November 28, 2014

Dodgers Trade Analysis – What We Need, and What We Don’t

The rumor mill has the Dodgers going after the Indians’ C.C. Sabathia and shortstop Jack Wilson from the Pirates according to Ken Rosenthal from FOX Sports. Rosenthal implies that Andy LaRoche, minor league pitcher James McDonald and shortstop Chin-Lung Hu could be some of the players potentially headed to Cleveland.

Now those would be some moves. In my opinion, help at shortstop is the clear priority with Furcal likely done for the season. You can never argue with adding a #1 starter to your pitching staff, but that’s not where the Dodgers really need the help. The Dodgers are currently leading the NL with a 3.70 ERA. Clearly the pitching staff is producing, and is on the upswing with Kuroda coming back and Kershaw waiting in the wings in the minors.

What the Dodgers desperately, desperately need is hitting (Jason Bay and Matt Holliday are at the top of my list). As I mentioned yesterday, there is no way the Dodgers are going to advance in the playoffs without some big bats producing for the team. If you’re not going to hit home runs (the Dodgers are ranked 15 out of 16 NL teams with just 60 HRs), then you need clutch hitting, and that’s something this team does not do well either. To date, they’ve generated 330 RBI, placing them a meager 14 out of 16 teams. I’m not saying that I don’t want Sabathia on the Dodgers, but picking up an ace is going to mean absolutely nothing without having the run support behind him.

As for “the kids,” the Dodgers need to get better, and not all of their young players are going to turn into All-Stars. Ned has shown a proficiency in identifying the best players to keep and the ones to move. Right now, I think LaRoche could be a great bargaining chip. We have depth at 3B with DeWitt and Nomar, and Loney is really showing some fantastic hustle and pop with the bat, making the stock of the first baseman a lot higher than Andy’s in my opinion. Now is the time to make a move, and Ned, this is your chance to save your job. Let’s make it happen.

Andy LaRoche to Return to Dodgers onTuesday

Good news, Dodger fans: Andy LaRoche is set to return on Tuesday for the road series against the Padres.  LaRoche replaces Hu, who we noted yesterday was being optioned back to the minors to work more on his game.  Interesting to note that Andy’s been playing at first and second down in AAA, and will return as a back-up to Loney at first and DeWitt at third base.  I’m sure there wasn’t really a question of having Andy start over DeWitt at third, but it’s nice to see Torre giving a well-deserved vote of confidence to Blake, who is one of the better young players for the Dodgers this season.

Who’s on Third (For the Dodgers)?

One key question that needs to be answered during spring training is who the Dodgers will entrust with the third base position at the beginning of the season.

Much speculation has been floating out there about who Torre’s choice might be. Will he go with Garciaparra, whose 11 years of MLB experience (plus a stint last year at third for the Dodgers) certainly makes him a contender or will he lean towards rookie Andy LaRoche?

The answer was very noncomittal when the boss was pressed. “Nomar’s experience will certainly play into this thing,” said Torre. “There are going to be tough decisions here, and when you have a lot of young players, they can’t all play. In a way, it’s a good problem to have. In another way, you’re dealing with people’s lives, so it becomes a little more of a sensitive issue. Only so many people can make the club, and only so many people can play at one time.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s (LaRoche’s) job to lose. Nomar, with his experience, we’ll have to see how he best helps our club and go from there.”

Garciaparra’s strong bat may actually hurt him in the race for a starting position at third, as Torre may decide that Nomar’s pinch hitting abilities would be a better strategic play for the team. During the last two seasons, Garciaparra batted .370 with runners in scoring position. Then again, the Dodgers were able to land former SF Giant Mark Sweeney for one-year deal and he led the majors with 24 pinch hits last season.

One possibility – a “job share” of sorts whereby LaRoche starts most games and Garciaparra comes in as a pinch-hitter when the opportunity presents itself (but typically earlier than most pinch hitting situations late in the game due to Garciaparra’s ability to cover third effectively). Executing this strategy frequently enough would enable Nomar to stay fresh at either first or third while giving the Dodgers some additional flexibility to leverage opportunities where the bases are loaded and a power hitter could significantly impact the game. Until the lineups are firmed up, however, it’s difficult to see how this would play out as optimal situations to utilize Nomar may mean someone other than LaRoche being asked to ride the pine and some shuffling of the positions…