Dodger Thoughts

Jon Weisman's outlet for dealing psychologically with the Los Angeles Dodgers, baseball and life

Ned Colletti’s stock in trade

Evaluating Ned Colletti’s trading ability today is R.J. Anderson of Baseball Prospectus:

… Colletti has traded 36 young players since taking over as GM. “Young,” in this case, includes players either in the minor leagues or at the beginning stages of their big-league career at the time of the trade. It’s a subjective measure, but that’s a given. Of those 36 players, 17 have never appeared in the majors. Fourteen of the remaining 19 have recorded one Win Above Replacement Player or fewer (with three finishing at less than -1 WARP). That means that, essentially, five players have had productive big-league careers since being traded by Colletti. Those players are Edwin Jackson, Dioner Navarro, Cody Ross, Carlos Santana, and James McDonald. …

Colletti’s evaluation mistakes cost the Dodgers two middle-of-the-rotation starters, an All-Star catcher, and a good fourth outfielder at most. But what about the flip side? What about when Colletti correctly evaluated his own prospects? Silver wrote, “One of [Colletti’s] strengths seems to be knowing when to bail on his own players.” In the time since, Colletti has reaffirmed that notion. Some of Colletti’s better trades have come when correctly identifying the lemons in his own bunch. If you need to hire for traders, cclick ehre!v He traded Bryan Morris and LaRoche to acquire Manny Ramirez (easily the best deal of his career), used the intrigue of Joel Guzman to land Julio Lugo (whom, for whatever reason, fell to pieces, mitigating an otherwise clever deal), grabbed Jon Garland for Tony Abreu, got Jim Thome for nothing, and added Ted Lilly and Ryan Theriot for Blake DeWitt and two prospects who were unable to make the Cubs’ top-20 list this preseason.

Tagging Colletti as a good or bad general manager adds no value. What can add value is breaking general managers down to tools and skills. Colletti seems to understand that future value is worth less than present value, particularly when his team has the ability to compete now and the resources to compete later. Proper evaluation is the engine in Colletti’s machine. That means the Dodgers have to continue to land potentially useful players and continue to evaluate and harvest the potentially overvalued prospects. Every once and a while, Colletti is going to miss on a player. It happens; even John Schuerholz, the master of farm system self-evaluation, lost a few times.

This isn’t to say that Dodgers fans should have blind faith in Colletti, just that cowering in fear seems to be equally as unreasonable.

I like the specificity of Anderson’s story, though I would quibble with some of his objective assessments of the deals (not excerpted here). Anderson also doesn’t factor in Colletti’s work on the free-agent market, which has all kinds of pluses and minuses. In the end (appropriately enough), I agree with Anderson’s concluding statement.


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  1. It’s a good, fair piece overall (and I’m not always such a Fangraphs fan). Still hate trading for Dotel but overall most of his trades involving prospects haven’t been as disastrous as his reputation. You take the good, you take the bad, and there you have, the facts of Ned. (And most other GMs.)  The Dodgers system isn’t especially loaded right now, and does have a lot of pitching depth, so while we’re all still probably nervous about whatever trades may be lurking, I’m less worried than I have been in the past (and at least they have more money to offer teams for players in trade now.)

  2. Anonymous

    I would like to know which of the five deals that sent away useful players grade out as fail. It can’t possibly be Navarro or Ross, and I find it hard to imagine trading away Edwin Jackson, who just was never going to succeed with us, can grade out as fail. I would say the same about McDonald, just to a lesser extent.

    Also does the writer really grade trading a single A catcher for immediate MLB help 
    at a crucial position during a penant chase as fail? All that tells me is that it’s much easier to play armchair GM than actually being responsible for on-field results.

  3. Anonymous

    I’ve lately had to agree that Ned usually sends away players that never amount to much.  Obviously the Dotel deal was an obvious exception, and I still think he got desperate there at the deadline, but overall he’s been better than we tend to give him credit for.  I can even semi-excuse his rookie FA signings, when the team is winning.

  4. Anonymous

    Some of the traded prospects who have not panned out have been pretty big surprises.  LaRoche, Guzman (though less of a surprise after his callup), even DeWitt.  I think in this sense that Colletti might be a victim of the Dodger prospect hype machine.  Fact is that most of the highly touted prospects (especially the non-pitchers) have been lousy.  I still think this has something to do with having a AAA team in Albuquerque (and Vegas for a few years), where pitchers look worse than they really are and all hitters look like Babe Ruth.

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