Thursday, May 28, 2009

Riddle Me This

... let's suppose your best hitter goes down for whatever reason. Let's say he is your power hitting left fielder in this example. While he is unavailable to play, his backup, the teams fourth outfielder plays in his place and does extremely well. He becomes one of your teams most productive hitters and one of the reasons why your team is continuing to win. Then after... let's call it 50 games, your best hitter comes back. What do you do? Let's say your fourth outfielder really can only play left field because he has a poor throwing arm, but could probably sub in CF for a game or two a month. Then what? If you were in the managers shoes, what would you do? The options are plenty, some obviously better than others. But you want to make sure you give your team the best chance of winning. Well, for namesakes let's call this situation "The Juan Pierre Conundrum" and take a look at what some of the options are. And yes, the joke is over I am talking about Juan Pierre and the situation the Dodgers could very well find themselves in a month from now.

Option I: Platoon Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Juan Pierre, giving each of them equal amounts of playing time.
Pros: Juan Pierre's hot bat remains in the lineup two out of every three games.
Cons: Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier are better offensively and defensively than Juan Pierre and this weakens your team.

Option II: Platoon Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Juan Pierre, but only giving Juan Pierre one and on some occasions two starts per week.
Pros: Your fielding your best players most of the time, Juan Pierre still gets some playing time, and your starting three outfielders will need some rest anyways.
Cons: Sticking a hot bat on the bench and recently Juan Pierre's trade value has risen and he could possibly fetch you some depth at a different position.

Option III: Trade Pierre for pitching depth.
Pros: The Dodgers could use another strong arm out of the bullpen or 4th starter level pitcher. Juan is replaceable with what the Dodgers have in the minors (X.Paul, J.Hoffman, J.Repko). Plus if the Dodgers could get a favorable trade, they could sell high on Pierre and dump some of the salary he is sucking from this team.
Cons: It's all about depth. You never know if/when an outfielder will get hurt or suspended again. Pierre is too valuable as a backup outfielder to get rid of.

Option IV: Move Andre Ethier to first base.
Pros: Gets Juan Pierre more at-bats and moves either Ethier or Loney to the bench until they start hitting.
Cons:Can Ethier even play first base? You would have to LH firstbasemen, not an ideal platoon situation. You would have a downgrade defensively, as Pierre would then move to CF, knocking Matt Kemp over to RF.

Option V: Juan Pierre goes back to his old role of 4th outfielder, makes a few spot starts and provides insurance should one of the starting outfielders gets hurt.
Pros: Most likely to be putting your best team on the field both offensively and defensively. Plus it's always nice to have a fourth outfielder who has been putting up all-star numbers this year.
Cons: A player who has been putting up all-star numbers is now relegated to the bench. Passing by a golden opportunity to trade Juan Pierre and his huge anchor of a contract.

Well, these are the options I came up with off the top of my head, I am sure there are more options and even slight variations of the ones I've mentioned. Please feel free to leave some other options in the comments section, or chime in on what you would do if you were the manager or GM.

Some of the themes in the options listed above are the importance of playing your best players, as well as resting them appropriately so they can continue to be your best players. Depth, and how important it is to have players who can fill in adequately should someone get hurt or in the Dodgers case suspended is something the Dodgers are currently benefiting from. Why throw that out the window? Then you have the 500lb gorilla, Juan Pierre's contract, which has been a burden to the Dodgers. A Juan Pierre who puts up all-star type numbers should have some trade value now. Perhaps not alot, but certainly much more than he had to start the season with. You may never get another chance to sell this high on Juan Pierre. There is some risk as well as reward to any path the Dodgers choose to take. Obviously, this could all become moot, if the clock strikes twelve on Juan Pierre's hot start to the season and he turns back into the pumpkin he has been the previous two years for the Dodgers. Remember, this is a player with a .434 BABIP and a career BABIP of .320. The bubble will eventually burst, the question is will it slowly seep or explode into a sea of ground ball outs.

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