In a dream world, the Dodgers would be buyers, not sellers this winter. In a dream world, Frank McCourt and his mismanagement wouldn’t exist, and fans could look forward to the potential of luring a big free agent.
Yet this is reality. And the fact is that, despite what’s going on off the field, the Dodgers have some pressing on-the-field issues. No more pressing than the lack of power in their lineup.
A lot of fingers are pointed at James Loney. Loney is a nice guy, a solid player and perhaps one of the best defensive first baseman in the National League. He’s my favorite Dodger because of his professionalism and steady play.
Yet his offensive numbers are shaky. If not for his power surge at end the year, he was bound for a regression that could ease his way out of L.A. He is what he is—a contact hitter who’ll drive in runs, get on base but will lack the consistent power of his contemporaries.
With Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder on the market this winter, there’s no secret that Dodgers fans would love to exchange Loney for either one. And since Loney has already admitted that he’d have no problem learning to play left field, it makes practical sense to go after them.
Here are some reasons why Los Angeles would be the best place for both.
Prince Fielder has the luxury of playing with Ryan Braun, Rickie Weeks and Nyjer Morgan.
Albert Pujols is playing with Matt Holliday and a rejuvenated Lance Berkman.
Here’s what they get in L.A.—the chance to play with the best young hitter in baseball.
Imagine a Dodgers lineup with Kemp and Fielder providing a one-two punch and putting up 35-plus home runs and 100-plus RBI a year easily.
Both would benefit from each other in the same way that Fielder benefits from Braun. He’d be going from one MVP candidate to another.
Picture Pujols with Matt Kemp giving him protection. He’d probably win one more MVP, and he’d revitalize his streak of batting .300 with 30 HRs and 100 RBI. He’d also be playing with a younger partner who could no doubt extend his career well into this decade.
The appeal of playing with potentially the best all-around hitter in the National League is hard to deny.
Also, they wouldn’t have the pressure of being the focal point of the offense with Kemp by their side.
Both Fielder and Pujols play for two of the best fanbases in the majors.
If they leave for L.A., they’d get another loyal fanbase that would embrace them with open arms.
Dodgers fans have a loyalty to their first basemen. Eric Karros was a legend of my youth who still gets love despite being in the broadcast booth.
Steve Garvey remains beloved nearly 30 years after his last game at Chavez Ravine. Gil Hodges remains sorely underrated by modern fans despite his slugging power in the 1950s.
Fielder and Pujols would find that despite being a basketball town, they’d be appreciated just the same. Fielder’s huge personality would make him the toast of the city, while Pujols’ no-nonsense style would appeal to the old-school Dodgers fans and coaching staff, such as Davey Lopes.
For close to three million fans a year, it’s not a bad trade-off to give up the Midwest for L.A. There may be more things craving sports fans’ attention, but those who love the Dodgers would adore them.
Right now, the Dodgers and their fans need a morale boost.
Two years of a Dodgers divorce and disappointing seasons have made their 2008 and 2009 division titles seem like a distant memory.
There’s already some hope in young talent like Javy Guerra, Kenley Jansen and Dee Gordon.
After Kemp’s MVP-caliber season, there’s a need for somebody else to shoulder the heavy load of bringing the franchise back to respectability.
Fielder and Pujols already have a track record for rejuvenating franchises. Pujols carried the Cardinals as the glare of Mark McGwire faded while Fielder helped give the Brewers their best success in 30 years.
Turning around a Dodgers team with more recent success shouldn’t be too hard.
The team hasn’t had a slugging first baseman since Eric Karros was in his prime. It’s time to change that.
Name the last big-name Dodgers free-agent signing to pan out?
Jason Schmidt was an injury-riddled flop. J.D. Drew was an overpaid disaster. Don’t get me started on Andruw Jones, whose weight was bigger than his batting average.
You’d have to look at Juan Pierre, who probably saved his Dodger tenure with his play during the 2009 suspension of Manny Ramirez, and Orlando Hudson, who had an All-Star/Gold Glove season that same year as two of the best free-agent signings of the last five to seven years.
The team has avoided big names like CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee and others for financial reasons or an unwillingness to part with top prospects.
Yet there’s probably no safer bet on the market than either Fielder or Pujols.
They’d have much pressure to succeed, but reversing the curse of overpaid Dodgers who don’t pan out?
That’d be something worth noting on their resume, something that would actually make fans praise Frank McCourt—briefly.
It’s been a long time since the Dodgers had a power-hitting first baseman.
It would be great to see either Prince Fielder or Albert Pujols suit up at Chavez Ravine and help carry this team into a better decade.
The sad thing is that the financial state of the franchise would make it almost impossible to pay them both what they are worth.
Yet, in my opinion, it shouldn’t be an excuse not to try, considering the alternative isn’t guaranteed to be better.
If Loney is willing to learn how to play in the outfield, it makes great sense for the Dodgers to pursue more power at a position that has typically been a bright spot in their lineup.
I’d personally take Fielder because he’s younger (27) and has closer ties to Kemp and Tony Gwynn Jr. But I’d have no problem adding Pujols the NL’s best hitter over the last 10 years either, while he’s still in his prime.