Sunday, August 25, 2013

By Robert Cunningham, Staff Writer - 

Back in early to mid-July I wrote this article regarding the possibility that Howie Kendrick might be traded before the 2014 season starts.  In that article I listed some teams that might be possible trade partners for the Angels.

In one of those trade scenarios, the one involving the Dodgers, I gave a very low probability of making a trade because of the possible perceived battle for the hearts, minds and ticket sales of the fans and residents of Los Angeles County.

A lot of news has passed in the last two months, revolving not only around Howie Kendrick but many other players as well. In fact it has now spread beyond the players and into the front office. Both Mike Scioscia and Jerry Dipoto have had their names mentioned as candidates to be fired in the off season.

One story reported by Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, found here, indicated that the Angels were in heavy trade discussions right up until the deadline regarding a Howie Kendrick for Zach Lee based deal—similar to the deal that I suggested earlier in July.

That deal never went through for unknown reasons. Perhaps the Angels, Dodgers, or both, didn't feel the trade was equitable and decided not to pull the trigger. Maybe the Dodgers saw their improvement in the standings and decided to back out of the proposed deal. It could even be that the return on Kendrick wasn't high enough for the Angels and a decision was made to wait until the off season to expand the number of potential suitors. Rosenthal even went so far as to suggest that the Dodgers might revisit a Kendrick trade after the season was over.

But could there be another possible reason that the Kendrick deal was delayed? The answer brings us to one of our four true outcomes.

All of the recent talk this week has been about the rift between Mike Scioscia and Jerry Dipoto. Jeff Passan, Scott Miller, Keith Law, and many others have reported that one of the two will be gone in the near future. So one of four real outcomes will happen before next season: Jerry Dipoto will be gone; Mike Scioscia will be gone; both will be gone; or both will stay.

The latter two options seem the least likely at this point in time. The only way that both would stay is if Arte Moreno really did have too much direct involvement in the big ticket acquisitions and he feels guilty enough about the results that he can’t bring himself to place the blame on either Dipoto or Scioscia.

Both would go if Arte was so mad about the results of this season and the prior ones that he decided to blow the entire operation up. Under this scenario, not only would both Scioscia and Dipoto be removed, but most likely parts of the front office and coaching staff would be gone too.

Out of the remaining two options I’d like to focus specifically on the idea of Mike Scioscia being gone. Mike is widely considered in baseball circles to be a good and experienced manager that many teams would seriously consider hiring or acquiring if given the opportunity. Although Mike has approximately $27-30 million remaining on his contract, it is not an immovable one and it is even possible that the right team would consider absorbing most or all of it in trade.

All of which brings me back to those trade deadline discussions with the Dodgers. It is plausible that Jerry Dipoto was not only discussing the trade of Howie Kendrick in July, but also the trade of Mike Scioscia.

If you really think about it from both teams’ perspectives it does make some sense. For the Angels, Mike Scioscia’s tenure appears to have become stale. The message being communicated to the players doesn’t appear to be heard or evidenced in their play on the field. Some have questioned Mike’s in-game tactical calls and it certainly seems like many of those decisions have failed at some of the worst times, resulting in increased scrutiny.

Additionally, there have been rumors that Dipoto and Scioscia don't always see eye to eye on things. Although Mike has stated that he is committed to the Angels (and he has never given anyone pause to not take him at his word), it may be that the Angels aren't as committed to Mike as they once were.

On the Dodgers side, earlier in the season, rumors swirled around Don Mattingly’s job security and it appeared that he was on the cusp of being fired before the team’s resurgence in late June/early July. The Dodgers were more than likely giving Mattingly his last chance to succeed. And when the team turned it around, the Dodgers probably decided that changing managers during a run like the one they are on would only be a negative for the team.

For the Dodgers, the opportunity to acquire an experienced manager of Mike Scioscia’s caliber would be one that they would certainly consider, if not covet. Not to mention the fact that he is a beloved player in the history of the Dodgers franchise, helping them win two World Series titles.

If Arte Moreno has decided that it is time for Mike to go, having Jerry Dipoto discuss managerial trades would help save the team money and could even return Major League ready players and prospects. The one team that makes the most sense to trade him to, from a value perspective, is the Los Angeles Dodgers.

It is possible that a trade would have happened already had it not been for the fact that the Dodgers turned it around under Mattingly’s command before the deadline came. The Dodgers may have determined it was better to wait until the off season to discuss a Kendrick/Scioscia trade. The team’s surge leading up to the trade deadline could have convinced the front office not to mess with their current success.

For the Angels it could have been that the return in trade wasn’t what they had hoped for and they could afford to wait for the off season to potentially increase the number of suitors for Kendrick, Scioscia, or both.

Of course it could also, simply be, that they were only discussing Kendrick.

I don’t envy the decision that Arte Moreno has to make. All of the four true outcomes seem fraught with potential pitfalls and unforeseen consequences. Arte, in his recent comments, indicated that he was experiencing conflicted thoughts by stating, “"I have to look in the mirror and say, 'Am I making the right call?'"

In some ways the Scioscia question is a tough one. I don’t think many people doubt Mike’s intelligence and ability to manage a team. However, sometimes the message stops getting through and the connection to the player’s can unravel. If Arte has given Jerry Dipoto the green light to trade Scioscia, the Dodgers sure do seem like a welcoming target. In fact they may be a team that we could extract the most value from, in a trade. A hometown hero comes home, so to speak.

Of course it could be less expensive to send Dipoto on his way rather than Scioscia. He may be done before he ever got started.

As fans we always have to remember that the grass isn't always greener on the other side of the hill. In other words be careful what you wish for.

Only Arte Moreno, Jerry Dipoto, and Mike Scioscia know what the real state of affairs is. There are conversations and situations that we are just not privy too that will factor into the decision of who stays and who might go.

If Scioscia does go, look for an off season trade of 2B Howie Kendrick and M Mike Scioscia for prospects SP Zach Lee and SS Corey Seager plus one of either RP Kenley Jansen or RP Paco Rodriguez (the former being the more desirable target). The Dodgers would more than likely absorb a large amount of the contracts of both Kendrick and Scioscia.

A trade like this would give the Angels an instant upgrade to their starting rotation and bullpen. Lee could slot in the #3 or #4 spot next season and Jansen or Rodriguez would become an instant late inning relief option. Seager could develop into a power-hitting shortstop in 2-4 years time.

By waiting until the off season, the Dodgers can keep their bullpen intact for their pennant run and then trade either Jansen or Rodriguez as needed.

Some of you might scoff at the idea that Scioscia’s contract has value but it wouldn't surprise me if the Dodgers looked at it as a bargain, particularly considering Scioscia’s history with the club.

This solution, if the Dodgers are willing to do it, would allow us to unload some or all of Scioscia’s contract (and Kendrick’s) while giving us some of the potential upgrades we are looking for and need.

If Arte really has decided that the Mike Scioscia era is over, the Dodgers really are close to being the perfect trade partner.

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