Where For Pierre?

One of the big stories down the stretch in 2008 involved the wide array of Dodgers outfielders and who would receive playing time. Having signed both Juan Pierre and Andruw Jones to very lucrative deals, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier soon emerged as true talents. Add in the acquisition of Manny Ramirez and the team featured five outfielders, three of whom deserved playing time and two of which who realistically did not but were being paid as if they did.

Jones has already mentioned a desire to be traded to a team on which his playing time would increase, and it seems Pierre is singing the same tune. The Mets were initially reported as having some interest, but Omar Minaya shot that rumor down. For any team to take on Pierre, the Dodgers would need to pay a large chunk of his remaining salary.

From 2001-04, Pierre was a decent player. He proved to be extremely durable, playing over 150 games and stealing 45+ bases in each season. He recorded 200+ hits in three of the four seasons, producing OBPs above .360 in the corresponding campaigns. His wOBA in those seasons: .353, .312, .335, .343. These translated to the following wRAA totals: 14.8, -7.4, 4.6, 8.1.

His fielding in these seasons made him even more valuable. As a centerfielder, Pierre’s UZR data from 2002-2004 pegged him as +17 runs, +15 runs, and +5 runs.

In 2005, Pierre’s wOBA dropped to .309 and his offense was worth -10 runs below average. His defense declined to +3 as well. The following season, his offense remained in the same vicinity at -8 runs. Playing in Wrigley Field for the Cubs, his defense improved to +20 runs while captaining the outfield.

In 2007, Pierre inked a 5-yr deal with the Dodgers, which made little sense given the top-tiered prospects in the farm system. Though he played 162 games once again, and slapped his way to 196 hits, Pierre remained around -9 runs below average offensively, and saw his UZR drop to +7. While +7 in centerfield is still very solid, Pierre’s offense concerned many.

Last year, the Dodgers decided not to play Pierre as often as he had previously played, and Juan partook in just 119 games. Overall, he produced a +0.7 UZR in limited centerfield action and a +0.3 in 84 leftfield games. His offense remained -8 runs below average. Essentially, Pierre had gone from a no-hit, good fielding player to a no-hit, average fielding player in 2008. While he may not have been a replacement player, persay, he tended to fit the definition with his lack of hitting ability and average defense.

Next season, we can project Pierre as a -10 run hitter and +5 run fielder. If he finds himself on another team, with plenty of playing time, an optimistic projection would peg him as worth +15 runs with adjustments for both position and value over replacement level. This is optimistic, though, and with limited playing time, his value could drop to anything from +5 to +10 runs. Even at 1.5 wins, his fair market value would not be worth more than $7.5 mil. Suffice it to say, his current contract will reward him with more than that fee.

If Manny Ramirez does not return to the lineup, Pierre will likely stay put, but if not, the Dodgers may end up paying a good portion of his salary to leave town. Without paying a high percentage of his salary, he simply is not an attractive option for other teams. At 31 years old, his already declining offense will continue to decline, meaning his defense will need to pick up the slack to keep him worthwhile.

He may still be a plus defender, but not the +20 fielder from a few years ago. Juan Pierre still has value, but not enough to merit his current salary or even earn him playing time on the team currently employing him.

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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Jeff J. Snider
13 years ago

Does UZR account for throwing arm? Because Pierre may have slightly above average range, but his arm is basically that of a right-handed third-grade girl attempting to throw left-handed. (Is that harsh?) And the most frustrating thing about his defense is that he’s one of the fastest guys in baseball, but his range is just barely above average. You just picture what he could do if he, ya know, knew how to read the bat off the ball.

I love that we have come so far with statistics that we can simultaneously reference his 200 hits every year while still pointing out the obvious: that he was merely decent.