Back in 2016, with Andrew Friedman in the middle of his second season as the Dodgers’ President of Baseball Operations, Los Angeles flipped three prospects to fill a pair of needs on the major league roster. Those two players have vastly different reputations with Dodgers fans as Rich Hill spent three and a half seasons starting 68 games with a 3.16 ERA for the team through 2019 while Josh Reddick slashed .258/.307/.335/.643 in 167 PAs in 2016 and then went on to join the Astros in 2017 with the rest being obvious.
Note: Yes, I wrote this a few days ago and originally included Fujinami in the post. And then the Baltimore Orioles celebrated beating the Dodgers by trading for him yesterday.
Rooker, who was named an All-Star in 2023 after bouncing from the Twins to the Padres to the Royals to the Athletics since April 2022. While Oakland did need someone to represent the franchise in Seattle a few weeks ago, Rooker does rank 13th in the American League with a 130 wRC+ and 19th in the AL with a .817 OPS.
With just 306 PAs from 2020 to 2022, Rooker’s career numbers before 2023 don’t offer up much. A .201/.291/.397/.688 line in 213 PAs for the Twins as a 26-year-old included a 96 wRC+ against left-handed pitching which has now improved to 143 wRC+ in his next significant sample size in 2023. Here’s a full look at Rooker’s splits for 2023:
|vs. RHP||vs. LHP|
That wRC+ against lefties would rank fourth on the team behind Mookie Betts, Will Smith and Freddie Freeman, and fifth on the team in OPS behind the same three plus Chris Taylor. While the numbers against right-handed pitching rank a little lower among the Dodgers, seventh in both wRC+ and OPS, that’s more so a function of how good the Dodgers’ offense is against righties in 2023. With a bench against right-handed pitching currently consisting of Austin Barnes, Yonny Hernandez and Jake Marisnick, Rooker could easily help take some of the load off of Jason Heyward and David Peralta as well as serve as insurance should either regress as the season goes on.
Rooker’s K% might seem a bit high and yet it still only ranks fifth among the Dodgers against right-handers and third against left-handers. It is worth noting though as it has risen as the season has gone on, from 18.8% in April to 33.3 in May and then 37.3% in June. It’s currently 35.3% in July, but the rise in strikeouts did include a bounce back in exit velocity that went from 91.5 and 92.3 mph in the first two months before plummeting to 88.5 mph in June and bounced back to 94.2 mph in July.
How Rooker would fit into the Dodgers’ lineup wouldn’t really require many moving pieces. With 168 of his 309 PAs in 2023 coming at designated hitter, Rooker’s also been in right field for 37 PAs (74 innings) and left for 97 PAs (200 innings). In his only other significant major league experience, the Twins put Rooker in left field for 264 innings and right field for 53 2/3 innings with just 10 games at designated hitter. Rooker could take over left field against left-handers with Taylor and James Outman aligning in right and center. Or Betts could also slide back to right with Outman in center and Taylor at second if the Dodgers wished to go in that direction.
To LA: Rooker
It’s tempting to put Landon Knack into another deal as it truly feels like he’s likely to be on the move given the five young pitchers ahead of him in Emmet Sheehan, Bobby Miller, Gavin Stone, Ryan Pepiot and Grove. But instead I’ll include the last one listed there. Grove’s struggles in 2023 are clear, and yet he would slot into the Athletics rotation with three more pre-arbitration years and three more of arbitration after that until he’s 32 years old. Grove’s a better option than a 29-year-old James Kaprielian, who has started 58 games over the past three years and has regressed in 2023, or 25-year-old Kyle Muller, who has struggled mightily in 2023. Grove’s also relatively similar to Hogan Harris, both in age and performance in 2023.
This site had Grove ranked No. 25 entering 2023, with MLB.com ranking him No. 24 and Baseball American placing him No. 18.
I’d included Eddys Leonard in this deal when Fujinami was in it as well, and another low level piece may need to be included as well depending on how the market for Rooker develops. Rooker’s remaining control makes him a tricky trade piece, as the Athletics may elect to keep a hold of him and see if he can continue to repeat his 2023 performance in the future as he has four more years of control. Of course, that could backfire and should Rooker return to his Quad-A status from before 2023, the value would essentially be gone.
A move for someone like Rooker seems like a necessity unless they really believe Marisnick is going to solve their depth issues against left-handed pitching. A pure rental may make more sense for the Dodgers, especially depending on the market Rooker may command, but the fit is clearly there in the lineup and even in the field.