The Swap of Logan Forsythe and Jose De Leon Makes Sense for Both the Dodgers and Rays
Baseball general managers are smarter than they used to be.
Seriously, how many stupid free agent signings have you seen this winter? How many lopsided trades have there been? One? Two, maybe? Ian Desmond to the Colorado Rockies to play first base while giving up the No. 11 overall pick in next year's draft seems kinda silly, but other than that, it's tough to think of another head-scratching move this offseason.
Yes, part of that is Dave Stewart is no longer around, but the fact remains, most general managers in baseball are just better at doing their jobs. So many deals this winter have made sense for both sides and appear even at the time they're made.
The same is true of Monday's trade between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Tampa Bay Rays, in which the Dodgers sent one of their top pitching prospects, Jose De Leon, to Tampa in exchange for Logan Forsythe, filling one of the few holes on their roster.
The deal makes a lot of sense for both sides, so let's take a look at how the move impacts the Rays and Dodgers.
What the Dodgers Get
The Dodgers were rumored to have been in the Brian Dozier market with the Minnesota Twins, but reports were the Twins wanted De Leon plus additional prospects for Dozier, whereas Forsythe came for the price of De Leon alone. And make no doubt about it, Forsythe can play.
That's some nice power from the second baseman, and Forsythe hit a career-high 20 bombs last year. He also shows off a little leather from time to time.
Forsythe was worth plus-8 defensive runs saved in 2015 and was plus-1 last year, which makes him a slightly better-than-league-average fielder. He batted .264/.333/.444 with a wRC+ of 113 last year, worth 2.8 fWAR one season after putting up a 4-win campaign.
There's no doubt Forsythe will provide more offensive firepower than Chase Utley did in 2016, but would the Dodgers have been better off spending a bit more in prospects and going after Dozier? If you look simply at last year's numbers, it looks like the Dodgers got a comparable second baseman, although one with less power.
The Twins' second sacker slugged 42 dingers last year thanks to a kill-crazy rampage at the plate July 31st through September 6th in which he hit 22 bombs in 173 plate appearances. That's no small thing, of course, but looking at some of the other numbers, like batting average, on-base percentage, walk-rate and strikeout-rate, the two are pretty comparable.
That's especially true if we look at each player's 2015 numbers.
Two years ago, Dozier hit more homers, but Forsythe was much better in average, on-base percentage, walk and strikeout rate. Forsythe also had a higher wRC+ and fWAR. Going back further, Dozier hit just 23 bombs in 2014 and 18 jacks in 2013. You can understand why the Dodgers didn't want to part with De Leon and more for a player whose insane power numbers from last year may end up being an outlier.
As a bonus for the Dodgers, Forsythe is playing on a very cost-efficient contract. He is due to make just $7 million this year with an $8.5 million team option for 2018, making him a massive bargain if his 2017 and 2018 seasons are anything like his last two years.
What the Rays Got
So, Forsythe gives the Dodgers a 3- or 4-win player at second base, but what did they give up in De Leon, a consensus top-100 prospect?
We just ranked the Dodgers prospects 5 days ago. De Leon was number 3, mostly on the basis of being ready now:https://t.co/5RRDtCP5WD ($)
— Craig Goldstein (@cdgoldstein) January 24, 2017
Scout who saw Jose De Leon this yr pegs his ceiling as a No. 3/realistic No. 4. Stuff didn't wow, but gets deception and misses bats. #Rays
— Josh Norris (@jnorris427) January 24, 2017
The Dodgers have a farm system with several high-end pitching prospects, some of whom may already be ahead of De Leon in terms of pure talent. In four big-league starts last year, he lasted 17 innings and had a 6.35 ERA. He struck out 7.94 batters per nine, way down from his mark of 11.57 strikeouts per nine innings in 16 Triple-A starts. He also walked more guys -- 3.71 per nine -- in those four starts than he did in the minors last year (2.08).
De Leon doesn't blow many people away, with a fastball sitting in the low 90s. But he reportedly has good deception on his pitches, and he does generate a lot of swings and misses. At a minimum, he's an excellent young pitching prospect.
The Dodgers are running the risk of giving up a young pitcher who could turn out to be a top-of-the-rotation starter in exchange for two years of a very good, but not superstar, second baseman. It's a risk the Rays, who aren't, in all likelihood, going to contend these next two years, were willing to take. It's also a gamble the Twins weren't ready to do without additional pieces.
At the end of the day, you can see why each general manager made this deal. For the Dodgers, they get the second baseman they've been looking for all winter. For the Rays, they get a team-controlled pitcher to add depth to a rotation that is shaping up to be one of the most intriguing staffs in baseball.
If it doesn't work out for one team or the other, it won't be because someone did something reckless. This is a deal that looks like it'll help both clubs.