Trade Analysis: The Dodgers’ big week

Dodgers get: SS Jimmy Rollins, 2B Howie Kendrick, SP Brandon McCarthy, C Yasmani Grandal, RP Chris Hatcher and minor leaguers C Austin Barnes, 2B Enrique Hernandez, SP Joe Weiland
Dodgers trade: 2B Sweet Dee Gordon, SP Dan Haren, SS Miguel Rojas (to the Marlins), CF Matt Kemp, C Tim Federowicz (to the Padres), SP Andrew Heaney (to the Angels)
The Dodgers–and their new executive team–began a complete makeover this week…and they’re probably not done yet.
Even in the midst an incomplete offseason, it’s clear that new President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman and his GM Farhan Zaidi are prioritizing defense over everything else.

I’m assuming that they saw what we all saw last year–a lot of offense, zero defense and a horrible bullpen. Thus, they essentially re-made the entire D up the middle yesterday–nabbing Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick while flipping out All-Star Sweet Dee Gordon, allowing Hanley Ramirez to walk and apparently moving forward on a Joc Pederson/Chris Heisey platoon in center. There is a chance that this platoon might not be in place, as the Dodgers still have both Carl Crawford and Andre Etheir in the fold, however, I suspect that one of them will be traded before the offfseason is over. Crawford’s exit would be the obvious preference for several reasons, beyond just his salary. With Kemp gone, the Dodgers do need some thunder in that line-up, and while Dre is far from being what he was 3 or 4 years ago, there is still hope that there is some power left in that bat (moreso than say, Chris Heisey or depending on Joc to deliver in year one). That being said, Andre is far easier to deal because of the higher upside and lower dollar figure, so I’d expect that he’s the one going next.

Trading Sweet Dee isn’t a complete surprise, though difficult to stomach considering his age and years of control left. However, like Domonic Brown in Philly last season, the Dodgers sold really, really high on what could be a one year flash in the pan. It’s not unreasonable to believe that Dee won’t ever replicate that production again, but more importantly, the return on him was really incredible: a top prospect like Heaney, a solid one in Barnes and a nice bullpen piece in Hatcher. It’s a shame that they turned around and dealt Heaney so quickly to the Angels for Kendrick, though I understand why they’d want not only his glove, but also his bat (more on that in a sec).

Grandal is an upgrade offensively over AJ Ellis–if you consider hitting above .190 an achievement–and defensively, the Dodgers aren’t losing much. The former Padres receiver was a highly touted prospect with the Reds, enough for San Diego to send out Mat Latos a couple years ago, but hasn’t completely lived up to his billing yet. At age 25 and now out of the power suckhole that’s Petco Park, there’s still hope for him.

At this point, Jimmy Rollins’ name is much bigger than his actual production. At age 36, he’s still got a bit of pop (17 homers last season), but he’s not an on-base machine and isn’t as fleet footed as he once was. Still, he’s as much of an upgrade defensively over Ramirez as Grandal is offensively over Ellis. Hanley was rated as one of the very worst everyday shortstops in the league last season and combined with his inability to stay on the field, it’s not hard to argue that the Dodgers are better off allowing him and his $100m price tag to walk. J Roll has only played less than 137 games only once since his rookie season, so here’s hoping for a much more consistent contributor than we’ve seen the past few seasons as SS.

An interesting note here: keep in mind that Rollins, Kendrick and Uribe are all expiring contracts, not to mention all over 30. The Dodgers are being really clever: three great names, solid gloves and solid bats, but could all be replaced in about five seconds if they’re playing poorly. Prospects SS/3B Kyle Seager, SS Erisbel Arruebarruena and 2B Alex Guerrero are all there to take their spots in a year if they’re ready, or even later this season. I can see almost this entire roster being turned over again in a year. Crazy.

In terms of the departures, I’m not a huge fan of the Matt Kemp deal, but that’s largely because I love him so much. However, I honestly have no idea if this past season was his last gasp of high-level production. He’s been so hurt with injuries that have taken away his speed and athleticism–could they have sold high on him? I’m not sure how much better he’ll ever be again with his injury history and at his age. He’s going to struggle defensively and offensively in Petco Park–the gigantic outfield should be difficult for him to patrol and the dimensions of the field could sap him of all his power. It may be that the Dodgers will look smarter for dealing him than they actually were.

The only glaring need not fully addressed this week was the bullpen. Chris Hatcher could be a useful new addition, and between Kenley jansen, JP Howell, Paco Rodriguez and Joel Peralta the Dodgers could have the makings of a great core. I’d still want them to get another piece or two, or pray that Pedro Baez can take a leap. Or both.

The flip side to all of that is….who’s going to hit? The line-up, as currently constituted: Rollins, Crawford, Adrian, Puig, Howie, Uribe, Grandal, Joc/Heisey

Not a lot of thunder there. Puig is going to have to step up massively, we have to hope Uribe and Rollins don’t fall off of a cliff in their age 36 seasons, Crawford still has some juice left and that Grandal can improve on his very pedestrian numbers thus far. Even if Kemp was a 20 homer/85 RBI guy at this point, they still really, really needed that thump. I’m pretty concerned about the offense but then again, don’t we say that about the Giants every other year? They’ve got enough to win. Dammit.

Overall, I’m pleased with the direction the Dodgers took this week, giving the team two things they sorely lacked: defense and flexibility. Had they stayed the course, Matt Kemp’s massive contract, an extension for Hanley and presumably Dee fairly soon would have kept them in a deficit on the field, and on the roster. One of the big problems that the Dodgers had the past two years was the inability to play younger, more effective players while older veterans with bigger contracts continued to take up playing time. By bringing in two solid defenders on one year deals in Kendrick and Rollins, as well as allowing Pederson to man center, LA has created personnel flexibility for now and the future.

Let’s see what happens from here.



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