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Depodesta 2004 Outfield - Spilled Milk Edition

keeps paying dividends just not for the Dodgers.

During spring training of 2004 the Dodgers had an outfield of Shawn Green, Dave Roberts, and Juan Encarnacion but no 1st baseman other then Robin Ventura.

In a period of five days Depodesta transformed the Dodger outfield for the immediate future, and what could have been for the next five years.

On March 29th, Depo's first ever trade as Dodger GM  was to send AA relief pitcher Jason Frasor to the Toronto Blue Jays for failed catching prospect Jayson Werth. Upto that point the 24 year old Jayson Werth was known more for his relatives, and his 6'5 frame  then his ability to hit a baseball. In two seasons for the Blue Jays he struck out an alarming 33% of the time in his meager 94 plate appearances. Whatever Depo saw in Werth, he must have seen it in the minor leagues or had a scout really touting him. You can look at Werth's minor league numbers, and say for a catcher, not so bad, for a corner outfielder, eh.  Werth was acquired as insurance and did not make the club out of spring training. He was sent to Las Vegas to start the year but battered the PCL and quickly became part of a platoon with Dave Roberts.

On April 1st, Depo then traded another relief pitcher, Steve Colyer for Detroit outfielder Cody Ross. The 23 year old Ross was also sent to Las Vegas where he would spend all of 2004 and 2005.

After giving his outfield some depth for the future, Depo looked at his team and saw an outfield of Green, Roberts, and Encarnacion. He didn't have a 1st  baseman other then the old Robin Ventura so when Milton Bradley became available he made his play.  The price for acquiring Milton Bradley on April 3rd was top AA prospect Franklin Gutierrez and another relief pitcher, Andy Brown. 

So in a space of five days, Depodesta acquired the 2004/2005 starting center fielder, the starting LF for the playoffs in 2004, and a man who if they had kept would have been the starting left fielder for the last five years at a very cheap price.

For all that he wasn't done working his outfield magic in 2004. As the season progressed Dave Roberts and Juan Encarnacion were simply not Depo guys. Encarnacion was an average power hitter, who struck out to much, and had little plate discipline. In the outfield he had a good arm but was not a particularly adept right fielder. Dave Roberts was a decent average, no power, speed guy playing a corner position. As we would see with Depo's moves, he was not a big fan of players whose best skill was speed.

So just like from March 29th - April 3rd, Depo worked quickly at the trading deadline and one more time transformed the outfield. On July 30th he traded Juan Encarnacion in the big Lo Duca deal, getting rid of his right fielder while acquiring a 1st baseman in Hee Sop Choi.  On July 31st he completed the madness by trading for All-Star center fielder Steven Finley moving a plethora of no talent minor leaguers. Dave Roberts no longer had a starting gig and in his 2nd most inexplicable move of 2004 he dealt Roberts to the Red Sox career minor leaguer Henri Stanly. 

The resulting lineup was Milton moving to RF, Finley taking over CF, and Jayson Werth moving from a platoon LF role to an everyday starting role. In a tight pennant race, this outfield helped propel to the team to the pennant with Steve Finley hitting one of the most memorable Los Angeles Dodger September home runs to clinch the pennant.

All of the promise of 2004 went up in smoke the following spring. Jayson Werth who looked like a young power hitting, great fielding, patient corner outfielder broke his wrist in the first spring training game of 2005. Even when he came back his power was gone, and when the Dodgers faced the choice of giving him a contract in the winter of 2006 they let him go. Easily the worst move of the Ned Era, with his wrist healed Jayson Werth has been the best right fielder in the NL since 2007. 

Milton Bradley detonated in 2005 and was gone, but in Ned's greatest move, he acquired Andre Ethier for Milton.

Steve Finley was a free agent and in one of Depo's better moves he not only did not offer him arbitration he let him walk when he demanded a multi year deal. Depo guessed right and Finley's would never again be an impact player.

Cody Ross spent all of 2004 and 2005 in the minor leagues. By the time he surfaced to the major leagues, Depo was gone and Ned was in his place. Ned didn't seem to have faith in the Depo acquisitions and just one week after Ross hit two home runs while driving in seven runs he was moved to the Reds for a minor league relief pitcher. While Depo created the outfield trading his minor league relief pitchers for outfielders, Ned would spend most of his Dodger time trading whatever the Dodger had for relief pitchers. Since being traded to the Reds in 2006 Cody Ross was then traded to the Marlins. From 2007-2010 Cody Ross has put up an OPS+ of 109 which is the same as the Hundred Million Dollar man Alfonso Soriano.

With all the good Depo did during the 2004 season he made two mistakes. One was trading Dave Roberts so cheaply simply because he was no longer a starter. Given the success that Depo had with Werth/Ross one hoped that Henri Stanley would also pan out, but that was not to be the case. He didn't.

The second was creating the 40 man roster in the winter of 2004. He left off Shane Victorino who had an excellent AA season, and was plucked by the Phillies on Dec 13th, 2004 during the Rule V draft. 

When Ned took over in the winter of 2005, the players that Depo had acquired via trade who were on the 40 man roster were:

Hee Sop Choi, Antonio Perez, Dionnar Navarro, Jayson Werth,  Cody Ross, Milton Bradley, Jason Philips, Jose Cruz, Jason Grabowski, and Brad Penny.

By the start of the 2007 season one full season later, only Brad Penny was left.  The Depo purge was complete.  Most of those players turned out to be dreck, but for one summer Paul Depodesta made some shrewd moves to build his 2004 outfielder and to create depth for the future.

While doing this story I found it remarkable how often Depo traded a relief pitcher as compared to how often Ned trades for a relief pitcher. Might make an interesting story for another day.

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