You guys, I’m starting to get the sense that this new front office operates SLIGHTLY differently from the old one, huh?

After a few years of trying to build a fantasy baseball team in real life, the new Dodgers front office has continued their deconstruction Thursday morning, sending Matt Kemp to the Padres for catcher Yasmani Grandal and a pair of pitching prospects (one of whom is rumored to be the guy headed to Philadelphia for Jimmy Rollins).

In reality, I think this move further illustrates two shifts in thought from the previous regime…

First, as I mentioned above, it’s clear that Andrew Friedman isn’t a fan of fantasy sports played out at the major-league level. As a fan, it’s obviously more fun to root for one of the best hitting outfielders in the game while ignoring the fact that he’s an atrocious fielder, but as someone who wants to build a team to win, things are different.

Fans love stars, but this front office love a deep roster full of complete players — if nothing else, this move is proof of how the Genius Squad thinks a winner is built.

Yes, it would have been nice to have Matt Kemp in the middle of the lineup this year — no one is denying that — but, no, it wouldn’t have been fun to see A.J. Ellis and his .254 SLG getting 400 at-bats (not to mention his inability to frame pitches or be an above-average defender).

Losing Matt Kemp sucks, but upgrading at catcher is the exact opposite.

Here’s another way to think of it: would you rather have an elite-hitting, horrible fielding outfielder and a horrible hitting, horrible fielding catcher OR an above average hitting, average fielding outfielder and an above average hitting, above average fielding catcher?

While the second option is far from sexy, it’s very clear that the Genius Squad is pretty convinced option no. 2 is a runaway winner.

The drop from Kemp to Joc Pederson or Andre Ethier compared to the improvement in moving from Ellis to Grandal isn’t really comparable. The Dodgers had depth in the outfield and a massive hole behind the plate — using one to fix the other was a no-brainer.

That leads to the second shift with the new regime:

That stats that these guys care about go beyond the ones you probably care about.

Matt Kemp hit almost .290 last season with 25 HR and  89 RBI, good for an offensive WAR of 3.8 — which was the 48th best mark in the majors. In the same amount of time, however, Kemp accumulated a defensive WAR of -3.1 — which, well, was one of the worst marks in the entire league.

Now that we finally have statistics to judge someone’s defensive value (although they’re not perfect), it’s hard to ignore the elephant in the room with Kemp: his offensive value is almost cancelled out by his defensive woes — something Andrew Friedman was obviously aware of.

Last night at his midnight press conference, Friedman constantly referenced Howie Kendrick’s ability to “contribute on both sides of the ball” as a reason for his acquisition Wednesday. Safe to say the move for Grandal (in what was a massively depleted catching market) fits into the same mold.

In Grandal, the Dodgers are hoping they’ve acquired their catcher of the future (and present). At just 26, Grandal has played in just 216 games in the majors, but he hasn’t failed to impress — posting a career OPS of .763 (almost 100 points higher than what AJ Ellis posted last year) with 24 home runs.

Now, Grandal is far from an “elite” catcher right now, but some believe he could be headed in that direction — partly because of his defense. In 2014, Grandal was ranked as the No. 8 pitch framer in the majors. Ellis was No. 109 (who knew there were even that many catchers last season?).

What we need to realize with Grandal is that, while he isn’t the best in the world, the transition from “one of the worst in the league” to “league average” is a massive one. (In fact, with a WAR of 0, Ellis was the definition of “replacement-level” last season!).

Of course, all of this is ignoring two other major facts, namely that the Dodgers saved a boatload of money in this deal and that they’re probably not done. In fact, I better stop this article right here before Friedman goes and makes another move…

About The Author

Jeff Spiegel has been a staff contributor for DodgersNation.com since 2012. Jeff grew up in Oak Park, California before attending the University of Oregon. Follow Jeff on Twitter at @jeffspiegel.

29 Responses

  1. Carl

    So what was wrong with trading Carl Crawford. Hits reasonably well, has no arm, and has limited range. Lets look a little further back. Kemp will probably return to his former self prior to injuries. I’ll say it again. after following the Dodgers since 1958, this is one of the worst trades ever. I suppose you’ll be trading Kershaw next!

