Oh my, those perplexing roster moves. I don’t envy Ned Colletti too much this year. With the boatload of injuries the Dodgers have had, maintaining an optimal 25 man roster has been a chess game of Fischer/Spassky-esque proportions. I don’t think I’m alone at thinking that our chess master could have handled the board much better.
We all have questioned Colletti’s moves. Virtually everyone commenting on the ThinkBlueLA forum has called for Yasiel Puig and/or Joc Pederson to be called up. But here we are in June and neither has arrived in Los Angeles*. As much as we want to see those kids in major league action, their exclusion from the big league club is less exasperating than a few moves that Colletti made earlier in the season:
The Kevin Gregg debacle
Gregg was lights out at Camelback Ranch and in the pre-season freeway series against the Angels. He never gave up a run this spring. His ERA was a perfect 0.00. He did everything the club asked of him. All he asked for in return was an invitation to the opening day roster. Gregg had a contractual clause that guaranteed he make the opening day roster or he’d be granted his unconditional release. So Colletti released him.
That opening day roster included Aaron Harang, a pitcher with no role on the team. He was a pitcher that could have been groomed for the bullpen during spring training, but wasn’t. Harang pitched awful in spring training and he had ample opportunity to prove that he still had starting caliber stuff. The Dodgers kept him anyway and within a week traded him for backup catcher who was out of baseball and on his way to retirement, Ramon Hernandez.
Gregg got snatched up by the Cubs who have successfully used him in the closer’s role. Gregg as of two days ago has six saves in six tries and a 0.63 ERA. Could the Dodgers lackluster bullpen have used him? You bet they could have, and let me add this. I’m pretty sure they’d be five or six games better in the standings had Gregg been available in some of those games that the bullpen lost.
The Justin Sellers Experiment
Sellers hustled his tail off. He’s a gritty player and one that gives it his all. But let’s face it, Justin doesn’t belong in the majors. While Sellers was hitting .191 with an awful OBP of .267, his defense at short had it’s bad moments too. The Dodgers were in a tough position with Hanley Ramirez being injured, but there were other shortstop options that may have brought more to the table.
In the end, they called Dee Gordon up for a time (option 1) and they have pretty much have settled with Nick Punto out there (option # 5 or 6). It just took a while to settle in with the best option there. I’m surprised with Uribe’s hitting that he hasn’t had some time at the shortstop position.
Scott Van Slyke – What took so long?
A player that the Dodger unceremoniously gave up on when he was removed from the 40-man roster in December, Van Slyke did nothing but work hard, improve his conditioning and then tear things up in Spring Training and at Triple A Albuquerque. It wasn’t until game number 33 on the season that the Dodger brass decided they couldn’t hold Van Slyke down in Albuquerque any longer where he was hitting .397, with a .503 on base percentage, 9 homers and 30 RBI (in 33 games of action). I think it’s safe to say that he’s currently the biggest power threat that the Dodgers have.
FedEx vs. Ramon Hernandez
It was a foregone conclusion that Tim Federowicz was going to be A.J. Ellis’ backup this year. He had a solid spring. He was working well with all the pitchers. Mattingly had publicly stated that A.J. Ellis would get more rest this year to protect his backstop in the season’s waning months. Everything looked fine and the plan was in place.
Out of no where came the Harang/Hernandez trade and suddenly Fedex was the Triple A catcher again. I don’t think any of us realized how much Hernandez had deteriorated as a defensive catcher. When he caught Ronald Belisario for the first time, he caught him like some batters hit him, with a lot of swings and misses. On top of that, Hernandez wasn’t doing much at the plate either.
Meanwhile, Federowicz in his limited action at Albuquerque was tearing things up. In 21 games at AAA ball, Fedex has 8 doubles and 8 homers. That was a .418 batting average in 96 plate appearances. I don’t know about you, but I’d think that some of those extra base hits could have come at the major league level and could have been used by the offense starved Dodger line up.
Fedex was called up and down three times, and each time, Hernandez stayed with the big club. Most impressive of Fedex’s performance has been his ability to continue to hit there while chalking up frequent flyer miles between major league cities and where ever Albuquerque was playing.
To Colletti’s credit, it must be mentioned that he snatched up the cather from the Boston organization for a promising outfielder (Trayvon Robinson), who has proved to be a bust. (Robinson is currently hitting .240 for Norfolk, AAA affiliate with the Orioles).
Mark Ellis Injury and DL Indecision
When Mark Ellis “strained” his quad muscle, it was hardly a strain apparently. But the Dodgers operated with a 24 man roster for nine days before deciding to place him on the DL and replace him with a tangible piece. Meanwhile, Adrian Gonzalez tweaked his neck, Carl Crawford had a tight hamstring, and there was another minor injury that I can’t remember. What it boiled down to was that the Dodgers went into an important series in San Francisco with only two bench players available.
It was short-sided thinking on Colletti’s part, and though he was probably following some guidance from the Dodger medical staff, it was absolutely stupid to go into that series at such a disadvantage. Each game was a Dodger loss by one run and things might have been different had Mattingly had a few more options on the bench.
If there’s any consolation from this situation, the Dodgers apparently learned their lesson quickly and when Kemp “strained” his hamstring this past week, they immediately put him on the DL and made a roster move. See, there’s a silver lining to everything.
Luis “Pop Up” Cruz
Cruz is still on the roster with a .115 batting average – enough said There are better options at Albuquerque: Castellanos, Herrera, Ryal, Gwynn – all of whom have MLB experience. Are the Dodgers so sold on having a Mexican player on the roster to appease that demographic? I really wonder if they cut a little more (in this case, a lot more) slack to a player like Cruz in an effort to reach that market of fans.
With that all being said, I really hope he’s able to turn things around because there is no nicer player on the roster.
So there you have it, a few perplexing roster moves this year that could have made a difference in the current Dodger’s standing in the National League. Believe me, there are more and I’m fairly certain that there will be more that leave us shaking our heads at out G.M.’s thinking. They’re seven and a half games out on June 2nd that could have been a lot closer had some different decision been made on the 25 man personnel front. I’m absolutely convinced of that.
The Dodgers optioned Matt Magill back to Triple-A Albuquerque immediately following his awful performance on Sunday afternoon against the Rockies and have recalled Yasiel Puig from Double-A Chattanooga. Puig is expected to start Monday night’s game in centerfield at Dodger Stadium against the Padres.