Saturday, January 31, 2009

What the Hell Were You Thinking? Juan Pierre Edition

*Over the next couple of weeks, Jorge Says No! will take an in depth look at some of the worst contracts in baseball. We'll evaluate why the player was signed, what went wrong, and future implications of the contract. Behind every bone head decision, there has to be a reason for it...right?*

Juan Pierre will never be confused for Albert Pujols. Pierre, 31, has never hit more than home runs in a season during his nine year career in the majors. However, as any baseball fan will tell you, power is not Pierre's game. Instead Pierre is your classic singles hitter, who gives opposing pitchers fits with his propensity to steal bases. Pierre is a good player even with his various offensive limitations.

With that said, I think everyone can agree that Juan Pierre is not worth $44 million dollars over 5 years that the Dodgers handed him. So what the hell were you thinking, Los Angeles?

Why Sign Pierre: Lemme take everyone back to the off season of 2006. The Dodgers, fresh off an appearance in the NLDS, were looking to upgrade their average offense after losing JD Drew to free agency. However, there was a severe lack of power hitters on the free agent market so the Dodgers elected to do a complete 180 and go after Pierre, who has no power, but tons of speed.

The thought of pairing Pierre and Rafael Furcal made Dodgers GM Ned Colletti salivate. He envisioned a lineup where he would have two guys at the top of the order consistently getting on base and running a muck on the base paths. The speed of Furcal and Pierre was supposed to jump start the Dodgers power-less offense and give the middle of the order lots of opportunities to drive in runs.

What Went Wrong: In his first season with the Dodgers, Pierre gave the Dodgers exactly the kind of production that they paid for when they signed him. He scored over 90 runs, stole 64 bases, and hit a solid .292 for the season. Even with that stellar production, trouble was a brewin'.

That was because the Dodgers, who wanted Pierre for his speed, decided that they needed to add more power to their lineup for the 2008 season. Enter Andruw Jones. We all know how that turned out.

But this move left Pierre as the odd man out for the Dodgers, who already had Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier to fill the other two outfield positions. Pierre was relegated to the bench and he instantly became the second most expensive fourth outfielder in baseball (next to Gary Matthews Jr.). Needless to say, Pierre was miserable in his new role.

Future Implications: The Dodgers are now stuck with Pierre for the next three seasons as he will presumably soak up a good amount of time on the bench. He is still owed another $28.5 million bucks over the next three seasons, which is quite a commitment for a guy who is not in line to receive significant playing time. The Dodgers would be better off trading Pierre if they can find a taker for his large contract.

Perhaps the Dodgers will still be able to get some use out of Pierre if they cannot come to terms with Manny Ramirez. However, a more likely scenario is the Dodgers going after someone like Adam Dunn if they fail to sign Ramirez instead of simply handing the reigns over to Pierre. Because once again, the Dodgers need a power hitter.

It's safe to say that if the Dodgers intend to keep Pierre for the next three seasons as a backup, then he will be miserable. That's quite a far cry from the wonderful locker room presence Pierre became in Colorado, Chicago, and Florida.

Lesson Learned: Identify what direction you want to take you ball club and stick to it. If you want to build around power hitters, do it. If you want to build around speed, do it. Whichever way the cookie may crumble, you have to stay committed to the plan and to the players.

Because Colletti opted to go in a different direction after committing to Pierre and his speed, now the Dodgers have a very expensive fourth outfielder, who is probably going to be rather unhappy in his role.

It is still amazing to me that Pierre was able to get five years from Colletti especially when you consider that Colletti has made a name for himself in baseball by giving veterans short term contracts (Rafael Furcal, Jason Schmidt, Nomar Garciaparra, Jeff Kent, etc) that would not hurt the long term prospects of the franchise. Yet somehow, Pierre was able to weasel five years out of did that happen?

Once again Ned, stick to the plan.


Anonymous said...

What went wrong was signing a crummy player like Pierre -- sticking to that plan is just continuing a mistake. His performance is not "stellar."

Josh said...

Anon: There is no doubt that signing Pierre to a five year deal worth $9 mil per was excessive. Very excessive.

However, at the same rate, you have to admit that in 2007 Pierre put up pretty damn good numbers. Over 90 runs scored, 60+ stolen bases, .290 batting average...that's exactly what the Dodgers paid for whether Pierre existed into the existing lineup or not.

His OBP leaves a lot to be desired. If Pierre could produce a .350 OBP instead of a .330 OBP, he would be MUCH more valuable especially considering how many stolen bases he's good for.

His performance is 2008 was far from stellar. And I bet his performance in 2009 will be even worse.

thanks for the comment.