So Hey, Think About Michael Young, Starting At Second Base

January 14, 2014 at 7:12 pm | Posted in Michael Young | Leave a comment

young_2013-09-12

So says Ken Gurnick. So say we all.

The Dodgers let Mark Ellis, their starter at second base the past two years, leave as a free agent. They are trying to work out a deal to bring back Young, whom they acquired in a Trade Deadline deal, because he could start at second base if Guerrero isn’t ready or be a threatening bat off the bench.

Young was last a regular second baseman in 2003. He didn’t see any time there again until 2011, when he started 14 games (and 14 more the next year) as a utility type for Texas. I assume I don’t need to tell you how horrifying this scenario is, right?

Fortunately, Ken Rosenthal reports that Young is “strongly” considering retirement, and just because Gurnick is speculating otherwise hardly means it’s likely to happen. Still, the fact that we’re even discussing this on January 14 tells you a lot about how things stand. It’s not great.

Dodger Third Base Situation Isn’t Getting Brighter

December 14, 2013 at 10:41 am | Posted in Juan Uribe, Michael Young | Leave a comment

young_sandiego_2013-09-22

Juan Uribe still hasn’t made a decision, and now reports have surfaced that the Rays had interest in him as a multi-positional type. I imagine Tampa is out of the mix now that they’ve agreed to bring back James Loney (for three years!), but it still doesn’t ensure that Uribe is coming back to the Dodgers, and the more I hear about the team’s frustration at how drawn-out this is getting, the more I believe it.

Unfortunately, the alternatives haven’t changed, and the rumors that pop up are frustrating at best. Kevin Youkilis? He wants to play on the West Coast, and most of the other West clubs are set at third, but his agent has reportedly not spoken to the Dodgers, at least as of a few days ago. Eric Chavez? Potentially a decent platoon option, though he’s garnering some interest as a bench player from several teams. Daniel Murphy? I don’t love him, and his third base experience is limited, but there’s something to the idea of sending a not-Zach Lee or Ross Stripling pitching prospect if things get desperate.

Things might just be getting to that point, since we’re now seeing things like this appear:

(Buster tweeted that at 3:18am pacific, which is exactly when Michael Young-related discussion should happen.) We heard something similar from Dylan Hernandez a few days ago, but I’m not ready to panic about it… yet. As usual, the rumor-related caveats apply; I’m not suggesting that I don’t believe Olney or Hernandez, just that it could be A) the Dodgers doing due diligence B) Young’s agent attempting to make other teams believe someone actually has interest in his client C) a tactic designed to apply pressure to Uribe to decide or D) all of the above.

Until Uribe actually signs somewhere, I’m not going to lose any sleep over the mind-bending thought of Michael Young, starting third basemen. If Uribe does sign in Chicago or Miami or wherever? Well, then I might be driving around the country trying to track down Reed and Lee and whomever else and trucking them down to San Diego for Chase Headley. (Joking. I think.) For now, it’s just more of an annoyance than anything. The season doesn’t start for another 99 days, and it’s not particularly important on what day the situation is resolved. It’s just important that it’s not Young when the first pitch is thrown in Australia.

2013 Dodgers in Review #13: 3B Michael Young

November 12, 2013 at 10:48 pm | Posted in 2013 in Review, Michael Young | Leave a comment

90topps_michaelyoung.314/.321/.392 53pa 0hr .309 wOBA -0.2 fWAR (inc.)

2013 in brief: Late-season acquisition made every single out in the playoffs. Every last one.

2014 status: Free agent, possibly headed to retirement.

******

I’d been so terrified of Michael Young coming to the Dodgers for so long that not only had I been referring to him as “future Dodger Michael Young” for some time, I’d been making posts regarding the rumors for years. No, really: back in 2009, I compared him to Blake DeWitt. In 2011, rumors popped up and I decided I didn’t prefer him to Casey Blake, posting on it twice. (I might have been wrong about that one.) By July of this year I joked that it was inevitable; and then of course on August 31, it was real. All too real.

Now I will say that part of my concern was that his overblown reputation would cause him to come in and immediate bounce the superior Juan Uribe from third base, hurting the Dodgers on both sides of the ball, but especially defense. To Don Mattingly‘s credit, that didn’t happen. Young started only five September games at third (along with five more at other infield spots) and not once in the playoffs, despite Steve Lyons spouting some garbage about how he was certain to. And since the bench obviously needed help and losing Rob Rasmussen was no big loss, you could at least see how the trade made sense.

But man, was Young brutal. Yes, he hit .314, though that only shows you how limited batting average is; since he walked only once and had three extra-base hits, that made him barely league-average in limited play with the Dodgers, and the lousy defense made him below replacement. In the playoffs, of course, he was horrible, collecting just one single in ten plate appearances and, in Game 1 of the NLCS, hitting into two double plays and putting up one of the worst playoff games of all time despite not entering until the eighth inning.

Young is a free agent, and he’s been rumored to retire, though nothing is yet certain. After years of worrying about his arrival and six weeks of watching it unfold just as we expected, I don’t think I can take any more.

******

Next! You think watching Young was painful? It’s Luis Cruz!

Future Dodger Michael Young Is Now Current Dodger Michael Young

September 1, 2013 at 9:23 am | Posted in Michael Young | Leave a comment

michael_young_philliesYesterday, I made reference to breaking Dodger news always happening while I’m out of town. A long-time commenter called me out for that joke getting tedious… and then Ned Colletti had to go out and acquire Michael Young, because of absolutely course he did. You’d think that a team that’s just destroying all of baseball and is going to easily win the division would lead to nothing but acclaim for the general manager, but then you wouldn’t think that anyone — in 2013! — would acquire Young and Brian Wilson and Carlos Marmol and Edinson Volquez in the span of barely more than a month, especially after giving all that money to Brandon League.

So here I am, hundreds of miles from home, borrowing a friend’s laptop so I can at least some thoughts out there. You may remember that the very thought of Young terrified me back in mid-July (among dozens of other times), when I wrote

Or maybe, just maybe, Colletti will identify Young as the upgrade this team has to have, as though adding a “good clubhouse guy” to a clubhouse that doesn’t seem to be a problem — and no, Young is not going to be the guy who talks sense into Yasiel Puig, so stop — will be more valuable than giving playing time to a declining poor fielder, and give up more than Young was already traded for months ago. No, that could never happen… right?

