Would Punting the Season Really be the Best Option?

Many Dodger fans have similar looks on their faces right now.  They are ones of sadness, anger, and confusion.  They are sad that the Dodgers are not doing very well.  They are angry because the Dodgers are losing games that they should be winning.  And they are confused because we don’t know where to go from here.  Should the Dodgers, amidst the all the McCourt drama and on-the-field ineptitude really punt the season?

The Dodgers sit with a record of 22-29 on this off-day.  In a year where everyone’s new favorite word is parity, where between the super-powers and the bottom-feeders lies a large chunk of middle-of-the-pack type teams, the Dodgers are at the bottom.  This figured to be the perfect team for a season where parity abounds.  A team that could keep every game close with talented and deep starting pitching, a bullpen with power arm after power arm after power arm, and an offense that would falter at times (Ok, fairly often), but could still get the job done enough times for this pitching staff.  A team that could hover around 2nd or 3rd place in the NL West, rarely seizing control of 1st place and the division, but being that pesky team that would hang around, bide it’s time, and then score a huge prize at the trading deadline to propel them to 1st place.  Alas, how the times have changed for these Dodgers.

First there was the Bryan Stow beating, then Frank McCourt went from losing his wife, to losing his money, to losing his entire team.  Amidst all of that, the Dodgers caught New York Mets-itus, losing a large number of important role players to injury.  Players like Jonathon Broxton were ineffective, then hurt.  Players like Hong-Chih Kuo were ineffective, then hurt, then slightly effective, then on the DL with the yips.  Rafael Furcal got hurt because he’s Rafael Furcal and he always does that, and Casey Blake got hurt because he’s 38 years old.  Seemingly everybody but the starting pitching, and the two big-boppers, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier were going down to injuries.  Amidst all of that, a miasma surrounded Dodger stadium.  An aura of negativity surrounded Dodger stadium, between the lack of safety, the dreaded owner, and the poor product on the field, the question remains, “Why go to the game and get the snot beaten out of me, when I can watch my team lose on my nice TV?”

Which brings us back to the original question: Should the Dodgers punt this season?  Should they accept that they won’t win anything of significance and attempt to get as much value for their players as they can?  Well, here are my thoughts.  I think that this is a question that can’t be answered just yet.  This is because the Dodgers play their next 19 games against teams with records of .500 or above.  In addition, they do get Casey Blake and Blake Hawksworth back from the DL on Friday, and Rafael Furcal is back, but only has one hit so far, and he will do better, as well as Andre Ethier and Rod Barajas rejoining the lineup as regulars.  Tomorrow appears to be the day the Dodgers get as healthy as they’ve been all year (They’ll only be missing Juan Uribe, Broxton, Kuo, and Marcus Thames) and perhaps with the new life in the Batting Order, they can get back to their hovering-around-.500 ways.

Now, that’s a very optimistic way of looking at it.  But punting the season and starting a fire sale also just isn’t practical yet.  The Houston Astros, Kansas City Royals, San Diego Padres, and Pittsburgh Pirates haven’t started selling yet, and they are annual sellers.  The market for veterans won’t really begin to form until Mid-June, at the very earliest.  At that point, if the Dodgers are still quite a few games below .500, then you begin selling off the spare parts.  But until then, you keep playing, hopefully you start winning, and the issue of punting the season disappears completely.

But let’s say the Dodgers do decide to punt the season.  Who would they get rid of?  Well let’s start right now and say that Clayton Kershaw, Matt Kemp, and Chad Billingsley aren’t going anywhere.  The former two aren’t leaving because of their importance to the team as Ace and Best Hitter, respectively.  Bills is also a very good pitcher, plus he has multiple years left on an extension he signed this past offseason.  Because of their multi-year deals, you aren’t losing Matt Guerrier, Ted Lilly, or Juan Uribe.  You probably also keep Kuo because of his injury risks, because when healthy, he’s really good, and he’s under team control for a couple more years.  Rising young players such as Jerry Sands, Javy Guerra, Scott Elbert, and Rubby De La Rosa aren’t going anywhere either.  Guys like Jonathon Broxton, Vicente Padilla, Marcus Thames, and James Loney really don’t have any value at the moment.  If you can convince some poor sucker to buy into their potential, you absolutely make that deal.  Especially with Loney, because there’s a perception around the league that he’s a Doubles machine, who’s way better outside of Dodger Stadium, that he’s a “clutch RBI-guy”, and that he’s a slick-fielding defender as well.  And some of that is true, Road Loney dominates compared to Home Loney, and he’ll be hitting way more doubles than Home Runs at least.  Broxton is hurt and has been ineffective to get much on the trade deadline, and same with Thames.  Hiroki Kuroda has a full No-Trade-Clause, and if you want him back on another one year deal, you definitely can’t trade him and expect to sign him back.  Rafael Furcal and Casey Blake have some value, especially if they hit very well before the trade deadline, because they’re just veterans on one year deals that can come in and make an impact.  Rod Barajas and Dioner Navarro have little value as well, although Barajas plays good defense and hits home runs, and has a reputation for calling good games.

