Think Blue

Obsessing over the Dodgers' minor league system so you don't have to.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The Dodgers finally made their move for a big bat, signing Andruw Jones to a 2 year deal worth $36.2 million. Jones, who will turn 31 next April, is coming off his worst offensive season since he broke into the bigs in 1996. However, he won his 10th Gold Glove this year and is still considered one of the premiere defenders in the game. I'll evaluate the signing and how it influences the team.

The Good

To start, the length of the contract is great. I was hoping he'd go for a one year deal but two years is more than acceptable. The Dodgers will have Jones in his age 31 and 32 seasons, the tail end of his "peak" years. I much prefer signing Jones until he's 32 than signing Torii Hunter until he's 37.

This also improves the team's outfield defense. Andruw topped Bill James' plus/minus list of the best defensive centerfielders over the past 3 seasons. The Hardball Times ranked Jones first in Revised Zone Rating and his 80 balls fielded outside of his defensive zone was best among NL outfielders. His arm is another big improvement, as Dodger pitchers will be less concerned with baserunners testing Jones than they were with Juan Pierre.

And, as I mentioned before, Jones provides the big bat in the middle of the order that the Dodgers have been trying to replace since Adrian Beltre's walk year in 2004. Jones should be good for 30-40 HR each of the next two seasons, assuming he's suffering no ill effects from his apparent elbow injury from 2007. Looking at his numbers from 2007 and his 51 HR season in 2005, there are few differences. His BABIP was nearly identical (.242 vs .240) and his line drive percentage was actually higher (17.2% vs 16%). The biggest difference was a huge drop in his Homeruns per flyball, which went from 25.5% in 2005 to 13.3% in 2007. This could be a result of him not being able to fully extend his left arm because of the aforementioned elbow injury.

Assuming he's physically sound, Andruw should be a big piece in the Dodgers' offense over the next two seasons.

The Bad

Now, going back to that supposed elbow injury, what if it didn't impact his season? What if he just regressed? A career .263 hitter with a .342 OBP isn't exactly tearing the cover off the ball. He posts abysmally low BABIPs every year, mainly due to his flyball approach. And he struck out 100 times each of the past 11 seasons. Unless he gets his HR/FB back up to about 20% and stops trying to uppercut everything, the Dodgers could be looking at a .750 OPS from their supposed savior.

Also, the injuries have to be a concern. Not only was the secret elbow injury hampering him last year, but he was also dealing with shoulder and knee problems in the latter part of the season. He's not getting any younger and really needs to concentrate on staying in shape as he ages.

But the biggest impact this signing could have is on one of the other outfielders. Colletti is still looking at pitchers and assuming Hiroki Kuroda signs with the Mariners, the best of the rest would have to be acquired through trade. Now, Colletti has apparently turned down numerous offers for Kemp and stated that he likes having the group of Jones, Pierre, Kemp and Ethier. But Colletti could also feel that acquiring Jones would lessen the blow of having to trade Kemp for a starting pitcher. It also means that Juan Pierre's move to left field is all but assured and his offensive deficiencies will be more glaring in a corner. The best move that could follow Jones' signing is Pierre being dealt, though I seriously doubt that will happen.

The Ugly

With the signing of Andruw Jones, Ned Colletti left Juan Pierre a voicemail telling Pierre of Jones' acquisition and that Jones, not Pierre, will be playing centerfield next season. However, Colletti sees this as anything but an admission that the Pierre signing was a mistake. He defended the (now) leftfielder by saying:

"I don't regret it."

Which would have been fine by me. But then Ned followed it with a vigorous defensive outpouring.

"You can't look back on what you do like that. It's not fair to anything."

People have to look back on what they've done to identify mistakes and make sure not to repeat them. This first sentence doesn't make me think that Ned is simply posturing to try to keep Pierre's value up in hopes of trading him. It makes me think that Ned believes the Pierre signing was a good thing. And that's scary.

"You tell me what you would do when we were sitting there with one outfielder, Andre Ethier, who had played four months of big league baseball and no other outfielder."

Outbidding Brian Sabean generally isn't the best way to acquire players. Signing a guy like Pierre to a 5 year contract, when you could have gotten similar production from a guy making the league minimum, isn't justifiable.

"It's easy to go back and re-write history. I don't have the opportunity to go back and re-write history nor do I feel I need to. It is what it is, and we did what we had to do."

No one's re-writing history. Many people on the inside AND on the outside knew what Pierre was before he was signed. Many people complained about the signing when it happened. And saying that the Dodgers "had to" sign Pierre shows Colletti's lack of accountability.

"We signed a player that's a great guy and a guy that comes to play every day and a great influence throughout the clubhouse. You know what you’re getting. 195 hits, 60-something stolen bases."

I have no doubt that Pierre is a great guy and people like him, but that shouldn't be a reason to give him a long term contract. It's also pretty funny that Colletti mentions Pierre's influence in the clubhouse with all the problems that occurred in there last season. And it's convenient that Colletti says he knows what he's getting, because prior to the season he was saying he'd expect 200 hits out of Pierre. Now he shaves that number to 195 because Pierre actually collected 196 in 2007.

"The way the 2007 Dodgers performed is not Juan Pierre's fault."

No, but the way the 2007 Juan Pierre performed is Juan Pierre's fault. Assuming someone was actually making that argument, which no one was, Pierre didn't exactly set the world on fire for the first 4 months of the season. And as if he hadn't said enough, Colletti added this:

"Asked if it was the salary that was driving up expectations about Pierre, Colletti said, "Check it out on some blog, I don't know." Colletti later claimed never to have read a single blog entry in his lifetime."

Nice to see Ned joining the stable of "legitimate" sportswriters taking cheap shots at bloggers. Didn't Colletti start his Baseball career in Public Relations?

Overall, the Jones signing seems like a good deal and I expect him to contribute over the next few years. But I'm disappointed with how Colletti handled the questions about Pierre and though he could have done a much better job had he stuck to "I don't regret it."

2 Comments:

  • At 3:46 PM , Anonymous Ricardo said...

    Jared,
    I believe we´re stuck with Pierre for the next 4 years. His contract is awful, especially if he becomes a 9 million pinch runner. Ned must keep Ethier and Kemp.

     
  • At 5:18 PM , Blogger Jared said...

    It seems as though Colletti is happy with Pierre's production, as he again cited his hit and stolen base totals as justification. The Jones signing could have an unintended, negative consequence in that Colletti could feel more comfortable in the lineup with a legitimate power hitter in there, even though Pierre would be the 5th most productive LF on a team consisting of him, Jones, Kemp, Ethier and Delwyn Young.

     

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