Rob Rasmussen goes back, and he’s not much of a prospect who was acquired for John Ely last year, so Young is basically a free part. So that’s nice, but really, I’m still struggling to find some good out of this. Is Young here because…

1) He’s a good clubhouse presence? Well, no. By most accounts he really is a solid teammate and all that, but so is Juan Uribe, who Young is most likely to take playing time from. So are Mark Ellis & Skip Schumaker, if he’s to see any time at second base. I don’t argue Young’s reputation, but the Dodgers are known to have a pretty good clubhouse, and you’ve lost your mind if you think Young is going to be the guy who commands Puig’s respect. I’ll bet $100 that Puig has absolutely no idea who Young even is. Nor should he.

2. He’s an offensive upgrade at third base? Not really. Young has a .321 wOBA, which is a little better than Uribe’s .317, but Young is also hitting just .244/.315/.348 since the All-Star break. That’s awful, and any possible advantage he might have is quickly given back by…

3. He’s a defensive upgrade at third base? Haaaaaa, no. I’ll just steal this from Jon Weisman for now:

Uribe 2013: .722 OPS., 103 OPS+, 25.8 UZR/150, 2.8 WAR
Young 2013: .722 OPS, 99 OPS+, -16.2 UZR/150, 0.0 WAR

Regardless of how you feel about defensive metrics, this passes the sniff test. Uribe’s defense has been excellent this year, as he’s made up for limited range with a strong accurate arm and a reliable glove. Every inning Young plays over Uribe is an inning the Dodgers are made worse. Imagine Young and Hanley Ramirez on the left side at the same time? Good lord.

4. He improves the bench? This is the only thing that might possibly make some sense, because the reserves are pretty weak. Ellis helps only with his glove, and Nick Punto has been awful offensively for months. Schumaker and Jerry Hairston are useful for their versatility, but neither offer much of a threat at the plate. So *if* this is about adding a guy with some versatility who can sorta still hit lefties — and offers veteran presence!! — at zero cost, there’s something to that.

But that’s only if that’s how this plays out, and Young has never been a bench player in the past. It’s worrisome that his reputation could make him the starting third baseman, because the Dodgers will be worse for this if he is.

Can the Dodgers Pay More For Michael Young Than They Already Did?

July 19, 2013 at 12:45 pm | Posted in Michael Young | Leave a comment

michael_young_philliesAs I alluded to the other day, I’m absolutely terrified of the prospect of Ned Colletti going after Michael Young before the trading deadline. And why shouldn’t I be? He’s exactly the type of player we’ve seen this front office go after so many times before — “gritty,” a “good clubhouse presence,” and… not that good.

Young was for many years a valuable part of the Texas infield, being worth 2-4 wins every season between 2003-2011 other than 2005, when he was worth 4.4 WAR in what was his career year. The fact that he hit for a high average — .301 career mark — along with some pop — four years with 20+ homers — obscured the fact that he was generally a below-average fielder, but make no mistake: Young was a very good player for a long time, and he more than held his own in an incredibly talented 2003 Texas infield that featured Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, & Hank Blalock, none older than 27 at the time.

Of course, his reputation as a good teammate didn’t stop him from having a few public spats with Rangers management, notably when they asked him to move from shortstop to third base in 2009 to make room for Elvis Andrus, then from third base to 1B/DH in 2011 when Adrian Beltre arrived. Despite the fact that each were superior players, especially on defense, Young requested a trade twice. It didn’t happen until after a miserable 2012 when general manager Jon Daniels could no longer stomach Ron Washington playing a 35-year-old with a .277/.312/.370 line every day, and traded him to Philadelphia. (When he did, Mike Schmidt compared Young to Derek Jeter, and said that he’s “two or three years from being a first ballot Hall of Famer.” Uh, sure, Mike.)

Young has bounced back a bit with the Phillies, hitting .288/.344/.414, though that’s a nearly identical line as Juan Uribe has to go with inarguably worse defense. You could make a pretty good argument that the Dodgers are not better off with Young at third base every day than they are with Uribe, though the potential of Uribe getting some bench time that is currently going to Skip Schumaker or Nick Punto must be taken into account.

Anyway, that’s not really the point here. It will be no surprise if Colletti wants Young, and it will be even less of a surprise that I would hate it. The question is what Young might cost, because in a round-about way, the Dodgers have already traded for him once.

Last July, the Dodgers sent reliever Josh Lindblom and pitching prospect Ethan Martin to Philadelphia for Shane Victorino. After the season, the Phillies sent Lindblom and a mid-level pitching prospect to Texas for Young.

We know all about Lindlom, since he spent parts of two seasons with the Dodgers and had been in the organization since 2008. He’s a useful but hardly elite pitcher with some talent but continuing trouble with the longball, and he’s struggled in Texas as they’ve inexplicably attempted to convert him back into a starter. Basically, the kind of guy who is nice to have, but who you don’t miss at all once he’s gone.

If that’s what Young was worth to the Phillies for a full year of his services, then what is he worth to the Dodgers now that he’s a half year older and closer to free agency? You could argue that it’s less than Lindblom, which would really cut down the pool. That seems to make even Chris Withrow or Stephen Fife or Matt Magill too much, though I’m guessing that’s not how this exercise is going to go.

Of course, we all hope that if a deal with Philadelphia happens, it’s part of something larger for Cliff Lee or Chase Utley, which would make identifying the value for Young alone difficult. Maybe that’s what will happen; maybe it will be nothing at all.

Or maybe, just maybe, Colletti will identify Young as the upgrade this team has to have, as though adding a “good clubhouse guy” to a clubhouse that doesn’t seem to be a problem — and no, Young is not going to be the guy who talks sense into Yasiel Puig, so stop — will be more valuable than giving playing time to a declining poor fielder, and give up more than Young was already traded for months ago. No, that could never happen… right?

Trading Season Looms in Los Angeles

July 18, 2013 at 11:22 am | Posted in Michael Young | Leave a comment

ramirez_gonzalez_sandiego_2013-06-23In the final days before last year’s trade deadline, the Dodgers made three moves to reinforce their roster. They picked up Hanley Ramirez & Randy Choate from Miami, Shane Victorino from Philadelphia, and Brandon League from Seattle. Ned Colletti followed that up by adding Joe Blanton in a waiver deal on August 3, then the massive Nick Punto deal on August 25.

