The Dodger roster shakeup began today with the team trading for Jimmy Rollins from the Phillies, and then sending Dee Gordon, Dan Haren, and Miguel Rojas to the Marlins for Andrew Heaney, Chris Hatcher, Enrique Hernandez, and Austin Barnes. The back-to-back moves represented the first major deals of the Andrew Friedman era.
Many Dodger fans might be confused by these deals. After all, Gordon had a breakout All-Star season while Haren is a recognizable name in a rotation that needs to be filled out. Rollins is viewed by many to be washed up. And most Dodger fans have probably never heard of Heaney, Hatcher, Hernandez, or Barnes.
But the Dodger faithful should give Friedman the benefit of the doubt here. First off, these moves will probably set in motion other transactions that are part of a bigger plan. And second, few GMs are better at recognizing talent than Friedman.
For years, I've written that the Dodgers need to do a better job of acquiring players before they become good. Instead, Ned Colletti consistently overpaid for older veterans whose best days were behind them.
Heaney is an up-and-coming pitcher who could occupy a low-cost rotation spot for years. It's better to bring someone like him in than to try and revive a guy like Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang, Ted Lilly, Josh Beckett, Ricky Nolasco, Vicente Padilla, or anyone else who has lost 8 MPH of velocity off their fastball.
Hatcher is a serviceable reliever who made $500,000 last year. He pitched better at that salary than expensive former closers Brian Wilson ($10 million), Brandon League ($7.5 million), and Chris Perez ($2.3 million).
Enrqiue (Kike) Hernandez is a nice utility player who adds much-needed youth and depth. And Austin Barnes gives them some organizational catching depth.
Jimmy Rollins is one of those recognizable names that I've criticized the Dodgers for acquiring in the past. But he serves as a useful bridge to Corey Seager. Rollins still plays above average defense, he's still good for almost thirty steals, and his hitting is still serviceable enough in an era when offense has declined. At 36, Rollins is admittedly not my first choice in MLB to play shortstop, but he did have the third-best WAR (Wins Above Replacement) in the NL at his position in 2014, ahead of Hanley Ramirez.
Gordon is a tough guy to give up, but his second base defense was actually below league average last season. He also doesn't have great plate discipline, as he walked just four times after the All-Star Break. Not great for a leadoff hitter. The Dodgers did need to find a spot for Cuban infielder Alex Guerrero, who Colletti signed to a $28 million deal that guaranteed him a MLB roster spot in 2015. Guerrero hit extremely well in AAA, and probably would have seen real playing this season if not for Miguel Olivo biting off his ear (literally). It's still not clear if second base is the right position for him though.
Dan Haren might be a pitcher that most baseball fans have heard of, but he's been shot for several years now. He's seemingly incapable of putting together more than a few quality starts in a row. The Dodgers still need to fill a rotation hole, but they can do better than a guy who is openly talking about retirement.
Andrew Friedman has an incredible track record of unearthing terrific young players before anyone knows who they are. His moves today brought much needed youth and depth to the organization. Only time will tell if these trades worked out, but I have complete confidence in Friedman.
UPDATE- 10 PM PST: Not long after this column was written, the Dodgers reportedly traded Heaney to the Angels for Howie Kendrick. So essentially, the Dodgers swapped Gordon for Kendrick, and then added some extra depth on top of it, while also letting go of a pitcher on his last legs.
Kendrick is quite an upgrade on Gordon. He's one of the best second basemen in baseball, and I've been a big fan of his for a while. He's strong defensively and he hits really well too.
The move still leaves questions about Alex Guerrero's role (third base maybe?), and now there's two gaping holes in the rotation after Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Hyun-Jin Ryu. There's obviously more work to be done, but this is a good step forward for the Dodgers.