So with the Dodgers basically looking at everybody, and with the Carlos Lee trade falling through, the team has now revealed five teams that their scouts are watching intently as potential trading partners.
Dodgers scouts have an increased presence with Milwaukee, as well as continued coverage of the Chicago Cubs, Colorado, Philadelphia and Minnesota.
The players believed in their sights include Brewers sluggers Aramis Ramirez and Corey Hart; Cubs starting pitcher Ryan Dempster; Rockies outfielder Michael Cuddyer; and Phillies starting pitcher Cole Hamels. At the top of the club’s wish list are a productive corner infielder and a starting pitcher.
I thought the five players were intriguing options, so I decided to take a detailed look at all of them.
Aramis Ramirez – 3B – Brewers
Dodgers third basemen on the year have combined to go .245/.319/.340/.659, and that’s being kind because utility man Jerry Hairston Jr. has a .326/.380/.500/.880 line in 50 plate appearances there. Hairston operates best as a super utility guy though, so Ramirez would essentially be a Juan Uribe (.200/.259/.280/.539)/Adam Kennedy (.228/.319/.289/.608)replacement.
Ramirez has hit .263/.341/.471/.812 so far in 2012 and he projects to improve on that a bit at .274/.341/.484/.824. Uribe and Kennedy are about average defensively, while Ramirez is well below average, bordering on poor. There’s a five to ten run gap on defense that Ramirez will have to make up, and that he does. For the rest of 2012, Ramirez projects to be about 20-25 runs better offensively than the combination of men he’s replacing. If you buy into his splits, which for his career have him ~60 OPS points higher in the second half, the disparity could be even more significant. Also, despite being 34, his peripherals show little sign of decline.
Of course, there’s the problem of the contract that the team would be taking on. Making $6 million in 2012, $10 million in 2013, and $16 million in 2014 with a 2015 mutual option/$4 million buyout, the Dodgers would hypothetically be on the hook for about $32 million for 2.5 years of service.
A bit painful but perhaps not overly terrible for a 3-4 WAR player, even one due to regress because of age. Ramirez would basically have to be worth around 7 or 8 WAR to make it work, and he figures to be in the neighborhood of that figure. Furthermore, he plays third, and unlike the corner outfield positions, third basemen are a much rarer asset. This is particularly true for the Dodgers, who have a complete dearth of internal options. Now factor in that the free agent market might come down to Maicier Izturis, and Ramirez isn’t such a terrible shot to take.
For the Brewers part, the Dodgers will probably have to wait until the last minute. Milwaukee sits a mere seven games back of first right now, which may seem like a lot, but with two wild card spots this year and the Cardinals late charge in 2011 fresh in everybody’s memory, they’ll probably be taking this decision down to the wire. One winning streak and they may not end up selling off at all.
Corey Hart – RF – Brewers
Dodgers left fielders have hit .242/.300/.333/.632 on the year, which is amazingly bad. Hart would be a boon for the team, as he’s currently at .251/.313/.505/.818 and projects to hit .264/.327/.484/.811 the rest of the way. An average fielder, he would improve that area of the outfield as well, as they are basically stuck with Juan Rivera and Bobby Abreu as their primary options.
Hart is signed through 2013 and makes $9 million in 2012 and $10 million in 2013. His contract is more than reasonable for a 3-4 WAR player, and he’s a potential addition who could make upwards of a 25-35 run difference over the rest of the year (that’s being conservative, really).
Like Ramirez though, he may never become available, as the Brewers may never end up selling.
Ryan Dempster – RHP – Cubs
I already addressed his potential addition here, but his acquisition makes even more sense now with Ted Lilly being transferred to the 60-day DL, health unknown, as Dempster would be a huge improvement over Nate Eovaldi.
The Cubs are 14 games back and are shopping everybody, so he’ll be on the market.
Cole Hamels – LHP – Phillies
I like Hamels for the same reason I like Dempster, except he’s even better than Dempster and has a longer track record of excellence without the immediate injury history. He’s a consistent 3.5-4.5 WAR pitcher and a solid #1/#2 to slot behind Clayton Kershaw if the Dodgers can make the playoffs.
A 2.79 ERA/3.05 FIP/3.02 xFIP/3.03 SIERA in 2011 and a 3.08 ERA/3.28 FIP/3.24 xFIP/3.25 SIERA in 2012 basically says it all.
Hamels makes $15 million in 2012 and is slated to be a free agent, one that will probably be pursued by the Dodgers either way. The Phillies are 12 games back and should be sellers.
Michael Cuddyer – RF – Rockies
Like Hart, he would be replacing a terrible concoction of outfielders that the Dodgers have trotted out in left field. Like Hart, he’s a solid hitter. Putting up a .284/.346/.459/.805 line in 2011, he has dropped a bit to .260/.313/.480/.793 in 2012, but projects to finish at a .281/.338/.485/.823 clip. Unlike Hart, he’s a rather poor defender, and I do have concerns that Coors Field is playing insane again, yet he’s still down a bit. That concern is especially true because he’s 33.
As far as his contract goes, he makes $10.5 million in 2012, 2013, and 2014, with performance bonuses that could up it by $1.5 million in 2014. A reasonable deal for a 2.5-3.5 WAR player, but I think Hart is both the better overall player and the one with less risk.
The Rockies are 14 games back at the moment and surely would be willing to sell, even if it’s within the division.
Overall, all of the rumored players mentioned represent significant improvements to the team. Unlike Carlos Lee, they are likely to be difference makers for the Dodgers, thus making it understandable that they surrender assets for them. Whether the trades are workable or worth it obviously still depends on what the Dodgers give up and the finances involved, but if these are the types of players the team is pursuing, they definitely seem headed down the right road.