On Tuesday evening with the Braves in town visiting the Dodgers, the two teams agreed upon a multi-player trade with the most notable (I use the word “notable” loosely here) players involved being infielder Juan Uribe going to the Braves and infielder Alberto Callaspo heading to the City of Angels. Ken Rosenthal is also reporting via Twitter that the Dodgers are going to acquire starting pitcher Eric Stults, relief pitcher Ian Thomas, and one more Minor Leaguer, and the Braves are also expected to get relief pitcher Chris Withrow.
So at first glance you see the “headline” of this trade being a swap of veteran infielders who both grew out of favor with their respected teams, and that it is really inconsequential for fantasy purposes since neither Uribe or Callaspo were setting the baseball world on fire anyway. However, there are two underlying impacts to the fantasy folk, with one being much more intriguing than the other. First, I will touch on the less exciting one.
With the Dodgers acquiring Stults, a pitcher who they originally drafted and was with the organization from 2006-09, it indicates that they are not all that comfortable with Carlos Frias and/or Mike Bolsinger in their rotation as they attempt to deal with a pitching staff marred by injuries with Brandon McCarthy and Hyun-Jin Ryu out for the season. In the article “Is Bolsinger a Bullsh**ter?” I alluded to the possibility of the Dodgers looking to the trade market for other options for their rotation and it appears they have done just that. With the way that Bolsinger has pitched so far, the Dodgers aren’t likely worried about him for the time being, but rather Frias is the guy who could be losing his rotation spot soon after seeing his ERA balloon to 5.34 in a painful beat down by the Padres. However, Bolsinger may not have too much leash to play with either as the new Dodgers brass is dead set on winning this year and we know that they have the money and wherewithal to go out and acquire whatever player that they see fit.
If Frias is bumped from the rotation in favor of Stults then he is safe to drop in most formats. Stults himself is also best left for the waiver wire as he is merely rotation depth as an innings eater. He’s had some good stretches in his career, but he is a pitch to contact, finesse lefty and is not going to get many strikeouts at all. On the season, Stults is currently 1-5 with a 5.85 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, and 31 K/13 BB in 47.2 IP.
The second point of impact with this trade is what this means for the Dodgers situation at third base. Uribe entered the season as the team’s starting third baseman due to his work on the defensive side of things, but it also didn’t hurt that he was coming off a 2014 campaign where he hit for a .311 AVG. Uribe started 19 of the team’s first 29 games this season, but was only able to hit for a .261 AVG with 1 HR and 6 RBI. The Dodgers had two much more explosive hitters that could play third base, so it was going to be interesting to see just how much and for how long manager Don Mattingly would continue to value Uribe’s glove work over infusing the lineup with another exciting bat.
May 10 marked the day that Uribe was finding himself riding the pine more often in favor of Justin Turner and Alex Guerrero. Since that day, Uribe has started 3 games at third base for the Dodgers, Turner 9 games, and Guerrero 5 games. So it would appear that Turner may have the leg up for playing time at third base going forward, but it is possible that Mattingly would prefer to keep Turner in more of a utility role where he has had great success. But even if so, Turner does figure to be in line for more starts with Uribe completely out of the picture, assuming Callaspo doesn’t steal a lot of starts away (but with Mattingly managing, there’s no guarantee).
On the season, Turner is slashing .287/.374/.529 with 5 HR and 18 RBI in 87 AB. That is a pretty productive stat line and very much in line with what he did last season in a similar role with the Dodgers. Turner didn’t always use to be this productive though, but when he was with the Mets in 2013, he got some helpful advice from Marlon Byrd of all people, and that really helped him to blossom into the hitter he is today (check out the advice from Byrd here, as presented by Eno Sarris of FanGraphs).
If you take Turner’s 2013-14 seasons and the work that he’s done so far this year through May 26, it amounts to approximately a full season’s worth of plate appearances for a regular starter and this is what the results are: .311/.371/.461 with 14 HR, 77 RBI, 71 R, and 7 SB in 575 AB. Um, yes, please.
