Thursday, July 17, 2014

A look at the trade market, and if the Dodgers should go all-in

In my last post, I discussed how I saw the Dodgers' chances going forward (hint: it's good). They have an excellent chance of getting to the playoffs. There are a few holes of course. Which team doesn't have a few holes?

But the Dodgers' main concern at this point is really the postseason. Over the course of the regular season, total talent on the roster is a good predictor of success. But as the A's have learned -- the hard way the last 15 years -- it doesn't mater if you win 90 games (or even 105 games) in the regular season, you need other things to get to the World Series. Those things are:
  1. Having your guys healthy and rested at the end of the year 
  2. Luck, grit, clutch, whatever you want to call it
  3. Top-end talent. The competition's all good in the postseason
What are the Dodgers' holes when thinking about the regular season? Bullpen depth, a defensive center fielder, backup catcher and maybe a backup infielder. I actually feel pretty good about backup infield situation with Alex Guerrero, Justin Turner, Chone Figgins and Erisbel Arruebarrena. Zero of those four are healthy and ready right now, but all four should be ready in a week or two.

The other three spots have been a horrible mess and ought to be addressed via trades. And a new hot spot seems to be bubbling to the top of the list -- rotation depth.

With Dan Haren continuing to struggle at times and Josh Beckett's health in constant question, the Dodgers may need a middle-of-the-rotation starter if they don't decide to go for an ace (more on that later).

There are potentially adequate solutions in the organization to solve the defensive center fielder and bullpen depth issues. Upgrading the backup catcher would yield fairly marginal benefits. I expect some kind of moves -- especially in center field, where the Dodgers' management seems to absolutely have reached their limits in watching the current crew go out there and try to run balls down.

On the starting pitching front, they could probably swing an Andre Ethier/Carl Crawford + B prospect + cash for Bartolo Colon or Jake Peavy, or players of that caliber. But what if they decided instead to go big and trade Julio Urias and several other (hopefully not named Corey Seager) shiny things for David Price, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels or Jon Lester? Urias probably has a 10 percent chance -- five years from now -- turning into that kind of guy, and a 90 percent chance of turning into someone lesser than Eric Stults. The Dodgers are geared for this year and next. They probably don't need a third legitimate ace to get to the playoffs, but it would make them really scary once they get there.

Aces don't assure postseason success, historically. But, playoff teams have not had trip aces. When you look at teams with one very good pitcher, that very good pitcher may or may not in fact pitch great in his two or three games. And then there's the rest of the games. I already liked the Dodgers playoff chances this year purely because of what Clayton Kershaw is doing this year. There's apparently a level above ace. Who knew?  

If you look at the playoff odds today at FanGraphs, the Dodgers have a 90 percent and rising chance of making the playoffs but "only" a 12% chance of winning the World Series. I'm not sure how they think about the odds of advancing through the playoffs, but according to Jeff Sullivan anyway, acquiring Price would bump that to 17%.  I imagine the numbers would be similar for the other aces potentially in play.  That's actually kind of compelling.  Send out Kershaw / Zack Greinke / New Ace / Ryu as your playoff rotation and bullpen depth doesn't matter much. We won't be calling on Chris Perez in the 6th inning in any of those games.

Even if the cost also included Joc Pederson, the Dodgers' putative solution to center field, I don't see what alternate strategy would take the their championship odds up over 17 percent. The marginal upgrade of getting him in center field and sending out one of the extra outfielders somehow, plus counting on Beckett, and reinforcing the bullpen -- I don't think that does it this year or next.

And as we've seen all over the league (and even with the Dodgers), it's pretty easy for even Hall of Fame-trajectory guys to fall off a sudden cliff, so we can't count on the current core for much longer than that. It's been 26 years since the last championship. I was a teenager then, and I'm old enough to have my own teenagers now.

So, while it took me awhile to warm up to the idea, I'm starting to like it. Seager's a guy I (and Greinke, for what it's worth) believe in, though. If he's part of the deal, too, I start to turn a little sour. And of course, 17 percent chance of winning is still 83 percent chance of wait 'til next year. The regret could be massive.

Although several of those guys are signed for next year, so that changes things somewhat. Let's say acquiring a 2014-15 ace gives the Dodgers a 17 percent chance this year and a 17 percent chance next year. That's a 28 percent chance of one championship and a 3 percent chance of back-to-back.

We know what watching Pedro Martinez & Paul Konerko do what they did entirely for someone else feels like. Even watching guys that came up and we got their first few good years, like Mike Piazza and Adrian Beltre -- we know that feeling too. On the other hand, I also know what going to AT&T Park last year and seeing the hated Giants World Series trophies (plural!) felt like. And that felt a lot worse.


  1. Hi Dustin this is Drank. This is good article. No Papelbon, though?


    1. Hi Drank this is Dustin. This is a good article. I didn't write it, though?