If you somehow missed it, the Dodgers agreed to terms with center fielder A.J. Pollock on a multi-year deal.
While many fans were happy with the move, some still questioned why the Dodgers would replace Yasiel Puig with Pollock.
If you want to consider the Pollock contract as being available because of the space created by the Reds trade, the full scope of that move now looks like:
Dodgers give: Puig, Wood, Kemp, Farmer
Dodgers get: Pollock, Downs, Gray
— Future Dodgers (@FutureDodgers) January 25, 2019
Pollock makes more sense than Puig simply because he can hit left-handed pitching. The Dodgers needed a right-handed bat for the top of their lineup. While Puig is right-handed, he had to be used like he was a left-hander because of his reverse splits.
Pollock did struggle a little vs left-handers last season (.221/.277/.464, 91 wRC+) but he has been very good in his career vs southpaws (.275/.327/.498, 116 wRC+). You could make the case that 2018 was an outlier for him. Puig’s last above-average season against left-handers came in 2016. Last season, he hit .209/.268/.360 with a 70 wRC+ against them and he was even worse in 2017 (.183/.317/.265, 61 wRC+).
Adding Pollock immediately strengthens the lineup against left-handers while only losing a little production versus right-handers.
Pollock has also shown the ability to be one of the best players in baseball. His last full season in 2015, Pollock hit .315/.367/.498 with 20 homers, 39 stolen bases, a .371 wOBA, 131 wRC+ and 6.8 wins above replacement. While he probably won’t get to that again, he is still an incredibly talented player.
Besides for the righty bat, they’re also adding baserunning skill in Pollock. Pollock’s BsR (baserunning runs above average) of 3.9 was greater than Puig’s 0.1 and his career 15.7 BsR is better than Puig’s -7.2. Pollock still has the ability to steal 30 bags a year while Puig has sat at 15 the past 2 seasons. Their stolen base success rates are also dramatically different in their careers. Pollock has successfully stolen 103 out of 126 attempts (82%) while Puig has stolen 60 out of 91 (66%).
Pollock is also a major defensive upgrade for an outfield that really needed it. He plays the more premium position of center field and he’s better at it than Puig is in right field.
Pollock has rated as an above average center fielder every season of his career. Puig has been a negative defender every season but 2017, which looks like an outlier.
By outs above average (OOA), the statcast defensive metric for outfielders, Pollock ranked as the 24th best defensive outfielder in baseball. His 6 OOA were tied with Cody Bellinger, Mike Trout, and Gorkys Hernandez.
Puig ranked 68th of 87 qualified outfielders with -5 OOA. Even in his best year, 2017, he still ranked 56th of 90 outfielders with -1 OOA. The Dodgers really needed defensive help for their outfield as Puig was joined near the bottom of the list by Matt Kemp (-6) and Joc Pederson (-7).
An outfield with Pollock, Cody Bellinger, and Alex Verdugo could be one of the best defensive outfields in baseball. It also gives them the versatility to play Bellinger at first base and Muncy at second base more.
Fans have also made the case that Pollock is too injury prone. Yes, he has missed a lot of games recently due to injuries but you also can’t predict an injury. And don’t forget it’s not too long ago that Puig was considered injury prone due to his hamstring and other nagging injuries.
The good news is Pollock’s injuries haven’t been chronic problems, like Puig’s hamstring or Clayton Kershaw’s back. There’s more reason to believe he can avoid the injury bug since it hasn’t been the same injury causing him problems.
Here’s something interesting from Eno Sarris in his article for The Athletic.
Pollock has qualified for the batting title once. He’s broken his elbow and re-broken it. His strained his groin and broken his thumb. He gets hurt, it’s true.
But for one, position player injuries are very difficult to project. There’s evidence that we use the injury-prone tag too often. For example, Rob Arthur found a rubric with which to project injuries for hitters … and if you plug in Pollock’s age and days missed over his career, it projects Pollock to miss 17 games next year. One disabled list stint.
Yes, we can’t predict injuries but we can look at how similar players have fared in their careers. It could mean nothing but it’s also a sign of hope. A player is only an iron man until they get hurt and a player is only injury prone until he isn’t.
The point is, there is a lot of randomness to staying healthy or getting injured.
The Dodgers now have a star outfielder locked up for at least the next 3 seasons. Puig is on the final year of his deal and he was reportedly unhappy being platooned. They weren’t going to re-sign him so they decided to replace him with a better fit.
Another part of that trade is the Dodgers added 2 quality prospects in Jeter Downs and Josiah Gray. They could be used to bring in another good player or they could stay with the team and remain in their top 20 prospects.
Matt Kemp and Alex Wood didn’t have a spot on this current team. Turning Puig into Pollock and 2 quality prospects is an all-around win for the Dodgers.
Their long term outlook is brighter after these deals.
The Dodgers were able to strengthen their lineup versus left-handers and improve their outfield defense. They also added 2 good prospects while doing so.
When Pollock stays healthy, he has shown he can be one of the true superstars in baseball.
Time will tell whether this move works out but there are a lot of good reasons for it.
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