    Reply
    • Michael

      I didn’t see anything that he said that would allude to the idea that trading Crawford was a wrong? Where in the article did he make that case? But as you said,Crawford has no arm and limited range. Doubtful they could get what they got for Kemp or even close.
      The jury is out on this. If they win it all next year, this trade will be looked upon as genius. If the Dodgers get in the playoffs and fall short of the World Series, it will be a pretty neutral effect. If they don’t get in the playoffs at all (and especially if the Padres do!!) then it will be looked upon pretty harshly.

      Reply
      • Michael N. Norris

        hey bud……they got bupkis……a C who is a known steroid user and 2 guys who have never been in the majors……..you call that good? Grandal is not that good……..and he sure is not good for 25 Hr’s and close to 90 ribbies

      • dodgerking

        What they actually got was Grandal, Rollins, a prospect, and cash for Kemp. Because the prospects used in this trade are used to get Rollins.

      • Michael N. Norris

        Not yet….that trade is not finalized an no one knows who is going…

      • magikwyrkz4u

        Especially when people fail to mention he had the most passed balls and could hardly throw anybody out.

    • Kevin P. Smith

      Not to mention you have to have a trading partner. All outfielders minus Puig have been on the block. Nobody was calling on Crawford. If you don’t have anyone to trade with, you can’t make a trade. Saying the Dodgers made a mistake because Kemp will return to form is highly speculative. There’s just as much a chance he gets injured again and we have to deal with THAT Kemp. Where this trade ranks in the annals of baseball history, time will tell. Somehow though, I have a feeling the Dodgers will be just fine. Also, for the record, there is zero chance of a Kershaw trade. Period.

      Reply
  2. PismoBruce

    Crawford and Ethier would have to have been basically given away, paying most of their salaries and getting fodder in return. 3 days ago I thought a Kemp for Grandal+ trade was laughable. That is until I paid attention to the big picture. Trading Kemp filled the hole behind the plate, and helped fill the one at SS. Rollins was actually worth slightly more WAR than Hanley last year. It also opened the door for Joc, a true CF, and allowed Puig to go back to his natural position in right. Kendrick is a full 3 WAR better than Gordon, and excellent defensively as well. The 70 million saved on Kemp’s deal will go along way to pay the salary of Hamels, Shields, or somebody else. This team is better than it was yesterday, and they aren’t done. Viva Moneyball With Money.

    Reply
    • Taylor Rose

      Love it. “Viva Moneyball with Money” How true and wonderful is that 🙂 My only bummer is how Ellis is being brushed aside in this article, sure Grandal is a great addition and will probably play 7/8ths of the season if he stays healthy, AJ is a role player and deserves to be recognized for his professionalism which he exudes on the pitching staff. Is there a stat for professionalism? Also he gives hilarious interviews and is a feel good story that is great with the fans, oh and Clayton’s best buddy on the team. Wow that was a long winded response, sorry if your eyes are tired :/ GO DODGERS! and to clarify my response is directed partly at PismoBruce and obviously Jeff 🙂

      Reply
      • Austin Hendricks

        I like ellis. I’m glad we got to keep him. But an upgrade was in order.

      • Marc

        Let AJ be Kersh’s personal catcher, since they seem to have a good relationship going…Grandall can catch everybody else.

  3. Michael N. Norris

    fantasy baseball is for pussy’s who never played the game and have more time on their hands than a normal person….who gives a shit about fantasy…….

    Reply
    • DODGERS1955

      your right Norris you hit it right on the head.screw fantasy baseball.

      Reply
  4. Kenneth Gene Blanke

    The trades may mean one thing for the Dodgers . TEAM- No individuals , one voice. My hopes are better defense , timely hitting , better pitching from starters to the bullpen . The trades remind me of Whitey Herzog remaking the Cardinals after 1980 . Favorite stars were traded , new faces no one thought would work out . All of us will find out how it works . I do not believe the changes are done yet .

    Reply
      • Kenneth Gene Blanke

        I do not believe the changes are done yet . There are some out there , no one will ever think would happen . Don’t be shocked .

