OF Drama in LA… Again

Following the 2007 season, the Los Angeles Dodgers seemingly had their outfield in order. Juan Pierre had signed a 5-yr/$55 mil deal prior to the season and was not about to sit on the bench. Flanking him would be prospects Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. Ned Colletti then proceeded to sign Andruw Jones to a 2-yr/$36.2 mil contract, creating a logjam in the outfield and relegating someone to the bench in the process. With all of the money invested in Jones and Pierre, the odd man out had to come from Ethier and Kemp.

Jones produced a .234 wOBA and, despite a +3.7 UZR rating in centerfield, proving his worth to be -0.4 wins. He missed most of the season, opening up a spot for all three of Pierre, Ethier, and Kemp.

Manny Ramirez soon joined the team, once again creating a surplus of outfielders. Fans screamed for Pierre to sit on the bench and Ethier to receive plenty of playing time. Though Joe Torre did not immediately react to these please, he soon found it too difficult of a task to keep Ethier out of the lineup. Pierre became disgruntled, but Kemp and Ethier needed to play every day, and you do not acquire Manny Ramirez to sit on the bench.

Jones may have missed a good portion of the 2008 season, but he is still technically under contract. Pierre also has three more years remaining. Kemp and Ethier are pretty much guaranteed starting jobs next season, but who takes over the remaining outfield spot?

Manny Ramirez does not appear to be heading for as big a payday as he expected, meaning the initial 2-yr/$45 mil offer that the Dodgers withdrew may make the most sense. Should he re-sign with the Dodgers, Colletti will have the outfield that helped propel the team into the playoffs returning n tact. He will also have around $30 mil in outfielders sitting on the bench/not living up to their paycheck.

The most recent reports have Jones heading to the Mets. Unless the Dodgers are willing to take on a bad contract like the one belonging to Luis Castillo (of whom they have no interest), Colletti will have to pay the large majority of Jones’ salary. If Ramirez rejoins the team and Jones is dealt, then Juan Pierre may not be happy, but you could do much worse in the fourth outfielder department. The big issue there is that he will earn plenty of money to make contributions that do not necessarily merit that fee.

An even newer report has Adam Dunn talking to the Dodgers. I cannot imagine Colletti would sign both Dunn and Ramirez, meaning he will go for either one or the other. Both are all-hit/no-field corner outfielders. Their 2009 projections call for +3.5 wins for Manny and around +2.8 wins for Dunn. Dunn is several years younger than Ramirez and will cost less, as well. From an owner’s perspective, however, ManRam puts butts in the seats, and Dunn does not.

Regardless, Pierre could be very useful as a pinch-runner who stays in the game as a defensive replacement, occasionally garnering starts. For most Dodgers fans, it seems the ideal solution is to cut ties with both Pierre and Jones while bringing back Ramirez to play left-field. The Jones part of that solution may come to fruition very soon, but I would fully expect to see Pierre in Dodger-blue as a fourth outfielder come Spring Training 2009. Either way, Colletti definitely loves him some outfielders, as four are currently under contract already and two more have been heavily rumored to be signed.





Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.

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Jake Russ
Guest

Eric,

The one thing I think journalist/baseball people miss constantly in their columns is the concept of a sunk cost. And you may already understand this, as your other works have been great, but its point is missing in this particular post.

“With all of the money invested in Jones and Pierre, the odd man out had to come from Ethier and Kemp”

Why? I mean I realize the press/public would eat you up for paying a guy to sit. But that’s also why the press are writers and not baseball GMs. They don’t run your team. Baseball contracts at the Major league level are guaranteed. So once signed, no matter how much a guy plays he gets his base salary. His paycheck shouldn’t carry any weight in the decision on how much to play a guy. Only performance matters after players are signed. Jones’ and Pierre’s performances sitting. Letting a contract dictate playing time is ludicrous for a team trying to win.

“If Ramirez rejoins the team and Jones is dealt, then Juan Pierre may not be happy, but you could do much worse in the fourth outfielder department. The big issue there is that he will earn plenty of money to make contributions that do not necessarily merit that fee.”

Again, Pierre is making a lot of money. Granted. But the decision to pay him was made 2 years ago now. Roast him for signing the guy period. Don’t knock the wisdom of a GM who is on the hook for a big contract and some how realizes later that the player lacks skill and chooses not to play him, because the team would win more games if he sat. Try sending that message to your fan base: “We got these two young kids that, if we played them, we’d win the division. But since we’re paying a lot of money to two other guys that suck, we’re not going to play the kids. In all likelihood we’ll miss the playoffs. As your GM, I just wanted to come out and say that we’re going to continue to compound bad decisions with more bad decisions. That is all. Thank you.”

I’m certain that if you asked a Dodger fan would they want to make the playoffs, or see Juan Pierre play, they’d take the former. Even if it meant paying the guy the remaining $33m/3yrs to sit the bench.

Eric Seidman
Guest

I understand the concept of a sunk cost, but there are plenty of instances where GMs will “pressure” managers into playing the ones making the benjamins. This happens in baseball, BECAUSE contracts are guaranteed. I’m not saying it happens to every player or that players with poor contracts are forced to play all year, but you’re joking if you believe this never ever happns.

The first quote of mine you posted was not my take on the situation but what actually happened. With all of that money invested in Pierre/Jones, the team was not about to sit either of them right away, even though Kemp and Ethier should have received plenty of playing time.

The second quote you again took out of context, as I am not roasting Colletti for anything at all. I am simply saying that the big issue with keeping Pierre as a fourth outfielder is that he makes a lot of money. Not that it’s terrible to have him on the team. He is still a pretty solid fielder and a good baserunner.

If Colletti can unload Jones and keep Pierre as a poor investment but good fourth outfielder, great.

This post is not necessarily my opinion but rather what has actually happened. Fans wanted Ethier and Kemp in the lineup, and Torre stuck with Jones and Pierre for a while… there is no way to explain that other than they wanted to see for certain if their costs were sunk, or if their investments would rebound. If Jones had signed to a $5 mil/yr deal, he would have been benched after 3 weeks.