The Night That Blew Up Baseball

I’m shocked. I’m floored, really, at what’s happened in the last 12 hours.

I’m sad that Dee Gordon is gone, because he was immensely fun to watch and probably the nicest ballplayer I have ever spoken to, and thrilled in the manner in which he left. I feel for Dan Haren, another good guy who seemed so happy to be able to pitch back at home, and pleased that he’s no longer an obstacle towards upgrading the rotation.

For the last few weeks, when the new front office was doing minor moves for Joel Peralta, Chris Heisey, Kyle Jensen, Juan Nicasio, Mike Bolsinger, etc., irritating fans who watched Hanley Ramirez leave and worried that Matt Kemp would follow, all I could do was to preach patience. These guys are too smart and too well-respected to not have had something in mind. I’m not sure I expected this.

Think about what the Dodgers just did, really. In exchange for an aging and declining pitcher they didn’t want and four more years of a nearly 27-year-old second baseman who has had something like three good months in his career and slumped badly in the second half of 2014, the Dodgers picked up:

  • A veteran second baseman who is a big upgrade in Howie Kendrick, 31 (one year of control + qualifying offer)
  • A veteran shortstop who is a huge upgrade over a disaster shortstop situation in Jimmy Rollins, 36 (one year of control)
  • A multi-positional guy who can actually hit a little in Enrique Hernandez, 23 (six years of control)
  • A fireballing reliever (avg. 96 mph in 2014) who took an enormous step forward in Chris Hatcher, 30 (five years of control)
  • A fascinating catcher/infielder whom the projections love in Austin Barnes, 25 (six years of control)

I’ve included Rollins there even though the trade isn’t done and we don’t know exactly who the Phillies get for him, but you get the point. A middle infield of Rollins and Kendrick is older, but it’s indisputably better than one of Gordon and ???. It’s particularly better on defense than Gordon and Ramirez, as I wrote for FanGraphs as all this was happening. This doesn’t even include Brandon McCarthy, who is a noted ground ball pitcher. These puzzle pieces all fit together.

…and then there’s Kemp, who isn’t yet officially gone but sure sounds headed out the door. Here’s what Chad said this morning, and I agree with him:

Quite frankly, if they stop here, I don’t like it, because while the return has upside, Kemp has present value and he still has upside from last year’s performance. Furthermore, it means they already used the money they saved by dealing him on Howie Kendrick and Brandon McCarthy. However, and this is what I believe is happening, the team could use the non-Grandal players here as a springboard to score a bigger deal with the Phillies for Cole Hamels and Jimmy Rollins. That move would essentially quiet all doubts I’m harboring about this trade backfiring on a win-now team.

But I really think to judge this all is very premature, because it sure sounds like more is going to come, and that it’s not just going to be “minor league pitchers to Philadelphia, Kemp & Tim Federowicz to San Diego for Yasmani Grandal, Joe Wieland and Zach Eflin.” Maybe that’s how it will be if things break down, but considering that the Rollins news was the first to break of all of this and still hasn’t been finalized, and that the Kemp news is still yet another in an endless string of stories that aren’t finished, it sure sounds like this is all part of a big three-team deal — hell, maybe even a four-team deal.

Which is to say: If Kemp goes, I’ll be sad, but I’m not going to judge it until we know all of the pieces involved, and I’m sure as hell not going to freak out about trendy buzzword “right-handed power.” (Grandal actually hit the ball further than Kemp in 2014, anyway.) This team already looks like it’s going to be immensely better in the rotation and on defense and in at least two positions on offense (C/2B and three if you consider that Rollins isn’t replacing Ramirez, he’s replacing the current “no one”) and with depth, and that matters. It matters a lot.

And there’s still more to come. That’s the takeaway here. In a few days, we’ll have to take full stock of all that’s happen. To judge it now, well, it’s with incomplete information. For the moment, I’m stunned and happy and exhausted and exhilarated. Remember when people complained the new front office “wasn’t doing anything?” Me neither.

About Mike Petriello

Mike writes about lots of baseball in lots of places, and right now that place is