Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
The 2014 Dodgers bench will surely be fascinating, the starting 9 looks solid, the rotation looks really nice, the bullpen is set, but that damn bench. Right now as it stands it reads:
Andre Ethier (CF/LF)
Scott Van Slyke (1B/RF)
Dee Gordon (2b/CF/LF)
Tim Federowicz (C)
Brendan Harris (SS/3b)
I’m completely fine with the bench up until Harris. Sure he’s only one player, but the 2014 Dodgers are looking at giving Brendan Harris AT LEAST 250 PA’s possibly more depending on how well Hanley Ramirez‘s body wants to cooperate. This distresses me. And unless you have a particular affinity for Michael Young playing both SS and 3b or Yuniesky Betancourt (also known as Your Worst Nightmare) doing the same, something is going to have to change. Either Andre Ethier gets traded which would probably not be ideal, or SVS doesn’t head with the Dodgers to Sydney on the 25 man roster. I of course would rather have Ethier’s newfound positional flexibility, on base skills, and his Ethierness. Lets assume this happens, they stash SVS in AAA, someone is going to have to backup 1b/3b. At this point I would not mind much if it’s Michael Young. Let it be known that I don’t particularly like Young, he’s a product of the “old guard” taking a stand against Sabermetrics. He’s the perfect player for the traditionalists to like, gritty, a “gamer”, plays multiple positions, and is a career .300 hitter. And while a lot of heat was thrown at Ned Colletti for this pickup when it happened, I can’t say I’d hate too much if he were brought back. Take a look at the MLB free agents right now and try to find a player that can play 3b and also provide a “league average bat”, this means a bat of 100 wRC+. The only player that was able to compile a 100 wRC+ on that list was Michael Young. All the glove first options are terrible, all the “bat first” options are equally as bad (we all know Jeff Baker isn’t happening). I could see a good argument for Justin Turner as well, I like Turner, I would not mind it in the least if he were brought in, he’s better than Young defensively (which isn’t saying much) but I can’t say with much certainty that he’s better than Young offensively. Young is the closest thing to a decent bench bat there. Listen, the fact that Michael Young is among the short list of bench bats the Dodgers should have is distressing, but it’s where the team is at and looking at it objectively, it may not be the worst thing for a reunion to occur.
Now of course Ethier will probably be traded which would open up a spot for both SVS and Dee, but again even in that scenario someone is going to have to play SS and potentially LF.
Looking further along, even if you get a decent bench bat, Brendan Harris is still probably going to get 200+ AB’s even in the most optimistic of scenarios, Michael Young doesn’t fix the SS problem. This is where things start to suck, I would have loved Munenori Kawasaki (just signed a MINOR LEAGUE DEAL with the Blue Jays), he walked at a 11.1% rate, could defend decently, and was just a joy to have around. Alexi Casilla (who isn’t very good at defending SS anyway) hasn’t played SS regularly at all, his career high was 306.2 in 2011. Take a look at the free agents, and you come up with 2 names who have slugged over .300 this past season. Nick Green who did that in 65 PA’s, and Jayson Nix in Yankee Stadium. Y0u better hope for something via the trade, but of course the prospects going the other way in a potential trade would be pretty distressing in and of itself. Everything on the SS front is awful, and I know you can’t expect every bench player to have a good bat, but a player who is likely going to play a huge part on a contending team backing up an injury prone star should be able to handle themselves with the bat even enough to slug .300 and get on base at a rate of .300 at least. Nick Punto was perfect last season, and while it’d be a bit unfair to expect him to replicate what he did, I definitely see what they mean now when people said “it’d be hard to replace Punto”. Looking at it right now, maybe we are lucky we have Harris but probably not, it should make for an interesting 5 weeks till pitchers and catchers report.