Regal Blue

The return of Vicente

Posted in Baseball by gklarsen on January 21, 2010

Via MLBTraderumors, the Dodgers and Vicente Padilla have agreed on a one year deal worth approximately five million.  I am shockingly okay with this.

If you’d asked me at the end of the season which discard-pile pitcher I’d want, Vicente would be low on my list.  It’s not the alleged bad attitude that gets to me or the penchant for nailing hitters at the plate.  No, it’s the fact that he’s solid fourth starter material who seemed primed for overpayment due to his good-decent Dodger work.  A two year, 14 mil deal seemed likely even in a depressed market.

The good news for us is that the market has said a loud and joyous “fuck you” to non-stars this offseason.  As you undoubtedly noticed, the Giants and Bengie Molina settled for one another for a far lower rate than either expected.  Joel Piniero only got a two year deal with the Angels after coming off a real career year.  Adam LaRoche, quite possibly the definition of a “good, not great” player is on a one year with the D-Bags.  All this to say that unless you’re John Lackey, the past couple off seasons have been rough for you (relatively speaking).

As we all sort of predicted he would, Ned waited out the market and picked through the remaining servicable starters and scored himself a deal.  Now, Vicente is not ideal but neither was Randy Wolf.  These guys are cheap for a reason; they come with risk.  Vicente has struggled with some nagging-type injuries the past year or so that could certainly pop up again during the season.  He’s also kinda old at 32 and hasn’t pitched 200 innings since 2006.  But all things considered, this is a fine enough deal.  Ned needed a cheap starter and he went out and got one.

If you’re a Dodger fan, you already know a lot about Vicente.  He doesn’t strike out too many (6.2 k/9), walks perhaps too many (3.22 bb/9), and loves puttin’ men on base (1.47 WHIP).  The various projections essentially believe that he’ll duplicate the career numbers in about 140 IP, according to both CHONE and Bill James, though both see a slight increase in FIP.  For some reason, BABIP has never been too much of an issue.  That’s really quite amazing for someone who puts as many balls in play as Vicente does.  It rests typically in the high 200s to low 300s and there’s no reason to believe his luck will gravitate significantly one way or the other with a full year back in the National League.

Obviously our favorite Nicaraguan won’t put up Randy Wolf numbers, but he’s coming back to the Dodgers in a similar situation.  The expectations are surely low.  I have to imagine fans would be satisfied if he took the ball every fifth day and managed to not get shelled too often.  Behind Kershaw, Billingsley and Kuroda, Vicente will be fine.  If everything goes right, we won’t really even notice him.

*We said the exact same thing about Wolf last year too, for you nostalgia fans.

There’s still a question of a fifth starter, but every team in baseball has that question.  We here at Regal Blue are fans of Charlie Haegar but I’ve been wondering a long time what Eric Stults could do with a long-term stint.  Maybe we can finally put Scott Elbert back in the rotation considering he has the highest upside by a long shot.  These, however, are good spring training questions.

With Vicente’s signing today, our free agency adventures may indeed be over.  If so, I have to be a bit impressed with Ned.  It can’t be easy to work with a super-constrained budget.  He’s managed to hand out a couple two year deals to our own guys and as such the Dodgers will be fielding almost exactly the same team next year.  Considering it got us into the NLCS, I certainly won’t complain.

Tagged with:

Kings 4, Ducks 0: In which I cheer loudly at my TV

Posted in Sports by gklarsen on January 15, 2010

There was a time not too long ago when Ducks/Kings games were of exceptional importance.  The Kings, you see, had miserable teams, terrible records and no real shot at winning anything.  The Ducks represented redemption.  If we could beat the Ducks, those awful Anaheim Ducks, then the season would be okay.  We can say we beat those God-Damned front-running fans in Anaheim (not that they noticed since they left midway through the second.  Meeting tomorrow.  You understand.)

So imagine how fantastic this rivalry would be if it were also relevant!  And that, my friends, is exactly what happened last night.  The Kings had lost their last three by a single goal, garnering no points and falling quickly in the standings.  The Ducks couldn’t buy a win earlier this year but had been coming on strong lately.  Only four points separated us and we’re past the midpoint of the season.  This game…mattered.

