Jul 31

Preparing for a Shane Victorino trade

To paraphrase Sally Field, you might not like Shane Victorino. You might really, really not like him. Perhaps because of the 2008 playoffs. (If you can’t get the clip above to work, click here.) Perhaps for another reason.

But other than providing Victorino no honeymoon if the Dodgers complete a trade for him, none of that is going to matter. If and when he does well for the Dodgers, you’re going to be happy. If and when he doesn’t, you weren’t going to be happy anyway.

As I commented yesterday at Dodger Thoughts, if Sal Maglie, Juan Marichal and Jeff Kent can become Dodgers, it’s hard to say a more insignificant rival like Victorino can’t.

Victorino, who was drafted by the Dodgers in 1999 before leaving the organization twice in rule 5 drafts – the second time to the Phillies in 2004 – is having his poorest season in five years, with a .324 on-base percentage and .401 slugging percentage for Philadelphia. The situation is parallel to the Dodgers’ acquisition of Hanley Ramirez – even if Victorino continues at that sub-par level, his total package still is a step up from what the Dodgers have been getting out of their current left fielders, unless you’re a big fan of the outfield defense of Jerry Hairston Jr., Elian Herrera and Bobby Abreu.

With his speed (24 steals in 28 attempts) and defense, consider Victorino as Tony Gwynn Jr. with a better bat. The upside for a player like Victorino, who OPSed .847 in 2011 and was at times considered a Most Valuable Player candidate, is gravy.

The problem is that Victorino, despite being a switch-hitter, has a huge platoon disadvantage against right-handed pitching, as Jack Moore notes at Fangraphs. His OPS vs. righties this year is .649, and he has never broken .800 while batting left-handed.  Again, the Dodgers have seen worse, but given how much more often there’s a right-handed pitcher on the mound, Victorino likely gives the Dodgers a new offensive weapon in fewer than half their remaining games. He’s more a replacement for Juan Rivera (and Gwynn) than for James Loney.

Victorino is earning $9.5 million this season and can become a free agent this fall.

The reported cost will be Dodger reliever Josh Lindblom and a prospect. Lindblom, though slumping lately, has been one of the Dodgers’ top relievers this year, and he’s someone I like coming out of the bullpen, though that’s an area that’s easier to solve than the outfield. In general, the Dodgers are moving to solve their tremendous organizational imbalance of pitching vs. position players, and so this move would have that going for it.

How much of a difference Victorino might make as a Dodger, I don’t know. I can certainly think of players I’d rather have. But like him or not, if the Dodgers get him, it’ll be time to root for him.

Update: Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports reports that the deal is done, with Victorino coming to Los Angeles in exchange for Lindblom and Ethan Martin, the 2008 first-round draft pick who misses bats but has long had control issues. Martin has allowed 89 hits and 61 walks in 118 innings for Double-A Chattanooga this year, but with 112 strikeouts.

Update 2: Dave Cameron of Fangraphs likes the trade a bit for the Dodgers.

Update 3: The Giants have countered. Hunter Pence, who has a .784 OPS for the Phillies this year, is headed to San Francisco.

Update 4: The trade is official, with the Dodgers also sending Philadelphia a player to be named later or cash. (Or Ralston Cash.)

Update 5: More on the trade from Jonah Keri of Grantland, Cliff Corcoran of SI.com and Carson Cistulli of Fangraphs.

Update 6: The Dodgers have designated LHP Michael Antonini for assignment to clear a spot on the 40-man roster.

Update 7: The Baseball Prospectus take on the trade.