I don’t think we can expect quite that amount of activity this year, largely because the roster has so many long-term deals in place that there’s only so much flexibility to be had. But as the July 31 deadline looms in just a touch less than two weeks, the one thing we can safely say is that the Dodger roster we’ll see when the second half kicks off tomorrow in Washington is not going to be the same one that we’ll see when the team starts a series in Wrigley Field on August 1.

So consider this an open thread — how many moves do you think are going to happen? For who? I’ll start with some predictions of my own.

1) They’ll trade for a reliever, and we’ll all hate the price, then later realize it wasn’t so bad.

I know League is basically the most unpopular guy in Los Angeles right now, but we didn’t really love or hate the trade that brought him to town last year. (I believe I called him “a guy“.) But I didn’t really mind losing Leon Landry in the least, and I haven’t changed my mind on that now that the Dodgers have more outfielders than they know what to do with and Landry has a .269 OBP in his age-24 season for the Seattle Double-A affiliate. I liked Logan Bawcom, but righty middle relievers are a dime-a-dozen. So when the Dodgers make a trade for a reliever — and they almost certainly will — let’s try to keep it in perspective.

So who might be among the possibilities? Jesse Crain is the big name, though he’s currently injured and won’t come cheaply. If the Twins would ever consider moving Glen Perkins, he’d generate enormous interest. Then there’s teams who have nearly their entire bullpens open for business, like Steve Cishek, Chad Qualls, Ryan Webb, or Mike Dunn in Miami or John Axford, Francisco Rodriguez, Mike Gonzalez, or Jim Henderson in Milwaukee, or Jose Veras or former Dodger farmhand Wesley Wright in Houston. We know the Yankees would happily move Joba Chamberlain, we don’t know what the Phillies plan to do with Jonathan Papelbon, and Seattle might consider moving their second questionable closer in two years, Tom Wilhelmsen. There’s also the ever-present threat of Kevin Gregg looming, though I doubt they’d go in that direction.

I think a large part of this for the Dodgers depends on what happens with their current pitching situation, because they may yet give Carlos Marmol a shot and at some point you need to figure out what to do with Chris Capuano and Ted Lilly, assuming neither stick in the rotation.

2) They’ll trade for a starter, but it won’t be Matt Garza.

I still believe the team’s primary target is Cliff Lee, figuring that his contract might allow them to spend dollars rather than prospects, but so far the Phillies haven’t seemed like they’d be willing to sell. So if you’re looking for a third ace to go with Clayton Kershaw & Zack Greinke, I wouldn’t hold your breath. That said, I think that they would like to add one more piece just to improve on Capuano & Stephen Fife and hedge against concerns over Hyun-jin Ryu‘s possible decline, so another starter remains likely.

The options here, unfortunately, remain thin. You could gamble on Yovani Gallardo‘s declining velocity or pay far too much for what Bud Norris, Kyle Lohse, or Phil Hughes are worth, or risk that the currently-injured Jake Peavy could ever remain healthy. Since this seems like more of a “nice to have” than a “must”, this might be the kind of thing that happens in an August waiver deal, like with Blanton last year — perhaps getting back after Lee if the Phillies fall apart.

3) They’ll trade for an infielder, but it won’t be the one we want.

I’ve been pretty on board with the idea of going after Chase Utley, but that’s really easier said than done. In addition to the uncertainty of what Philadelphia is going to do, Utley’s a little different than Lee in that he’s seen as a team legend, and so there’s a certain value to the idea of keeping him in one uniform for his entire career, like Derek Jeter.

But there’s still some room for improvement in the infield, because Mark Ellis is declining, there’s no good backup plan at shortstop should Hanley Ramirez get injured for a third time this year, Juan Uribe is hardly irreplaceable, and the bench is full of far too many no-hit utility guys. This all terrifies me about the prospect of Michael Young, a Covina native who is probably the Colletti-iest player to ever live. I’ll get into Young in more detail should it become necessary, but we can briefly say that he was a valuable player for a long time who is now having a worse season than Uribe, yet continues to be among the most overrated players in sports, having been an awful fielder for years while causing more than a few problems in Texas. (Case in point: in the midst of being one of the worst players in baseball last year, there were still stories like “Young’s value goes way behind statistics” being written.)

So while I live in fear of Young… other non-Utley options may include Daniel Murphy, Darwin Barney, Alexei Ramirez, Placido Polanco, Rickie Weeks, Jeff Keppinger, and Luis Valbuena. Needless to say, it’s not pretty out there.

4) They’ll sign a Cuban player, and you’ll have never heard of him.

This is more a shot in the dark than anything, because we all know Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez at this point, and the Dodgers are reportedly very much in the mix to sign him. Maybe they will, but just to be contrary, I’ll say that they don’t get him, and instead end up with outfielder Dariel Alvarez or 27-year-old pitcher Dalier Hinojosa. Hell, for all I know, they’ll sign all three; we’ve seen very clearly by this point how much the new regime values the idea of spending liberally in the international market after how poorly the team did during the McCourt era, and that’s an incredibly welcome change.

So there’s how I see the next two weeks of the trade season shaping up… let’s hear your thougths.

2011 Midseason Review: MSTI

July 13, 2011 at 10:00 am | Posted in Aaron Miles, Casey Blake, Chris Davis, Dioner Navarro, Eric Chavez, Felipe Paulino, Jeff Francouer, Matt Guerrier, Matt Kemp, Michael Young, Mike Morse, Rod Barajas, Russell Branyan, Russell Martin, Wilson Betemit | 24 Comments


We’re wrapping up this midseason review with a new focus: me. Regular readers of this blog know that nothing interests me more than big-picture roster mechanics, and so I’ve often put forth judgement on trades and signings, and occasionally offered suggestions of my own. It was pointed out to me on Twitter recently that if I was going to criticise the moves of others, it was only fair for me to turn the spotlight on myself. (It was also pointed out to me in the comments of a recent post that I get too much “told ya so!” sometimes, which, perhaps, but this post sure isn’t going to help change that perspective.)

Remember, this is just for fun on yet another off-day, because there’s no guarantee that a player who is doing well or poorly in one place would have had the same performance in another.

