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The Dodgers’ Desire for Podsednik

Yesterday, the Los Angeles Dodgers reportedly excercised their half of a mutual option with left fielder Scott Podsednik. Podsednik came over in a trade from the Kansas City Royals, who signed him last winter to a contract that included a two million dollar club option for 2011 that became effectively mutual when Podsenik reached his 525 plate appearance in 2010.

After three miserable seasons from 2006 to 2008, Podsednik seemed like he was ready to be out of baseball, but a 1.8 WAR revival in Chicago in 2009 put him back on the map. Although he he wasn’t able to repeat his .338 2009 wOBA performance, his .323 wOBA for the 2009 season was about league average in a deflated run environment. CHONE’s last update saw Posednik as a 5 runs below average per 150 games true-talent hitter. His ability in the field is more difficult to pin down. Both versions of TotalZone are fairly friendly to Podsednik’s skills in left field, and CHONE projects him at +6 there. However, both UZR and DRS have seen Podsednik less positively, especially in 2010, when he was more than 10 runs below average. The Fans Scouting Report for 2010 splits the difference, seeing him as an average fielder in left.

The positional adjustment is -7.5 for being a left fielder. Let’s call his offense -3, plus average defense. Overall we’d say he’s around a 1 WAR player. There’s some attrition for age (and he did have a foot injury at the end of the season), but given the uncertainty about his fielding ability, I think 0.5 to 1.5 WAR is a fair range, so 1 WAR over a full season seems about right. The price of a marginal win for 2011 will probably be at least four million dollars, and probably more, so this seems like a good decision on the Dodgers’ part.

A one-win player is generally a bench or platoon player, or a stopgap at best. Despite the Dodgers’ disappointing performance in 2010, they should be in the mix in the National League West again in 2010. Given the money they put out for Ted Lilly despite a muddled ownership situation, that seems to be be the plan. So this isn’t like a rebuilding team blowing money on a veteran.

There are some other issues to consider. For this to really be a “good” deal for LA, Podsednik needs to play pretty much the whole season. He hasn’t played 150 games since 2004. That issue aside, it’s one thing to have a 1 WAR player as a bench/platoon guy, and other to have him as an everyday player when trying to win a division title. Even as a part-timer, Podsednik’s utility is limited — he doesn’t have the arm to play right field, and while he is fast, his poor routes limit his effective range in the outfield, so he’s really a left-field-only player outside of emergencies. Given Matt Kemp‘s own issues in center field, Podsednik isn’t an ideal fourth outfielder for them, given the current roster. Podsednik is not really good enough to start, but also doesn’t truly fit LA’s bench needs. The Dodgers need to keep their eyes open for better options.

That said, the free-agent market for outfielders is pretty thin, and it is unlikely that the Dodgers have the money to be in on players like Jayson Werth and Carl Crawford. Given the Dodgers’ current hole in left field and their potential to contend, picking up Podsednik’s option as a safety net isn’t a terrible idea as long as he isn’t Plan A. As for Podsednik, while he has proved he can still be a bit useful in the right situation, he shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth.