Mailbag #13: Solving The OF Squeeze, Filling The Rotation, Trading Puig

Welcome back! It’s the off-season mailbag and you can probably expect these more frequently now as we desperately dig for content!

HOORAY!

Drew: Do you trade Puig and a not Joc P. prospect for Stanton?

Talent-wise, this seems like a realistic deal, right? I think Puig has a higher value upside, especially if he plays center, but Giancarlo Stanton is probably the better player at this moment.

There are other factors at play, however. The Dodgers clearly don’t want to spend like $300 million on payroll forever, and part of that is not trading away team-controlled stars like Puig for players that will demand a massive extension sooner than later. Puig has three more years of team control (2020*) than Stanton (2017) does, so I’d rather do everything possible to get Stanton without trading Puig if that’s what the Dodgers wanted to do. Essentially, what I’m saying is that there’s negative marginal value in Stanton’s upgrade (maybe a win) over Puig when factoring in their contracts.

*Yeah, Puig can opt into arbitration, but unless I missed a clause where he gets to declare free agency after his original contract expires after 2018, he’ll only accrue the required service time to reach free agency after the 2019 season.

Look, I really really really like Stanton, but a trade like this would be a step back from the stated goals of Stan Kasten and friends to create a payroll with greater efficiency while keeping the talent level high.

Anon: Is it completely crazy to trade Puig and live with CC/Joc/Kemp in the outfield?

No? Nothing is completely crazy. You could trade Clayton Kershaw if you were getting back Chris Sale and Jose Abreu or whatever. Point being, everything depends on the deal. I say this to every “Do you trade…” type of question and it will apply forever.

Like I said above, though, I just don’t see the point in trading Puig unless he’s literally going around peeing in his teammates’ lockers before games or something.

Yeah yeah, there’s rumors from Dodgers people that they’re worried he’ll never be reliable to be like the NL MVP or something. But there’s too much value in him as a player even if you don’t think he can be THE guy. And quite frankly, if that came from the front office, it’s laughable. If the team is relying on a second-year player to carry them to glory and they have a $250 million payroll, maybe they should look in the mirror for why they’re not winning? And perhaps they did with the canning of Ned Colletti, but their roster construction issues are not Puig’s burden.

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Paul: What will happen to Joc next year? If they manage to trade Either but not Crawford, where would Joc fit into plans? Should he start in LF in front of Crawford?

They are going to deal one of Carl Crawford or Andre Ethier this off-season. It just has to happen, I think. No, the Dodgers aren’t going to get anything back, but it just clears room for potentially better players (Joc) and alleviates clubhouse headaches.

As far as Joc Pederson goes, I’m honestly not sure what happens with him. I think the ideal setup right now would be Matt Kemp in left, Joc in center, and Puig in right, but Kemp looked like his old self in right, Puig looked alright in center, and the chances of trading both CC and Ethier this off-season seems slim. As such, Joc could be back in AAA in 2015 waiting for an injury or a major trade. And I don’t get the feeling the Dodgers want to trade Joc, so it could be just a matter of waiting for the two veteran guys to get offloaded somewhere else.

That sort of sucks for him (and us fans), but for the Dodgers it’s a hell of a luxury to have in case of emergency.

Robert: How about Ethier to the Cubs for Edwin Jackson. Then we TRY to convert him into a usable bullpen piece. It COULD work.

Sure, why not? Edwin Jackson has always had plus stuff, so I’m not against it. But wait.

One problem, why the hell do the Cubs want Ethier?

Part of the idiocy of benching Puig in the playoffs is that Ethier can no longer even do the only thing he used to excel at: destroy righties.

Basically, Andrew Friedman was left a nice turd of a contract on the doorstep as an exit present from Ned. Speaking of turds, people need to realize that if they could dump Ethier’s contract on some other team, literally for manure, they would. There’s no value and people need to realize that when proposing trades.

Gene: Ethier for Cliff Lee straight up: who says no?

The Phillies, probably.