The first two periods were much like any other game.  The penalties were limited.  The Kings scored goals but couldn’t always sustain an attack.  The goals looked more like Hiller’s fault than anything else.  JS Giguere replaced him and gave up a sort-of-I-guess-that-counts goal to Wayne Simmonds which was reviewed and upheld.  Sweet.  4-0 at the end of the second.  I’ll take an insurance goal any day.

And lest I forget, Night Train beat up Ryan Getzlaf.  I stood and applauded in my living room.

Turns out we didn’t need it.  Instead of hockey, the Kings and Ducks decided enough was enough and spent 20 minutes beating the hell out of each other.  No goals, forty nine (49) penalty minutes.

In the thrill and bloodlust, it was easy to overlook Jon Quick’s performance.  Kid was on tonight.  It helps to have good and aggressive defense in front of you and Quick took full advantage, stopping 22 shots en route to the shutout.  It’s entirely possible that Anaheim only crashed the net in order to draw fights, but regardless, a shutout is always impressive.  Way to go, Jon.

***

Oh, and Matt Kemp signed a two year extension which doesn’t buy out any free agent years.  Whee.

Tagged with: ,

Back from vacation!

Posted in Sports by gklarsen on January 11, 2010

Hey kids, I’m back from vacation!

…what?  I didn’t tell anyone I was on break?  I just stopped writing one day?  Dick move on my part.  Well thanks for hanging in there.

Since I’ve been gone, the Kings have sunk down in the playoff rankings.  Something like two points puts us out of the playoff picture, but as The Royal Half mercifully points out, we’re also four points away from being fourth.  Nothing like an eight day layoff in December to screw everything up.  Also we lost a bunch of games, including the last two to the Blues and Red Wings, the latter despite more than fifty shots on goal.

That being said, we have Ryan Smyth back and he doesn’t seem too worse for wear.  Perhaps because of that, Anze is scoring again.  Drew Doughty might be Jesus.  Wayne Simmonds still rules*.  Jon Quick is maybe, just maybe, better than serviceable.  There’s a whole lot to like.  It’s been a real long time since we’ve been able to watch our team simply because it’s good and they’re fun to watch.  There’s nothing worse than watching a team that you know is terrible for maybe one or two players that might be decent one day but you know damn well aren’t going anywhere (see, eg, Dodgers circa 2005, Kings circa last decade and a half).

*I went to go see the Kings practice last week.  Fun stuff.  Met a lot of players.  Wayne Simmonds was all kinds of cool.  Thanks Wayne!

On the Dodger side of things, there’s been nothing to speak of.  There were some rumors going around that the team wanted to sign Matt Kemp to a long term deal, but it looks as though Kemp is wisely going to go year to year.  Wise for him, at least.  Kid will be getting 12 mil by his last arb year.

By now, the big money free agents have signed.  Bay went to the Mets and he’s the perfect example of the player that Minaya likes; past his prime and expensive.  I was surprised to see Holliday end up back with the Cards, especially for that kind of money.  That’s Albert’s money.

Even the Giants have gotten into it a little.  Their latest move was to sign Aubrey Huff to a one year deal worth three mil.  Am I telling you that Brian Sabean signed an over the hill veteran for way more than he’s worth to replace a cheaper in house option?  Why yes I am.  Will wonders never cease?

Oh, and this just in, the Dodgers signed Nick Green to a minor league deal.  Yeah I don’t care either.  If you want a no-hit, good defense shortstop, we already have one.  The difference is that the one we already have is about seven years younger and might actually have some upside left.  It may also be a set up to trade Chin Lung Hu.  We’ll see.

***

And I think that gets us caught up on the major stories.  The Sharks come to Los Angeles tonight.  We’ve handled them very well so far this season, including a very satisfying beating last week.  Will it continue?  Yes, yes it will.  Kings beat Sharks 5-1, goals by Anze, Smyth and Simmonds.

Tagged with: , , ,

The Juan Pierre post

Posted in Sports by gklarsen on December 16, 2009

JP:  “So that’s it then?  After three years of service?  So long and good luck?”

Dodgers:  “I don’t recall saying good luck.”

