This trade is important to me personally, only because I joked on Prospectus Hit List twice that the Dodgers would acquire one more Tampa veteran at the deadline in exchange for a bigtime prospect, last time even citing Joel Guzman by name. Thanks for reading Mr. Colletti.
On a more serious note, this is a trade that helps the Dodgers a great deal right now, with Nomar Garciaparra and Jeff Kent both on the disabled list. Of course, there is a great deal of emphasis on the "right now" portion of that last statement; at the beginning of this year, Joel Guzman was one of the top, if not the top prospect in the Dodger system, and this year's setback at Las Vegas had the organization sour on him very quickly, first converting him to the outfield, and then flipping him to Tampa for a potential rent-a-player.
Let's take a look at Julio Lugo first. Starting with positionally-adjusted Net Runs Above Average:
Most of the rise in Lugo's EqA can be attributed to his sudden power surge; he's on pace for a career high in homeruns, hitting one every 24 at-bats. He's basically had a very uncharacteristic two-month span, where he has hit .333/.414/.566 in 189 at-bats (AB/HR of 17.2). Lugo is certainly a useful player, as evidenced by his 2005 campaign, as well as the PECOTA projection for 2007, but he is not a top-flight shortstop with power potential. If he maintains his production throughout the rest of 2006, the Dodgers can expect roughly 10.5 pNRAA in the remaining 57 games, which is a fantastic number. If he returns to his 2005 level of offense, the boys in blue will find themselves with roughly 3 pNRAA of production from Lugo.
He'll inject some much needed on-base percentage into the Dodgers lineup...until Jeff Kent and Nomar Garciaparra return from the disabled list. What do the Dodgers do then? If Kent comes back before Garciaparra, he can be pushed to first base until Nomar returns, but what then? It'll be interesting to see what the Dodgers do to justify the price they paid for this acquisition.
Speaking of the price, let's take a look at Sergio Pedroza and then Joel Guzman. After some fine hitting in the South Atlantic League, Pedroza was promoted to the Vero Beach Dodgers, and has struggled so far, although the sample is very small. Pedroza has an outside shot at being a major leaguer one day from everything I've read about him, but with the Rays attempting to reinject (or inject for the first time I guess) depth into their farm system, he's worth taking a chance on.
Joel Guzman on the other hand, was rated an A- by John Sickels in his prospect book, and was the #3 prospect in the stacked Dodger system (behind Chad Billingsley and Andy LaRoche) in this year's Baseball America Prospect Handbook. He hit .290/.346/.443 through July 28, which is no great shakes, but the league average was .269/.340/.410. He hit well in every month except May, where a .255/.342/.304 showing in 102 at-bats helped to drag his season line down somewhat. Take a look at some of his splits so far this year, as well as his batted-ball data from Las Vegas:
His Batting Averages on Balls in Play are all running a little higher than they should, based off his Line Drive percentages, but otherwise, everything looks spiffy. Guzman's walk rate could use a boost, but his power (outside of that awful May) is closer to .500 slugging wise than his overall line suggests. One final note on his production: his park-adjusted minor league line is .280/.336/.443; yes, park-adjusted minor league line. Bless the Minor League Splits Database
Supposedly Guzman has makeup issues, which means he'll fit right in with the rest of the D-Rays top prospects. All kidding aside, this is some of the tastiest icing on the cake that Rays fans could've hoped for in Andrew Friedman's quest to slowly take over the Dodger organization. Maybe the next deal will be for Director of Amateur Scouting Logan White; after all, he knows the D-Rays farm system as well as his own. Ok, that was the last one, I promise.
The D-Rays are banking on Guzman's talent overcoming any attitude or effort issues he may have, which makes total sense. Rather than sit on Lugo again and collect draft picks, the Rays were able to reel in a somewhat established player with a great deal of potential who can help them relatively soon. Andrew Friedman is proving himself a worthy executive, which is great news for Rays fans who remain (rightfully) bitter at the last front office in charge.
I'm not making excuses for Guzman's setback; he certainly looks like his productions come down a notch, but he's 21-years old in Triple-A, you sort of have to expect that. He's younger than the guy he was traded along with who just got himself out of A-ball if you want some real perspective, and Pedroza's no slug with the bat either; his improvement from last year (.207/.294/.480) is significant, regardless of age, and the fact that the Dodgers gave up on a top prospect and a sleeper type in exchange for an infielder on the wrong side of 30 in the midst of a career half-season with the bat is just plain stupid, especially considering the leaps and bounds they are going to have to make to really get back into this race.
If this were one prospect, it'd be a different story, but each one of Colletti's trades is following this theme (excepting his absolute steal of Wilson Betemit earlier in the week). Edwin Jackson, Chuck Tiffany, Dioner Navarro, Joel Guzman. All to Tampa. And for what? A nominal closer, a washed up starter who can't consistently keep the Dodgers in a game, and a middle infielder who might not even have a starting spot on the roster in a few weeks. If Lugo ends up replacing Wilson Betemit at third base when Kent and Nomar return, then Dodgers fans should probably just riot and get it over with. I'm not sure what happened to Colletti's stance on not trading away the future to improve on their longshot for the playoffs now, but the words seem pretty hollow to me now. I don't mean to throw this all on Colletti's shoulders; after all, he has scouting people and assistants who look after and analyze these players just as much as he does. The decision to package off as much as they can in the predicament the team finds themselves in is just perplexing; the time to do this was a few weeks back, when the Dodgers still looked to be within easy striking distance of the division. Now they are five games under .500 with three teams to leapfrog, one of them in Arizona returning to the dominant form they displayed early in the season. Timing is everything, and this timing sucks.