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More On Loaiza

The good, the Dodgers managed to get someone without actually having to surrender talent. When you give up Dioner Navarro for Mark Hendrickson and Travis Denker for Mark Sweeney, getting something for nothing but taking on salary seems to be a relief.

The bad, well, it's the ever exciting Estaban Loaiza.

Since his fantastic 2003, Loaiza has performed as two different pitchers. In 2005 with the Nationals, he struck out over seven per nine while keeping the ball in the ball park, most likely thanks to the expanded dimensions at RFK. In 2004 and 2006, he struck out a bit less than six per nine, with the difference being the home runs that he gave up. In 2004 while pitching for the White Sox and Yankees, 1.57 home runs per nine and was a complete disaster. In 2006, he surrendered only one home run per nine with the A's and was a serviceable pitcher.

While the difference can't entirely be attributed to park factors, it's very likely that Loaiza is a very similar pitcher to David Wells, albeit better. He's going to rely on his defense to make outs on balls in play, and he doesn't do enough to keep the ball on the ground (1.13 ground ball to fly ball ratio in 2006) to keep the ball from going out of the park at a semi regular basis. Estaban Loaiza is going to live or die based on how good the Dodgers defense is the next two years.

While Loaiza does represent a clear upgrade over Stults this year, a bigger question is how will he help the Dodgers in 2008? Loaiza effectively ensures that Randy Wolf's nine million dollar option will not be picked up next year, and I think keeping Loaiza instead of Wolf is a bad idea. Both players have injury histories of late, Loaiza missing about a month and a half last year and all of this season until two weeks ago. Wolf has pretty much been out of commission since about 2003. They are also both fairly home run prone, though Wolf seemed to have settled that down this year. The difference between them is the type of pitcher they are. Wolf brought his strikeout totals back to where they were in his heyday this year, where as Loaiza, as I mentioned before, is much more of a pitch to contact guy. However, they both have near identical strikeout to walk ratios in their last semi full seasons (Wolf: 2.41, Loaiza: 2.43).

Whether or not Loaiza performs nearly as Wolf's equal or ends up tossing batting practice depends entirely on how the Dodgers defense plays next year. Jeff Kent is a disaster at second that will only get worse next year, but the Dodgers could stack up to being pretty good defensively. Rafael Furcal's defense has only gotten better the last few years, James Loney will have an entire seasons worth of games at first instead of Nomar, and Matt Kemp should effectively replace Luis Gonzalez in left. The big question is whether or not Nomar will keep the third base job, or if it will go to Andy LaRoche. If LaRoche mans the hot corner next year, the Dodgers could be a very good defensive team, with only Jeff Kent dragging them down.

In the end, I would rather have Wolf than Loaiza because I'll always take the strikeout pitcher all things being equal and Loaiza's home run rate will go up at Dodger Stadium. However, Loaiza probably won't be a disaster in 2008, and the boost that he gives the Dodgers in 2007 might make him worth it. Had we given up any actual talent to acquire Loaiza, I would probably hate this deal, but bringing him on at no cost makes this acquisition just fine.