R.J. Anderson looked at Ned Colletti‘s trade history over at Baseball Prospectus and wondered why Dodgers fans are so worried about him.
Colletti’s evaluation mistakes cost the Dodgers two middle-of-the-rotation starters, an All-Star catcher, and a good fourth outfielder at most. But what about the flip side? What about when Colletti correctly evaluated his own prospects? Silver wrote, “One of [Colletti's] strengths seems to be knowing when to bail on his own players.” In the time since, Colletti has reaffirmed that notion. Some of Colletti’s better trades have come when correctly identifying the lemons in his own bunch. He traded Bryan Morris and LaRoche to acquire Manny Ramirez (easily the best deal of his career), used the intrigue of Joel Guzman to land Julio Lugo (whom, for whatever reason, fell to pieces, mitigating an otherwise clever deal), grabbed Jon Garland for Tony Abreu, got Jim Thome for nothing, and added Ted Lilly and Ryan Theriot for Blake DeWitt and two prospects who were unable to make the Cubs’ top-20 list this preseason.
Tagging Colletti as a good or bad general manager adds no value. What can add value is breaking general managers down to tools and skills. Colletti seems to understand that future value is worth less than present value, particularly when his team has the ability to compete now and the resources to compete later. Proper evaluation is the engine in Colletti’s machine. That means the Dodgers have to continue to land potentially useful players and continue to evaluate and harvest the potentially overvalued prospects. Every once and a while, Colletti is going to miss on a player. It happens; even John Schuerholz, the master of farm system self-evaluation, lost a few times.
This isn’t to say that Dodgers fans should have blind faith in Colletti, just that cowering in fear seems to be equally as unreasonable.
Andrew Grant addressed the notion that Ned Colletti’s not that bad of a General Manager over at Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness.
Ned Colletti isn’t without his merits. He’s good at assembling a bullpen on the cheap and the Dodgers get more mileage out of their veteran utility guys than most teams, but these are minor things in the big picture. Colletti inherited a dream situation, the best farm system in baseball with a payroll in the upper echelons of the league and the more it has become his team, the worse it has gotten. If you compare Ned’s moves to Bobo the General Managing Chimp he looks great, but if you assume a base level of competence from your GM Ned falls massively. James Loney’s monthly home run doesn’t make him a good player, so all of Ned’s moves not failing miserably shouldn’t make him a good GM.
I was actually going to write something similar, including using the exact same links he used, but instead, I’ll just address the question of whether Dodgers fans are justified in worrying at the trading deadline.
Despite my derision of him as a General Manager, Ned Colletti has, in my estimation, specific strengths and weaknesses. He is terrible at major free agent signings, but fringe/average on the minor free agent deals. He’s good at trading away major league talent (usually guys that he signed, unfortunately) for useful minor leaguers. And as Andrew showed, he’s basically average at trading away minor league players, but it’s rare that he gets value in return for all that he trades away.
Coincidentally or not, his strengths all seem to derive from scouting and evaluation of minor league players (trading for minor leaguers/drafting minor leaguers/trading away minor leaguers). Such opinions were earlier justified in quantifiable form by The Hardball Times. Now I’m not saying that all the minor league strengths are due to Kim Ng/Logan White/De Jon Watson, but that is their job description, and two of those three were with the team before any of us were aware Colletti existed.
So with that established, I don’t understand how or why R.J. gives Colletti credit for getting present talent in return on trades as if that’s what happens all the time when Colletti deals away minor league players.
Looking at the trades he has made over the years, it’s a bit odd to use that angle. Manny Ramirez was a once-in-a-lifetime scenario in which the Red Sox had to dump a Hall Of Fame talent, even the most ardent fan of Ned Colletti would have to admit that, and that’s ignoring entirely the report that Frank McCourt was the one who made it happen because he wanted to sell tickets. Andre Ethier was Colletti’s shining moment, and despite what Nate Silver said, I loved the trade at the time. Again though, that’s clearly not a deadline deal where he acquires current talent in exchange for future talent. Quite the opposite actually, and it’s certainly not what Dodgers fans are worrying about here.
So why are they worried? Because essentially, he has lost an All-Star catcher (a good one, at worst), two middle-of-the-rotation guys, and an outfielder who would have definitely started for the Dodgers over the years in return for what? Greg Maddux and Casey Blake for two months? Neither of which vaulted the Dodgers to the next level in the present or future.
As such, I would say Dodgers fans are justified to be worried about Colletti at the deadline. That is, unless David Wright decides to push over a Mets employee, bad mouth the Mets in the press, and quit on the team or Bobby Abreu blows his top and becomes a clubhouse cancer, forcing a deal for a minor league prospect. Because while the odds are good that he’ll both get nothing that helps the team and give away nothing that matters, more often than not, when the players involved have mattered, he’s come out on the losing end.