Early Season Grades for Dodgers' Offseason Acquisitions
The Los Angeles Dodgers made a few low-key acquisitions this past offseason following two years of high-profile roster building. Now that the first month of the 2014 season is in the books, it is time to take a closer look at how those players have helped (or hurt) the Dodgers during their 16-12 start.
Dan Haren has been L.A,'s second best starting pitcher early on, while Chris Perez has been the rock of an otherwise shaky bullpen thus far.
Meanwhile, L.A.'s highest-profile offseason acquisition, Cuban infielder Alex Guerrero, has had no impact on the major league club. He was sent to Triple-A Albuquerque out of spring training to continue working on his transition from shortstop to second base.
Along with Haren and Perez, however, three other players have established themselves as key members of the Dodgers' major league club early in the season. Here are early season grades for the six new members of the Dodgers, including Guerrero, through the team's first 28 games.
Justin Turner: C-
(previous grade = C-)
Justin Turner earned a spot on the 25-man roster—and a role as the Dodgers' primary utility infielder—after a strong spring training at the plate. Unfortunately, he hasn't done much with the limited playing time he's received through the first month of the season.
Turner has recorded a hit in each of his last four starts this season. However, he is hitting just .163 in 49 at-bats this season, including 0-for-4 as a pinch hitter.
The sample size is obviously very small, so it is unfair to judge him to harshly this early in the season. But with Gordon playing so well and Guerrero continuing to rake in the minors, Turner could find himself with fewer and fewer opportunities to turn it around as the season goes on.
Alex Guerrero: C
(previous grade = Incomplete)
Although Alex Guerrero failed to win the starting second base job out of spring training, he has demonstrated the type of offensive prowess that led the Dodgers to sign him last October. Through his first 17 games at Triple-A Albuquerque, Guerrero has produced a .305/.379/.576 slash line with three home runs and nine RBI.
The Dodgers, of course, were hoping that Guerrero would be hitting like this at the major league level after signing him to a four-year, $28 million contract. But once it became clear in spring training that he needed more time to work on his defense, the decision to let him play everyday in the minors was a no-brainer.
That planned was temporarily stalled by a strained rib muscle that Guerrero suffered in late-March, causing him to miss the first three weeks of the regular season. But the 27-year-old seemed to hit the ground running once he returned from his injury.
While his defense continues to be a work in progress, Guerrero's path to the majors could be further complicated by the surprising of Dee Gordon.
Gordon is well on his way to having the breakthrough season that Dodgers fans have been waiting on for years. Serving as L.A.'s primary second baseman and leadoff hitter, Gordon has produced a .317/.352/.436 slash line while leading the majors in stolen bases with 15 in 16 attempts.
Although Gordon seems to have a solid grasp on the everyday job, he continues to be a liability against left-handed pitching. That could open the door for Guerrero to get some regular at-bats at the major league level in the near future.
Chone Figgins: C+
(previous grade = A-)
Chone Figgins hasn't had many opportunities to contribute off the bench early in the season. While he capitalized on most of his opportunities in the season's first two weeks, he's been a virtual non-factor for the Dodgers recently.
Figgins is 0-for-3 in his three plate appearances and hasn't played for the Dodgers since being demoted to Triple-A on April 20.
Barring an injury or two, Figgins isn't likely to be back in Los Angeles any time soon. However, it was nice to see the 36-year-old utility man provide the type of professional at-bats you'd expect from an 11-year veteran, even if for a short time.
Paul Maholm: C+
(previous grade = D-)
Paul Maholm's first season with the Dodgers couldn't have gotten off to a worse start. However, the veteran left-hander seems to have settled in after a rough early portion of the season.
Maholm was rocked by the San Francisco Giants in his first start of the season on April 5. He surrendered five earned runs, two walks and seven hits—including two home runs—in just 4.2 innings of work during a 7-2 loss at Dodger Stadium.
However, Maholm has managed to produce two quality starts in his last three appearances with his most recent outing being his best of the young season. He earned his first win of the year by allowing just six hits and two earned runs over seven innings during a 6-3 victory over the Colorado Rockies on April 26.
With Josh Beckett back from the disabled list and Clayton Kershaw scheduled to return to the rotation next Monday, Maholm will be headed back to the bullpen soon. He will get at least one more turn in the rotation when he faces the Miami Marlins on Saturday.
Maholm's 4.74 ERA and 1.50 WHIP are not the least bit impressive. But aside from two rough starts, and considering his versatility, he has proven to be a valuable addition to the pitching staff.
Chris Perez: A
(previous grade = B+)
It is hard to imagine Chris Perez being any better for the Dodgers following a 2013 season that was nothing short of a complete disaster. In addition to seeing his ERA, WHIP and home run rate increase for the third straight year, Perez spent time on the disabled list and eventually lost his job as the Cleveland Indians' closer.
His days as an elite closer appeared to be behind him, and his future in the majors was in question.
The Dodgers were understandably able to sign Perez to an incentive-laden one-year contract that could turn out to be one of the offseason's best signings. In 14 relief appearances, he has allowed just five hits and two earned runs in 13.1 innings pitched.
Perez's 9-3 K-BB ratio is slightly better than his career average rate, and he continues to bail Los Angeles out of high-leverage situations.
Perez's contract could earn him as much as $8 million this year if he happens to ascend to the closer role. With setup man Brian Wilson and closer Kenley Jansen both struggling with consistency early on, Perez could find himself pitching in the ninth inning again a lot sooner than anyone expected.
Dan Haren: A+
(previous grade = A+)
Dan Haren has been the surprise star of the Dodgers starting rotation thus far, pitching far above even the most optimistic expectations. Through his first six starts of the season, Haren is second only to Zack Greinke among L.A.'s starting pitchers in ERA (2.39), WHIP (01.17), strikeouts (34) and wins (4).
The Dodgers' rotation would be even better than advertised if Haren can sustain this level of success throughout the season. But even if he regresses as the year wears on, his early-season performance has given the Dodgers a boost, especially with Kershaw and Beckett having already spent time on the DL.
No one was certain of what to expect from Haren after two disappointing years in with the Los Angeles Angels and Washington Nationals. Perhaps a return to his SoCal roots—Haren is a native of Monterey Park, Calif., and went to college at Pepperdine—and the motivation of a one-year deal were exactly what the 33-year-old right-hander needed to revive his career.
If Haren has indeed regained the form that allowed him to pitch at least 200 innings with 190-plus strikeouts in five consecutive seasons from 2007 to 2011, the Dodgers will have easily the best fourth starter in all of baseball.
The better Haren pitches the more costly it will become to keep him in Los Angeles beyond this season. However, the Bank of Guggenheim Baseball Management seems to always be open for business.
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