Return on Investment – Risk vs. Reward

Many have posited (including me) that the depth the Dodgers have generated were critical in their march to 104 wins. I have also written that the depth needs to be pruned at times so that the organization will continue to grow by clearing the way for new prospects or ML 25 man roster help.  That is why I had no problem with sending Jharel Cotton, Grant Holmes, and Frankie Montas to the A’s for Rich Hill and Josh Reddick.  Hill remains a key component of the Dodgers rotation, something Cotton would not be and would instead probably be wasting away in the Dodger minor leagues.  Holmes still has potential, but he is probably two years away from joining the A’s rotation, and probably at the back end where the Dodgers have a surplus.  I am also just not convinced that Montas was healthy enough to hold on to.  He would be a formidable reliever if he was healthy, which is why I believe the A’s took a chance.  Just like most Dodger fans, I continue to wish these former Dodgers well, as long as they do not face the Dodgers.

 

In the business world, we continue to look for operational assets that we can exploit to create a better return than if the asset had remained unchanged. In baseball (sports in general), sometimes teams need to evaluate their depth to determine if one of their assets can be traded to generate a better return than what that player would generate if he were to remain with the team.  In the business world, we measure return based on income generated. In baseball, that investment is measured on wins.  Before the 2017 season, Dodger management recognized that they had a logjam of RHP but no perceived every day 2B either on the ML roster or in the immediate pipeline.  That is what prompted the Jose De Leon trade for Logan Forsythe.  While the return was not what we Dodger fans expected, it was certainly better than what JDL provided the Tampa Bay Rays in 2017.  The Dodgers were looking for a short term return, while the Rays were looking more long term. The Dodgers have just extended their investment for another year on Logan, while the Rays have a longer term to evaluate their return.

 

That was also the premise for the trade of a potential star in Willie Calhoun for a rental in Yu Darvish. The expected return was a legit #2 for a WS run.  Just like in the business world, not all projected returns come to fruition, and the Yu Darvish investment did not provide the Dodgers the return that they were looking for.  But the reasons for the investment were sound, and there was no clear path for Calhoun in the Dodgers lineup.  Decisions are made with the best information at the time.  Certainly at the time of the trade, the Dodgers would not have moved forward had they envisioned a complete collapse of Darvish in two WS games.  It was just a bad return on the investment.

 

Now comes 2018, and what should the Dodgers do? In the business world, we look for assets that are producing or are just about ready to produce, and they are not touched.  Who are those “Untouchables” with the Dodgers?  IMO, current Dodger untouchables include Clayton Kershaw, Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, Justin Turner, and Kenley Jansen.  Untouchable prospects for me include Walker Buehler, Will Smith, and Keibert Ruiz, with Mitchell White almost there.  From a prospect standpoint, pitching and catching prospects are probably the toughest to find, and when you find some that may be special, you hold on to them.  Before 2015, there were no catchers anywhere near or at the ML level.  Now the Dodgers have Grandal, Austin Barnes, Kyle Farmer, Smith, Ruiz, and Connor Wong.  There are also 3-4 others that could become serviceable backups in the future.

 

Where are the assets that might be turned for a better return? Catching for one.  Either Farmer is ready or it is time to move on.  I think the Dodgers like Farmer as a backup at least until Smith and Ruiz are ready, making Yasmani Grandal a prime candidate to be moved.  He is one year from FA, and Grandal is not that good that you would block Smith, Ruiz, and Wong with a long-term contract.  So the best return might be to trade for an area of need.  The FA catchers this year include Jonathan Lucroy, Alex Avila, and Wellington Castillo.  Grandal should be favorably compared to each of those FA, and would come at only one year with the option of extending if the fit is right, or waiting until their prospect is ready for promotion.  Orioles (Chance Sisco) and Indians (Francisco Mejia) have their long term catchers ready to go, but could use Grandal to mentor and be a “just in case” catcher for one year with a projected $7.7M investment for teams that believe they will contend.  Angels, A’s Blue Jays, Brewers, and Mets may also be interested.

 

Another area of strength is back end starting pitching and/or long relief. On the current roster these include, Ryu, Maeda, McCarthy, Stripling, Stewart, and reluctantly Kazmir.  Waiting to come on to the ML roster is Walker Buehler and Trevor Oaks.  White is a potential 2019 rotation add.  Do the Dodgers really need Stripling and Stewart with Oaks on the cusp, or can one be moved?  At $10M, McCarthy could help some contender as a #5 (NYY/Baltimore/Seattle).  Is Maeda more valuable as a starter or reliever for the Dodgers?  He is a longer term team control with a fair contract who might provide a better return on a trade, and at the same time be fair to Maeda to ensure that he can maximize his contract.

 

The Dodgers are getting a lot of mileage from their bevy of utility players…Chris Taylor, Kike’ Hernandez, Logan Forsythe, Charlie Culberson, and Tim Locastro. I include Taylor because he really is an infielder playing CF because he is a gifted athlete.  He could be an “untouchable” because he is the starting CF, could be the starting 2B, could be a more than adequate backup SS, and is long time team controlled. But do the Dodgers need all of them?

 

The Dodgers have multiple LH hitting LF…Joc Pederson, Andrew Toles, and Alex Verdugo. All three can play CF if necessary, but only one can play at a time.  This is also an area where the Dodgers will look to improve.  Can Alex Verdugo provide enough offense without the power to be a corner OF?  Defensively, he can play now.  Is Trayce Thompson ready to return, and is he more than a platoon RH hitting OF?  I think switch hitting Henry Ramos is a possibility as well for 2018.  Or is this an area for a potential trade or FA signing?

