It’s safe to say that nobody saw this coming.
When Tony Gwynn Jr. survived the arrival of Shane Victorino, it was tough to imagine a scenario in which he wouldn’t finish out the season (and his two-year contract) as a member of the Dodgers. In a surprising move on Monday morning, however, Gwynn was designated for assignment in favor of minor-leaguer Jerry Sands.
On the surface, the move is puzzling.
Gwynn is obviously well-liked in the clubhouse, he has played acceptably when called upon and is even 8/20 this season as a pinch hitter. In fact, he also seems to be a great fit as a late-inning defensive sub or pinch runner.
The problem with all that, however, is that none of that really fits into what the Dodgers really need.
Now that LA has amassed three everyday outfielders (for the first time all season) with good speed and defensive skills, having a fourth outfielder who can’t really hit doesn’t do them much good. In fact, Gwynn’s only major role at this point in the season would have only been as a pinch hitter.
In the month of July, Gwynn hit just .140 (7-for-50) and in June he was only percentage points better at .229 (19-for-83). Of those hits, only six of them were for extra bases.
As a pinch hitter, the Dodgers won’t be looking for singles necessarily. They need a guy who can put the ball in the outfield for a sac-fly when needed (which Gwynn can’t do), or they need a guy who has the potential to change the game with just one swing.
For all of these reasons and more, I was surprised it was Gwynn (and not Abreu) who survived the first cut.
In place of Gwynn, the Dodgers have called up the mercurial Jerry Sands, who hit just .200 in eight games with the Dodgers earlier this season. So the question remains, why make this move now?
Well, the answer is simple: Sands is mashing.
Since the All-Star break, Sands has been the best hitter in AAA, hitting .372 with nine home runs and 28 RBIs in just 23 games. So unlike Gwynn, the 24-year-old Sands brings a number of things to the table.
For one, Sands might have a future with the Dodgers.
As many people know, the Dodgers will be on the market for a third outfielder this season, and while it’s unlikely that Sands will do enough to dissuade them from pursuing a guy like Josh Hamilton, at least there’s a chance.
Secondly, Sands also has the potential to play first base for the Dodgers, a position that lets just say could use some offensive help on some nights.
So sure, the news of Gwynn’s departure was surprising. But ill-advised? Not exactly.