Think Blue

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

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Manny Ramirez trade review

Now the Dodgers did actually get their big bat. And astonishingly, Matt Kemp remains a Dodger. But how much did the Dodgers trade away and what exactly should they expect in their playoff run?

What the Dodgers got

A damn good hitter. Manny Ramirez now leads the Dodgers in OPS (and both its components), RBI, Runs and hair length. Now, the effect of moving from Fenway to Chavez Ravine could be noticeable, but shouldn't be significant. Interestingly enough, Dodger stadium has transformed from a pitcher's haven to actually favoring hitters.

Now, the real issue is defense. Manny playing in front of the Green Monster was bad enough, but putting him in a normal outfield could be a circus. There's also the issue of character, which led the Red Sox to ditch him and 2 prospects for a lesser player (albeit a productive one) in Jason Bay. Is he going to do all he can to get the Dodgers into the playoffs?

And now the numbers. Coming off of his worst season (2007) since 1994, Ramirez' value lies exclusively in his bat. His .927 OPS provides the Dodgers with the highest mark since Adrian Beltre's aberration in 2004. Manny should be able to add a net of 1.5 to 2.0 marginal wins down the stretch, not guaranteeing them the division but certainly keeping them with the Diamondbacks. The biggest question is who he replaces. If it's Andre Ethier, then it's a pretty good upgrade. If it's Juan Pierre, then it's a huge upgrade. Such is the .135 point difference in OPS. Plus, having Manny's glove in left and Pierre's arm in center would be laughable.

What the Dodgers gave up

When I first saw the "Manny to LA" headline, I was preparing a post mortem for Matt Kemp. Then I saw that he wasn't included in the deal. I was shocked. The Dodgers got a great hitter without giving up Kemp? Or Loney? Or Kershaw? It really goes to show you how desperate the BoSox were to get rid of Manny. Plus, the Red Sox are covering the remaining $7 million of his 2008 salary.

But let's not kid ourselves, saying that the Dodgers are getting him for free. They did give up some talent. Although it was two minor leaguers, both 3B Andy LaRoche and RHP Bryan Morris could very well come back to bite the Dodgers in a few years.

I mentioned the 24 year old LaRoche in the Blake deal post, opining that he may be better off playing for another team. And, in joining his brother in the Pirates' infield, he will now get his shot. Andy isn't the best pure hitter, but he's hit for high average in the minors (.294). What's more, he has a great knack for getting on base and also has good power. He's nothing special defensively but he's adequate. If he stays healthy, he should give the Bucs a cheap, productive third baseman for next to nothing over the next few years.

Morris is almost 2 years removed from Tommy John surgery and has been surprisingly effective this season. The 21 year old has shown improved command, a rare feat for a TJ survivor, and strong groundball tendencies. Bryan has two good pitches: a fastball that sits in the low 90s and a hammer curve. He hasn't struck out as many as he did in 2006, but he's still a power pitcher with good upside.

It was pretty clear that Torre and Colletti favored Blake DeWitt since he replaced both LaRoche and Nomar Garciaparra, so LaRoche was destined to be stuck behind DeWitt. But that's not to say Andy wouldn't have been a valuable player. He had taken groundballs at second base, possibly being groomed as heir to Jeff Kent, and even shagged flies in left field. And while Morris wasn't a sure thing to reach the majors, he still had a good amount of upside.

Who won the deal?

Right now? The Dodgers. Next year? The Red Sox. The next few years after that? The Pirates. During an interview today, owner Frank McCourt made it clear that he was focused on winning now. And you can't blame him, after missing the playoffs last year despite ranking near the top of the league in player payroll. The Dodgers are desperate for offense and they got one of the best offensive players in the league. Whether he's enough to put the Dodgers over the top, only time will tell.

Also, as was the case in the Blake deal, Manny is due to be a Type A free agent this offseason (since the Dodgers agreed not to exercise the two remaining club options on his deal). So there's two more high draft picks for LA. It would be difficult to replace LaRoche and Morris with those, but it's a decent consolation.

However, we can't overlook the value in young, cheap players. The Pirates will have LaRoche playing for the league minimum over the next three seasons, and will have him under cost-control in his prime. They also have Morris down on the farm, with the chance of him contributing in a few years.

So while the cost seems to be cheap in the short-term, the value given up in the long run could end up favoring the Pirates.


  • At 9:38 AM , Blogger Emperor361 said...

    Even with a horrible start to Adam LaRoche's major league career, he has walked exactly as many times as he has struck out, and has also walked in 16% of his plate appearances, both of which statistics are exceptional.

    I decided to do a bit of research to determine what other recent players in MLB have comparable plate discipline and ability to put the ball in play.

    Of the 510 players who have 1) made their major league debut since 1990, and 2) accumulated 1,000 at bats through the end of the 2007 season, there are only 5 who have 1) walked at least as many times as they have struck out, and 2) walked at least 12% of their plate appearances.

    Here is the list:
    * Chipper Jones
    * Joe Mauer
    * Todd Helton
    * Albert Pujols
    * Matt Lawton

    The first 4 speak for themselves, and even Matt Lawton was a nice player for a long time, and he never hit more than 12 HR in a minor league season. LaRoche has never hit LESS than 18 HR in a full minor league season.

    Despite the scouts talking about "holes in his swing", I'm afraid that this will fall into the Pedro/Konerko class of mistakes.


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