December 15th, 2014

Winter Meetings-Reconstruction Zone (Dbacks and Dodgers)

Personnel from every aspect of baseball met last week at the Manchester Hyatt in beautiful San Diego.

The past two years at the Winter Meetings have been rather uneventful, to say the least. This year, the ground shook from the moment we arrived. It was exciting, eventful, invigorating and exhausting, all at the same time. Fans from every team waited and hoped to learn about every morsel of information about their club’s future.

In this several-part blog, I will recap my thoughts about the week that changed the landscape in the sport we all love. Dbacks and Dodgers today. Two more teams tomorrow.

The Diamondbacks entered the off-season with a very thin starting rotation. Their goal was to obtain reliable Major League quality pitchers and stock their farm system with able pitching depth. They accomplished that goal. And then some.

When the season begins in April, it will not be a surprise to see a rotation of Jeremy Hellickson (new) Josh Collmenter, Rubby De La Rosa (new) Allen Webster (new) and one from either Randall Delgado or Trevor Cahill take the mound until Patrick Corbin and/or Bronson Arroyo return healthy. Wade Miley is gone. He’ll take the ball in the new Red Sox rotation. I like both De La Rossa and Webster. I think they will offer the Dbacks quality starts. Both have upside remaining. Both are ready for the biggest stage IMO.

Webster’s fastball sits at 92-93, but he can hit 97. His changeup is a swing and miss offering and his second best pitch at 85mph. Also uses a slider. Gets sink on his pitches and that can be a blessing at Chase Field. I think he’s ready to break out.
De La Rossa: He’s teased front offices of both the Dodgers and Red Sox. A Tommy John operation interrupted his progress. Throws a mid-90’s fastball, a changeup and a slider. Not quite Tyson Ross, but he reminds me of the Padres rising star.

Robbie Ray is a lefty the club got in the deal that cost them Didi Gregorius. Based upon what I saw in the Fall League, I believe Ray needs more development time to work out control and command issues. He has the stuff, but he has to improve on repeating his delivery and getting ahead in counts. If he has a good spring, he may even be the 5th starter. But I don’t think he’s ready for that yet.

The Dbacks moved catcher Miguel Montero to the Cubs for pitchers Zack Godley (reliever) and Jeferson Mejia (starter). The transaction was more about moving $40mm off the payroll IMO. At a manager’s luncheon with Chip Hale at the Winter Meetings, Hale was asked about his starting catcher? His answer? Tuffy Goeswisch. Frankly, I don’t think the team’s starting catcher is currently on the roster. The overall first selection in the Rule 5 Draft was catcher Oscar Hernandez of the Rays organization. The Rays are weak behind the plate. Hmm. But Hernandez is a fine defensive catcher. He will have to remain with the club the entire season, be returned to Tampa Bay for $25,000 or a trade must be completed with the Rays to allow Hernandez to be sent out to the Minor Leagues. He will likely remain with the club. Another catcher is still out there for the Dbacks.

The other piece to the reconstruction project of the Dbacks is the acquisition of Yasmany Tomas, a cuban player reported to have outstanding power. I have not seen him play. I always reserve comment and judgment until I get to scout a player. Tomas is slated to play third base, allowing Mark Trumbo to remain in a corner outfield role. That means David Peralta, A J Pollock and Trumbo in the outfield. Chris Owings (if healthy) would play shortstop with Aaron Hill at second. And of course, Paul Goldschmidt returns from injury to play first.

The Dodgers blew the roof off the hotel with their non-stop activity beyond day one. The White Sox had dominated the meetings until Andrew Friedman and company stepped it up. They will now have Jimmy Rollins replacing Hanley Ramirez (Marlins) at shortstop. I think Rollins still has some petro in the tank. Maybe a half a tank’s worth. He can field better than Ramirez and he can still hit. He will be around until Corey Seager is ready for the job.

The rotation will likely be bolstered with the additions of Brandon McCarthy as a free agent and Joe Wieland from San Diego. McCarthy returned to using his wicked cutter after arriving in New York after a trade with the Yankees from the Dbacks. Wieland has always been a top pitching prospect. But he’s been injured with the Padres.
Wieland has had Tommy John surgery and has taken a bit of time to return to form. When he’s healthy, he sits in the low 90’s with his fastball and has an outstanding curve ball and a changeup in his repertoire. But he’s unproven for the 5 hole in the Dodgers rotation. My jury remains out on that one. I’m skeptical.

I’m not one that will criticize the trade of Dee Gordon to the Marlins. Yes, his speed is outstanding and game changing. But I don’t know if he can sustain an on-base percentage that releases the speed to steal bases. On the other side of the ledger, Howie Kendrick coming over from the Angels to play second is huge. He has a loud, line drive, middle of the field bat. He can drive in runs and score runs. I’ve always liked him and I think he will make up for the loss of Ramirez in the lineup.

The Dodgers had Andrew Heaney. Briefly. They moved him to the Angels for Kendrick. So what they have is a proven second baseman with a nice bat in exchange for an unproven and very top quality left handed starting pitcher. The deal was good for both Los Angeles teams.

That brings me to trading Matt Kemp to the Padres for catcher Yasmani Grandal, Zach Eflin and Wieland. And lots of millions of dollars. The deal may not even be official yet. But losing Kemp will hurt the Dodgers. It takes a huge bat out of the lineup. A bat that was showing signs of coming to life in the second half last season. If Kemp is healthy, he will be lacing the gaps at Petco with doubles. He’ll try to prove the Dodgers wrong. Joc Pederson, a very high upside rookie will be replacing Kemp in the outfield. But he isn’t Matt Kemp. At least not yet.

Are the Dodgers better? I don’t think so. I think they’ll miss Kemp. But I don’t think they are finished yet. They’ll get more pitching help. They added Joel Peralta and Juan Nicasio to the bullpen. But I have my doubts about the five spot in the rotation. And I hope McCarthy can stay healthy.

In my estimation, the Dbacks have improved because of Tomas. The pitching is yet to be seen. I do like the upside of Webster and possibly De La Rossa. I think Hellickson offers Major League experience, but I worry about his tendency to give up the long ball. Especially at Chase Field. And I think his slow pace is detrimental. I hope he can pick that up a bit in his new environment.

I think the Dodgers will try to improve at third base, on the mound and on the bench. There is more ground to shake in Los Angeles. The team we see now will not be the one the Dodgers field in April.

Come back tomorrow when I discuss the White Sox and the Marlins.

As always, thanks for reading my scouting profiles at MLBPipeline.com.

That’s it. I’m done.