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December 6, 2011

Transaction Analysis

Dodger Deals

by R.J. Anderson

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LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Signed P-R Aaron Harang to a two-year deal worth around $12 million. [12/5]
Signed INF-S Jerry Hairston Jr. to a two-year deal worth $6 million plus incentives. [12/5]

You’ve heard of diploma mills? By winter’s end, the Dodgers might be known as a two-year deal factory. Ned Colletti had struck on Mark Ellis and Chris Capuano entering the winter meetings, and wasted no time in adding two more two-year deals to his cabal. Writing that Colletti added pieces to his growing stable of starting pitchers and infielders would work, too.

Let’s start with the pitcher. Like Capuano, Harang is a veteran arm with National League West experience, mileage on his arm, and questions about the potency of his stuff. A few weeks ago, the Padres declined their part of a $5 million mutual option with Harang, and it looks to have paid off for the righty. Here’s what I wrote then:

Teams in spacious ballparks pursuing a backend starter should give Harang a look. Bud Black’s handling of Harang provided a sharp contrast to the bloodletting Harang experienced under Dusty Baker. Not once did Harang top 115 pitches in a game, and his pitches per start average finished at fewer than 100 for the first time since 2004. Harang still has prevalent home run issues that popped up even while in PETCO, but the real key to his rejuvenation is the Padres’ defense that finished second in park-adjusted defensive efficiency and anchored his batting average on balls in play to a four-year low.

Sure enough, it appears Harang will be the Dodgers’ fourth or fifth starter, depending on where Don Mattingly slots Capuano. In true back of the rotation fashion, Harang has amassed 444-2/3 innings pitched since 2009 while accumulating an adjusted-earned run average of 92 and 2.50 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Ignoring the worst part of a player’s résumé has a way of improving their standing, and if you ignore Harang’s otherwise poor 2010 season, then he looks like a league-average pitcher. Similar expectations were hatched for Jon Garland last season, but he exited due to injury after pitching 54 shoddy innings. Dodgers’ fans might be feeling a sense of déjà vu given that Garland also came over from the Padres.

While the Dodgers hope Harang endures a better fate, injuries are an unavoidable part of his game. Harang missed time in 2009 due to his appendix, in 2010 because of a strained lower back, and in 2011 after suffering a stress fracture in his right foot. That none of those injuries are related to his elbow or shoulder is a positive. The negative is that he has missed at least four weeks in each season since 2008.

Should Harang stumble or stub his toe, the Dodgers would likely call upon Nathan Eovaldi. Eovaldi, soon-to-be 22, was in line to take the final rotation spot before Harang’s signing and could use more time in the minors. He made 10 appearances in the majors last season and showed good velocity, but wildness and unrefined secondary pitches should limit expectations for now. Harang is the safer bet between the two, and that perceived safeness is why the Dodgers chose to pay him.

The same applies towards signing Hairston Jr. over giving Ivan DeJesus or Justin Sellers a try. Hairston Jr. split last season between the Nationals and Brewers, and has hit .254/.318/.376 since 2009. His biggest appeal is versatility. Expect Mattingly to give Hairston Jr. some reps at second and third base, shortstop, and each outfield position.

Taken as a whole, the Dodgers’ offseason can be considered mundane. The thing is, they finished the season with the best Third Order winning percentage in the division, and their philosophy—to supplement the stars with okay role players—is similar to the one employed by the Diamondbacks last winter. The money is understandable the biggest problem folks have with Colletti’s approach, but it might just work.  


R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here

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