The title of this post applies to two very separate things: how long it’s been since I last posted, and what the Dodgers have done in the past few days.
First, my absence. No real excuses: the season got depressing, and then I got busy, and then baseball was over, and then I got busier, and then I had surgery – none of that really kept me from posting. I am actually SHOCKED to see that it has been since mid-August since I was on this site! Wow, indeed. I don’t promise to do better, but I HAVE thought a lot about baseball, and have followed it closely, I just didn’t get around to writing about it. in fact, the reason I was so surprised is that I formulated several posts over this time, and I hadn’t actually realized that I didn’t post ANY of them.
The actual topic, though, is the Dodgers. A couple of years ago, the new owners of the Dodgers gave Ned Coletti a blank check, and he did (sort of) turn them into instant contenders, by spending a true boatload of money. What he actually did, of course, was marginally upgrade the Dodgers while (among other things) rebooting the Red Sox from worst to first to a World Series championship, and set an all-time record for bloated contracts on a single team, eclipsing about ten Yankees teams.
Now, however, Coletti is gone, replaced by Andrew Friedman from the Rays, and what (apparently) you get is the savvy of the Rays with the money of the Dodgers – bad news indeed for the rest of baseball! Friedman will undoubtedly make mistakes (see: Billy Beane) but he has the money to eat those mistakes, and he SEEMS to have his head on very straight indeed.
Let’s consider a few things which have happened just in the past few days:
Trade with Padres – The Dodgers sent Matt Kemp and backup catcher Tim Federowicz (plus $31M) to the Padres for catcher Yasmani Grandahl, and pitchers Joe Wieland and Zach Eflin.
Trade with Phillies – The Dodgers acquired shortstop Jimmy Rollins (and cash IN) for two as yet unnamed minor leaguers.
Trade with Marlins – The Dodgers sent 2B/SS Dee Gordon to Florida, along with infielder Matt Rojas, pitcher Dan Haren (and $12.5M) to acquire four players/prospects: Andrew Heaney, Enrique Hernandez, Austin Barnes, and Chris Hatcher.
Trade with Angels- The Dodgers sent Andrew Heaney (just acquired from Florida) to Anaheim for 2B Howie Kendrick.
Free Agent: The Dodgers signed starter Brandon McCarthy for 4 years and $48M.
In case you can’t follow all this at home, the Dodgers got rid of one of their outfield glut (Kemp) and in the process shed about $70M of future money. They acquired one year of a solid ML shortstop (Rollins) and one year of an excellent ML second baseman (Kendrick) plus, of course, a year of exclusive negotiating rights to both, if they care (prediction: they won’t try to negotiate with Rollins, but they will try and likely succeed with the much younger Kendrick). The tandem of Rollins/Kendrick will provide as much offense from the middle infield as last year’s tandem of Henley Ramirez/Dee Gordon, while providing MUCH better defense. And since Kershaw, Greinke and McCarthy are all among the highest ground-ball producers in baseball, that will make these pitchers that much better (scary thought: Kershaw will be BETTER???).
Grandahl has a reputation as a defense-first catcher, and might well be on the ML roster as well.
And in the process of all this, they ACQUIRED more and better prospects than they dealt!
They are likely not yet done. They still would like to play an outfield of Puig, Van Slyke and Pedersen, which leaves them Crawford and Ethier extra (the two most expensive bench players in the game today??). There is little interest in either one, and both are owed boatloads of money (but not as much as Kemp was). Kemp, of course, is a much better player, which is why the Dodgers managed to get something for him without paying most of his salary.
There have been excellent analyses of these trades for those who are interest. I will just say this:
I get why the Phillies did what they did, and they are likely to dump some or all of Hamels, Utley, Papelbon, Ruiz and Howard (if possible) to truly begin a rebuild. They saved a little money, opened up a spot for a youngster to see what he can do, and signaled their intentions to the world.
I kind of get why the Angels did what they did: they traded a cost-controlled year of an excellent second baseman for six years of a top-50 prospect. It made them worse, but was probably a value-for-value trade. I guess they think they are good enough to win despite this short-term downgrade?
I don’t AT ALL get what the Marlins were thinking: Gordon is not that good, is coming off a career year and likely to regress, and Heaney (that same top-50 prospect) might be as good as Gordon right now, and with a bigger upside. AND they threw in 3 other prospects, none of which are truly fillers. AND Haren has publicly stated that he will retire rather than play anywhere but LA (Dodgers or Angels). Perhaps the deal is that if Haren retires, the Marlins get to keep the money sent to pay his salary. (NOTE: Wouldn’t it be a kick if the Marlins traded Haren back to the Angles for Heaney, keeping the money? THEN the trade makes some sense: Gordon for 3 prospects and $12.5M – a classic Marlins trade!).
And even less do I understand the Padres: Matt Kemp can play, and I love him. He isn’t worth, at least at this moment, the $100M+ still owed to him, and possibly not even the $70M or so SD is on the hook for. AND if he IS worth it, it would only be for a team in win-now mode: he will in all probability be good in 2015, and perhaps 2016, and then become an anchor in 2017-2019 (yes, he is signed for FIVE more years), so a team like the Yankees might see him as a costly but worthwhile acquisition. But the Padres? They project, at this moment, to win about 73 games, and Kemp might move that (optimistically) up to 76 or 77. This is worth it how? By the time, if ever, that they turn things around and begin to contend, he will be IN THE WAY. PLUS he is a bad outfielder – shouldn’t he be on an AL team that at least could hide him at DH? If Ortiz were hurt or done, he would be a perfect fit in Fenway Park.
But WOW! in just a few days the Dodgers shed millions in payroll, got clearly better, AND acquired a number of useful prospects, as well as solidifying an already rock-solid rotation. And, likely, they are not yet done!