After saying goodbye to J.D. Drew and losing out on the few good free agent hitters, the Dodgers just made a desperation move. ESPN says they are about to sign below-average center fielder Juan Pierre, and not just for a year while slugger Matt Kemp gets more minor league seasoning. They locked up center field for Pierre for five years, at $9 million per. His strengths are that he plays every game, doesn't strike out and runs fast, and with a .303 career average and 50 stolen bases a year he kind of resembles a lead-off hitter. But his on-base average of under .330 the last two seasons is not really good enough to help a contending team at the top of the lineup. Put another way, Kenny Lofton bettered Pierre in every rate stat last year — Pierre just plays more often. Of the Dodgers who finished last season with the team, Pierre bested only Wilson Betemit and Julio Lugo in on-base average. Remember how Angels fans fretted about Chone Figgins? He got on base more often than Pierre, who also brings no power to the discussion. Offensively, it's a downgrade from the combo of Lofton-Repko-Kemp and whoever else the Dodgers put out there last season. Pierre gives the Dodgers one of the weakest center fielder bats in either league.
OK, how about in the field? Well, he's got no arm, so he won't throw out runners or scare them into not taking the extra base. But he is fast enough to catch a lot of balls. Does he? Nothing special, either in the fielding stats or by reputation. There might be a reason that the Cubs castoff goes into his age 29 season with his fourth team. He's so close to replacement level that if his performance slips much, he becomes a liability in the lineup. But hey, he'll only be here through 2011.
For what it's worth, Dodgers GM Colletti says the deal is not done yet — but adds that Pierre is a good clubhouse presence. Some reactions:
Jon Weisman, Dodger Thoughts: "With one reported contract offer, the Dodger general manager validated the worst fears of anyone who suspected he was too enamored of pointless statistics - yes, statistics - to make sensible decisions....It is a depressing, disturbing allotment of resources."
Commenter Zak, Dodger Thoughts: "I shudder. This would easily be the worse Dodger contract since [Kevin] Brown."
Rich Lederer, The Baseball Analysts (before Pierre's name was linked to the Dodgers): "The bottom line is that Pierre is one of the most overrated players in the game."