So Where Are the Dodgers Going To Look At Third Base?

uribe_atbat_2013-04-09I feel like before we get into any discussion of trade rumors, given that the deadline is only a month and change away and that this week really feels like the kickoff of the silly season, we need to issue the usual disclaimer: rumors are just that.

Every year, some reporter who may or may not have any connections or info at all will put out some thought that’s often just pure speculation, and over-anxious fans will run with it. “Hey, did you hear the Pirates are trading for Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander?!” I can’t imagine what front-office folks in the know are thinking if they’re paying attention to even 10% of what fans are kicking around; laughing themselves silly, I imagine.

So two good rules of thumb here are 1) take everything with an enormous grain of salt and 2) know your source. You might not like Jon Heyman or Ken Rosenthal, but know that they’re plugged in; conversely, when a rumor is coming from some guy at the bi-weekly local paper or an large online content farm, well, you get what you pay for. Yes, I’m including myself; I will get some inside nuggets from time to time, but while my sources are usually pretty good, nothing is ever certain until it happens.

Got that? Good, so let’s get to the fun stuff. Jayson Stark, a guy I would put on the “trusted” list, has this about the Dodgers:

The other thing to keep in mind is that they’ve been telling other clubs they still view themselves as buyers, especially if they can reel in a third baseman they can control for multiple seasons.

Stark also says that they’re not dying to give away Andre Ethier, which I’m not really sure I buy, but the need for a third baseman has been a gaping one for this team ever since Adrian Beltre left. Corey Seager is still at least two years away, and even if you do want to move Hanley Ramirez over, he’s a free agent after 2014 and that just causes a hole at shortstop.

So let’s say Stark is right about this. You’re not going to get Cabrera or Beltre or David Wright or Evan Longoria or Manny Machado or Nolan Arenado or Brett Lawrie or Ryan ZimmermanChase Headley may yet end up on the market, but the Padres sure don’t look like sellers right now. Michael Young, though he’s almost certainly someone who will come up again, is a free agent after the season. Guys like Mike Moustakas or Placido Polanco or Matt Dominguez aren’t really upgrades, Lonnie Chisenhall, Mike Olt, & Will Middlebrooks have taken steps backwards, and don’t even start with Alex Rodriguez or Mark Reynolds, who are basically designated hitters at this point.

If so, you’re left with… what, Aramis Ramirez, or Kyle Seager? Maybe, maybe, Pedro Alvarez or Todd Frazier or David Freese, though each seems unlikely for various reasons. Ramirez had a surprisingly excellent year for Milwaukee last year, hitting .300/.360/.540 with 27 homers and 50 doubles; he’s also 35 (today!), owed about $25m guaranteed through, and has an extensive list of injuries. The Brewers look likely to sell, and we’re already hearing as well that the Dodgers are sniffing around pitchers Matt Garza & Ricky Nolasco, so be sure to keep an eye out for a trade of Joc Pederson, Zach Lee, Chris Reed, & Ross Stripling for Gallardo, Ramirez, and — what the hell, because of course — Yuniesky Betancourt coming soon to a Chavez Ravine near you.

The other option here is Seager, and the fit makes sense a bit because of the family connection and that Ethier has been rumored to go to Seattle forever. But Seager’s hitting .282/.345/.456 (.348 wOBA), and since Ethier has a .308 wOBA, Seager is cheaper, younger, better, and plays a more valuable position, and all of a sudden this stops making as much sense. So if the idea is for the punchless Mariners to improve their offense, that’s a tough sell, unless you’re eating all of Ethier’s deal and sending a ton of prospects too.

I don’t doubt that the Dodgers want to improve at third base; we all want that, lest we be doomed to another year of Luis Cruz & Juan Uribe. But it’s a real tough market at the position, especially when clubs like the Yankees, Red Sox, Indians & Royals may all be looking for upgrades too, and so options will be limited.

It’s That Time of Year Again

A quick warning: as July approaches and the summer trading season begins in earnest, it’s important to remember that 99% of what you hear will be lies or worse.  MLBtraderumors illustrates why perfectly:

One general manager told ESPN.com’s Buster Olney that “it’s becoming pretty clear” that the Dodgers won’t be able to add pitching at the trade deadline. But Ed Price of AOL FanHouse heard from an MLB source that the Dodgers are scouting starters “aggressively” in preparation for possible trades.