Yeah, Lee is 36 and makes $25 million next year and has a vesting option, but if the option vests that means he’s probably been both healthy and extremely effective (200 innings is a lot at 36 and coming off injury). So while Lee’s contract is not pretty, neither is Ethier’s three remaining years plus the vesting option. Besides, how would a guy like Ethier help the Phillies?

Lee still had a sub-3 FIP last year even fighting through soreness. I’d much rather have Lee if he passes a physical.

Anon: What about Danks for Ethier?

This is pretty interesting because they’re both rather mediocre. We’ve already went over Ethier’s contract, but Danks has two years and about $28 million on his deal, so again the Ethier contract is worse.

But while Ethier’s skills have declined, Danks is also on the downswing. Still only 30, Danks had his fifth consecutive season with declining fastball velocity in 2014 (91.7 mph to 88.5 mph), and his ERA of 4.74 and FIP of 4.76 in 2014 were his best marks since 2011.

That said, Danks struggles with the home run ball, giving up 53 in the last two seasons, and going from one of the worst environments for pitchers to one of the best should help him (not to mention the other teams/parks in the division). Plus, I guess there’s potential for him to get better the further away he gets from shoulder capsule surgery, but there’s not a ton to be optimistic about regarding shoulder injuries and recovery.

Regardless, Danks fits better with the Dodgers and their needs, and the White Sox‘s current outfield, even with Avisail Garcia on the mend, is Garcia, Adam Eaton, Jordan Danks, Michael Taylor, and Dayan Viciedo. So while Ethier might be sort of crappy now, besides Eaton, those options are worse.

I’m intrigued that this might actually make sense.

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Jonathan: So with Kershaw, Greinke, and Ryu contracted for next year, what might the Dodgers do to find SP4 and SP5? How likely is it that they fill out the 2015 rotation by: A) Going after a megabucks FA pitcher (Lester, Scherzer, Shields) B) Handing out a smaller, one- or two-year deal to a FA (McCarthy, Peavy, maybe Kuroda) C) Promoting from within (Lee, Stripling, Fife) D) Trading for a starter (maybe shedding Ethier’s contract in the process) E) Finding the next big international pitcher?

A) I highly doubt they sign another front-line starter to another massive contract.

If they truly had an unlimited payroll, they probably would do this, and I would prefer Max Scherzer (cuz he throw da ball gudz), but I’ve never thought they could literally spend anything they wanted. That’s why Ned got his “promotion”.

B) Basically. Dan Haren is back now to (hopefully) be the #5, so the Dodgers will probably go with a one- or two-year contract to a innings-eating veteran or a couple high-risk, high-reward guys (McCarthy is worth a look).

C) They’d like to, but who? Zach Lee was very mediocre and still needs to prove himself, Ross Stripling is coming off surgery, and Stephen Fife … um … I don’t even know when he’s going to pitch next. Of the other guys who are close, Chris Reed would be better off in relief, Carlos Frias and Red Patterson are not real options in the long-term, and Matt Magill can’t find the strike zone. Then there’s the younger guys, but Julio Urias still needs time and maybe could come up in relief for September, Grant Holmes will be in A-ball, Chris Anderson and Tom Windle would be fortunate to hold their own at AA, and Jose De Leon just got done with Rookie-ball.

Help is coming … but it’s still coming and not here yet.

D) The Dodgers would be lucky to get a utility infielder for Ethier after paying half his contract … but Danks would be interesting.

E) This is a thought. Kenta Maeda perhaps, as Mike highlighted here.

Drew: 2015 bullpen looks like it could be a lot like the 2014 bullpen with contracts in place for Jansen, League, Howell, and I assume Wilson picks up his player option. That leaves 2-3 spots for Paco, Elbert, Baez, rehabbing Withrow, and has Frias, Dominguez, and Garcia up and down between AAA all year. Hopefully the Dodgers only sign one veteran reclamation project instead of three this year (Wright, Perez, Maholm).

