Wednesday, July 26, 2006

10-Game Package?

Bill Plaschke critiques the Dodgers for possibly having given up on 2006 in his column today. Plaschke writes:
This is fine in theory, but one man's "short run" is another man's 10-game ticket package. And as long as those tickets say "2006," shouldn't that still be the Dodgers' focus?
Putting aside the question of whether the Dodgers are selling, should sell, et cetera, I find this line of reasoning pretty dubious. The Dodgers are probably about a .500 team. If they acquired Carlos Lee and had him replace Kenny Lofton, or had Greg Maddux replace one of their mediocre pitchers, they would certainly upgrade the position, but we're not talking about making a .500 team a .600 team. Conversely, they've got plenty of good young talent, so short of an unprecedented and highly-infeasible selling off of all of their veteran talent, they're not going to drop to a .400 team. (And I speak of a 'true' .500, .600, .400 team here; a true .500 team could easily have a .400 record over two months.) So we're really talking about the difference between a .550 team and .450 team even at the most extreme levels short of straining all plausibility.

In other words, our hypothetical 10-game ticket package holder can already expect 5 wins and 4 losses (due to home-field advantage). What is in question is the likelihood of the Dodgers winning the 10th.

So while I don't disagree that spending resources on wins in a season where the playoffs are out of the question is still worthwhile, the general way to improve your team with deadline deals is to trade older players for younger talent. Certainly, sometimes you can get a good piece cheap if the piece you need is undervalued, or if your need is at a position where all the other contenders are set, or if there's an over-motivated seller. But the Dodgers have major financial commitments to four position players and are committed to Russ Martin and Andre Ethier. That means they can only plausibly upgrade third base, center field, or their pitching. I can't think of any meaningful 3B or CF on the market; they already have players who aren't far below average availble at each position. So they could acquire a corner outfielder and awkwardly slot Drew or whomever they acquire in at CF, or they can trade for a pitcher. When the biggest 'impacts' ostensibly available are Lee, Soriano, and Maddux, we are talking about taking on players who in each case are not worth their current salaries, much less what it would take to re-sign them. Beyond that, none of those are, at this point in their careers, worthy of the label 'star.' We are truly talking about an upgrade of less than a win in each case, and the asking price for each - besides Maddux, I would imagine - is ridiculously out of proportion to their value.

So while it's certainly true that the Dodgers would be legitimately crazy to give up on the season and make moves that hurt the team, that has nothing to do with demanding that a trade for a good major leaguer be made. The best strategy for acquiring major league talent in July, outside of somehow convincing trading partners that your minor league shwag is actually futurestar, is to trade your overvalued major leaguers to teams with specific needs and surplus major league talent. Back in the day, DePodesta managed to do just that but received no credit from Plaschke and his ilk, generating the oft-repeated "he just handed a World Series repeat to Florida" (though, as far as I can recall, that was not Plaschke's particular retort).

And the rub is that DePo did that at a time where there weren't any significant reinforcements at AAA. Now Colletti has more leverage and flexibility. If Colletti made the move that is, to me, obvious, to trade Nomar Garciaparra for a solid starter and change, Plaschke would likely rip him unequivocally.


At 3:57 PM, Blogger j said...

hypothetical: best situation and subsequent booty gained in a nomar deal?

At 3:58 PM, Blogger j said...

among feasible deals.

At 10:07 AM, Blogger Rob said...

I find that the less often you take Bill Plaschke seriously, the better off you'll be.


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