I’ll be honest, I put this edition of Let’s Remember Some Dodgers together to get something done pretty quickly because so much of the research overlapped.
Basically, I looked back on what seems to be one of the most pointless in-season trades in recent memory that somehow led to two of three players traded away later ending up back with the Dodgers anyway. The other is absolutely not someone you need to struggle to remember, but I decided to use this as an excuse to point out how good he was in his brief (by some standards) run with the franchise.
Let’s first get to a pitcher a few people have asked to be included in here.
Hendrickson, the 6-foot-9 lefty (Chad’s Note: NICE!) was drafted six times from 1992 to 1997 by five different franchises. None were the Dodgers, but really that seems like some sort of a record. Instead, the Dodgers traded for Hendrickson in June 2006 as they sent Navarro, Jae Weong Seo and later the 1,000th outfielder named Justin in the franchise to Tampa Bay.
It was a rather quick concession on Navarro for the Dodgers, who had acquired him with three other players who never reached the majors for Los Angeles after they had sent away a still very competent Shawn Green to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Navarro had been a top-50 prospect for the Yankees ahead of the 2004 season, and was still top-5 in the organization leading into 2005.
However, Russell Martin quickly proved to be the better option at catcher for the Dodgers. A top-100 prospect before 2005 and top-50 before 2006, Martin outhit Navarro while also proving to be a much more capable pitch framer as he finished fifth in Adjusted Framing Runs Above Average during the season compared to Navarro in 100th out of 104.
The Dodgers also received Toby Hall, so the deal was mostly just swapping pitchers and catchers between the teams as Ruggiano played in just 98 games with the Rays from 2007 to 2011 and earned 0.5 WAR.
The Dodgers came out on the better end of what is really an inconsequential trade that I am spending too much time looking back on.
Hall was actually pretty solid in 60 PAs for the Dodgers, but finished the year at -0.4 WAR between the two teams in 2006 before a pair of even worse years for the White Sox (-0.8 WAR 2007, -0.9 WAR 2008). Seo finished 2006 at 0.0 WAR between the teams, threw just 52 innings in the majors in 2007 and returned to his home country to join the Kia Tigers for eight years.
Navarro played for the Rays through 2010, combining for -1.0 WAR in the four years after the deal. The Dodgers eventually brought him back in 2011, but after -0.3 WAR in 202 PAs he was released and has played with five other franchises since.
Lastly, the Dodgers got 75 innings out of Hendrickson in 2006. The lefty finished the year with a 4.68 ERA. While the Dodgers were swept by the Mets in the series, Hendrickson appeared in all three NLDS games with 2 2/3 scoreless innings. Another 122 2/3 innings in 2007 led to a 5.21 ERA, though his 4.06 FIP and 3.79 xFIP explain how he still finished with 1.6 WAR during the season.
Hendrickson’s real value seemed to come when the Dodgers kept him in the bullpen. In his six relief appearances during the 2006 season, Hendrickson’s ERA finished at 0.84 and FIP at 1.74 in 10 2/3 innings. Two of those appearances came during the Dodgers’ seven-game win streak to close the season and clinch the Wild Card.
While not as successful as the year prior, Hendrickson’s 24 games in relief during 2007 included a 3.69 ERA and 3.80 FIP, well ahead of his 6.13 ERA and 4.22 FIP in 15 starts.
Amazingly, Ruggiano’s .968 OPS and four home runs in 60 PAs for the Dodgers when he came back to the franchise in 2015 may have earned him more WAR than just about anyone else in the trade did immediately after the deal. One of those four home runs came as Los Angeles clinched the NL West in San Francisco behind Clayton Kershaw’s 1-hitter.
I’m well aware that no one has really forgotten Lowe. I haven’t, considering he was one of my favorite players on the team when I was a teenager. However, in the process of digging through the past two decades of stats for many of these guys I realized how good Lowe was as a Dodger.
Signed to a four-year contract worth $36 million by Paul DePodesta, Lowe started three straight Opening Days, the last player besides Kershaw to earn multiple starts to begin the season. From 2005 to 2008, Lowe’s four seasons with the team, the righty ranked 18th in the majors at 14.4 WAR. If you drop the 2.8 WAR season from 2005, Lowe moves up to 12th in baseball for the three-season run, just ahead of San Francisco’s Matt Cain and New York’s Mike Mussina. His 135 starts across the four seasons tied for second in the majors behind only Greg Maddux’s 136.
Predictably, Lowe’s slider ranked as the best in baseball by one measure during the stretch. Coupled with a wSL (Weighted Slider Runs) of 34.9, Lowe’s GB% landed second in the majors at 63.8% behind Brandon Webb’s 64.4% and his Hard Hit% ranked sixth lowest at 24.8%.
All that for $2.5 million per WAR, with the Dodgers getting four of Lowe’s best five seasons based on the stat. While he allowed four runs in 5 1/3 innings of work in Game 1 of the 2006 NLDS, three postseason starts in 2008 led to a 3.31 ERA across 16 1/3 innings. And while that tenure sort of seems brief, the 135 starts is third on the Dodgers over the past 20 years (Kershaw, 344, and Chad Billingsley, 190).
DePodesta made plenty of mistakes as the Dodgers’ general manager, but Lowe is clearly one of the franchise’s better free-agent signings in recent memory.