Dodgers need to place more value on low-level prospects

It sucks that the team with the highest payroll in the history of American sports is in this position, but here we are. The Dodgers actually have replacement-level pitchers in their rotation. That’s fine; injuries happen. But General Manager Ned Colletti continues to confound by overpaying for mediocre talent.

The Dodgers sent 19-year-old right-handed pitching prospect Victor Arano to the Phillies to complete the Roberto Hernandez trade. That makes it Jesmuel Valentin, 20, and Arano for Hernandez and his nearly $2 million remaining salary. On no planet does that make sense, yet it’s reality.

Arano was my No. 33 prospect heading into the season and moved up to No. 14 in the midseason rankings. Jason Parks, formerly of Baseball Prospectus, ranked him at No. 10 heading into the season. So, Colletti traded two Top-20 prospects for Fausto Carmona. Ducky.

And this isn’t about me being upset they were traded. I’m perfectly OK with prospects being dealt (contrary to popular belief), but Colletti often times sells short on mid-level prospects. Arano gained notoriety this offseason and was having success in Low-A at 19 years old. This isn’t like the Dodgers traded Angel Sanchez again. Oh, and is it weird to anyone else that the Dodgers gave up less for Ricky Nolasco last year (Sanchez, Steve Ames, Josh Wall) than they did for Hernandez? Sure, the circumstances were different, but it still makes me scratch my head.

With Valentin, he traded away an up-the-middle guy with a good glove and developing on-base skills. Those guys have value — more value than the return that was Hernandez (or so we thought).

Colletti does not get good value on his trades when it comes to these kinds of deals. He even joked that he felt like he needed to get the Hernandez deal done quickly so Ruben Amaro, Jr., didn’t take advantage of the Dodgers’ lack of starters. I can only imagine who he would have given up if he had waited any longer.

It isn’t all bad for Colletti. He hit a home run with the Hanley Ramirez trade. While I thought he gave up too much in the Nick Punto trade (considering the amount of money the Dodgers took on), I’d still do the trade again. But these minor-to-moderate deals in which he trades guys who should have at least some value for guys who are replacement-level is baffling. See last year’s Miguel Sulbaran for Drew Butera deal.

Fans tend to overrate prospects, and maybe I’m doing that. But I have to think a package of Arano and Valentin could land a better pitcher than Hernandez. At the time, Hernandez was the best pitcher available, but that still shouldn’t warrant the type of package the Phillies got. Now, if Hernandez pitches well the rest of the season and maybe even in the (gulp) postseason, then I’ll lighten up. But the fact Colletti made this type of deal again doesn’t bode well for future trades.

We don’t even know what the Twins will get in return for Kevin Correia, but I hope it’s just money. If there was one available pitcher worth significantly less than Hernandez on the trade market, it was Correia.

The fact Colletti felt like he needed to make this move because prospects at the higher levels weren’t ready to step in is concerning. That might be true, though, I’d have at least given Zach Lee a shot. That’s on the prospects and the player development department. Hopefully that issue is addressed going forward (a move out of Albuquerque could help that a lot).

All I’m saying is, I’d like to see Colletti put a little more value on these younger prospects with potential. I’m more upset about Arano going than Valentin. While neither are likely to be MLB stars, if the Dodgers keep sending off these lottery tickets for marginal upgrades or even lateral moves, one of them is going to hit and make the organization look foolish.

About Dustin Nosler

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Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosted a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He was a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times and True Blue LA. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.