So be prepared, because you’ll hear that the Dodgers are in on Cliff Lee, definitely not in on Cliff Lee, probably not going to sign Zach Lee, but absolutely will be trading for Bruce Lee, Lee Marvin, and Lee Harvey Oswalt, all before trading Frank McCourt for Frank McCourt. And that’s just what you’ll hear from “reputable” writers. Strap in… it’ll be a fun ride.

Full of Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing

rottino.jpgAnyone predict that Vinny Rottino would be the big Dodger acquisition of the day? Anyone? After a day full of rumors both predictable (Roy Halladay!) and much much less (Adrian Gonzalez and Heath Bell? What would the Padres have wanted, the Dodgers’ top 15 prospects, the corpse of Jackie Robinson, and the right to carve “Beat LA” onto the moon?) the deadline passed without the Dodgers adding anyone to the major league roster, other than yesterday’s deal for George Sherrill. I must admit that I’m a little conflicted.

On one hand, guys like Clayton Kershaw, Scott Elbert, James McDonald, and Andrew Lambo are still in the organization, and that’s definitely a good thing. But on the other, you just feel like this is the year that it’s finally time to go for it. Whether that meant a starter like Halladay or Jarrod Washburn or the idea of getting Bell to go with Sherrill and create an unholy bullpen, you wanted to see them do something.

So yeah, I’m disappointed. But in the same breath, I’m also happy, because Ned Colletti didn’t get desperate and go make a deal when the right deal just wasn’t there. Toronto’s demands for Halladay were well-known to be unreasonable, and I really feel that if the Dodgers had anted up for Halladay, it would have cost so much that we wouldn’t have been all that thrilled about it.

So what are we left with? This has still been the best team in baseball to this point, and the addition of Sherrill does improve an already-impressive bullpen. The questions about the rotation remain, but really, short of paying an absurd ransom for Halladay, what was to be done? Washburn’s terribly overrated, and considering how incredibly happy Seattle fans were with the trade, it’s hard to say that he’d have been the right choice for the Dodgers.

Going forward, don’t worry about the offense; it’s just a slump. Don’t worry about the bullpen; rumors of its demise have been great exagerrated, with the addition of Sherrill and return of Ronald Belisario. The starters? Yeah, there’s some cause for concern, but the sky is hardly falling.

And remember! This is important – the fact that the corpse of Jason Schmidt is going tonight against Atlanta’s Tommy Hanson, one of the brightest young stars in baseball, is just bad timing. The Dodgers ARE making the playoffs, and Schmidt is NOT pitching in October. Remember that when he’s down 8-0 in the 2nd inning tonight.

Hear the Silence So Loud

Hey! There’s six days left until the trading deadline. The most exciting time of the year, right? Except… feels like something is missing, doesn’t it? Sure, there’s talk about the Dodgers possibly going after Roy Halladay (ain’t gonna happen!), and there’s some word about relievers (which probably will happen), but it’s just not the same as in years past.

Just look at some of the ridiculousness we had to deal with in 2008. You had he-said/she-said over C.C. Sabathia, Tracy Ringolsby whining that the Dodgers were upstaged by the Angels’ deal for Mark Teixeira, and the endless rumors about absurd asking prices for Jack Wilson. In case you’ve forgotten how much fun the whole Pittsburgh rumor mill was, take small children out of the room and look back:

The Pirates envision a long-term outfield that would include Kemp and Nate McLouth, who was selected to his first All-Star Game on Sunday, on the corners, flanking center fielder Andrew McCutchen, the Pirates’ top prospect, who is playing at Class AAA Indianapolis.

FOR JACK WILSON. If your nose has stopped bleeding, just remember that we went through this same thing in 2007, when we were told to trade Loney, Kershaw, and Ethier for Teixeira.

But this year? Hell, even MLBtraderumors hasn’t tagged a rumor under “Dodgers” for nearly 30 hours, at least as of this writing. Other than Steve Phillips – who I try to ignore, because it’s not nice to make fun of the “specially-abled” – wanting to trade Kershaw for Halladay, there’s not even been a whole lot of stupid ideas to refute. It’s in large part due to LA’s top prospects graduating from “prospect” status, to be sure, and it’s not neccessarily a bad thing. It’s just a different feeling around this team at this time of year, is all.