Matt Kemp

What I said at the time (03/24/11):

My positive feelings about him continued in his 2010 season in review piece later that month, where I noted that he had not only taken responsibility for his subpar year, he’d ended the season on a five-homers-in-five-games tear while ridding himself of the distractions that had derailed his season – Joe Torre, Larry Bowa, Bob Schaefer, and even Rhianna, if you believe in that sort of thing. (Rob Neyer had a great look at the shortcomings of the 2010 coaching staff, too.) Again, Kemp is not to be excused for being unable to work through all that, but nor should it be ignored that from all indications, he wasn’t getting a lot of support internally either.

I realize it’s spring, and that everyone has a nice, rosy outlook this time of the year. That’s fine, and it’ll take more than some spring dingers and saying the right things to prove Kemp right. But the signs are all there for a massive year – no one’s questioned his talent, but now he’s motivated to prove himself, with distractions gone and the right instruction in place.

Matt Kemp is still just 26. The two-year contract he signed after 2009 is up this year. He’s got a lot to prove – and mark my words, he’s going to do it.

How’d that work out?

Eh, he’s okay.

Juan Uribe

What I said at the time (11/29/10):

Now that we’ve got the positives out of the way… what in the hell is this team doing giving three years* and $22m to Juan Uribe?! (*standard caveat of “it’s just a report, and not an official deal yet” applies.) Uribe’s never had even a two-year deal in his life. He was quite good in 2005 with the White Sox (111 OPS+, 23 HR), but after four consecutive years of not having an OBP over .301, he was cut loose after 2008. The Giants got him for 1 year, $1m in 2009, and he was quite good again – 112 OPS+ – so they resigned him for 1 year, $3.2m in 2010. Other than increasing his HR, he completely regressed at he plate. His OPS fell from .824 to .749, and his wOBA fell from .351 to .322.

That doesn’t make him useless, but as I’ve said every other time I’ve talked about him, I like him for one year and I’d accept an option for a second. But now we’re giving a guy whose age 25-28 seasons were all basically a waste, had one good year at 29 and couldn’t quite keep it up at 30 three guaranteed years? Why? Because he was a Giant? Because he hit a homer in the World Series (despite doing little else in October)?

How’d that work out?

While everyone knew giving Uribe three years was a horrendous idea, it should be noted that I originally tossed out the idea of signing him weeks before it happened. I was only willing to give one guaranteed year with an option for a second, of course, but the point is that even Uribe’s most ardent detractors weren’t predicting as poor of a season as we’ve seen. But hey, two more years!

Ted Lilly

What I said at the time (10/19/10)

I guarantee that I’m going to be in the minority here, but I’m not thrilled with this. The casual fan is going to see this as some sort of sign that Frank McCourt is willing to spend, but there’s a big difference between spending and spending wisely, and spending big on a 35-year-old pitcher entering his decline years is not wise. Isn’t this how we ended up being stuck with Casey Blake next year?

So sure, I’m happy to see him back in 2011, but we can’t be short-sighted about this. Remember, Lilly just finished a 4-year, $40m contract, which is an average annual value of $10m/year. Somehow, despite being 4 years older, less than a year past shoulder surgery, and on the decline, the Dodgers saw fit to give him a deal which increases that value?

I’m not arguing that he wouldn’t have found a contract like that on the market, because he would have. I would have just preferred it be some other team to make a foolish investment. Spending money does not equal spending wisely, because while Lilly’s a good pitcher, he’s hardly a difference-maker, yet he’s being paid like one. Though I’m glad he’s back for 2011, I really think we’re going to regret this deal in 2012 and 2013 – which is basically exactly what I said about Blake’s deal after 2008.

How’d that work out?

If I was wrong here, it was in that I at least thought Lilly could be good this year before falling off the next two years. Instead, he’s been barely above replacement level this year, and that does not give me much hope for the next two years of the deal as he’s 36 and 37. The lesson, as always: big money deals to older pitchers, particularly one who had a completely unsustainable debut with your club, rarely work out.

Casey Blake

What I said at the time (9/21/10):

Unfortunately, history isn’t on Blake’s side either. There’s only been seventeen seasons since 1961 in which a third baseman 37 or older (since Blake will be 37 most of next year) has managed to even play enough to qualify for the batting title. Looking at that list, most of them are Hall of Famers (Mike Schmidt, Pete Rose, Brooks Robinson, Wade Boggs, Cal Ripken, Jr.), or about to be (Chipper Jones) – and even then there’s quite a few dreadful seasons on that list. Do we really expect that Casey Blake is the one who bucks that trend?

Thanks to the budget and his veteran status, I fully expect that Blake is going to be the regular third baseman in 2011, but it’s not what’s best for the team (and is exactly what I feared when they signed him back in 2008).

How’d that work out?

Blake hit just .243/.346/.386 around three disabled list stints and is on pace to play in fewer than 80 games. He gets a little bit older every day.

Rod Barajas

What I said at the time (12/03/10):

Barajas signed for $500k with the Mets last year, waiting until just before camp opened in February to even get that. He was then so bad that the woeful Mets, you know, let him go to the Dodgers on waivers for absolutely nothing. Granted, he had a great first week or so in Dodger blue – 4 homers, 1.458 OPS in his first 8 games. Yet in his remaining 17 games, he had just 1 homer and a .612 OPS, also known as “Rod Barajas being Rod Barajas“. On the season, he had a .284 OBP, which exactly matches his career mark, because he’s not very good.

Look at it this way – Barajas had never made more than $3.2m, which is what he got from Texas in 2006. He’s now five years older, coming off several lousy seasons bouncing from team to team – making less than $1m in two of them – yet somehow, coming off a year in which he was dumped on waivers and will be 35, he’s all of a sudden worth $3.8m. Seriously? In my 2011 plan, when I said he could come back I said that I thought he could be had for $800k. Is this all because of his one good week as a Dodger? I’ve had to deal with a lot of casual fans who got taken in by that, but I never expected the front office to do so.

How’d that work out?

As I noted, Barajas’ career marks aren’t great, and even still he’s been unable to match them. Since he does still have some pop (8 HR) this year, it’s not the fact that he was signed which bothered me, it’s just the sheer amount of money he received.

