself suspended, Mitch Jones might still be waiting for that first at-bat. Last I heard, Jones cleared waivers and reported back to Albuquerque, so we might yet get to see him again.

Left Field
Manny Ramirez (.355/.487/.669 9hr 29rbi) (D… cup)
Without question, the most difficult grade to assign by far. I mean, when Manny’s played, he’s been all you could have asked for, and more. Just look at those numbers; if he had enough at-bats to qualify, that SLG would be second only to alien cyborg Albert Pujols. He’s 5th among NL LF in VORP, which is nice enough until you remember that VORP isn’t a rate, it’s a counting stat, which means that he’s been done that even despite missing half the season. 

Of course, you can’t ignore the fact that the fifty games he missed were, you know, entirely his own fault. (Though, I haven’t ruled out the idea that Bill Plaschke planted the test results, worried that he might have nothing to complain about all season otherwise.) So yeah, huge demerits for that, and that’s how a guy who’s continued to terrorize NL pitching ends up with a D for dumbass. 

Juan Pierre (.328/.387/.417 0hr 25rbi 23sb) (A)
I was so tempted to give Pierre a lousy grade, just to be contrary to all of the writers who act as though his three week hot streak overrides two and a half years of overpaid futility. Remember, just because Pierre was great right after Manny was lost in May, you can’t forget that he was completely horrible in June – worse than usual.

But then I realized something important; the three great weeks Pierre gave us is about four more good weeks than I ever could have reasonably expected from him. So, screw it! Give the man an A.

Center Field
Matt Kemp (.320/.384/.495 11hr 50rbi) (HOF. I mean, A+)
Well, I did call him the best center fielder in baseball just a few days ago, so there’s that. What more can you say? He’s striking out less, he’s walking and hitting more, and his defense and baserunning have improved markedly. Plus, he’s shown the rare ability that few players have to completely take over a game – and yes, I am talking about the “extra-inning grand slam/over-the-shoulder basket catch” in Milwaukee from the other day.

I’m sure there’s a reason that he’s still hitting 8th and not forming an absolutely brutal middle of the order combo with Manny, right? Right?!

Right Field

ethierrunning.jpgAndre Ethier
(.250/.338/.475 18rbi 56rbi) (B-)
If Ethier knows anything, it’s a fantastic sense of drama. The man loves his walk-off homers, and of his 18 homers, 11 have come in just 5 games. The only thing is, his season has been unbelievably up-and-down.

April: .976 OPS
May: .601 OPS
June: .952 OPS
July: .612 OPS

So how do you grade that? The unexpected power barrage (10th in the NL, but it’s almost not fair that there’s four Phillies ahead of him, playing in that park) has been a very pleasant surprise, and it’s likely that he’s going to be the first 30-homer Dodger since Adrian Beltre in 2004. And as you can see by his monthly breakdown, there’s been stretches where he’s absolutely carried this team. Unfortunately, there’s also been just as many times where he’s completely buried the offense, and if you don’t know which Andre you’re going to get, that could be a serious problem come playoff time.

Still, it’s hard to give a bad grade to a guy who’s finally put some power into the offense – and, really, is there anything more fun than walkoff wins?

Outfield
Jamie Hoffmann (.182/.167/.409 1hr 7rbi) (inc.)
Xavier Paul (.214/.313/.500 1hr 1rbi) (inc.)
I’m grouping these two guys together, because the Dodgers have used their backup outfielders so rarely this year there’s not all that much to differentiate them. These two combined for just 36 plate appearances, and save for one start and two at-bats by Mitch Jones in right field, that represents the sum of the backup outfield work in LA this year. As for their play, each had their moments, putting up their first major league homers and displaying excellent arms in the outfield. Paul is still on the disabled list thanks to the crazy staph infection he suffered in May in Florida, and when he’s ready, he’ll join Hoffmann down in Albuquerque.

—————————-

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow, when Vin checks in with the pitching grades. Remember the simpler times of yore, when I could just bash Brian Falkenborg all day?

Thanks For Reading, Bill!

Rob over at 6-4-2 brings to my attention something amazing, from Bill Plaschke’s column about Andruw Jones:

Plaschke Steals MSTI’s Gag Line

In today’s column:

“Are you saying you’re sorry?”

Are you sorry for showing up at spring training looking like a blue manatee? Sorry for not working hard enough to fix that weight? Sorry for ripping the fans who booed you for that weight? Sorry for asking to be put on the disabled list so you could disappear from those boos?

Funny, I coulda sworn I’d heard that before… where was it now? Oh, yeah.

