Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Why I'm Coming Around On Juan Pierre

I'm finally coming around on Juan Pierre, who is now an official member of the Los Angeles Dodgers after finalizing the five-year, $44M deal today. And it's not only because the Angels went out and signed Gary Mathews Jr. for the same length of time and $6M more in coin. I'm not an ESPN Insider, but it appears from the first couple of paragraphs (available free as a tease) that Keith Law hates the Angels' deal even more than the Dodgers' deal. Head-scratching deals abound in this free-agent market, and Pierre is at least not as expensive as Mathews (three years older than Pierre), so at very least he could be trade bait later.

But I'm getting okay with the Dodgers deal, and here's why: The little secret that Colletti must know is that the Dodgers have had great recent success with players that have two first names (Jeff Kent and Russell Martin come to mind). Given this, Juan Pierre should fit in nicely.

Just don't remind me of Milton Bradley. Or David Ross. Or Billy Ashley.


Orel said...

Or Jim Tracy?

Anonymous said...

Well, Joe Sheehan at BP isn't too keen on the Dodgers' recent moves:

"Over in the NL, the Dodgers made a similar mistake [referring to the Jays' signing Frank Thomas to that 2 year, $18MM deal] in bringing back Nomar Garciaparra for two years and $18.5 million. Garciaparra was popular with their fan base, but that was as much because he hit the ground running for them last spring as anything else. In the second half, Garciaparra was alternately unproductive and unavailable, consistent with his 2004-05 work, and that’s likely to continue as he plays out his ages 33 and 34 seasons.

What makes it worse is that by signing Garciaparra, the Dodgers have spent money without improving their team at all. Garciaparra will block either James Loney at first base or, as has been speculated, he will move to third base, a position he played poorly with the Cubs in 2005. If he slides over there, he'll block Wilson Betemit, who may be a better player than Garciaparra right now once you consider defense.

For $18.5 million, the Dodgers have chosen to block, and probably retard the development of at least one good young player, and they're not certain to get any more production than they would have by simply playing Loney and Betemit. Ned Colletti continues to value experience over talent, spending money just because he can and refusing to allow the fruits of the Dodger development program to be more than trade chits and insurance policies. The best move he made during the 2006 season was acquiring Betemit, and now he may be letting that value slip away.

Heck, the Garciaparra signing wasn't even the worst move Colletti made this month. This admittedly hasn't been confirmed, but the Dodgers are supposedly close to signing Juan Pierre for five years at $9 million per season. For $45 million, the Dodgers are bringing in a center fielder with less power, less OBP and a worse arm than the one they got on the cheap last year (Kenny Lofton). That's one neat trick.

Pierre isn't a terrible player, but this deal shows just how overrated he is because of his speed. His best assets are his speed and durability; the former allows him to be a good defensive center fielder and to rack up stolen bases, but not at a high enough success rate—under 75% for his career—to make that a major asset. He has played in every one of his team's games for four years running, which has value.

However, Pierre doesn’t do the most important thing that a leadoff hitter can do: get on base. He had .326 and .330 OBPs the last two years, brutal for a #1 hitter. By one measure, adjusted OPS, Pierre had the worst 200-hit season in baseball history last year. He walks a bit more than once a week and he has virtually no power; many of his extra-base hits are speed-based, not power-based. He's a leadoff hitter from the 1970s, and that kind of player loses value in the modern game, where outs are the coin of the realm. Pierre makes the Dodgers a bit better defensively, but gives that back at the plate. It's a running-in-place signing."

Orel said...

Exactly no one in the press has been keen on the Dodgers' recent moves. Even Inside the Dodgers, the Dodgers' front office blog, admits the Pierre deal "hasn't been lauded by many." The only thing keeping both signings from being a strikeout with the press and the fans is that Nomar is a fan favorite.

Orel said...

From Dodger Thoughts poster Bob Timmermann:

"Juan Pierre and Randy Wolf both have two first names.

"That is you think Wolf is a proper first name. Ask Mr. Blitzer."