Think Blue

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

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Fool me once...

The Dodgers have announced the trade of a 22 year old power hitting corner infielder and a 21 year old pitching prospect for a 32 year old closer. The Dodgers have a definite need in the bullpen and this deal helps solidify their staff.

Date: July 4th, 1998

Kinda creepy, isn't it? 11 years and 26 days ago, the Dodgers traded Paul Konerko and Dennys Reyes for Jeff Shaw. LA filled an immediate need by dealing from their farm system. They acquired a serviceable player who helped them for a few seasons, but ended up trading away a guy who could have hit in the middle of their lineup for several years. Now, Josh Bell isn't the prospect Paul Konerko was, but he has considerable upside and could have helped the club as soon as next season.

But wait, there's more!

Ned Colletti has once again dealt his best hitting prospect for less than what he's worth. Last season, I was absolutely shocked to hear that the Dodgers gave Cleveland catcher Carlos Santana, in the midst of his breakout season, and right-hander Jon Meloan for third baseman Casey Blake. On the surface, it looks bad, but it's much worse once you realize the Dodgers already had Blake DeWitt fully capable of handling the hot corner every day. Add to that DeWitt's gold glove caliber defense and Casey Blake's age (34) and impending free agency, and you would have thought it was Ned Beatty dealing with angry rednecks, not Ned Colletti dealing with the Indians. To then add insult to injury by re-signing Blake through his age 37 season, the Dodgers are throwing money away by developing a dependency on veterans at the expense of young, major league ready talent.

By re-signing Casey Blake instead of giving the every day job to Blake DeWitt, the Dodgers are betting that Blake the former will be $16 million better than Blake the latter. That's to say, instead of spending $1.5 million on DeWitt over the next 3 years, they're spending $17.5 million on Casey Blake. Given their respective ages, it's very likely that Blake DeWitt will improve and Casey Blake will decline. Therefore, the much more logical decision would have been to give DeWitt the job and bet on his defense not suddenly collapsing. But Ned loves him some veterans. And thanks to Ned's servicetimeophilia, we have a 35 year old Casey Blake still blocking DeWitt and the Indians have one of the best prospects in baseball.

And now we have the Sherrill trade. In fairness to Colletti, Sherrill is having a good season and is cost-controlled for the next 2.3 years. But he's a 32 year old relief pitcher whose seen his strikeout rate drop each of the past 2 years. And when you have a power-hitting, walk-drawing 22 year old who's OPSing near .900 in the Southern league, you don't give him up for such a volatile asset, regardless of Sherrill's save totals or ERA this season. Relievers don't age well and Sherrill isn't presumed to be an exception to that rule. If his K rate keeps dropping, he'll be relegated to LOOGY duty, which would make the deal even more obviously lop-sided.

The piece de resistance in this whole mess was Colletti's assertion that he doesn't "(look) to October." He looks "to tonight." He worries about "months from now later." It's that type of foresight that has led to Ned making knee-jerk moves (like the Pierre and Blake signings) and overpaying/over-acquiring at the deadline. This should be the last piece of evidence that McCourt needs to remove Colletti from his post as General Manager and install him as Chief Mustache Ride Engineer.


  • At 1:50 PM , Blogger Emperor361 said...

    Good points, Jared. My first reaction here is that the comparison to the Jeff Shaw deal is extreme.

    2-1/3 years of a cost-controlled, Sherrill provides at least as much value as 3-1/2 years of Jeff Shaw on a slightly below-value free agent contract.

    If memory serves, Konerko was the #1 rated prospect in all of MLB (certainly in the Dodgers system) at the time he was traded. Rumor was that he could have been traded for Pedro at one point, but the Dodgers had declared him "untouchable".

    While Josh Bell is a nice AA prospect, and has shown strong improvement, he is still at AA, and may or may not develop into a credible major league player (as our #8 rated player, it's probably 50/50.)

    In 2007, Andy LaRoche was rated #1 in the Dodgers system (as well as the prospect with the most power). There's just no way to know how Bell will develop, but he's not nearly the kind of prospect Konerko was.

    OK, having said all that, I'm not saying this is a great deal. But I don't think it's nearly the worst move Colletti has made. I think we're getting 2.5 years of a solid major league expectation, and we gave up a 50/50, with the chance that Bell could turn into a nice player, and a small chance he could be a great player.

    I greatly prefer this deal to the Juan Pierre signing or Blake-for-Santana trade, for example. It seems to me that the Santana trade has a much better chance to turn out similarly to the Konerko deal.

  • At 10:51 PM , Blogger Jared said...

    No doubt Konerko was a far superior prospect than Bell. The comparison was actually made because of the similarity in the logistics of the trade (all the ages and positions lined up near perfectly). Konerko was the #2 prospect in all of baseball entering the '98 season. He reached AAA at the ripe old age of 20 and hit 37 HR in Albquerque (another odd coincidence) the next year. Bell's career high is 17. The comparison was more anecdotal than analytical.

    Having the 2+ years of cost-controlled Sherrill is nice, especially with the absence of a true lefty specialist prior to his arrival. But a reliever has far less value than an everyday player, especially one who's nearly ML ready and will make the league minimum (or near it) for his first 3 seasons. I personally would have liked to see Victor Garate get a chance, though he looks very expendable at this point in time.

    This definitely won't be up there with the Pierre signing or the Santana/Meloan for Blake trade or even the Jackson/Tiffany for Baez/Carter deal, but it's another in the line of Colletti selling low on prospects. He's very lucky he has Logan White there to replenish the system year in and year out.

    Thanks for the comments. I hope you'll keep reading.

  • At 4:16 PM , Blogger Emperor361 said...

    True that about Logan White.

    As for Sherrill, I agree that an MLB set-up man *costs* less relative to other positions, but I believe that the 7th and 8th inning men are as undervalued now as high OBP guys were 5 years ago.

    This value derives from the fact that set-up men have nearly the same win leverage as closers, but cost a small fraction as much.


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