Dodgers’ Upheaval – Day Two

When I wrote “In the Midst of a Dodgers’ Upheaval” yesterday, the team, well, actually new head of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, had begun what looked like an almost total makeover of the best team that money could buy, ignoring all that was working with the team, ignoring the most critical deficiency – the lack of a major league caliber manager – and instead, trading away solid players, leaving major holes and significant question marks. More deals followed, and while I still have a significant problem with at least one of those deals (guess which one), some things have come together, and maybe, just maybe, things are not quite as bleak as they seemed early last evening.

Following the trade of Dee Gordon to Miami, the Dodgers had no viable replacement at second base. However, in the best of the deals pulled off by Friedman, he obtained Howie Kendrick from the Angels for lefty prospect Andrew Heaney, who had just been acquired in the Gordon deal. That was a major coup for the Dodgers, but will cause big problems in Anaheim. So, in effect, in exchange for Gordon, the Dodgers now have a quality second baseman who is more steady defensively and who provides better run production and a bit

more power, though they give up a lot in the speed department, with Kendrick amassing not many more stolen bases, 95, over his eight-year career than the 64 that Gordon stole last season, plus a useable reliever in Chris Hatcher, an infield prospect in Enrique “Kike” Hernandez, and the sleeper in all the deals, young catcher Austin Barnes, who could eventually turn into the everyday catcher the team had been seeking.
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So, speaking of catchers, we turn to today’s early morning deal which has disaster stamped all over it, the give-away of Matt Kemp to the Padres for two young pitchers, Joe Wieland and Zach Eflin, and 26-year-old convicted PED user Yasmani Grandal, the Dodgers’ brand, spanking new regular behind the plate.

Wieland is 24 and a year removed from Tommy John surgery. Prior to the surgery, he put up some pretty good numbers in the low minors, but then missed all of 2013 recovering. In 2014, he pitched only 38 fairly successful minor league innings, and then 11 for the Padres, allowing nine earned runs and a 1.853 WHIP. Eflin looked like the better prospect, but he was quickly dispatched to the Phillies to complete the Jimmy Rollins deal. So, what the Dodgers have to show for the resurgent Matt Kemp, who was the best hitter in the National League over the second half of last season, is Grandal, who is younger than A.J. Ellis, but as I see it, absolutely no improvement.

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When Grandal was not serving a suspension for his PED use, he managed to play in 216 games over the last three years, hitting 24 home runs, driving in 94, and batting .245. This is the offensive upgrade the Dodgers were seeking? Over the same three seasons, Ellis hit 26 home runs, drove in 163 runs, and batted .238, while playing in 341 games.

Defensively, Ellis is excellent, just ask Clayton Kershaw, who made it well known that he expected to have A.J. catching him again in 2015. This garbage that tries to rate catchers’ defensive ability by the newly created fiction of a “pitch framing” average, or percentage, or whatever it is, is beyond stupid, and ignores so much of what a catcher does and what he means to a team and to specific pitchers, like for example, reigning Cy Young winner and MVP, Kershaw. The pitch framing crapolla says that Grandal in the eighth best catcher in the majors, with Ellis close behind at number 109. Try asking a few pitchers what they think.

And so, the Dodgers are still stuck with Carl Crawford and Andre Either, and their $36 million in 2015 salary, who seemingly will compete with Scott Van Slyke and Chris Heisey for playing time in left field, with Yasiel Puig in right and hopefully Joc Pederson performing well as the everyday
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center fielder, but they will have Grandal in there 80% of the time behind the plate.

In one more deal, the Dodgers signed free agent righty starter Brandon McCarthy, 31, who would seem to be the replacement for Haren in the rotation. McCarthy is a decent pitcher, who should do pretty well at the middle or bottom of a good rotation, but they significantly overpaid to sign him, giving him $48 Million over four years. What happened to all that belt tightening? $12 M a year for a pitcher who over eight seasons is coming off his first ever ten-win season (10-15 split between Arizona and the yankees) and who is 52-65 lifetime? And he’s not even a lefty.

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