Basically.

As writers here have pointed out, there’s not a ton of things Friedman can actually do in 2015 barring gigantic trades. For better or worse, I expect Friedman (or the GM, whatever) to sign a couple high upside arms* and just hope the extra year of development for the young guys pays off.

Hands are tied with Brandon League and Brian Wilson coming back making significant money, because I don’t see a way to jettison them in trades, nor do I see them being cut outright.

*Actual high upside arms, not former closers who were average five years ago like Chris Perez.

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Anthony: Realistically, what do you think happens with Hanley in the offseason? What do you WANT to see happen with Hanley in the offseason (if different from the answer above)?

I think Hanley Ramirez gets a qualifying offer from the Dodgers, he declines it, and then signs in the AL where they can play him at third and gradually ease him and the ego into the DH role. Friedman loves those extra draft picks, and he’ll get one for Hanley.

I also think that’s basically what has to happen despite me wanting him to stick around somehow because his bat is extremely valuable in a declining offensive environment.

Vuwop: What do you think the chances are the Cubs would deal Starlin Castro? They have an infield just waiting to be assembled — Bryant 3B, Russell SS, Baez or Alcantara 2B, Rizzo 1B. He’s 24, under reasonable control thru 2019. What do you think it would take to get him? I guess another question is, would you even want him?

Aside from 2013, Starlin Castro has been about a 3 WAR shortstop and will be just 25 entering next year. He also has a reasonable contract through 2019, so sure, why wouldn’t the Dodgers be interested?

2013, of course, speaks to his inconsistency and Puig-esque reputation for mental lapses, but he’s one of the best hitting shortstops in the majors (third in 2014) and his defense is just below-average and not terrible.

The problem is that: 1) There’s no guarantee any of those shortstop prospects for the Cubs will be a consistent 3 WAR player like Castro, so it’s very likely the Cubs still think of him as their future 2) If the Dodgers really believe Corey Seager can play short, this just blocks him 3) They spent a lot of money on Erisbel Arruebarrena and this would make him a utility guy.

Also, the cost you speak of might be too great. Undoubtedly, Theo Epstein will ask for Joc and probably something else. The Dodgers have shown an unwillingness to deal Joc, and other teams have shown an unwillingness to trade any valuable asset unless they get Joc or one of the other elite guys.

So while I’d like Castro to be a Dodger and it would be interesting, I don’t see it happening.

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Anon: What do you think about Mattingly benching Puig and his bullpen decisions? Final straw for him?

That decision to bench Puig was extremely disappointing. I was generally defending him all series because the bullpen was crap, and that’s not really on him. But the decision to bench Puig in an elimination game, and then not even let him get a plate appearance when you lose said game by one goddamn run, was just ridiculous.

I thought he panicked, and for a manger, that’s about the worst impression one can give off. To the fans, of course, but his players as well. I dunno, maybe the players were glad or something, but I know if my season ended with one of the team’s best power threats not even getting a PA, I would wonder what the hell is going on.

This was honestly the first time I legitimately thought to myself that Don Mattingly had to go. What if the Dodgers play the Cardinals again next year? Gonna start Frias over Kershaw cause of matchups? I mean it’s hard to have confidence from now on.

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Bobby: I just have to say that if it wasn’t for this blog I really don’t think I would come back next year and root for the Dodgers. I’ve been a fan my whole life (’86, so if they don’t win a title ever again I can still say they won a title in my lifetime), I have suffered along with you guys through the years, but it’s getting to the point where I can’t take it anymore. This blog, as dumb as it sounds, I know, is the only thing that brings me back every year since ’08. Thank you for providing great analysis, gifs, and Simpsons references. When the media is giving out their bullshit narrative about Clayton or this team, I know Dodgers Digest will be here to be the voice of reason. Wait ’til next year, I guess.

You are the best.

JPHowellHappy

About Chad Moriyama

Chad Moriyama
"A highly rational Internet troll." - Los Angeles Times