Dodgers whiff on Harang trade

Today, the Dodgers traded starting pitcher Aaron Harang to the Colorado Rockies for backup catcher Ramon Hernandez. It's a deal that makes little sense, and is further evidence that Ned Colletti values recognizable names over actual production.

Yes, the Dodgers needed to trade Aaron Harang. The Dodgers didn't need to enter spring training with eight starting pitchers, but they chose to put themselves in that position with the offseason acquisitions of Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Harang is a perfectly good pitcher, capable of making 28-30 starts and posting a high-3 ERA. He could easily fit in the back-end of the rotation for at least a dozen MLB teams. But Harang isn't quite at the caliber of the Dodgers current starting five, and his lack of relief experience necessitated the trade.

The problem isn't that the Dodgers traded Harang, but it's what they received for him. The Dodgers sorely need to rebuild a farm system that is currently ranked 19th by Baseball America. They have major holes on the left side of their infield, where they made the perplexing decision to trust Luis Cruz at third base (he's yet to get a hit this season), and to go with a defensive liability in Hanley Ramirez at shortstop whose best hitting days are obviously behind him.

Trading Harang for even a mediocre prospect would have been a good trade in my view, and their willingness to take on some of his salary should have made a decent deal possible. Instead the Dodgers got a piece they didn't need in Ramon Hernandez.

Hernandez was one of the better hitting catchers in the 2000s, enjoying productive years with the A's, Padres, Orioles, and Reds. His defense has always been average, but he has reasonably good power for a catcher. However, Hernandez's play has been on the decline for the past few years, and it was fairly obvious that he was done after hitting .217 last season while playing 52 games for the Colorado Rockies, who play in a pretty good hitter's park. Hernandez was designated for assignment at the end of spring training, and his career appeared to be over at age 36.

Not only are the Dodgers giving a divisional foe a gift in Harang for complete damaged goods, but they're also sweetening the deal by giving the Rockies $4.25 million. Oh, and the Dodgers get to pick up Hernandez's $3.2 million salary.

The Dodgers didn't need a backup catcher, as they already had Tim Federowicz. Colletti took a ton of heat when he traded local product Trayvon Robinson for Federowicz two years ago, but he vigorously defended the deal. Given Robinson's lackluster production, it looked like Colletti might actually be vindicated, especially since Federwicz had a good year at Albuquerque last year. At age 25, he was certainly ready to be the Dodgers backup catcher, or at the very least he deserved a shot to play. I can't imagine he'd hit worse than the .217 average Hernandez boasted last year.

After making the trade today, Colletti said that Hernandez gave the Dodgers "invaluable veteran experience." Sure veteran experience is nice to have, but don't the Dodgers already have that from a dozen other players? Mark Ellis is a starter at age 36. Jerry Hairston gets plenty of playing time at age 37. AJ Ellis, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Andrew Ethier, Skip Schumaker, Juan Uribe, Nick Punto, and Josh Beckett are all over 30 years of age. In fact, the Dodgers are the second oldest team in the National League. How much more "invaluable veteran experience" do the Dodgers really need? I'd argue that they could use more youthful energy.

It's true that I wasn't on the phone with other GMs, and I don't know exactly what the market was like for Harang. But I find it hard to believe that a decent prospect or a third baseman couldn't have been acquired for him, especially with the Dodgers willing to take on salary.

Last September, I wrote that Colletti's career could be defined by his tenacious pursuit of recognizable names. Ramon Hernandez is a recognizable name, but his best days are obviously behind him. Failing to get good value in return for a useful asset in Harang is a big mistake.

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