I believe that’s my first Simpsons reference here at the Regal Blue.  Can’t believe it took me so long.

Most of baseball world is talking about the big crazy trade of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Kyle Drabek, some other people…I think Billy Beane got into the action…well you know what I mean.  But there’s no bigger trade in Dodgerville than the one that went down yesterday morning.

So long and thanks for all the outs

The man, and half of his remaining salary, are heading to the south side of Chicago.  Officially, the Dodgers are also getting two “players to be named later.”  Looks like Memories of Kevin Malone has the specific players and some info, so check that out.

When Juan Pierre was signed, I thought the same thing all of you thought:  “Wow, that’s a pretty lousy move there, Ned.  We ask for a power bat and you give us a guy with a career ISO of .075.  Sweet.  Oh and you’re paying him what now?”  Juan then proceeded to do what he’d always done and played a mediocre-poor defensive center field and stole some bases.  His OBP dropped from an acceptable-ish .350 for his career to .331 his first year.  Yet he kept batting lead off because you need that there speed at the top of the order, said Grady Little.

He was a scapegoat from the moment he arrived in LA.  Everyone hated that contract.  Any time we couldn’t sign someone, we wondered if it was at least in part because of Juan.  The contract was blamed for keeping Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier out of the lineup.  No rational manager could actually play JP over two of our brightest young stars, but there he was every single day in center field.  The temporary hope of Andruw Jones pushed him to the bench for a few days to start out the 2008 season but we all know how that went.

He made outs like crazy because he absolutely refused to draw a walk.  When asked about that, or any other criticism, he typically responded with something like “That’s just my game.  I know some people don’t like, but this is who I am.”  Essentially, he was a classic example of what Saber-friendly fans hate.  The only two skills he had were wildly overvalued:  batting average and speed reflected in stolen bases.  The stolen bases weren’t even that efficient, with a Dodger-career 134/39 success rate.

It took the mighty Manny Ramirez to finally kick Pierre out of starting job and on to the bench completely.  Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp had essentially become indispensable by that point so that not even Juan’s enormous contract could keep him starting.  And that was the beginning of the end of Pierre’s time in Los Angeles.  He was Manny’s backup.  Sure there was a brief resurgence in 2009 when Manny was suspended, but after that BABIP-fueled flareup in the first couple weeks as the primary left fielder, he was back to his old tricks.  Manny returned and JP was back on the bench where he belonged.

The Dodgers went in to this offseason with the goal of not adding anything to the payroll.  The Great Divorce looming, the front office was not given too much to work with.  Furthermore, Manny has another year in left field and Xavier Paul had a real promising, albeit short, season as the fourth outfielder.  There was just no excuse for keeping Juan Pierre if there was any possible alternative.  For some reason the White Sox thought we was valuable and offered to take half of his contract.  Sold.

***
I never really disliked Juan Pierre all that much.  Don’t get me wrong, though.  I completely agreed with the rest of you that he was overvalued, a liability in the leadoff position, and a rather poor fielder.  But he didn’t draw my ire the way he did for some.  To be honest, I enjoyed watching him bat.  It was kinda fun that he never struck out.  And stolen bases are entertaining.  As much as the statistics belie this, it appeared as though he genuinely distracted pitchers when he got on base and opened up some opportunities when he did manage a leadoff hit.

Of course none of that is true.  Baserunners seldom have an effect on pitchers.  Rather, it’s a prevalent myth and so we remember the few times it happens instead of all the times it doesn’t.  Strikeouts really don’t matter, especially for a leadoff hitter.  Stolen bases do little for a player’s productive value.

At the same time, I never bought in to that whole Plaschkean theory that Juan’s value laid in his hustle, his work-ethic.  You know who works hard every day?  Virtually every other baseball player.  Even Manny, with the unfortunate reputation of being kinda lazy, works out like crazy.  I remember seeing Juan Pierre in Spring Training at Vero Beach and it really looked like he was working hard.  He was the first one to take laps on the field before a game.  He took laps after the game.  But you know what?  Big deal.  His work ethic may have been a little more visible, but while he was running out on the field, every other guy on the team was with a trainer, taking BP in the cage or lifting weights.

