In a move that may be vetoed in a dynasty league, the Dodgers and Marlins agreed to a 4 for 2 trade involving an All-Star second baseman who stole 64 bases along with an aging starting pitcher who has stated he will not pitch outside of California for 4 prospects. That prospect is prized left-handed starting pitcher Andrew Heaney. Heaney is presently ranked as the 18th overall prospect by MLB.com and the second best left-handed pitcher in the minors.
This tweet is true because there are many factors in play. While the Marlins get a spark plug at the top of their lineup who single-handedly stole more bases last year than the Marlins did as a franchise (64-58), they are giving up a good young pitcher who can impact the Dodger rotation this year.
With Jon Lester already getting $155 million from the Cubs and Max Scherzer hoping for a $200 million dollar offer, having a young arm like Heaney is a great chip to possess. Given the popularity of Dee Gordon in Los Angeles, this will be a tough trade initially for some of the fan base to accept, but most of the baseball community is already impressed by the Dodgers Andrew Friedman.
Not only is this an interesting baseball trade, but there are some fantasy ramifications that will come from it. I will start by looking at the impact that Dee Gordon may have in Miami. As I was researching this another twist occurred. I felt more and more like this:
Basically the Dodgers traded Dee Gordon for prospects, and flipped one of those prospects, Andrew Heaney, for Howie Kendrick and agreed in principle to sign Brandon McCarthy to bolster their staff and replace Dan Haren. I will do my best to fit all of this in, starting with the Marlins gamble on Gordon building upon his growth in 2014.
Dee Gordon flies South for the season
One of the most popular players in the Marlins franchise history has to be Juan Pierre. His speed and smile made him likeable. Since his departure, the Marlins franchise has struggled to develop or acquire a legitimate leadoff hitter. Sure, Emilio Bonifacio had 30 steals out of that spot in 2012, but fizzled out shortly after. There are going to be comparisons between Pierre and Gordon, not only for their speed, but the fact that Gordon plays the game the same way, hard and with a smile. One of the reasons for Gordon’s improved on base percentage last year is due to his diligence in learning how to bunt. Since being patient is not a forte of either player, being able to get on base by bunting is a must.
Juan Pierre had a bunt hit (BUH%) percentage of 34% over the course of his career. In 2013, Gordon was only successful getting on base 27.3% of the time via the bunt. In 2014 though, that rate jumped to 42.6%, raising not only his batting average but his OBP. Both speedsters were very impatient at the plate with Juan Pierre only walking 5.6% in his career and Gordon sitting presently at 5.2%. The difference lies in their strikeouts. Pierre owned a very low career whiff rate (5.8%) but Gordon strikes out nearly 3 times as much (16.5%).
What is encouraging is that even though Gordon strikes out much more, he did show some growth last year. The not so good news is that he only drew 4 walks in the season’s second half. Four. However, Gordon’s halves weren’t all that different on average. Warning signs do remain in regards to his OBP and slugging percentage:
Gordon’s career slash line is .272/.314/.345 over 329 games so regression should be expected in 2015. Not leaving the theme of the Pierre and Gordon comparison though, here are each of their respective age 26 seasons:
Dee Gordon 2014: 148 G, 92 R, 24 2B, 12 3B, 2 HR, 34 RBI, 64 SB, .289/.326/.378
Juan Pierre 2004: 162 G, 100 R, 22 2B, 12 3B, 3 HR, 49 RBI, 45 SB, .326/.374/.407
To try and project Gordon’s 2015 I looked at his Steamer projection and Juan Pierre’s 2005 season for historical comparison:
Dee Gordon 2015 Steamer: 136 G, 67 R, 3 HR, 40 RBI, 50 SB, .256/.307/.331
Juan Pierre 2005: 162 G, 19 2B, 13 3B, 2 HR, 47 RBI, 57 SB, .276/.326/.354
Without sounding like a debbie downer, Gordon should take a step back this year. His inflated BABIP from a season ago should come back to earth, hurting his batting average. He’ll lose a little luster, but if he hits leadoff or between Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton, he should still be an appealing commodity for fantasy owners. The reason Miami wanted Gordon was to add an additional element (that of speed) to their lineup. Trading 4 young prospects for Dee Gordon and Dan Haren tells us that the speedster will be a fixture at the top of the Miami order on Opening Day.
As for Haren, there have been reports that he would retire if he didn’t have the chance to pitch for a team in California. If that’s really the case, maybe Miami flips him to another club in the near future. If they don’t, there’s a chance that he walks away, leaving 10 million bucks on the table.
Andrew Heaney to the Angels?
In an era of dominant pitching, teams are jumping at the thought of being able to land a top left-handed pitching prospect. The Dodgers essentially traded Dee Gordon for Andrew Heaney, Chris Hatcher, Kike Hernandez and Austin Barnes. Like the White Sox adding Jeff Samardzija for Marcus Semien, LA is trading from a position of strength. However, the Dodgers intent was not to use Heaney, but to trade him to the Angels for veteran second baseman Howie Kendrick.
