After it was reported yesterday that the Dodgers had signed A.J Pollock to a four-year deal worth $55 million, it was immediately met with mixed reactions from Dodgers fans everywhere.
Are you happy that the Dodgers signed AJ Pollock?
— Dodgers Nation (@DodgersNation) January 24, 2019
Some hated it. Some liked it. But yeah, most hated it.
One of the biggest complaints from those that didn’t like the deal didn’t necessarily have anything to do with Pollock himself, but more of an overall disappointment with what the signing meant in regards to other moves. Other moves like getting Bryce Harper in a Dodgers uniform, which likely won’t happen now.
When the Dodgers traded away Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp last month, it was a tough pill to swallow for many fans. However, most would probably be fine with it if it meant bringing in the likes of Harper, who would certainly make the team better.
Signing A.J Pollock on the other hand, didn’t bring that same type of acceptance.
While Puig’s departure and Pollock’s arrival aren’t necessarily linked, there is a cause and effect with each move. If the Dodgers would have kept Puig, they could have still brought in Pollock, but it’s not very likely. So, it is reasonable to compare the two.
There are many aspects to consider with each move, like the Dodgers needing to unload Kemp’s contract and wanting to bring in additional prospects. All that aside though, and just looking at the players themselves, it’s a fair question to ask… Did the Dodgers make the right decision to part with Puig in favor of Pollock?
Offensively, both guys have put up similar numbers overall. Here are each player’s career stats.
Puig: .279/.353/.478, .831 OPS, 129 wRC+
Pollock: .281/.338/.467, .805 OPS, 113 wRC+
When it comes to career numbers, both players have a year and a half stretch where they really peaked. For Puig, it was his rookie year of 2013 when he took the league by storm, and the following season in 2014, when he put up a .863 OPS. For Pollock it was 2014 and 2015, the latter being when he slashed .315/.367/.498 with a .865 OPS.
Neither player has been able to replicate those numbers but both have been productive, posting an OPS north of .800 in the last two years.
While it may seem like a wash offensively, the one thing that Pollock does offer over Puig is his ability to hit left-handed pitching. Pollock has slashed .275/.327/.498 with a .825 OPS against lefties over his career while Puig posted a .250/.340/.417 line with a .757 OPS. Also, Puig’s reverse splits have gotten worst over the last couple of years, and it was to the point last year where he was platooned whenever the Dodgers faced a left-hander.
With such a heavy left-handed hitting lineup already, the Dodgers really needed a right-handed bat that could hit lefties consistently. While Pollock’s splits are modest, and not very extreme either way, he certainly offers a better option against southpaws then Puig did, and he should provide an everyday presence in the lineup.
On the defensive end, both players offer plus defense. Although Puig may have the edge in ability, with a cannon arm and great speed, Pollock may be the better fit for what the Dodgers currently need. He offers a true center fielder, which is something the Dodgers could use. Although Cody Bellinger, Alex Verdugo, Chris Taylor, and Kike Hernandez can all play there, center field isn’t the first position for any of them.
There are various other factors to consider when comparing the two players. At 28 years old, Puig is three years younger than Pollock. While both still figure to be in their prime years, Puig may be in them for a bit longer, and youth tends to be a good thing for professional athletes.
Pollock’s deal will pay him roughly $13 million a year, which is actually a pretty good bargain in terms of AAV. Puig will earn about $9.5 million this season, which will be his last year of arbitration. He will become a free agent at season’s end, and there’s no telling whether he’d sign with the Dodgers even if they wanted him to return. So, you could argue that trading him this year at least allowed the Dodgers to receive two quality prospects in return, whereas if he walked next year, they’d get nothing.
Probably the biggest concern for Pollock’s skeptics is his health. He’s missed significant time over the last three years, including the entire 2016 season with a broken elbow. The phrase “if healthy” is often applied to the end of any possible future projections for Pollock. “He can be really great next year… if healthy.”
While those health concerns are valid, it’s hard to say when you can slap the “injury prone” label on a player, or if they’ve simply been a victim of some bad luck. Additionally, it’s not as though Puig has been immune to the injury bug either. He’s spent a good portion of time on the disabled list over the last few years as well.
Everything considered, Pollock and Puig are pretty close in comparison. In fact, if you look up each player in Baseball Reference, you’ll find the other one listed on their page under “similar batters.”
Many will still be a little disgruntled over the loss of Puig in favor of Pollock’s addition, which is understandable. And feelings aside, you can legitimately make a valid argument that Puig might be the better player overall. But you can also make the argument that Pollock may be the better fit with the Dodgers. He checks a lot of boxes. He’s a right-handed bat that can hit lefties. He’s a true center-fielder, whose name you can throw in the lineup on an everyday basis. And he’ll also produced at a high level… “when healthy” of course.
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