Carlos Lee or not, Don Mattingly sounds ready to upgrade over James Loney

14 Comments

By pursuing an ultimately unsuccessful trade for Carlos Lee the Dodgers made is obvious that they’re not happy with James Loney’s production at first base, so when Loney told Don Mattingly that he feels ready to break out offensively the manager was understandably skeptical:

He came into my office and he felt like he’s got it, so we’ll see. He feels good, so we’ll see. He’s confident. He got a couple hits tonight and we’ll leave it there. We’ll see what happens tomorrow. I’ve been through this the last four years with James, so we’ll see where it rolls.

In other words, talk is cheap when you’re a 28-year-old veteran at an offense-driven position with a .425 career slugging percentage.

Arash Markasi of ESPN Los Angeles paints a picture of Mattingly being more or less fed up with talk of Loney’s “confidence level” at the plate, noting that the manager is sick of “answering the same questions about Loney every year” and deadpanned “better ones” when asked what adjustments the first baseman needed to make.

At this point in his career Lee is hardly a sure-fire upgrade over even Loney, but the bigger point is that the Dodgers have been starting one of the least-productive first basemen in the league for five seasons now and finding someone who can top Loney’s measly .404 slugging percentage and .741 OPS during that time shouldn’t be very tough.

In the meantime Loney is making $6.4 million after being paid $4.9 million in 2011 and $3.1 million in 2010. For that $14.4 million the Dodgers have gotten 395 games of a .271 batting average, .329 on-base percentage, and .392 slugging percentage with a total of 24 homers in 1,479 plate appearances.

Bryce Harper will not be discussing his impending free agency with the media

Getty Images
3 Comments

Bryce Harper is entering his walk year and it is widely expected that the Scott Boras client will, indeed, test out free agency next fall rather than engage in any substantial way with the Washington Nationals about a contract extension. There were some “casual conversations” between the parties in the early fall of 2017, but the Nats came away from that, quite reasonably, believing that Harper, who stands to land the largest contract in baseball history, will shop around.

For his part, Harper met the media on his first day of spring training workouts and let everyone know that, no, he does not plan to answer questions about his potential free agency every day between now and November. From MASN:

“Just want to let you guys know I will not be discussing anything relative to 2019, at all,” said Harper. “I’m focused on this year. I’m focused on winning and playing hard, like every single year. So if you guys have any questions about anything after 2018, you can call Scott and he can answer you guys.”

Makes sense. The alternative would be for Harper to give the same canned “I’m only focused on our next game” responses in front of his locker 150 times this summer, and that doesn’t serve anyone.

Thinking back to any other impending free agent’s comments about his free agency, I can’t remember a story along those lines which was worth much of anything. The genre generally consists of headlines which oversell an innocuous or offhand comment from a player as a means of guessing where his head is at with respect to his current team. I can’t think of any story in which a player, during his walk year, said something that concretely and definitively signaled his intensions in free agency one way or the other.

Reporters covering the Nationals who are curious as to how Harper feels about his current team at any given time would be better served just observing and inferring, with particular attention paid to how Harper and his teammates view the Nats’ competitive position as the season goes on, how they react to trades and stuff like that. There’s a lot of guesswork in all of that, but it sure beats trying to get a media savvy player like Harper to admit, after going 1-for-4 against the Phillies, where he plans to spend the next seven to ten years of his professional life.