      • Chris

        Yeah but none of those trades are going to be for a right handed power bat. If anything they’ll shift the focus to pitchers now and trade away Pederson and someone else for Hamels.

  5. theHoundDawg

    A day after the first round of deals, the Dee Gordon trade, now that we have Howie Kendrick, does not look quite so bad, especially with the guy I think is a real sleeper and potential everyday catcher, Austin Barnes. BUT – the Kemp trade is an absolute disaster. Grandal is no upgrade and Kemp will be driving in major league runs long after Grandal is gone from the Dodgers. More on all this here: http://thehounddawgsportsblog.com/2014/12/11/dodgers-upheaval-day-two/

    Reply
  6. GeneralIssue Joe

    So translation, they are paying Ellis to keep Kershaw happy and to catch every 5 days.

    Reply
    • TK

      If Kershaw keeps pitching the way he has been with Ellis behind the plate, I have no problem with him being the back up. Trying to remember, I think Greg Maddox had a “personal” type catcher too…I know someone did…

      Reply
      • larryball

        Bob Gibson used Tim McCarver and so did Steve Carlton or was that Carlton Fiske and Luis Tiant?

  7. Manny

    There had to of been another way of getting what we needed and keeping Kemp?…He was the golden ticket, Friedman is trigger happy.

    Reply
  8. J Rosner

    i can’t believe how you are sugar coating losing kemp’s bat. firstly using ellis’ worst season as a template is 8unrealistic AJ was injured and had a bad season. that doesnt mean he will hit 190 again. 2nd our new “catcher of the future” had a 12% on throwing out would be base stealers. i wonder if that is much higher than 109th.
    we got these geniuses from small townsusa who are treatin LA like Tampa or oakland.
    BRING BACK MCCORT!!!

    Reply
    • Austin Hendricks

      Why would we ever bring back McCourt?! He was an absolutely terrible owner and it is a very very good thing that he is gone.

      Reply
  9. Chris

    I’m sorry, Grandal is not an above average catcher on either side of the plate. He’s a great pitch framer, but he had a negative fWAR last year and led the majors in passed balls playing in only 76 games. You know why he only caught 76 games? Because he has bad knees. He also only caught 11% of base stealers last year. Is this really the future catcher? One who mostly likely would have to be our DH in an AL park because they don’t want to put too much physical stress on him and a first baseman in a couple years because he doesn’t have the knees to catch anymore? Not only are these problems, but Grandal has already been associated with PEDs. You’re also expecting Joc to immediately become an above average hitter in the majors, which is expecting too much. Besides, Grandal will catch maybe 100 games, Grienke and Kershaw are tied to Ellis and won’t be pitching to anyone else. What the Dodgers did was trade Kemp for a major league average switch hitting catcher with injury problems, an inability to block balls in the dirt or even catch most of the time and Jimmy Rollins who we didn’t need in the first place because Everth Cabrera is a free agent and we have in house options. This trade will wind up going down with the Piazza trade, the Konerko trade, and the Pedro trade.

    Reply
    • Roger Miller

      I agree with the concerns about Grandal’s knees, Pederson’s readiness and even the idea that a 36 yr old Rollins could become a liability. All of this means a team that won the NL West could struggle to make the playoffs in 2015. However, I don’t think anyone should get carried away by how great the loss of Kemp is. At age 30, he is not young and particularly on defense, he doesn’t cover ground as well. Yes, he’s still a plus offensive player but 25 HR’s, 350-ish OBP are not monstrous #’s and don’t quite justify his $ 20 mil per yr salary particularly as he’s heading into his decline years. Getting $ 15 mil per of that off the books gives the team greater flexibility for the future. Of course, getting off a good portion of Crawford or Ethier’s albatross deals would have been much nicer but I’m sure Friedman and Zaidi tried in vain to find that team.
      Meantime, if Grandal puts up a year comparable to 2014 (when he was still recovering from an earlier surgery) he gets 2 wins over what the catching disaster was last year. Which goes a long way toward plugging whatever difference there will be in Kemp v. Pederson. By 2017, I would expect Pederson to be comparable to Kemp offensively and by 2018, he should be better. By 2018-2019 in fact, I suspect the Pads could be looking at Kemp as an albatross contract.

      Reply

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