Mailbag #4: Trade Kemp, Watch SNLA, Bring Back Beltre, Platoon Pederson?

Mailbag! We’ve been terrible at this. We’ll do better. I promise. Do send in more questions using the form on the right sidebar.

Dave: “MLBTradeRumors just floated the idea that Beltre’s name might come up in summer trade discussions. Should the Dodgers try to bring back the future HOFer? Would it cost too much (in prospects) to do it?”

That’d be fun, and in the wake of Prince Fielder‘s season-ending surgery and the overall disappointment of the 2014 Rangers, “should they blow it up” has become a popular topic, as both ESPN’s Keith Law and Jon Morosi of FOX have suggested shopping Beltre. Beltre turned 35 last month, and has approximately $28 million or so remaining on a contract that runs through 2015. (There’s also a $16m 2016 option that the team can void if he fails to meet playing time levels.)

I’ve long felt that Beltre has been one of the most underappreciated players of his generation, partially because he wasn’t able to reproduce his ridiculous 48-homer 2004 once he went to Seattle — not that he was ever going to — and partially because his outstanding defense doesn’t get the love it deserves. He’s been a five-win player in each of the last four seasons; between 2010-13, there’s a very good case to be made that he was one of the five best players in baseball.

All that being said, I don’t think it’s likely. The Rangers still want to compete in 2015, and their top third base prospect, Joey Gallo, is only in Single-A. Trading Beltre would create a hole they’d need to fill, so the cost would be high. As for the Dodgers, they do have Juan Uribe under contract for next year, and while he’s certainly not irreplaceable, he’s been solid enough when healthy in 2013-14 that it doesn’t seem necessary to cash in Zach Lee, Chris Withrow and Tom Windle (or whatever, I’m just spitballing, so don’t get hung up on the actual names) to bench him. There’s also this: I, unlike most Dodger fans, I imagine, don’t care at all about “bringing Beltre back home.” If it’s a fit, great, but the fact that he played in Los Angeles a decade ago doesn’t play into it for me.

Kevin: “Hoping for a thorough SNLA update – if it exists. I’m sure all the cable merger talks are stalling it, but living in the area, routing through a proxy server is not fun. Team finally has the best lineup in years … and I’m at the mercy of live streaming.”

Sorry. I feel for you, but nothing new, not since this business a few weeks ago where a TWC rep kind of, sort of, not really at all apologized to fans, while mostly blaming DirecTV. Again: none of this is totally unexpected. I never for a second thought this would all be resolved by Opening Day. However, before the season, I didn’t really think it would be allowed to linger all year long, and now I’m going back on that a bit. There seems to be a chance that the entire 2014 season may not be shown — he says, knowing that an announcement could also come at any second — and that’s a huge bummer.

Short version: if you’re not being given the option to pay for the games, then I don’t have the slightest bit of issue with people using somewhat under-the-table methods of accessing them. It’s ridiculous that it’s come to this.

Aaron: “Let me preface this by saying that I understand even at his current production, Hanley Ramirez is an elite hitter for a shortstop. That being said … his defense at short is entirely suspect after being not-horrific last year. At what point do we start to question whether he can return to not just elite-for-SS levels, but elite-for-anybody levels of hitting like he did basically all of (his 330 PA) last year? That’s where his value comes from. I feel like in 2013 he hit every ball hard, and right now he’s hitting almost nothing hard. It doesn’t look right. Is something different in his swing? Should we assume injury?”

I think we all knew — or, at least, should have known — that Ramirez wasn’t going to be repeat his 2013 performance, in which he was more or less the best hitter in baseball, at least when he was able to play. So almost by definition, his 2014 was going to be seen as a “disappointment,” just because it was never going to be as good. Still, I think it’s a fine line between that and “isn’t good,” because he’s still got the fifth-best wRC+ for any shortstop. He’s only just ever so slightly under his career averages. I’m not that worried about his offense.

If I do have a concern, it’s with his defense, which really does seem to have fallen off. When I was in the dugout a few days ago, Don Mattingly was asked if he was pleased with Ramirez’ defensive performance. He pointedly answered, “I’m pleased with his work.” Subtle. But no, I don’t think there’s any new injury concerns.

92topps_mattkemp

Rizzle: “Let’s say the Mariners decide they need a right-handed, power-hitting outfielder named Matt Kemp. They offer James Paxton, Nick Franklin and change. The Dodgers eat some money because they are the Dodgers. Do you do it?”

This probably falls under the category of “deals neither side would make.” I’ve never been that high on Franklin, personally, and also I’m not sure what you’d do with him in Los Angeles. Between Ramirez (I’m assuming he is extended, eventually), Dee Gordon, Alex Guerrero, Erisbel Arruebarrena, and Corey Seager there’s more than enough middle infield options for this year and the future. I do like Paxton, though. This probably comes down to “how much money do the Dodgers eat,” and I don’t think it’s worth it to eat 75% or so of Kemp’s deal just to be rid of him. No, we’re not likely to see 2011 Kemp again, unfortunately, but he’s also hitting .265/.329/.456 with a 122 wRC+. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Now if we could just get him out of center…

Kirk: “Tonight it was mentioned by thee game announcer that the Dodgers were 8-2 (now 9-2) in wins and losses when Drew Butera started. Almost like hockey plus/minus, giving him credit towards a win just by being in the game. I do not believe this stat could work for any other position player, but a catcher does so many intangibles that maybe there is something to it (I think A.J. is 4/3, Olivo 2/3, FedEx 5/8). Do any of you put credence in this stat or is there any MLB recognition of its value?”

This question is a bit old, so ignore the out-of-date records and focus on the premise. Which is: no. No I don’t. Not even a little. It’s like the pitcher win, but worse. I do think we need to get better at understanding everything a catcher does, not all of which is measurable, but I’m not prepared to say that’s more important than the offense the rest of the team provides in a game or the caliber of the pitcher on the mound. For this to work, you’d have to ignore that one catcher may have had Zack Greinke on the mound, while another may have had Paul Maholm. That’s not skill. That’s scheduling.

Kent: “Is there any chance that the Dodgers will trade Ethier AND Crawford and bring up Pederson and platoon him with Van Slyke?”

Well, 0.000001% is a “chance,” right? This is a variation of a question we see dozens of times a week, but the answer is the same: you can’t just trade a player without a team willing to take them on. For all of the reasons we’ve talked about endlessly, Andre Ethier & Carl Crawford simply aren’t valuable trade assets. Ask yourself this question: if either one were on waivers right now, meaning a team could freely assume the rest of their contracts without giving up any talent in return, would they? Probably not, right? Now if there were a trade, the Dodgers would presumably eat some of the money so that they could get something back, but it’s not going to be anything good — and it gets harder and harder to find viable landing places for either.

But mainly, I chose this question for the second part. If and when Joc Pederson comes up, he won’t be — at least, shouldn’t be — platooning with Scott Van Slyke or anyone else. He needs to be playing every day, and I’d rather he get plenty of playing time in Triple-A than partial playing time in Los Angeles.

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Thanks for the questions, and sorry if we didn’t get to yours. (Which is partially our fault; many questions from April are no longer relevant.) We’ll do better at this, so keep them coming.

About Mike Petriello

Mike Petriello
Mike writes about lots of baseball in lots of places, and right now that place is MLB.com.