Starting with Heaney, the Angels have gained a 23-year old Major League ready lefty with a 3-pitch arsenal as described by Eno Sarris of Fangraphs above. Heaney throws a fastball in the low 90’s that can touch 95 along with a plus slider and good changeup. Here are his number from 2014:
Andrew Heaney Minors (2 Levels): 9 W, 137.1 IP, 143/36 K/BB, 3.28 ERA, 1.14 WHIP
Andrew Heaney Miami: 3 L, 29.1 IP, 20/7 K/BB, 5.83 ERA, 1.33 WHIP
There may be some growing pains but I think he has sleeper potential for fantasy teams in the late rounds. Take note in deepe mixed and AL-only leagues.
Dodgers retool and add Kendrick
Before we could publish a column detailing the trade between the Dodgers and Marlins, a wrinkle was added. The Dodgers flipped Andrew Heany to the cross-town Angels for Kendrick. Heaney was traded twice within 8 hours to two teams in the same city.
What does this do for Howie Kendrick’s fantasy value? Depending on where he hits in the lineup it can certainly have a positive impact. Kendrick finished the 2014 campaign as the #8 ranked second baseman on ESPN’s Player Rater. In fact, he was a top 75 overall fake player. Fantasy owners have finally given up on hopes that Kendrick will ever win a batting title, but he has settled in quite nicely as a consistent option at second base. I averaged out his last 3 years. Here’s what you get:
Howie Kendrick 3 Year Avg: 142 G, 66 R, 9 HR, 65 RBI, 11 SB, .292/.336/.410
Not spectacular by any means, but slow and steady wins the race. His boost in RBI last season can be attributed to his spot in the Angel batting order. Kendrick hit cleanup 39 times and fifth 57 times. An improved Angel offense helped him tie a career high with 75 RBI while coming close to a career best with 85 runs. Adding another veteran presence just seems to signal that the Dodgers are going all in on 2015. As for Kendrick’s fantasy outlook, much will depend on where he hits in the lineup. But if you are paying for 10-12 home runs and 10-12 steals with his career slash line, you will not be disappointed.
In an effort to beef up their bullpen, the Dodgers also acquired relief pitcher Chris Hatcher. He’s already 29 but had a solid season with the Marlins in 2014. He actually threw five different pitches last year using a 96 MPH fastball, 88 MPH split-finger fastball, a 91 MPH cutter, 95 MPH sinker and an 87 MPH slider. 9 of the 10 home runs he gave up in 2014 were against his fastball so it could be savvy of the Dodgers to encourage him to throw more sinkers along with his split-finger and slider. Opponents only hit .205 against his sinker, .208 versus his split and .250 off the slider. The best part of Hatcher is that he throws strikes and in 2014 had a K/9 of 9.6.
One of the trademarks of the Tampa Bay Rays under Friedman’s guidance was the presence of players with versatility. This speaks to the other two players to come to Los Angeles in this deal. Austin Barnes played second base and catcher in AA last year and has caught scout’s eyes:
What is in his bat was impressive 2014 across two levels. Even though he bounced around the diamond, he was able to stay consistent at the plate and made strides as a catcher. Here are his statistics from last year:
Austin Barnes (2 Levels): 122 G, 80 R, 13 HR, 57 RBI, 11 SB, .304/.398/.472
The last player to come over in the trade is Enrique (Kike) Hernandez who split time between the Astros and Marlins last year. He appeared in the outfield, second base and shortstop in games. Are you seeing a theme here? A big league ready arm, a bullpen piece and two versatile players that could contribute at the Major League level at various positions for a speedy second baseman and a near-retired pitcher. As for Hernandez, his numbers are intriguing from the minors last year as a 22-year old utility player:
Kike Hernandez Minors AAA: 98 G, 58 R, 11 HR, 42 RBI, 6 SB, .319/.372/.484
Kike Hernandez Majors 2 Teams: 42 G, 13 R, 3 HR, 14 RBI, .248/.321/.421
Again, with the emergence of Alex Guerrero in the minors last year, I think that Hernandez was targeted to be a utility player for the Dodgers. Jimmy Rollins gives Corey Seager a year to develop and only costs the Dodgers two minor league arms and some money. With Dee Gordon out of the picture, I am most intrigued by Guerrero and his power potential at third base:
Alex Guerrero Minors 2014: 77 G, 47 R, 17 HR, 57 RBI, 4 SB, .333/.373/.621
Even though he lost developmental time due to losing part of his ear in an awkward dugout altercation with Miguel Olivo, it appears that second base is Guerrero’s job to lose this spring. Look at that glorious .994 OPS! What happens next with the Dodgers is going to be interesting but if I were a Giants fan, I would be nervous about what the Dodgers are building for in 2015.
Statistical credits: Baseball-Reference.com, Fangraphs.com, BrooksBaseball.net, MiLB.com, MLB.com
Photo cred: http://goo.gl/Hu6D7w (Gordon), http://goo.gl/jllWoX (Heaney)
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Greg Jewett is The Sports Script’s senior fantasy baseball writer. Follow him on Twitter @gjewett9!