Dioner Navarro

What I said at the time (2/20/11):

So tell me, why is it that Navarro has a $1m contract for 2011, while Ellis has bus rides around the PCL to look forward to? Because of that one good year? That fluke year also isn’t fooling the latest iteration of Baseball Prospectus‘ PECOTA projections, pegging Navarro for .243/.304/.336  and Ellis at .256/.364/.321. The numbers just don’t support it, and that’s without even questioning the off-field issues brought up by Navarro refusing to remain with the Rays in the playoffs last year after not making the roster. It’s also without bringing defense into the equation, as that’s notoriously hard to evaluate for catchers, though it should be noted that Ellis has a very good repuation, and the DRaysBay quote above wasn’t exactly glowing towards Navarro. (Update: after this went up, BP colleague and DockOfTheRays blogger Jason Collette added, “enjoy that hot mess behind the plate.” So there’s that.)

Now as I said upfront, I get that Navarro has the prospect history and does have the one good year, and it’s worth it to see if he can recapture that magic and be useful going forward. I’m fine with that; in fact, I love the idea. I’d just have preferred to see it on a minor-league deal, and I don’t understand why he seemingly doesn’t have to fight for the job.

How’d that work out?

Ha. You’ve watched baseball, right?

Aaron Miles

What I said at the time (02/07/11):

I am constantly trying to reassure people that minor league contracts are never as big of a deal as they seem, and the inherent lack of risk makes them almost a no-lose proposition.

In this case, I’m not so sure, because Miles is atrociously bad. No, really; among players who have had as many plate appearances as Miles had since he debuted in 2003, only three players in baseball have been less valuable. It’s a special kind of “not valuable”, though. If you’re simply awful, you don’t get to stick around for that long. Miles has really hit the sweet spot of being bad enough to hurt his teams for years, yet not so bad that he gets outright drummed out of the game. It must be his A+ levels of “grit” and “scrap”.

How’d that work out?

I’ve offered a mea culpa on Miles more than a few times now. He’s been a very nice surprise this year.

Matt Guerrier

What I said at the time (01/19/11):

Why are we all having such a hard time remembering that Guerrier is a Dodger? Perhaps it’s because the signing, which most of us disapproved of at the time, isn’t looking any better as the winter goes along. In the last week, four free agent relievers signed multimillion dollar deals with teams that hope to contend in 2011. (I’m excluding Rafael Soriano from this conversation, as that deal wowed even Yankee fans used to excessive spending.) Jon Rauch left Minnesota to sign in Toronto, while the A’s snapped up both Grant Balfour and Rauch’s former teammate, Brian Fuentes. Earlier, the Rays signed Kyle Farnsworth, in part to replace both Balfour and Soriano.

All four signed deals that were less in total value than the Dodgers gave to Guerrier earlier this offseason. You can make the argument that all four are better pitchers, too.

How’d that work out?

Basically as I expected. Guerrier has been mediocre, despite being the highest-paid of the guys mentioned above. Love, love, love longterm deals for non-elite relievers.

Adam Dunn

What I said at the time (10/11/10):

I’ll admit that I’ve coveted Dunn for years, and my hypothetical Dodgers have enough money to make one big splash. You could argue that finding a pitcher is more important, but pitching is always overpriced on the free agent market, and if you don’t do something to add some power and OBP, then it’s not going to matter anyway. Dunn’s not without his warts, but he’s also among the most consistent power hitters of the last generation – you know you’re getting 35-40 homers and an above-average OBP, and as he’s just turning 31, you should get him before his decline sets in. Besides, you saw what kind of difference Manny made on Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier when he was in the lineup, right? Nothing torpedoed the 2010 club more than lousy offense, and getting one of the top 3 bats available would be a huge step in the right direction.

How’d that work out?

Woof. Huge whiff there, since Dunn is hitting just .160/.292/.305, though I’ll try to semi-defend myself by saying that plenty of analysts thought he was a great fit in Chicago, and that absolutely no one saw this coming. Still, yikes.

Russell Martin

What I said at the time (12/02/10:)

Where do you start? We’ve talked about this ad nauseum. He’s not nearly what he was, yet that’s still better than most catchers. He’s coming off a serious injury and stands to get about $6m in arbitration, yet the options to replace him are terrible. I don’t know if there’s a right answer here; I’d probably try to sign him to a two-year deal at less per year than he’d get in arbitration, but there’s probably not enough time left to do that today.

How’d that work out?

Martin got off to a ferocious start in New York, hitting 9 homers in the first month of the season. He’s been atrocious since then, battling a knee injury and hitting only .184/.296/.282 since April 25. I thought the Dodgers made the right move by letting him go; this is still a point of contention for many since the LA catchers have been so bad, but other than those first three weeks, I’m not seeing much that says they made a mistake here.

Michael Morse

What I said at the time (12/20/10):

Still, even if he’s not perfect, a righty-power bat is exactly what the Dodgers need, and shouldn’t they be in the business of taking a low-cost chance instead of the assured mediocrity of a Scott Podsednik or Jerry Hairston? Don’t take this as anything more than a fun comparison of stats, but Morse has an .810 OPS with a HR every 29.4 at-bats through his age-28 year. At the same age, Werth had a .793 OPS with the same HR rate. In parts of 5 AAA seasons, Morse’s line is .292/.354/.461; Werth, in parts of 4 AAA seasons, had .268/.355/.472. I’m not saying it’s definite or even moderately likely that Morse will become the next Werth (Werth is a far better fielder) but it seems like a chance worth taking, and at the least he could fit as the righty platoon bench bat the Dodgers don’t currently have.

How’d that work out?

Morse shook off a slow start to bash 15 homers and join Andre Ethier on the NL’s final man voting for the All-Star team with a line of .306/.351/.535 while playing 1B and LF. In retrospect, I probably undersold what it would have taken to get him, but, yeah – I liked him for a reason. Would have been nice to have him instead of, say, Marcus Thames.

Jeff Francoeur

What I said at the time (10/11/10):

Jeff Francoeur, for all his ridiculous portrayals in the media, has two strengths and one extremely large weakness. He’s a very strong defensive outfielder with a good arm, and he can hit lefty pitching (.823 OPS career). What Francoeur cannot do, under any circumstances, is hit righty pitching (.639 OPS this year, .699 career). However, it just so happens that the Dodgers have an outfielder in Andre Ethier who’s a mediocre defender and even worse against lefties (.625 OPS this year, .681 career) than Francoeur is against righties. Do I have to spell out the fit here? It’s basically the Reed Johnson role, except that Johnson is 7 years older, couldn’t stay healthy, and had less upside.

