Joe Torre & the Strikeout Kid

Neither the Yankees or the Mets seem to be good trading partners, should the Johan sweepstakes open up.  The Los Angeles Dodgers have also been hot on the rumor circuit, and it's not hard to imagine Santana mowing through National League hitters.

I've always had a lot of respect for Joe Torre.  In some situations it's difficult to know what you like or don't like about a manager, but with Torre it's different.  He managed a winning team, as much as you could manage the New York Yankees.  Talented veterans filled the roster and knew what they had to do; if you didn't know your job you didn't stay in Pinstripes very long.  But more than anything, I saw character in Joe Torre.  The grace with which he dealt with not only the savage New York media, but also a brash and sometimes childish George Steinbrenner, speaks volumes.  He was patient and professional, and even though he always bought the company line there was never any doubt that he had control of the clubhouse.  Joe Torre was always the manager of the New York Yankees.  He didn't pretend to be anything more, and he was confident enough to know he was nothing less.  He was able to define his role not only through what he did, but what he chose not to do in a sporting world of growing savagery and defensive self-promotion.  I believe the Los Angeles Dodgers hired one of the best managers in baseball.

On the opposite side of defensive self-promotion is the public relations coup that Torii Hunter is layering over baseball.  He knows what he's doing, and it's a clinic in how to sell yourself.  Hunter recently mentioned Los Angeles as one of his top prospectives (duh), and it's hard to blame him.  The Dodgers are always major players in the off-season, and this year is no exception.  Big names such as Miguel Cabrera, Alex Rodriguez and Johan Santana have all been bantered about by the rumor mongrels.  LA will be movers and shakers this off-season, and with Torre already in tow they'll be making aggressive plays to land talent and win now.  You know that will appeal to Torii.

And...did I just mention Johan Santana?

The Los Angeles Dodgers

OF Delwyn Young (S/R), Born 06/30/1982

Splits    AB    H   2B   HR   BB   SO   Avg   Obp   Slg
Minors  2706  819  225  102  235  611  .303  .362  .512
Majors    39   13    1    2    2    6  .333  .357  .564

Young was drafted three times ('00 - '02).  The first two times he declined the up-front cash temptation to remain in school (sorry, Atlanta).  At every level in the minor leagues he's succeeded offensively, almost wildly.  Only in his first full season at AAA, after switching from second base to outfield, did he post an OPS below .836.  Young is an MLB-ready hitter.

OF Matt Kemp (R/R), Born 09/23/1984

Splits    AB    H  2B  HR  SB   BB   SO   Avg   Obp   Slg
Minors  1579  490  98  60  69  107  319  .310  .358  .518
Majors   446  139  19  17  16   25  119  .312  .344  .496

Kemp is an athletic outfielder, who could probably step in and start in center field for the Twins from Day 1.  His control of the strike zone has gotten much better in recent years, reducing is BB:K ratio from nearly 4:1 at ages 19 and 20 to better than 2:1 at ages 21 to 23 (minor leagues).  He doesn't have the power potential of Young, but he might be the better hitter.  He's also two years younger.  SBNation's sabermetrics website, Beyond the Box Score, gives some insights to Kemp's possible future here.

LHP Clayton Kershaw, Born 03/19/1988

Year       IP   ERA   WHIP   HR/9   BB/9    K/9
'06-Rk   37.0  1.95   0.89   0.00   1.22  13.14
'07-A    97.1  2.77   1.25   0.46   4.62  12.39
'07-AA   24.2  3.65   1.38   1.46   6.20  10.58

Kershaw possesses a fastaball, curve and change.  His curve is getting better (has been classified as a "big" curve) but his focus was on the changeup in 2007, realizing that it's development would make his mid-90's fastball that much more effective.  Always the strikeout pitcher, his control faultered this past season; rough when Baseball America rates him as the Dodger prospect with the best pitch control.  I like Kershaw's potential, but as high as that potential is he's not one of my primary targets.

3B Andy LaRoche (R/R), Born 09/13/1983

Split     AB    H   2B  HR   BB   SO   Avg   Obp   Slg
Minors  1655  488  105  90  203  274  .295  .376  .525
Majors    93   21    5   1   20   24  .226  .365  .312

LaRoche has been mentioned around TwinkieTown a number of times over the last year.  In fact, he gets Christmas cards from Cmathewson.  Last February, Baseball America rated Andy as the best prospect in the Dodger system, including accolades for best hitter for power and best infield arm.  Currently, LaRoche is battling with Team USA in the 2007 IBAF World Cup.  TrueBlueLA, SBNation's site for the Dodgers, recently held a poll that sited LaRoche as the most likely prospect to be traded this off-season.  Hearsay?  Yes.  Interesting to note when you assume fans of TrueBlueLA are as savvy and up on their team as the fans of TwinkieTown?  Also yes.

Dodger Wrap: There are a number of other players who spark my interest (Andre Ethier, Chad Billingsley, James Loney, Xavier Paul, Ivan DeJesus, and even Scott Elbert, who had arthroscopic surgery on his labrum to remove scar tissue last June), but these are the main four guys I'd be building by starting offer around.  All four have good ceilings, are young and will remain affordable for Minnesota in the near future.  More importantly, the position players are offensive performers at positions of need for the Twins.

My package offerings are a bit looser this time, mostly because there are so many players I like.  Package One:  Andy LaRoche, Matt Kemp & Clayton Kershaw.  OR...

Pick Two   AND   Pick One   -OR-  Pick Two
Young            Ethier           Paul
Kemp             Billingsley      DeJesus
Kershaw          Loney            Elbert
LaRoche

From the buffet line I'll have Young, LaRoche and Ethier, please...

Of the three teams I've scourged so far, the Dodgers are by far the best fit.  Not only are they a financial heavyweight who can absorb Santana with a smile, they also have young but MLB-ready position player talent.  For a team ruled by the dollar, the Twins should be taking a long hard look to Los Angeles if they decide trading Johan is the best way to go.

We might know what way that is by the time the Winter Meetings begin on December 3rd.  Stay tuned.

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