Friday, July 21, 2006

2007 Dodgers

I consider myself unwise for this, but I'm willing to accept it as a quirk. I think James Loney is ready to be a quality major league first baseman.

His AAA numbers are great, but they don't have nearly as much to do with his true talent level as I want to believe, I tell myself. You can't simply exclude previous seasons in projecting him, even with the injury disclaimers. You can't simply exclude his terrible big league performance in April. You have to heavily regress his batting average. His numbers really aren't that good looking, considering the context. Joe Thurston, Joe Thurston, Joe Thurston: same age, same park and league, lefty, same underwhelming track record.

Whatever. I feel like being a fan today, and fans sometimes have to take things on faith, sometimes have to believe that the scouts are on top of it.

Get one thing straight, though: dude really shouldn't be playing against southpaws at the major league level. Left-handed hitters are not more complete players on the basis of playing against southpaws. The notion that Loney should be hitting against southpaws because he might someday learn how to beat up on them is pretty ridiculous.

And you know what? Hell, I'll go in for the "LaRoche will be ready for 2007" stuff, too. Loney and LaRoche at the corners. Kent and Furcal are already signed for the middle, and Martin's the catcher. In the outfield, I'll give the benefit of the doubt to Ethier, and if whispers about Drew concealing an injury now are true, then he probably won't have a strong enough second half to propel him to opt out of the contract in November.

That pretty much leaves centerfield, where Jason Repko can get it done. I don't say that because he was great in April, or because he's had a good week in AAA. I say that simply because he seems an average fielder at a position with low offensive demand and his offensive projection comes in at about average for a CF. Re-sign Jose Cruz, and he can take about 20% of the playing time at center while serving as Ethier's platoon partner. Delwyn Young or someone like him can be Drew's platoon buddy in right (or, more likely, Cruz handles that while Young takes LF against LHP). Alternatively, Werth could be back in action, and handle either the Young or Cruz role (or, if things go really well, the Repko role). If Kemp tears up AAA, he's an option for any of these roles, and is gravy.

Willy Aybar can be the infield injury fill-in and supersub, playing every fifth day at third, and every fifth day at second, and then either Aybar or Kent can play first against southpaws. That, or they can keep Saenz. With Saenz, Aybar can start at third until someone goes down, at which point LaRoche would take over. Throw in a backup catcher and a utility infielder. That's the offense.

That's a cheap offense which requires only spending a couple mil on Cruz. Well, it's not exactly cheap with Kent, Furcal, Drew, and the sunk Mueller cost, but it's as cheap as can be given that they're guaranteed. No position looks to be really below average; we would expect one or two of the youngsters to end up below average (Ethier, Loney, LaRoche, Repko, Martin), but there's no reason to bet on any of them individually being the weak link.

The rotation's got Penny, Lowe, and one can assume Billingsley. Tomko is signed on, and let's call him the swing man. So what's left is two rotation spots and several arms in the bullpen beyond Broxton and Saito. The offense listed above costs about $54m, including Mueller and Izturis (who, if no one wants him, could be the utility guy). Penny, Lowe, and Tomko run $22m, and Perez is on the books for ten. So that leaves less than $20m in the budget, probably.

Now... why in the world would anyone throw half of that at Garciaparra? Granted, free agent pitchers are a terrible deal. Granted, it's extremely difficult to get a very good pitcher in a trade. But come on. Nomar is having one of his best seasons ever, at age 32, with a long injury history, and we're talking about a half season's sample. He's not the superstar folks want to believe he is, not at first base, anyway. A Loney/Saenz or Loney/Kent/Aybar platoon should be within a win of what Garciaparra can do, and the difference in cost will probably be about ten mil. Even with the going rate for pitchers somehow being four or five mil per win above replacement, one would think that if Colletti's only offseason tasks are a) to try to recoup some costs on Odalis Perez, b) try to extract value for Izturis, and c) to leverage the remaining money into as good a pitching staff as possible, you'd think he could manage to do c) somewhat competently. There are several legitimately good free agent pitchers this offseason, and though the price for any of them will be heavily inflated, Garciaparra's price will likely be as inflated and the Dodgers have an alternative that requires no spending. And even longer term, though long deals for pitchers are a bad risk, a long deal for Garciaparra is pretty much equally poor.

So why not trade Garciaparra now? He's at his peak value, and if kept could only yield a couple of draft picks (and since, if I recall correctly, the crazy Elias rankings to determine class A/B/C free agents is based on two-year counting stats, Garciaparra might only be a type B free agent - though this may be way off). The Dodgers are under .500 and though the defecit they face isn't close to insurmountable and they probably are, at the moment, a better team than any of their NL West competition, it's still not exactly easy to crawl back into the race. And Garciaparra is probably renowned enough that he could be exchanged for a piece that will help now and be useful next season. The difference between Garciaparra and Loney over two months doesn't figure to be much more than a win. Given how great Loney is doing in AAA, I would be quite surprised if Colletti didn't think he could sell this deal PR-wise. Well, assuming he actually gets something of value for Nomar.

Come to think of it, he might be able to sell it from a PR perspective better if he got something back of no value, but that's a different isssue altogether.

Then again, I don't think this will ever happen. Whatever.


At 4:31 PM, Blogger Icaros said...

If your name was Ned Colletti, and you had a silly mustache, which free-agent pitchers would you go after this winter?

At 5:33 PM, Blogger Fifth Outfielder said...

Zito and Schmidt are the obvious ones, and I can't think of any reason why either would be a uniquely a bad deal. My guess is there will be one or two obviously undervalued ones when things go down, so were I Colletti it would probably be one of those two and then whoever could be had at a good price. I'm tempted to say Mulder, but pitchers with recent injuries have been doing quite well in FA recently, so he'd probably go too high.

At 6:05 PM, Blogger Steve said...

How do you know Fifth Outfielder doesn't have a silly mustache? Have you found a new apartment to hang out in?

At 9:50 PM, Blogger Icaros said...

While I live much closer to Fifth Outfielder now than I did when he was Fourth Outfielder (assuming he still lives and goes to school in the same place), I have not met him in person, nor have I been to his home.

That being said, I am basing my mustache-less assumption on FO's young age.


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