The final tally on Juan’s Dodger career is an OPS+ of 84 in 426 games and a line of .294/.339/.357.  That’s 3.6 WAR over three seasons.  It cost 25.5 million dollars, plus the addition ten mil we’re paying for two more years.  And that’s really the bottom line.

***

Reaction has been as expected.  Jon Weisman sees it as all good for the Dodgers.  MSTI couldn’t be happier.  True Blue LA gives a nice, respectful farewell.  Matt Klassen at Fangraphs can’t figure out why Kenny Williams would do this.  Me either but that’s Williams for you, the man who would take Alex Rios.

***

In conclusion, I hope Juan Pierre has better days in Chicago.  He didn’t exactly deserve to be a pariah and I have to believe Chicago will offer a fresh start as far as opinion goes.  All the best, JP.

Kings lose in Vancouver…again. Kings win in Edmonton…again.

Posted in Sports by gklarsen on December 16, 2009

So there’s been some real stuff happening lately.  The Kings lost to Vancouver…again…and managed to snag a victory from Edmonton last night.

Okay seriously, why can’t we beat the Canucks?  Up until recently I was convinced that they were a real good team.  They batted us around every time we played them, so I figured they must be pretty good, right?  Well they’re 10th in the Western Conference but have managed a respectable 19-14 record, with no overtime points.  Henrik Sedin has a ridiculous 42 points, prompting such hacky articles on their websites asking the question “Has Henrik become the new ‘clutch’ Sedin?”*  They have three other guys with at least ten goals.  A 104/85 for and against ratio probably indicates that they should actually have won a few more than they have.  So they’re a decent team.

*If by ‘clutch’ you mean ‘productive’ than I say your answer is a pretty solid yes.  And by the way, haven’t we stopped using the word ‘clutch’ by now?  In baseball, it has become code for “this article has no substance.”  Maybe hockey journalism needs its own Fire Joe Morgan.

The thing is, the Kings just look awful against them.  Every freakin’ time.  In this last misadventure, they managed one goal against Luongo and it’s actually pretty amazing that they got that many.  There was no sustained offense to speak of.  The Kings could barely get it out of their zone.  A patented neutral-zone turnover by Doughty led to a goal and was further indication that the Kings couldn’t get it together.

My point is that LA should at least be able to put up a fight.  The Canucks are thoroughly decent, but not spectacular.  This ain’t Detroit from two years ago, kids.

And on the flip side, the Kings looked pretty mediocre against the Oilers but managed to sneak away with a win, thanks to Sean O’Donnell’s goal.  Who saw that coming, huh?  But it sure came at the right time, as the game was tied leading into the latter half of the third period.  The Kings dodged yet another overtime for two points and now have an even record on the roadtrip.  This is significant because, well, winning on the road is always significant.  But also because this is their last trip without Anze’s boy, Ryan Smyth.   Calgary and Phoenix should be tough games.  The Flames are legitimately good and Phoenix’s Shane Doan more often than not manages to screw us over even though he’s not having such a great season.  So pulling away with at least one win out of four is something to hang on to when Jerome Iginla is completing a hat trick with six minutes left in the second period.

***

Separate post for Juan Pierre?  Yeah.  Separate post for Juan Pierre forthcoming.

Tagged with: ,

So we finally did it…

Posted in Sports by gklarsen on December 15, 2009

Juan Pierre has been traded to the White Sox for two players to be named later.  The Sox will pay roughly half of Pierre’s remaining salary.

This is not the first time the White Sox have come up in trade talks, as there was some discussion last year about it.  JP was undoubtedly a bit over valued after his performance last year.  His reputation as someone who stepped up big in the absence of Manny has been well-documented even though it’s belied by the numbers.  Even with his significant cool-off by the end of the year, his line for the season was still above average for him.

Imagine how surprised the Sox will be when he turns back in to Juan Pierre given a full season.

There’s more to be said, but I thought I’d take a moment away from finals to throw that up there.  My initial reaction is…nice work, Ned.  Xavier Paul is a significantly better fourth outfielder, so any mitigation in cost for Pierre is a plus.