How’d that work out?

vs RHP this year: .248/.294/.385
vs LHP this year: .321/.352/.630

I would not be interested in “Jeff Francoeur, starting left fielder”, and as I mentioned later in the article the idea depended on having a manager who could manage a platoon properly, but would I take that as a platoon partner for Ethier and/or Tony Gwynn? You’re damned right I would.

Eric Chavez

What I said at the time (01/06/11):

So what makes him interesting? Chavez is the rare lefty-hitting third baseman, and he has a pronounced platoon split over his career – .873 against RHP, .697 against LHP. You’ve probably noticed that I’ve spent much of the offseason insisting that although Casey Blake mashes against LHP, he’s simply unplayable against RHP. Unfortunately, nothing’s changed there; while you could theoretically bench him against righties and push Juan Uribe to 3B while Jamey Carroll plays 2B, that’s not an option I really see Don Mattingly choosing a lot in his rookie season, so I’ve become resigned to watching Blake flail against righty pitching. If Chavez has anything left, that’s a perfect fit for this team.

How’d that work out?

Okay, you got me. Chavez was very good for the Yankees (127 OPS+ in 39 plate appearances) before once again injuring himself. There was pretty much no question that would happen at some point.

Chris Davis

What I said at the time (03/07/11):

This is a Dodger team that badly needs offense, has no future at 3B, and may or may not have a present at 1B. (In case you didn’t see, Don Mattingly claims that if Loney were to miss an extended period of time, his replacement would likely not be Blake or Jay Gibbons, but Russ Mitchell. Yikes.) Davis may not field well enough to handle 3B full-time, and he may not hit well enough to play 1B full-time. But if you think the 2011 Dodgers, as constructed, are good enough to contend but not good enough to win, as I do, then you need take a gamble now and then, and Davis offers hope and possible longer-term solution – if the trade price is right, that’s worth giving him a shot in my book.

How’d that work out?

Davis has an .814 OPS in 57 MLB plate appearances this year, and 20 homers to go with a 1.255 OPS in 167 AAA plate appearances. I’d still love to get him.

Wilson Betemit

What I said at the time (10/11/10):

We can do better, and Betemit had a pretty monstrous half-season for Kansas City this year: .297/.378/.511. Almost as important, he’s a switch-hitter who’s been more successful against RHP than LHB over his career, which fits into our scheme here (though this year he’s done very well against both).

Now, I can hear the objections to this already. “It was half a season. He spent much of the last two years in the minors. And haven’t we seen this movie before?” All fair points. But I’ll argue that Betemit’s been pretty underrated. In parts of 8 seasons, his career line is .267/.335/.449, which works out to a 103 OPS+, even though much of that came when he was far too young (he made his MLB debut at 19, and saw significant time at 22). Before being traded in 2007, he had a .359 OBP and .474 SLG in 84 games for the Dodgers. How was production like that a problem again? Oh, right, it’s because people put far too much stock in a low batting average.

How’d that work out?

Betemit got off to a solid start to the season, hitting .306/.370/.438 through the first two months as the everyday third baseman. His playing time took a dip when the Royals promoted rookie Mike Moustakas, and so did his numbers at that point, but he clearly would have been a big upgrade on the Dodger 3B situation. 

Michael Young

What I said at the time (02/07/11):

You’ve heard me talk about how I think Blake is at the end of the line in the past, but I’m having a hard time seeing how Young would be any sort of upgrade – and that’s without even considering that Young is due $16m in each of the next three seasons, while 2011 is likely Blake’s last season in blue, or that the Rangers would want some sort of talent in return. It just doesn’t make sense.

How’d that work out?

Well, Young is having a resurgent season with the Rangers, hitting .323/.358/.482, and clearly outperforming the broken down Blake. My bad on that one. However, he is once again a creation of Arlington, hitting 200 points of OPS better at home than on the road. With how lousy the 2011 Dodgers have hit everywhere, that would still be an upgrade, but not enough of one to make it worth it considering the talent and dollars it would have taken.

Russell Branyan

What I said at the time (05/23/11):

But I wouldn’t be bringing Branyan in as the everyday first baseman, or even to replace Loney on the active roster. Branyan is 35 and a poor defender, and only three times has he received 400 plate appearances in a season. He’d be here because he can murder a baseball, and on a team with the weakest bench in baseball – remember, this is the club that had to throw Castro up with the bases loaded last week – that’s an incredibly valuable skill. Branyan’s role would be as a bench power bat who gets a start at first base once a week or so.

How’d that work out?

Not too great. Branyan has hit just .210/.290/.339 in Anaheim, rarely playing as Mark Trumbo has taken hold of the first base job.

Felipe Paulino

What I said at the time (05/23/11):

His xFIP is actually just 3.36, as he got a little unlucky with homers in the early going. He’s still throwing 95 MPH heat, and his starting experience could make him an ideal longman out of the pen, a role this team desperately needs right now. Remember, the idea here isn’t “is this guy going to propel me to a championship?”, because Paulino certainly will not. It’s “is this guy better than the guy I currently have?” and a 27-year-old power arm with strikeout stuff who had trouble in Coors Field is absolutely a better bet than Lance Cormier, particularly when Paulino can go multiple innings if needed.

How’d that work out?

Paulino got scooped up by the Royals and has been excellent in 7 starts, putting up a 45/12 K/BB mark, with Rany Jazayerli going so far as to refer to him as the club’s “best starter”. That one would have been nice to have for sure.

******

All in all, not too bad. There were a few misses – Dunn chief among them – but I’m pretty sure we’d all be happier with a team that included Morse, Davis, Betemit, Francoeur, and Paulino, right?

The Story That Just Won’t Die

February 10, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Posted in Casey Blake, Michael Young | 31 Comments

I thought that my post from the other day about Michael Young and why he’s not a fit for the Dodgers would have been all that needed to be said about the situation, but no: the rumor mill keeps churning. If it’s not fans coming up with crazy trade ideas to get Young, it’s fans coming up with crazier ideas to get Young. All this, for an expensive and aging lousy defender who can’t hit away from Texas.

Today, Ken Rosenthal, after saying the Dodgers had “engaged in serious discussions’ with Texas, pours some more fuel on the fire:

The Rangers would need to pay the majority of Young’s salary for a deal to occur, and one source said the Dodgers asked the Rangers to assume as much as 75 percent of his contract — or $36 million of $48 million.

