If you were expecting the new Dodger front office to do this for their first trade of consequence, congratulations, you’re better at predicting these things than most:
The Dodgers have traded RHP Matt Magill to the Reds for OF Chris Heisey.
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) December 3, 2014
This won’t be the only move today, since the nontender deadline is in about two hours, but it was certainly unexpected.
Let’s start with Chris Heisey. He has been a part-time outfielder for five seasons with the Reds. He has experience in all three positions, but has spent most of his time in left. The good news is that he’s pretty good at defense:
His career UZR/150 in the outfield is +13.1 runs. DRS likes him a little less, at about +8 runs per 150 games. A plus defensive outfielder in the corners with competent abilities in center is great. Keep in mind that the Dodgers don’t have a backup that can play in center unless you count Scott Van Slyke or Andre Ethier, though the potential presence of both Yasiel Puig and Joc Pederson on the roster at the same time would reduce that need.
Of course, there’s a catch: Heisey’s offense is going in the wrong direction. Over the last four seasons, he has posted the following wRC+ values: 113, 93, 89, 77. In 2014 he hit just .222/.265/.378 in a hitter’s park. Steamer thinks he can bounce back to a 90 wRC+ next season, but that’s still underwhelming. He has been good for about 10 home runs per year in limited playing time, so he has a little pop. However, since he doesn’t walk much and strikes out more than league average, his success will depend on his BABIP rebounding from the low values of the last two years.
Put the two pieces together and Heisey is an okay player. A competent bench piece, which is more than we can say about Magill at this point. He also has two options remaining, so he could presumably spend some time in Oklahoma City if needed. MLB Trade Rumors projects Heisey to make about $2.2 million in arbitration.
The Dodgers traded Matt Magill to acquire Heisey. Magill only threw 27-2/3 innings at the major league level for the Dodgers, all in 2013. He walked 9.11 batters per nine, posting a 6.51 ERA and 7.13 FIP in that limited time. His 2014 season in Albuquerque didn’t go much better, as he walked 6.27 batters per nine on his way to a 5.21 ERA and 5.58 FIP. The Dodgers moved him to the bullpen towards the end of the season, which is likely his final destination. His stuff could play up there, and now that he’s out of Albuquerque, the Reds will have a chance to explore that further. He’s certainly not a big loss, and was probably in line to be DFA’d if the roster grows over the next few weeks.
The big question with this trade is, of course, “why?” The Dodgers just traded from a position where they have no depth to a position where they have all of the depth. In a vacuum, this move does not make much sense. However, the Dodgers are clearly not done. Scott Van Slyke probably has decent trade value at this point, so it’s possible that this trade could be the beginning of the end of his time with the Dodgers. It’s really hard to say. When you compare the two players in the trade, Heisey is clearly better, and Matt Magill is certainly a low enough cost to give the new front office benefit of the doubt.
As Mike wrote earlier today, the current team is not the one which will be fielded at the beginning of April. That’s good, because this move feels like a stepping stone to something different. We’ll find out soon enough.