Tagged with: ,

A few quick hits: Rule 5 draft, Kings beat Sharks

Posted in Sports by gklarsen on December 10, 2009

Jon Weisman has the Rule 5 draft nailed down today.  MSTI offers thoughts on it as well.  Me personally?  I know nothing about these guys.  The numbers look good on the players we acquired.  They just happen to be a bit old for the position, ie 22 or so.  Rule 5 is always a bit of a dumpster dive so it fits right in with the Dodgers plan so far this off-season.

Jamie Hoffman, who did so well in the minors last year, is now a Yankee.  I have to believe they did this to put more pressure on Johnny Damon to sign at a lower rate than he originally wanted.  Hoffman would be a good fit on an AL club while his power will be amplified at the new Yankee stadium.

***
I assume everyone is celebrating the Kings win over the Sharks last night.  The highlights were Anze Kopitar’s first goal in 45 games (I’ll check the numbers) and the surprisingly adequate play of Erik Ersberg.  Sure he still looks like he’s 12, but aside from one “what the hell was that” moment, the kid did fine.  Also, Drew Doughty is amazing.

Oh, and Dustin Brown scored the winner in overtime.  My hockey buddy swears that Greene said, “It’s about fucking time, you fucking jackass!” to Brown after he scored.  I hope it’s true because, seriously Dustin, it’s about fucking time.

***

This makes me happy.  Thanks SoSG.

Tagged with: , ,

Finals season means infrequent posting; also, Pierre may soon be gone

Posted in Sports by gklarsen on December 9, 2009

The Kings have been on fire and baseball’s hot stove continues to churn out noteworthy rumors and transactions.  Unfortunately, it also happens to be finals season for this particular law student.  Thus, few posts lately.  My apologies.

***

First things first:  Juan Pierre may be traded after all.  According to John Paul Morosi, via MLBTradeRumors, the Tigers want Pierre and are looking for a third team to complete the deal.  The Dodgers obviously want starting pitching and likely aren’t too interested in any of the Tiger’s train wreck bad contracts.  Bonderman and the ghost of Dontrelle Willis have contracts so bad that they make Pierre look like a bargain.

It feels as though the Dodgers have been trying to get rid of Pierre since they acquired him.  Last year, there was minimal discussion that the White Sox might have been interested but obviously nothing ever came of it.  The rumors this year seem to be more substantial, perhaps because the Dodgers are more serious about unloading him.  Xavier Paul is a significantly better fourth outfield option and after his promising (though injury shortened) performance last year the Dodgers must feel they can go without Pierre as essentially Manny’s back up.

I have to believe that moving Pierre for an overpriced starter will be met with universal acclaim in Dodgerworld.  Now that Schmidt is gone, Pierre remains the most visible relic of Colletti’s poor dealing when he first started GMing after the 2005 season.  Primarily because of that bad contract, he is a lightning rod for scorn amongst the fans.

I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know.  Odds are if you’re reading a Dodger blog, you’ve got an opinion on Juan Pierre and it’s probably not good.  Mainstream media has done a poor job of defending him on the occassions when they’ve tried.  Features about Pierre essentially boil down to what a hard worker he is, what a good guy he is, he sure is good at stealing bases.  Not a good way to defend a player in the Sabermetric age.

Pierre’s departure would probably have more effect on the perception of the team more than the actual results.  Exiled eternally to be a back up going forward, there would undoubtedly be fewer at bats this year than last year.  I’m assuming no one will be suspended for 50 games.  So, getting rid of him would be a symbolic victory more than anything, considering we’ll still have to pay him or another equivalent bad contract.  It may demonstrate Colletti’s emerging skills as a GM.

However, it may also be another symptom of the Great McCourt Schism.  That event may be the greatest motivator and Colletti may be attempting to push Pierre out only if most of the contract can be dismissed too.  Perhaps the pitcher coming in will be one with only a single year left on the contract.

Despite all of this, I think the odds of sending Pierre out of LA remain slim.  It’s a rough contract in a nasty economic climate.  He remains as he always has: a poor OBP, sub par center fielder (not bad in left, according to Fangraphs), with zero power.  Maybe the Tigers overvalue Pierre’s notoriously illusory hotstreak when Manny got suspended.  Maybe Dave Dombrowski digs fast players now that Curtis Granderson is out of town.

