The highly-publicized deal between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox that sent Mookie Betts out west was finally completed Sunday. The final deal is not what was initially reported as being basically done last week, however, and the result is a ripple of weird baseball things.
The big pieces are still on the move — Los Angeles will welcome Betts along with pitcher David Price soon, while Jeter Downs and Alex Verdugo head to Boston. But the delays and hem-hawing of the Red Sox, coupled with the impatience of a third-party owner, have potentially opened the door for the Indians to greatly improve their outfield and odds of making the playoffs in 2020.
According to Ken Rosenthal, Los Angeles Angels owner Arte Moreno grew impatient with the whole process, and by the sounds of it, helped shutter a side deal that would have brought Joc Pederson and Ross Stripling to the Angels in exchange for light-hitting second baseman Luis Rengifo. When the initially agreed upon Mookie trade fell through, though, it appears the Dodgers backed out of that own deal with the Angels, no longer seeing it as a requirement to part with their outfielder right away.
The good news is, the door isn’t completely closed on the Dodgers trading Pederson, a 27-year-old who slashed .249/.339/.538 with a career-high 36 home runs last season. The Dodgers still need to clear a 40-man roster spot before the Mookie deal can go through. Assuming they don’t just dump someone lingering in Triple-A, they could again explore a Joc Pederson trade. They would just need to find someone who needs a corner outfielder. Hmm.
If LAD can't keep Joc (seems possible) and if LAA are out, then teams who could badly use a good-hitting COF include:— Mike Petriello (@mike_petriello) February 10, 2020
2) CLE a billion more times
3) Uh, TEX, move Gallo to CF?
4) CHW b/c Mazara's not a blocker
5) COL, obv
6) STL/CHC maybe
7) Still CLE though
Oh right, the Indians.
Currently, the Indians’ corner outfield will feature Jordan Luplow against left-handed pitchers, and ... who the hell knows. They are reportedly interested in giving Franmil Reyes another shot, and the recent addition of Domingo Santana could provide another player who has technically played outfield before — albeit not very well.
By the generous estimations of Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections, the combined efforts of Jake Bauers, Greg Allen, Daniel Johnson, and Jordan Luplow will be worth a combined 1.1 fWAR in 2020. Throw in the entire outfield if you want — including Oscar Mercado, Tyler Naquin, and Delino DeShields — and even then the seven-player bog monster is projected to be worth a combined 3.5 wins.
Joc Pederson alone was worth 3.0 fWAR for the Dodgers last season and is projected by ZiPS to be worth 2.5 fWAR in 2020, with a .249/.340/.513 slash. Needless to say, Pederson would instantly be the Tribe’s best outfielder, even with his need to be platooned. For his career, Pederson has a 57 wRC+ against lefties and a 131 wRC+ against right-handed pitchers. That’s a split begging to be welded to Jordan Luplow’s 162 career wRC+ against lefties to form an All-Star Voltron.
It might seem like a difficult task to find a place for Pederson on a roster that already houses a dozen slightly above-average outfielders, but if it means losing an outfielder that would have a difficult time making most MLB rosters in exchange for 30-home run potential, I think the Indians can find a way to make it work.
Of course, I say all this knowing it’s probably not going to happen. Pederson is owed $7.75 million this season, and with the Indians refusing to push any chips onto the table in what could be their final year with Francisco Lindor, it seems unlikely that they’ll do it with yet another outfielder who will only be around in 2020 before leaving for free agency.
Maybe by writing this article and continuing to antagonize the Indians’ penny-pinching ways on Twitter it will somehow result in them doing more than a handful of minor-league deals heading into spring training. What if we just talk about Pederson being on the Indians so much that we trick the Dodgers into thinking they already made the trade? Do we form a posse and raid the Dodgers spring training complex to kidnap Pederson? Do the Indians pony up a prospect or two and actually show they care about winning in 2020?
I’m just saying, there are a lot of options here, some crazier than others.