Some front offices always seem to be dealing. Andrew Friedman, back with the Rays, always seemed to be one of those guys, along with Billy Beane in Oakland and Kevin Towers in Arizona. They'd shuffle up the deck at a moment's notice to get an edge here or there, or make a move to change something up.
Friedman, now paired with former Beane lieutenant Farhan Zaidi in Los Angeles, guided the Dodgers on that trajectory last night as the team radically re-shaped their roster overnight. Most of these deals I'm about to go over are confirmed, but some are still nearing the finish line. Either way, the Dodgers -- a 94-win squad at the end of 2014 -- have changed quite a bit since that very good season ended.
We'll start with the first confirmed item chronologically and work our way from there:
Dodgers trade 2B Dee Gordon, SP Dan Haren, IF Enrique Rojas and $12.5 million to the Marlins for SP Andrew Heaney, UT Enrique Hernandez, C/2B Austin Barnes, and RP Chris Hatcher.
So, this is important because the Dodgers used cash and Gordon to downgrade at two positions (second base and starting pitching) to add a crucial trade chip (Heaney) and grab a few spare parts: a strikeout-heavy reliever, a true utility player, and a maybe-something utility guy in Barnes, who hit like dynamite in High-A and Double-A in 2014.
In a vacuum, this deal may make the Dodgers better in the long term, but maybe not in the short, because unless Heaney were to be a multiple-win starter, he'd probably not offset the loss of both Gordon and Haren. HOWEVER!
Dodgers trade SP Andrew Heaney to the Angels for 2B Howie Kendrick
Here's where it gets a little more interesting. The Dodgers flip Heaney to the other L.A. team (he can keep his plane ticket!) in exchange for a real upgrade at second base over Gordon. Steamer projects Gordon at 1.1 wins in 2015. Steamer projects Kendrick at 2.4 wins in 2015. Gordon had a great season in 2014 and posted 3.1 fWAR. Kendrick had a great season in 2014 and posted 4.6 fWAR. Kendrick's a better hitter and a better defender with a higher ceiling and floor than Gordon. He just can't run as fast.
... Don't you think that the Marlins could have just swapped Heaney for Kendrick themselves? Was the issue getting Gordon, who is both younger and cheaper than Kendrick, at a lower salary and with more team control? This is a Marlins team that's looking to contend sooner, I hear; why not deal for the best player, especially when you're making noise that you have enough cash to sign good players? Weird deal for them. Upgrade for the Dodgers!
Dodgers sign SP Brandon McCarthy to a four-year, $48 million deal.
This move has been reported but not made official yet. This fills the Dan Haren / Andrew Heaney hole in the Dodgers' rotation. McCarthy, coming off a very effective overall 2014, is an upgrade over Haren and probably Heaney in the short term. He was worth three wins in 2014 according to FanGraphs, and his biggest issue -- home runs -- can be somewhat mitigated by pitching in a park as cavernous as Chavez Ravine.
Is this a lot of money to spend for a No. 3 / No. 4 starter? Probably not, in the current market. McCarthy will slide in behind Kershaw, Greinke, and Ryu to be part of a terrifying Dodgers rotation. From Mike Petriello of FanGraphs and DodgersDigest ...
The Dodgers now have the No. 1 projection starting rotation at FanGraphs, up from No. 8 (I think) yesterday: http://t.co/aDP95Sckce— Mike Petriello (@mike_petriello) December 11, 2014
Great. Awesome. Fun.
Dodgers trade OF Matt Kemp, C Tim Federowicz, and $30 million to the Padres for C Yasmani Grandal, SP Joe Weiland, and SP Zach Elfin (unconfirmed).
This is probably happening, according to reports, but not official yet. The Dodgers are waving bye-bye to The Bison and clearing some of their infamous outfield logjam. In return, the team is getting a relatively quiet commodity in Grandal, a catcher who pairs real offensive ability with some strong play behind the dish.
If you look at Grandal's simple FanGraphs or Baseball-Reference WARs, you might not get the total portion of his value. Those win metrics put him at 1.1 fWAR or 1.2 rWAR. However, Grandal is a framing machine. Among all catchers last season, Grandal rated 13th by Baseball Prospectus' regressed, probabilistic model. According to that, he saved an additional 12.6 runs -- not too shabby at all, and that may raise his WAR by a win or so. Compare that to the guy he's ostensibly replacing, A.J. Ellis, who ranked 99th (out of 100) among catchers and cost his team 14.2 runs, and you're looking at a 26.8 run upgrade. That's huge! It's almost three wins!
Then, factor in Grandal's age (26) and his hitting ability (.225/.327/.401 in 2014), and the fact he comes with a bit of power (15 HR for San Diego) and a good approach (13.1% walk rate in 2014), and you can certainly see the upside. The team also got a couple of pitching prospects of note, but they could wind up flipped to another team or, I dunno, stashed for the future. But Grandal's the guy for today.
Did the team give up a lot in Kemp and the $30 million? Sure. Kemp was the team's best hitter (non-Puig division) last year, and he has tremendous offensive upside, even still. But he was a liability in the field, and the Dodgers had a wealth of outfield talent. The drop-off from Kemp (Steamer projects 2.1 wins) to his replacement, likely Joc Pederson (Steamer projects 1.8 wins over about 450 PA), isn't so great that it wasn't worth an upgrade at catcher, I think.
Dodgers trade [variable unknown] to Phillies for SS Jimmy Rollins.
Obviously, this trade can't be judged until we know who's heading to Philly for Rollins, but there's no argument that this isn't an upgrade over Erisbel Arruebarrena or Justin Turner or whomever else the Dodgers were going to try and roll out in the hole. Sure, Rollins is old, but he's also still good. He posted offensive and defensive numbers right in line with two out of his last three previous seasons again in 2014, and though decline is imminent, it's not expected to be a steep drop-off. Rollins will be a nice stopgap for a year, at the least, and he's still projected to be an above-average player at a critical position next season.
... as for what they're giving up, the Dodgers can always buy more pitching prospects when they need them, right?
Wow, this is pretty aggressive. I mean, one could look at this as the new front office putting their analytics-stamp on the team, adding players who have a great walk-rate approach -- and pitch framing skills in Grandal's case -- but really this is about classic trade moves that teams make. First, the team sold high on a guy (Gordon) who had one good outlier of a year, and it was really more of a good half-year. Also, it doesn't hurt that his no-walks approach isn't very sustainable.
Then the team dealt from their surplus of outfielders -- something that had been rumored for about seven years. Kemp's a great hitter, but the team doesn't get dinged quite as much because there's Joc Pederson in the wings, and the backups on the team include Andre Ethier and Scott Van Slyke ... which actually looks like a pretty terrifying platoon.
What's interesting here is (1) that the team was so aggressive to improve a team that was a division winner last season and (2) that all these moves seemed to happen in a span of about 12 hours. The Dodgers are being aggressive, no doubt. Given what they gave up, it's unlikely that this will come back to bite them, unless Kemp returns to being an MVP-candidate (unlikely) or Andrew Heaney becomes the second coming of Clayton Kershaw (even more unlikely) or Dee Gordon can sustain three-win performance up the middle (very unlikely).
The Dodgers are, once again, heavy favorites in the NL West. New regime! New players! Same result!
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Bryan Grosnick is the Managing Editor of Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @bgrosnick.