At first glance, that seems great – Michael Young at $12m over the next three years sounds a whole hell of a lot better than $48m over three years. But think about that for a second. The Rangers aren’t going to just dump Young for nothing, and they’re certainly not going to do so if they’re not saving a good deal of money.

So if the Dodgers really did propose that deal, what kind of talent were they willing to give up in return? Because let me tell you, you might be able to get away with mediocre talent if you’re telling the Rangers they can relieve themselves of a headache and save a bunch of money. But that’s certainly not the case if Texas doesn’t realize savings, so the talent in discussion must have been noteworthy – and that’s terrifying. If it really is true that the McCourt situation has prevented Ned Colletti from being able to afford Young, then this is one case where we should all be thankful that we’re stuck with such awful ownership.

Granted, the title of the Rosenthal piece about Young-to-Dodgers is “Ain’t happening”, so there’s still hope that we’ll make it through this, but good lord will I feel better when this finally gets resolved, and he ends up somewhere that isn’t Los Angeles.

For the record, Casey Blake vs Young in terms of WAR:


That’s from best season to worst, and that looks like two nearly identical players, no? Blake’s best season was actually better than Young’s best.

Now look at it in terms of cumulative WAR by age…

With the exception that Young got started a few years earlier, those lines are nearly identical. Blake’s past his prime, but so is Young. So why are people so interested in trading talent for a guy who’s eight times as expensive?

In Which I’m Obligated To Talk About Michael Young

February 7, 2011 at 7:00 am | Posted in Casey Blake, Michael Young | 28 Comments

The “Michael Young is unhappy in Texas” story has been going on for quite some time, both in recent years when he asked for a trade after being moved from shortstop to third base, and again now that the Rangers have signed Adrian Beltre and pushed Young to designated hitter. This saga would generally have little interest to me, except that every time the story comes up, the Dodgers are mentioned as a possible trade partner, though the Rockies are generally seen as the favorites.

T.R. Sullivan’s MLB.com article from Sunday brings the Dodgers up again:

The Athletics, Angels and Blue Jays have all been mentioned as possibilities. The Dodgers are interested, but are prevented by their unstable ownership situation. Most reliable sources say teams are interested and the Rangers are willing to talk, but nothing is imminent at this point with the Rockies or any other team.

Young is owed $48m over the next three seasons, and so I think Sullivan is completely accurate: there’s almost no way the Dodgers can shoehorn that into their payroll as we currently understand it, which is already at somewhere around $110m for 2011. So let’s be clear that we’re talking about a hypothetical situation which is almost certainly not going to happen. But the issue here isn’t whether it’d really happen or not; the issue is that (according to Sullivan, anyway), the Dodgers appear to have interest, enough so that Steve Dilbeck is addressing it in his LA Times blog. Is this a situation where the McCourt divorce debacle might save the Dodgers from the chance of making a big mistake?

I’ve seen fans, both here and elsewhere, who would love for this to happen, because they think he’s an upgrade over Casey Blake, which could then push Blake into being the bench bat he probably ought to be. Yeah! Wait, no, and I don’t even like Casey Blake. This is a great example of why raw numbers are not always what they seem. First off, let’s just acknowledge that there are plenty of people out there who see that Young had 91 RBI (Blake had 67) and four more homers (in 147 more PA) and think that makes him some sort of “run producer”. It doesn’t.

No, despite outproducing Blake in OPS last year (.774 to .727), both bWAR and fWAR (which don’t always align) agree that Blake was the more valuable player than Young in 2010. bWAR has it 3.1 to 2.7, while fWAR calls it a 2.8 to 2.7 decision. I’m not going to pretend that WAR is exact enough that 0.1 is much of an edge, but note again that WAR is a counting stat, not a rate stat, and therefore the 147 more PA allowed Young more time to compile that total.

Young lags behind Blake for two primary reasons. First, despite his perception as a plus defender (he won the AL Gold Glove as a shortstop in 2008), Young’s reputation far outshines the metrics. Fangraphs has him as a negative fielder in 8 of his 10 full seasons, while Blake has been solidly above average in each of his years with the Dodgers. If that doesn’t make Young a better third baseman than Blake, it’s hard to think that as he enters his mid 30s, Young could still transition back to the more difficult middle infield positions.

The other problem for Young is that he’s been helped in a large way by his home field in Texas. Over his career, the split is massive; .322/.372/.487 (.859) at home, but just .279/.322/.411 (.733) on the road. That’s 126 points of OPS lost on the road, and the split didn’t get any better in 2010: .307/.361/.509 (.871) at home, .260/.299/.380 (.679) everywhere else. That’s a nearly 200 point difference, and you’ll excuse me by not being excited by the prospect of having a guy who got on base at a .299 clip away from his home field last year being imported into Dodger Stadium.

You’ve heard me talk about how I think Blake is at the end of the line in the past, but I’m having a hard time seeing how Young would be any sort of upgrade – and that’s without even considering that Young is due $16m in each of the next three seasons, while 2011 is likely Blake’s last season in blue, or that the Rangers would want some sort of talent in return. It just doesn’t make sense.

For the record, this isn’t the first time this has come up. In the offseason of 2008-09, we started hearing similar rumors, after the Rangers wanted to move him to third base to accomodate Elvis Andrus. Young went on to have a career year in 2009, which was of course completely unsustainable and which he did not repeat in 2010. Here’s what I said at the time:

The Texas shortstop has requested a trade after the Rangers *gasp* asked him to move to third base. Hey, good luck with that, guy. You’re going to be 32, on a four-year slide in OPS+ (131, 108, 107, and 96), immensely helped by your home park, and about to start a ridiculous $60 million contract extension. Not only that, you’re an overrated defensive shortstop (Gold Glove be damned, FanGraphs actually has him at a negative rating) and your reputation is taking a hit because of your balking at this request to help your team. I particularly like this quote from an unnamed GM in today’s Buster Olney blog:  

“Put it this way,” one GM said. “If the Rangers offered up Michael Young for free — with that contract, I don’t think there would be any takers.”