More updates as they become available.

***

The Kings have been getting points like crazy lately, capped this week by a win over Jerome Iginla and the Calgary Flames.  Tonight the Kings face off against the Sharks.  It looks like Ersberg will start tonight in place of Jon Quick.  Seems like a strange piece of timing considering that the Sharks score lots of goals and Quick has been downright decent lately.

The big question continues to be the first line.  Kopitar has managed to squeeze a few assists, Williams has scored a couple, but the fact remains that it’s a worrisome drought.  Ryan Smyth is still a week away and it’s safe to assume that he’ll need a game or two to get back to full speed.

This opinion is completely without any sort of objective basis, but it feels like Kopitar has been right there as far as scoring.  He’s getting some chances and it may just be a matter of time before the pucks start to find the net.  Regardless of the reasons, every Kings fan would breathe a huge sigh of relief if Kopitar could knock one in tonight.

Irresponsible prediction:  Kings 4, Sharks 3 – Kopitar and Simmonds score.

Tagged with: , , ,

Kings 6, Senators 3: LA fields local High School team, beats Ottawa

Posted in Sports by gklarsen on December 4, 2009

I guess you could say that there’s some positive here.  The Kings didn’t have their best and yet managed to win.  The problem is that they didn’t win because they played better.  They won because Ottawa played even worse.

There were bright spots of course and one can never be too mad about a win.  Randy Jones buried a goal the first minute of the game.  Allegations of sexual offenses aside, he’s a real nice player to have around.  That’s four goals for him in limited playing time.  The question is whether or not he’ll be back on the bench once Scuderi comes back.

Our hero Wayne Simmonds continued his awesomeness.  A penalty shot in the first gave the Kings a two goal lead.  I don’t have much to say about the shot itself except that Simmonds was so in command of the situation that he made it look routine.

The finest moment of the night came in the second period after the aforementioned two goal lead disappeared.  Stoll won a faceoff in the Sen’s zone and pulled it right to Kopitar, who made a nice, easy pass to Doughty who absolutely torched it into the net.  It was a great sequence, and one of the few times in the evening where it looked as though the Kings had actually skated together before.

Also, Justin Williams got two goals in the final minutes.  No one seemed to care, least of all Williams.

But the story for the night is the lousy team play, and rightly so.  The only reason the Kings came out with a victory is because the Senators happened to have a bad night too.  It’s like both pitchers not having their best stuff.  The game turns in to batting practice and whoever manages to have the highest score at the end of nine “wins” the game.  That’s what this game felt like.  Granted, the defense did play a bit better in the third period.  But this game can be chalked up to some good luck in our favor.

Life in Hockeywood is encouraged by the secondary scoring.  There was plenty to be had in this one.  Yet I’m not ready to declare the matter closed just yet.  I’d like to see some secondary scoring against a more unified defense.  A step in the right direction though, no doubt about it.

One thing we both agree on, however:

Wayne Simmonds has become mine and everyone’s favorite player, and not just because he’s scored four goals in the past five games. The way he plays the game with such energy and skill gives Kings fans reason for relief. It’s his work ethic, of constantly pushing and playing that makes him a solid player.

Simmonds has definitely become the player to step up in the absence of the first line.  It’s not surprising either considering how good he played at the end of last year.  Wayne is a real quality guy with all kinds of upside.  This isn’t his 25 goal season, but at this rate it’ll happen as soon as 2010-11.  If that were his only quality, I’d be thrilled and there’s much more to like about him too.  He creates a ton of opportunities in enemy territory.  Look for his production to continue at a similar rate as long as he’s got guys on his line to exploit those opportunities.

***

Next game Saturday in LA against Jon Hamm’s St. Louis Blues.

Tagged with: ,

Free Agents, Trades and Winter Meetings

Posted in Sports by gklarsen on December 2, 2009

In the wake of the whole “we’re not going to offer arb to anyone” scandal of yesterday, many fans are wondering just what the future holds for the Dodgers.  Their plan will probably be revealed somewhat in the upcoming winter meetings.