 

The Dodgers have multiple assets that may generate a better return than remaining in the organization. FAZ has done a good job of maximizing the return on these assets.  Not without some unsuccessful trades or FA signings, but overall they have done a remarkable job. I feel confident that they will again make moves that will benefit the 2018 ML season without gutting the farm system or over-extending the luxury tax.  I look forward to critically reviewing the roster moves FAZ makes, making my own recommendations, and commenting on others as they are presented.

Posted by Always Compete

This article has 10 Comments

  1. I started to post this to Vegas in the last thread :Grandal has worn out at the end of multiple seasons. He went Vegan last off-season and I know he expressed concern that he may have to start eating meat at some point to keep from wearing down. I’m not sure how that turned out for him. Ultimately, the offense was better with Barnes in it and whether or not he’s a great framer, there were too many pass balls by Grandal and I’m sure the Dodgers brass didn’t want to lose a playoff game because of a pass ball like the Dodgers did in 2013 when AJ let one go right between his legs.

    I’m not sure I would make Smith untouchable, but they might have to until Ruiz plays at a higher level. Then again Farmer is truly a poor man’s Barnes and Smith. Smith’s performance in the AFL is certainly helping his case. I hope it allows him to move to AAA so Ruiz can begin at AA, but that might be a bit ambitious. It is exciting to have so many good catchers coming up compared to a few years ago. I will disagree about Darvish. We all tend to forget that he had the best numbers of the playoffs. I hold the Dodgers coaching staff equally responsible for Darvish’s clunkers if the tipping of pitches is true considering there were rumors about it prior to the trade. The Dodgers make that trade every day of the week.

    I don’t believe in Trayce Thompson. I think he’s an athlete not a good baseball player. He gets bad reads and late breaks on fly balls and looks plain over matched at the plate. I know he was coming off a bad injury, but he looked so bad it is hard for me to think he’s coming back to anything special. Ramos? Meh, show me more. Diaz seems to be the OF that is really moving right now.

    1. Smith is an untouchable for me because of where the Dodgers were with catchers a couple of years back. I do not know whether Smith’s AFL numbers will translate into a more accomplished offensive performer, but I agree it is encouraging. IMO, the Dodgers do need to push the envelope with both Smith (AAA) and Ruiz (AA). They both have to play to determine if either or both are potential ML starting catchers. I am partial to Ruiz because his deficiencies (primarily his arm) can be remedied with experience and physical maturity.
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      The fate of Grandal rests in the perceived future of Kyle Farmer. Is he a competent catcher or a utility player? If management believes he can be a true backup catcher, Grandal will be moved while the Dodgers can get some return. They can save $7M+ in overall payroll as well. Grandal was a good mentor for Barnes (per Barnes). Barnes’ framing skills are now considerate upper echelon, and he is better at blocking balls in the dirt than Grandal. Barnes’ negative is his ability at throwing out potential base stealers. Grandal is a better choice than any of the three top catchers in FA, so is there a team that can benefit from his skill set that is willing to be a good trade partner? Would he be a good mentor for Chance Sisco or Francisco Mejia?
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      I am not advocating considering Trayce Thompson as an everyday OF. I am not convinced that he is a good platoon for the Dodgers in LF. But part of the roster build will be to determine what level of player TT is…the pre June 2016 or post June 2016. If pre June, then perhaps he can become a #5 OF for someone. If post June 2016, he is a prime candidate for DFA. I think Henry Ramos is a legit backup OF candidate who is a switch hitter. But my point here was that if there is a questionable hole in the Dodgers lineup, it is in LF. More than any position in the lineup, the LF better be an offensive run producing threat. Of the three primary candidates, Joc, Andrew Toles, and Alex Verdugo, I am not sure that any of them give the Dodgers what they need, a true run producer. One of them might. But to me this is an obvious area where outside talent might be a better solution. I know there is a lot of sentiment for Giancarlo Stanton on this site. I do not see FAZ trading assets to commit to that insane contract. Sure it might eventually pale in comparison to Harper and Machado, but I would not want either of those contracts either. If the Dodgers want to commit FA type $$$, they might be able to improve without assuming the Stanton contract. JD Martinez would be less of a financial albatross in dollars and years. Another option would be to sign Lorenzo Cain for CF and move CT3 to LF, or 2B and make Logan a utility player or trade potential. Bottom line is that this is an area where improvement is needed, and it may not be currently present in the Dodgers organization.
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      All that said, I would be very surprised to see the Dodgers sign any FA OF, and believe FAZ would rather see what Alex Verdugo can do. FAZ feels comfortable with Toles at least in a platoon role with Kike’. Joc becomes expendable, and his WS raises his value.

    1. Hawkeye

      I checked out both players stats, and they both had 18 DRS, and Puig had better overall numbers then Heyward, except for one stat.

      Corey won’t need a surgery.

      And Andrew Toles is healthy, and he is already hitting the ball, off a tee.

        1. Hawkeye

          I know that, but I just told you what I read.

          But I expected that to happen.

          But sometimes, they will give it to a player that has better offensive numbers, so I just don’t get Heyward getting the award, again.

          But after this post season, I am really tired of the top people in baseball, on the east coast, because they are so bias to the teams on the east coast, and most of them, hate the Dodgers!

  2. It’s true the Dodgers do have many assets and moving some to make the Dodgers a stronger team for 2018 is going to depend on what the FO thinks are the Dodgers needs. I have my ideas beginning with an RH power bat in left field that can fill the 5th spot in the lineup.

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