Los Angeles Dodgers Create Offensive Dynasty with Kemp-Ethier-Hanley-Gonzalez
In addition to Gonzalez, the Los Angeles received RHP Josh Beckett, LF Carl Crawford and 3B Nick Punto, in exchange for 1B James Loney, OF Jerry Sands, RHP Rubby De La Rosa and minor league prospects Allen Webster (RHP) and infielder Ivan DeJesus Jr.
Los Angeles expressed interest in Gonzalez prior to the July 31 trade deadline, but those talks apparently never went very far. Even when the Dodgers were awarded a waiver claim on Gonzalez early on Friday, the odds of a trade with Boston seemed unlikely.
That all changed once Los Angeles was also awarded a waiver claim on RHP Josh Beckett.
Now, a trade that seemed unimaginable at first transforms the Dodgers from one of the National League's most offensively-challenged lineups, to the envy of the entire league.
But Los Angeles isn't just making a hard push for postseason glory in 2012. Adding Gonzalez to a lineup that already includes All-Stars Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier and former three-time All-Star Hanley Ramirez gives the Dodgers a murderer's row that will dominate National League pitching for the foreseeable future.
Here are five reasons why a core of Kemp, Ethier, Gonzalez and Ramirez will make the Dodgers lineup great for years to come.
These Four Aren't Leaving Los Angeles Anytime Soon
Adrian Gonzalez gives the Los Angeles Dodgers a quartet of All-Star-caliber hitters that are all under contract through at least the 2014 season.
If Hanley Ramirez continues to hit like this—a .308 average, five home runs, 29 runs batted in, and 17 runs scored in 27 games with Los Angeles—the Dodgers would be happy to extend his stay beyond the next two seasons. The 2009 NL MVP runner-up doesn't turn 31 until well after the 2014 season ends (December 23 if you must know).
Gonzalez is only in the second year of a seven-year, $154 million contract that he signed prior to joining the Red Sox in 2011. That will keep him in Los Angeles through the 2017 season.
Andre Ethier's five-year, $85 million contract extension that he agreed to in June will keep him in Dodger blue through 2017 as well. And Matt Kemp will be in Los Angeles until he's old and grey after his eight-year, $160 million extension kicks in next season.
Age Ain't Nothing but a Number
The Los Angeles Dodgers not only have the luxury of having Kemp, Ethier, Ramirez and Gonzalez locked up for at least the next two years, but they also have time on their side. Ethier, at 31 years old, is the old man of the three, with Ramirez (28) and Kemp (27) not yet 30.
Adrian Gonzalez, who turned 30 in May, fits in nicely with the trio in Los Angeles.
All four players are in the middle of, or are just now approaching, their peak years as Major League Baseball players. While estimates vary, noted baseball statistician Bill James (Looking for the Prime) places a major leaguer's peak years between the ages of 28 and 32.
If James' estimates are right—and when is Bill James ever wrong about baseball statistics?—the Dodgers have hit the sweet spot when it comes to putting these four players together.
They Play (Mostly) Everyday
Kemp, Ethier and Ramirez have each dealt with various injuries over the past two years. But throughout their careers, all three have been models of good health.
As dependable as they have been, newly-acquired first baseman Adrian Gonzalez might be the most durable of the bunch.
Gonzalez hasn't played in fewer than 156 games in any of his six full major league seasons between San Diego and Boston. With 123 games played so far this season, that streak doesn't appear to be in jeopardy.
Kemp missed 58 games for the Dodgers earlier this season due to a hamstring injury. But he hadn't played in fewer than 155 games in any of the last four years since becoming a full-time starter with the Dodgers in 2008.
Ramirez dealt with an assortment of injuries while with the Miami Marlins, starting at the end of 2010 all the way through the entire 2011 season. But he still started 142 games in 2010 and averaged 154 games played from 2006-2009.
Ramirez has played in 120 games so far this season between Miami and Los Angeles, and he appears to be fully healed from whatever ailed him over the previous 18 months.
Ethier might be the most fragile of the bunch, failing to appear in more than 139 games for the Dodgers in either of the past two seasons. But he averaged 151 games played between 2007 and 2009, and he's on pace to play in more than 150 games in 2012.
All the talent in the world wouldn't help the Dodgers if it wasn't on the field. But acquiring Gonzalez gives Los Angeles a fairly healthy core group of ball players.
Adds Plenty of Balance in the Middle of the Order
Gonzalez adds much-needed firepower to the Los Angeles Dodgers lineup. But the balance and flexibility he provides is equally as important.
He gives the Dodgers a group of three-through-six hitters that are split evenly between lefties (Gonzalez and Ethier) and righties (Kemp and Ramirez). That versatility will make it hard for opposing managers to find favorable matchups to exploit.
Los Angeles has used both Ethier and Ramirez in the cleanup spot this year, and Kemp, in previous seasons, has hit anywhere from third to seventh. Kemp has settled into the third spot over the past two years, but the addition of Gonzalez gives Dodgers manager Don Mattingly more ways to frustrate opposing pitchers.
Hey Now, You're an All-Star
Did I mention that these guys can really hit?
Kemp and Ethier have each made two All-Star appearances for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and both have Silver Slugger awards in their trophy cases as well (Ethier in 2009 and Kemp in 2009 and 2011).
Ramirez was the NL Rookie of the Year in 2006, and made it to three All-Star games as a member of the Miami Marlins. He also received Silver Slugger awards in 2008 and 2009.
Gonzalez only has one Silver Slugger award to his name (2011), but he has the most All-Star game appearances of the group with four straight nods between 2008 and 2011.
Kemp, Ethier, Ramirez and Gonzalez have a combined 11 seasons of 25 home runs or more, and another eight seasons of 100-plus runs batted in. Those numbers are more impressive when you consider that Ramirez was a leadoff hitter for the first three years of his career.
Kemp and Ramirez are among Major League Baseball's best dual threats, with a combined seven seasons of 30 or more stolen bases. Both have a 30 home-run/30 stolen-base season to their credit—Ramirez missed a second such season by one home run in 2007—and Kemp missed becoming the fifth member of the illustrious 40/40 club in 2011 by one homer.
Given the group's long-term contracts, near perfect ages, relatively good health and long histories of All-Star-level production, expect Kemp, Ethier, Ramirez and Gonzalez to form one of the best lineups in Los Angeles Dodgers history for at least the next two full seasons, and maybe beyond.
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