Oh, Bill. I never knew you felt that way about me. After all the times I’ve pointed out just how bad you are at your job on this site, I never imagined you actually cared to read the thoughts of, well, someone who uses more than one sentence in a paragraph. Fine, it might not be as egregious as when Scout.com literally plagarized FireNedCollettiNow, but surely the use of the term “blue manatee” can’t be a coincidence, right? Not after I made a Photoshop of an enormous blue manatee to represent Jones? Especially when I made the joke above not because we ever called Andruw Jones a whale, but because the nickname “Hindenburg” had stuck due to both his resemblence to a blimp and the fact that his explosion injured nearly as many people?

Bill, I appreciate your readership. The invoice will be in the mail shortly.

On to far, far more important things, Jon Heyman has some rumors about Dodger third baseman:

There was talk at Dodgers camp that the Yankees might have interest in excellent contact hitter Mark Loretta, who could upgrade their third base situation.

Cashman wants to guard against an overpay, and opposing teams will be looking to take advantage of the Yankees’ situation. Blake DeWitt is another Dodger who would make sense, but one Dodgers person suggested L.A. might want young pitcher Phil Hughes for DeWitt — which definitely would qualify as an overpay. The Yankees would likely be willing to trade USC product Ian Kennedy but not Hughes, who’s having an excellent spring.

First, let me say that I find all of this incredibly unlikely. As a free agent signed this offseason, Loretta would have to give his consent to be traded before June. I’m not sure I can see a local boy who finally made his way to the Dodgers agreeing to be moved to New York to start for a few weeks just to sit on the bench when A-Rod returns. Besides, even if he did want to go, the Yankees surely wouldn’t want to give up all that much for a 37-year-old stopgap who’s miscast as a starter. Since Loretta is actually pretty valuable to the Dodgers as a backup at all four infield positions and a lefty-masher, whatever the Yankees would be willing to give up probably wouldn’t be worth it. So, scratch that.

iankennedy.jpgAs for DeWitt, well, I’d do DeWitt-for-Hughes in a heartbeat. But the Yankees never would, so we can drop that right now. Ian Kennedy’s an interesting proposition, though. A USC product and a former first-round pick, he’s been dominant in the minors (1.99 career ERA with more than a K per inning!) and got off to a hot start in his 2007 MLB debut, allowing just 4 earned runs in 19 innings. Of course, he got torched when pushed into the rotation in 2008 (8.19 ERA in 39.2 innings). Since he was still pretty good back in the minors (2.35 ERA), I’m willing to chalk that up to a 23-year-old who wilted under the pressure of his first real test in New York City.

Kennedy’s still just 24, and those minor league stats really impress me. And to be honest, while I really like Blake DeWitt, I do think that Dodger fans have overrated his potential slightly just because of how amazing his out-of-nowhere 2008 was. I do think he can be a solid regular, but I really don’t see him being an All-Star. I might say the same for Kennedy, but wouldn’t you rather a solid starting prospect than a solid infield prospect?

The other issue is one of depth. Even with the loss of Ivan DeJesus, Jr., to a broken leg, the Dodgers have plenty of middle infield depth between Loretta, Chin-Lung Hu, Tony Abreu, and perhaps even Juan Castro and Hector Luna, so losing DeWitt’s contributions at second base isn’t an issue. At third base, there’s a nice crop of youngsters coming up like Josh Bell and Pedro Baez, but none who would be ready this year if something were to happen to Casey Blake. If DeWitt were moved and something happened to Blake, you’d likely be looking at Loretta or Abreu playing every day, which isn’t a great situation.

On the other hand, an all 25-and-under group of Billingsley/Kershaw/McDonald/Kennedy, plus Kuroda or another veteran, in 2010 is drool-worthy. I think this is one of those deals I’d be okay with either way – if Kennedy gets added to the crop of pitchers, that’s great and I wouldn’t be crushed at losing DeWitt, and if not, it’s not like I’m dying for Kennedy anyway and then we’d still have DeWitt. But I would probably go ahead and do it, were this offer actually on the table.

Finally, yes, I have heard that Pedro Martinez is interested in coming back to the Dodgers, and no, I’m not all that interested. Yes, it would be nice to bring him back home after all the pain that was caused by the historically bad deal that sent him to Montreal in 1994, but that was fifteen years ago. He’s hardly the same player, and while I wouldn’t object to giving him a look, I do object to the two things he wants: a guaranteed rotation spot, which we don’t have considering that Jason Schmidt is the guaranteed #5 if he’s healthy, and a “Smoltz-like” contract of $5.5m guaranteed with $5.5m in incentives. If he’s willing to work for half of that, say, the possibility of getting to $5.5m total if he gets all his incentives, I might have interest. But even then, that’s still high and he might not sign for that little anyway. So, no.

You really can’t go home again.