Even though Guerrero has only started 5 games at third base since Uribe was relegated to a bench role, Guerrero also had 6 starts in left field in 9 of the games that Turner was manning the hot corner. So in actuality, Guerrero has been receiving more starts than Turner since the Uribe benching. Guerrero has been able to get that time in left field due to the injuries to Yasiel Puig and Carl Crawford in the Dodgers outfield. When it hasn’t been Guerrero in left field, Scott Van Slyke has been seeing a lot of time there. There’s no exact date for the returns of either Puig or Crawford, but when/if everyone is healthy, starting at-bats in the outfield may be hard to come by for Guerrero unless a trade is made. So for the rest of this season, third base might be the best chance for him to gain regular playing time, but I also wouldn’t rule out him getting semi-regular playing time in left field the rest of the season as well.
As it stands now, Guerrero has been extremely productive when given an opportunity and he is currently hitting .313/.348/.687 with 8 HR and 20 RBI in 83 AB. And this type of production from Guerrero would appear to be for real (though some regression is to be expected) as it closely mirrors what he did in AAA last season (.329/.364/.613 with 15 HR and 49 RBI in 243 AB).
So clearly, both Turner and Guerrero are good hitters in their own right and both deserve to be in a Major League lineup on an everyday basis. I will also point out that both of them appear among the league leaders in average distance on HR and fly balls. Turner is 5th with an average distance of 318.78 ft. and Guerrero is 8th at 316.22 ft. (Van Slyke is 3rd at 322.37 ft.). This is a great indicator that the power that they are showing is legitimate and is something that should be reflected in their HR total, ISO, and SLG.
So what do the Dodgers do? I am not sure how this playing situation for Turner and Guerrero is going to play out, especially when you throw Callaspo in the mix too as he is virtually a carbon copy of Uribe for all relevant intents and purposes here and Uribe was still seeing the occasional start. But it certainly is something that I will be monitoring very closely in the coming days. And for fantasy owners, it could be wise to pick up one or both of Turner and Guerrero where you can.
I would especially recommend picking up both of them (or trading for one of them if you already have one) to use as a fantasy platoon in leagues that allow for daily lineup changes (check out my article “Fantasy Baseball Strategy: Using Platoons to Your Advantage” for more details). Both Turner and Guerrero are right-handed hitters with no extreme splits in favor of facing lefties or righties. Although, Turner over the last few years has hit righties a little better and Guerrero in his first season is hitting lefties a little better. But because they play on the same team and I imagine at least one of them is going to be in the lineup on a regular basis, it would make a whole lot of sense to own both of them and start at 3B whichever player is in the starting lineup on any given day. Unless one of them is anointed the full-time starter over the other, they can be very valuable to own as a platoon package to deliver some healthy stats. Also adding to their value is the fact that each of them has multi-functionality (check out my article “Fantasy Baseball Strategy: Player Multi-Functionality” for more details). Both of them have (or will have) multi-position eligibility in various leagues, and can both be inserted into fantasy lineups on days that they are both listed on the Dodgers lineup card.
Let’s hope Mattingly does the right thing here and leaves Callaspo out of the picture to give us in the fantasy baseball community something to get excited about with Turner and/or Guerrero.
***UPDATE (5/27/15 @ 10:40 AM PST): I forgot to mention that the Dodgers have the recently signed player from Cuba, Hector Olivera, who they handed a 6-year/$62.5 million contract to. Olivera won’t be joining the big league club right away as he is sure to log some decent time in the Minors, but he could become an option for the Dodgers sometime after the All-Star break if he shows that he is ready. Olivera’s arrival would cloud this situation even more as he is capable of handling both second and third base. However, with so many other options to play third base, the Dodgers may just wait till next season to bring Olivera up to the Majors. I would still feel comfortable with a Turner/Guerrero fantasy platoon for now.