What does this have to do with the Dodgers? Because, of course, they keep popping up on the list of Young’s possible suitors after he said he’d move to second base in order to faciliate a trade. You know what? Forget the home park helping his stats, and forget the immense contract. Just look at the lines:

22 year old, “overmatched” rookie Blake DeWitt: .264/.344/.383
31 year old, All-Star super veteran Michael Young: .284/.339/.402

Look at that. DeWitt actually had a better OBP and a competitive SLG, and that’s including the two solid months he was completely awful that led to his demotion. If Michael Young could only just barely outperform DeWitt while playing in Texas, why would we want to have him at another year older and not playing in that bandbox? Not to mention, the extra $60 million. So, no thanks. Enjoy Texas, Michael.

I’m not, of course, suggesting that DeWitt is a better ballplayer than Young (though when you include the salary difference…) I’m just saying that while Young has been a solid player for a long time, he’s also been a very overrated one. Inflating the payroll and giving up talent for a player who doesn’t obviously make the ballclub better makes no sense, and in this case I’m happy to see that the financial constrictions are helping to prevent this hypothetical from moving forward any further.

Coming and Goings

January 13, 2009 at 5:55 pm | Posted in Claudio Vargas, Derek Lowe, Guillermo Mota, Michael Young, Shawn Estes, Takashi Saito | 9 Comments

Let’s catch up on some of the fun that’s been going on in this, the most boring hot stove season in years…


steroidsball.jpgComing: Guillermo Mota
Hey, remember Mota (shown at right)? Lights-out setup man for Eric Gagne in 2003? Part of the controversal deal that sent Paul LoDuca to Florida in 2004? Well, pending a physical (presumably looking for track marks), he’s going to be back in Dodger blue in 2009. No, it’s not a coincidence that I mentioned all-but-confirmed ‘roid abusers like Gagne and Paulie, because Mota actually got caught with the stuff and lost the first 50 games of 2007. You think Gagne’s career fell off the rails to injury and ineffectiveness after he stopped with the helpers? You think LoDuca’s short peak ended pretty quickly once he went back to doing it all naturally? Let’s look at this fun “Gee, You Think Steroids Helped?” timeline:

2006, April-August: 6.21 ERA, 1.699 WHIP for Cleveland. Mota, your stats… woof.
2006, August 11: DFA’d by Cleveland.
2006, August 20: Acquired by the Mets.
2006, August-Septmber: 1.00 ERA, 0.833 WHIP for the Mets.
2006, November 1: MLB announces a positive test from “sometime” during the 2006 season and hands down a suspension.

Gee. You think steroids helped?

As for the actual signing, it gets a solid “meh”. I don’t know what the contract details are, but it’s unlikely to be a huge amount of money, and Mota was basically average last year. But do we really have a shortage of guys who could do exactly what he could, for less money and without his history? I suppose we can hope that he’s going to be the next Giovanni Carrera-type who only pitches well as a Dodger. 

Going: Derek Lowe
No surprise that he wasn’t returning to LA, but I am surprised that he did actually get up to $15m/year, getting $60m over 4 years from Atlanta. Unless I missed something, wasn’t his only other offer about $30m over 3 years from the Mets, which may have not even been officially tendered? As I detailed here several months ago, I really am going to miss Lowe, and the rotation’s going to be worse off without his solid reliability and occasional brilliance. But at his age and at that salary, I’m not too disappointed – that’s higher than I was willing to go for him. Really, after how badly DePodesta was bashed for giving him $36m/4 years in 2005, who’d have thought that four years later he’d be nearly doubling that salary? Enjoy Atlanta, Derek. Can we please go get Ben Sheets now? Thanks. 

Coming: Mediocre Retread Starters
Welcome, Shawn Estes. Over there, Claudio Vargas. Now paging Jon Lieber and Kip Wells. I know we hit the proverbial “old busted dude” jackpot with Chan Ho Park, Aaron Sele, and Scott Erickson, lately, but how many times are we going to keep going to that well? For every Park there’s a Jason Johnson or Esteban Loaiza. Ah, hell, whatever. Short money and non-guaranteed deals. Let’s get that welcome mat ready for Kris Benson and Josh Fogg.

saitofistpump.jpgGoing: Takashi Saito
So long to one of my favorite players. How can you not like a guy who comes over to America in his late 30s after a relatively average career in Japan only to dominate the bigs? I was singing his praises back in 2007, just after we launched (yeah, weird formatting on that one with the move to MVN, I guess). I can’t overstate this enough – his 2007 was better than any season Mariano Rivera has ever had, and Rivera’s going to the Hall of Fame. I really believe one day we’re going to look back and be simply amazed that we had Saito and Jonathan Broxton in the pen at the same time. Between his elbow injury and his age, I think we all knew it was basically a foregone conclusion that he wasn’t coming back for a while, but still, it’s sad news.  

Really, I’m just going to miss the happy first pump after every successful save. We’ll miss you, Sammy. I hope your arm doesn’t land outside of Jillian’s on Lansdowne Street.


michaelyoung.jpgNot Coming: Michael Young
At least, not if I have anything to say about it. The Texas shortstop has requested a trade after the Rangers *gasp* asked him to move to third base. Hey, good luck with that, guy. You’re going to be 32, on a four-year slide in OPS+ (131, 108, 107, and 96), immensely helped by your home park, and about to start a ridiculous $60 million contract extension. Not only that, you’re an overrated defensive shortstop (Gold Glove be damned, FanGraphs actually has him at a negative rating) and your reputation is taking a hit because of your balking at this request to help your team. I particularly like this quote from an unnamed GM in today’s Buster Olney blog:

“Put it this way,” one GM said. “If the Rangers offered up Michael Young for free — with that contract, I don’t think there would be any takers.”

What does this have to do with the Dodgers? Because, of course, they keep popping up on the list of Young’s possible suitors after he said he’d move to second base in order to faciliate a trade. You know what? Forget the home park helping his stats, and forget the immense contract. Just look at the lines:

22 year old, “overmatched” rookie Blake DeWitt: .264/.344/.383
31 year old, All-Star super veteran Michael Young: .284/.339/.402

Look at that. DeWitt actually had a better OBP and a competitive SLG, and that’s including the two solid months he was completely awful that led to his demotion. If Michael Young could only just barely outperform DeWitt while playing in Texas, why would we want to have him at another year older and not playing in that bandbox? Not to mention, the extra $60 million. So, no thanks. Enjoy Texas, Michael.

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