(Okay, when you’re a blogger always on the lookout for good material, it might be a little bit of a bad thing. I look forward to seeing some hack come out with an idea for trading Kershaw and Andrew Lambo for Carl Pavano tomorrow.)

You Should Have to Pass a Test to Have a Blog

(Before we get started, fair is fair. We bash Bill Plaschke relentlessly around here, which is only because he’s generally the worst columnist in sports. So on the rare occasion that he actually says something I agree with, I feel obligated to point it out. Check out Plaschke’s response to the Jamie McCourt firestorm, because believe it or not, he’s right on. Due to this, I fully expect that the earth will collide with Mars by the end of the year.)

Usually I don’t address trade rumors from other blogs, because they’re not so much “rumors” as some ridiculous idea thought up by someone with no connection to the team whatsoever. Yet today we’re going to bend that rule a bit for two reasons – one, because the blog we’re about to discuss seems to have some professional writers (radio hosts and ESPN.com writers) and two, because some things are simply so idiotic that they must be addressed. To let things like what you’re about to see go by without comment would yankeefansnearly be as much of a mistake on my part as theirs, because if you don’t roll up that newspaper and lightly bat the puppy on the nose while saying “no”, how will they ever learn? Besides, it’s the slowest time of the year, so I’ll take what I can get.

It is with this in mind that I bring you the New York Baseball Digest, also known as “the Worst Baseball Blog ever”. In particular, their post about what the Yankees should do about Andy Pettitte, which is relevant here due to the recent “Pettitte to Dodgers” rumors we’ve heard. After some discussion about whether the Yankees should offer Pettitte arbitration or not, we get to this:

I personally feel the Yankees do not need Pettitte, that he is on the decline and doesn’t have the same bite on his reknowned cut fastball. The Yankees are interested in Sabathia and Lowe because they were dominant #1starters down the stretch, helping their teams into the playoffs. But, Pettitte was the exact opposite of Sabthia and Lowe, was terrible down the stretch, fashioning a 2-7 with a 6.23 ERA in his final 11 starts. So, if you were Brain Cashman, the reason you like Sabtahia and Lowe should be the reason you DON’T LIKE Pettitte – he was terrible when it counted most.

Other than the fact that a supposed media professional should be able to go better than 1-3 on spelling “Sabathia” right (and let’s not even get into “Brain” Cashman), this backs up what I said the other day about signing Pettitte – that’s he’s done, cooked, and not worth anywhere near the money he’ll command. Yankee fans, judging from what I’ve read and heard, seem to agree. He’s at the end of the rope. Which is why this next paragraph will make you throw yourself into the highway:

The Yankees do not want to give Pettitte similar money as last year, knowing he is on the decline and is, at best in 2009, going to be a fifth starter. But, the Yankees need to offer arbitration, and hope that the Dodgers’ need for a veteran starter is too much and they offer Pettitte a two year deal for good money. But, if Pettitte does accept arbitration, seek to trade him and possibly Johnny Damon (because LA could also use a leadoff hitter) to the Dodgers for a young player or two. I like Matt Kemp and James McDonald straight up.

Matt Kemp and James McDonald straight up for Andy Pettitte and Johnny Damon, is it? I bet you do like that. Because who wouldn’t like trading two expensive guys in their mid 30s for two future stars making the minimum that are under 25? No, forget the fact that Matt Kemp is better than Johnny Damon right now (2008 leadoff stats: Kemp .305/.360/.492 vs Damon .305/.376/.468, not to mention Kemp’s rocket arm vs. Damon’s Pierre arm), and forget the fact that McDonald is likely going to be better than Pettitte in 2009, because it’s not like McDonald was dominating the Phillies in the NLCS while Pettitte was imploding down the stretch. None of that matters! Because it’d help the Yankees! Hey, while you’re at it, why not trade Hideki Matsui for Russell Martin? Kei Igawa for Chad Billingsley?

You know, usually I feel that Dodger fans’ particular disgust of Red Sox and Yankee fans is a bit overblown. But why is always the Yankee fans and their blogs that come up with these ridiculous ideas that have no consideration for why the other team would possibly make such a deal?

So we salute you, New York Baseball Digest. Your idiocy has provided me with a morning of entertainment intermingled with occasional thoughts of how we can bombard your server to get your site offline, if only to spare the rest of us from your ridiculous, underthought, poisonous trade “ideas”.

- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness msti-face.jpg