Typically, the winter meetings are where the big time free agent signings happen or at least start to negotiate.  We already knew that the Dodgers weren’t going to be buyers this year.  So yesterday’s events don’t really tell us anything we didn’t already know in that regard.  As far as trades go, Ken Gurnick seems to believe that the Dodgers will keep their “young nucleus” in tact as has been their modus operandi for years.  In essence, it’s business as usual and this winter will look awfully similar to last winter:

As much as some fans want the Dodgers to throw money at every roster hole, that has never been the style of current ownership. Frank McCourt has indicated he’d rather develop stars such as Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw than trade them away and buy bigger names with gigantic salaries.

He could have written that two years ago and it would have been just as true then.  Virtually every big contract the Dodgers have handed out has bit them in the ass in some way or another.  This isn’t just a coincidence or bad free agent practice.  Free agents are almost always past their prime.  Because teams will at the very least keep a player through arbitration, few players with good production will ever escape their team before age 30.  And if Baseball Prospectus is to be believed (and they are), players hit their peak around age 27 or 28, contrary to the popular wisdom that it’s somewhere closer to 30.

Every team should know that a long-term contract will inevitably come with some bad, unproductive and economically inefficient years.  Even Johan Santana will begin to suck after the fourth or fifth year of his contract, even sooner if injuries start to take their toll.  He got seven years because that’s the cost of premier players.  Their production in the two or three ‘good’ years at the beginning of the contract ideally makes up for the lack of production in the waning years.

The problem with that model is that it keeps small to mid market teams from signing the bigger names.  Two years of efficient production, say, from John Lackey will cost at least five years of salary.  More than the fact that small-mid market teams simply don’t have the cash in reserve is the opportunity cost of the last three years when Lackey will be on and off the DL.  The team who signs him is essentially giving up the opportunity to spend that money two years after the beginning of the contract on international players, drafts, arbitration and the occasional bargain pick up.

Obviously the Yankees can absorb these costs.  They know full well that AJ Burnett is only worth three years at most.  The Mets too at one point were able to do that, and the Red Sox certainly can.  The Dodgers, in such a dreary situation, don’t have that luxury.  We’re a big market team with mid-market aspirations.

So, Ned will undoubtedly continue to do what he’s done for years now.  He’ll search the bargain bin and come up, hopefully, with another productive starter and maybe a serviceable second baseman.  Will he get as lucky this year?  Probably not.  But it’s the best strategy.  With the big name free agents inherently overvalued, a smart team’s only option is to wait out the big budget teams and find players that were left behind.  To quote Gurnick again:

Colletti’s past performance indicates his scouts will come up with a surprising reclamation pitching project (Jeff Weaver, Chan Ho Park, Takashi Saito, etc., in years past). He’ll patiently let the pitching market be established by early signings and pick over the available pool to come up with another Wolf. And he’ll fill the bench with this year’s version of Brad Ausmus, Mark Loretta, Juan Castro and Doug Mientkiewicz.

Naturally a question arises as to the lack of arbitration offers.  What does it mean for the off season?  As far as free agents go, I believe it doesn’t mean a thing.  Colletti will do what he did last year with some measure of success (sans Manny contract drama, of course).

There is also concern that Colletti will begin to deal arbitration-eligible players to shrink payroll even further.  First of all, that’s not necessarily a bad idea.  Players like Andre Ethier for example are at the peak of their value and performance.  Although I fully admit to being heavy into the Dodgers youth movement, I recognize that there will come a time in the somewhat near future when it will do more good to trade them (assuming a wise trade, of course).  Assuming Colletti knows that, I imagine that in five years the only Dodgers we recognize will be Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw, the rest probably shipped out for younger players before they hit Free Agency.

Yet until I hear some substantial rumors or the younger Dodgers get closer to free agency, I won’t concern myself too much with it.  A trade of one of our major young players is still quite speculative.  Furthermore, even with the arbitration raises, we’ll still be under budget going into the winter meetings due to all the bad money coming off the books.  Thus, I don’t expect trades to be particularly dramatic either.

It should indeed be a quiet winter meeting for the Dodgers, and that’s the best thing that could happen.

Tagged with: ,
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.