Coletti will also need to show the ability to rip-off other GM’s in the same way that’s always been ripped-off: trading solid prospects for veteran middle-relief pitchers.  Guys like Mike MacDougal and Blake Hawksworth, who have been successful this year, could be sent to teams who need a quick bullpen upgrade for B-level prospects.  The James MacDonald’s and Josh Bell’s of other team’s farm systems.  Another guy like this would be Jamey Carroll, who has the highest On Base Percentage among all MLB Shortstops, plays above-average defense at 2B, 3B and SS, has a very low salary, and has “Veteran Grit”.  Carroll could net a decent prospect as well.  You could definitely also trade Jon Garland, as there are always teams who need rotation-depth at the trading deadline, and Garland is a more than capable major-league starter for almost any team.

The last guy worth mentioning is Andre Ethier.  If I trusted the Colletti more, I’d say Ethier belongs in the Kemp/Kershaw/Bills category of guys you don’t trade.  But I don’t know if both Kemp and Ethier will be able to sign extensions in time, and Kemp is the far more complete player.  Ethier plays below-average defense in Right Field, and can’t hit lefty-pitching at all.  That said, he’s still a great hitter, one of the better hitters in Dodger history for sure.  But if teams are calling Ned Colletti, and offer a package of prospects that include a top-level guy, you have to pull the trigger.  It makes me sad to say that, because I love Andre Ethier.  But you have to consider putting him on the market.  You’re not forced to trade him, but any team would love to have a guy like Ethier, who does crush Righty-pitching, and is under team control through 2012.  If you can get a top-level (hitting) prospect for him, (think Justin Smoak, who was part of the Cliff Lee deal, or Jesus Montero, a top 5 Catching prospect with the Yankees) you have to consider it.  Is Ethier really good enough to warrant a prospect like that?  Probably not, but teams and GM’s can get very desperate around the Trade Deadline.

The bottom line is that the Dodgers shouldn’t be thinking fire-sale yet.  But if they can’t come out of this 19 game stretch with at least 9 wins, they’ll have to start considering it.  Now, if they can win at least 12 games and get back to .500, the words “Fire” and “sale” aren’t even in their vocabulary.  If they do decide to punt the season, they have to keep Kershaw, Kemp, and Bills, and trade as many other movable pieces as possible.  You have to get as much value as you can, because the Dodgers farm could take a huge step forward if a few guys really have impact years, and combining prospects like Trayvon Robinson and Dee Gordon with other good prospects from other teams would put the Dodgers in a favorable position to compete within a few years.  And with a new owner, they’ll have the cash to sign the impact players they need to fill out the roster.  So for the time being, don’t think about punting the season just yet.  Let’s see how the Boys in Blue do over their next 19 games.

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4 Comments on “Would Punting the Season Really be the Best Option?”

  1. Robin Faris Says:

    Good analysis of where the team is at the current time.

  2. Andrew Faris Says:

    6 games out with 111 left to play? That’s definitely insurmountable.


    • That’s why I think we should see where we are after the next 19. Especially if the Rockies or Posey-less Giants are able to take a huge lead in the division. If that winds up being the case, I’m not sure there’s a realistic chance of us catching the division winner, so you might as well get as much as you can for the guys you can trade.

      • Andrew Faris Says:

        Thing is, the Dodgers pitching has been great, and their offense simply can’t be this bad all season. It can’t. Last year’s Giants are the best picture of this ever: average for a lot of the year, then they turned it on at the right time.

        You’re looking at a team with its best two relievers out, and possibly 4 of its best 5. The infield they signed has played 1 game together this season because of injury. It’s just way, way, way, way too early to punt. I say you give it at least until the all-star break.

        Andrew


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