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A.J. Pollock would be a lateral move, especially if it costs Joc Pederson

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It’s not really an improvement

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Los Angeles Dodgers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The rumor mill heated up a bit over the weekend with the Dodgers reportedly interesting in signing free-agent outfielder A.J. Pollock and possibly trading Joc Pederson to the White Sox or Braves.

First off, it’s curious that the Dodgers would be truly interested in Pollock because he’s likely to cost a significant amount (some think more than $50 million for three-plus years) and the Dodgers would have to give up the No. 31 pick in June’s draft and $500,000 of international signing money, per the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Second, is Pollock really that much of an upgrade over Pederson? It’s hard to do a straight comparison since Pollock is a plus-defender in center field and Pederson isn’t. But, Pederson showed well once shifting to left field (+4 defensive runs saved, 7.0 UZR/150), increasing his overall value.

Offensively, Pederson is superior to Pollock. At least, he has been since 2016. Pollock has played in 236 games and made 972 plate appearances. Pederson is at 373 games and 1,242 PAs. The counting numbers are so close because Pederson has been platooned in that time. Otherwise, he’d have a substantially larger lead. But the most glaring discrepancy is in the rate stats. Heres’ how the two break down since the 2016 season:

2016-18

Player AVG OBP SLG BB% K% ISO wRC+ wOBA fWAR
Player AVG OBP SLG BB% K% ISO wRC+ wOBA fWAR
Pollock .261 .323 .473 7.3 18.4 .213 105 .338 5.2
Pederson .238 .335 .482 11.4 22.8 .244 120 .348 6.9

The spread isn’t that great in some areas, but it’s enough that the Dodgers shouldn’t be adding Pollock at the expense of Pederson.

Pederson is slated to make $5 million in his second year of arbitration. That number won’t go up terribly much next season, making him a more than affordable platoon guy. Pollock could more than triple that salary and eat up a lot of the remaining $24.6 million the Dodgers have under the threshold. With their penchant of adding in-season, they won’t have nearly as much room to maneuver (and this doesn’t take into account that there could be some more moves this offseason).

If a win is worth $8.12 million, as it was last season (according to FanGraphs) and Pederson produces his 3-year average in WAR (2.3), he’d be worth $18.676 million. If the same applies to Pollock, he’d be worth $14.075 million. It just doesn’t make a ton of sense.

Of course, if Pollock is closer to his 2015 level of production, he would be a downright bargain. He was worth $54.3 million that season, besting Pederson’s top season (2016) by $25.7 million. We’ve seen both players’ ceilings — Pederson can be, at best, a 4-win player. Pollock can be nearly a 7-win player, but that’s an extreme outlier. Pollock has topped 500 plate appearances just once in his 7-year career. Pederson has done the same in his 5-year career, but because he has been platooned, not hurt.

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I can, somewhat, understand the interest in Pollock. Plugging in a plus-defender in center field is enticing. But Cody Bellinger more than held his own out there last season and moving him to left field probably wouldn’t be much of an upgrade over Pederson — both offensively and defensively. And I’m not sure why the Dodgers are suddenly so interested in handedness of their hitters. They have a nice compliment of right-handed hitters in Kiké Hernandez and Chris Taylor who can pick up slack for the lefties who struggle against southpaws, but at the same time, Bellinger should be out there every day. Alex Verdugo should also be given the opportunity to show he can handle lefties (and he did in the minors). Pederson should be platooned with whoever doesn’t play second base (Hernandez or Taylor) with a lefty on the mound.

At the end of the day, it seems like the Dodgers are out-thinking themselves. Just sign Bryce Harper and call it an offseason. Occam’s Razor and all.