At some point before March 22nd the Dodgers are going to have to sign a utility player. Even the optimists on Dee Gordon‘s future (I happen to be one of them) realize that he can’t play SS. The bench as currently constructed shows FedEx (C), Scott Van Slyke (1B/OF), Justin Sellers (SS/3B), Dee Gordon (2b/CF), and Mike Baxter (OF). Having Hanley Ramirez as your primary shortstop forces you to have a backup capable of playing the position well enough to not completely destroy you on offense. It’s almost like the Dodgers had a perfect player for that last season. While I really really want Jeff Baker (he’s only compiled a stat line of .298/.353/.522 against left handed major league pitching), he doesn’t play SS. So who could fill the void left by Nick Punto?
Some fans have Cesar Izturis in mind. Izturis of course played with the Dodgers from 2002-2006 hitting .260/.296/.336 with some pretty decent defense. Now 33 years old and there has been some rumors of him rejoining the Dodgers as they are in desperate need of a utility infielder. I appreciate the gesture of him coming back and it’d be nice, until you realize he would have to be Hanley Ramirez’s primary backup. Hanley’s backup last year had to record 335 PA’s because of Ramirez’s inability to stay healthy. Izturis last season was simply atrocious, no way around this. His weighted Runs Created+ (which is a stat that measures in what percentile hitter falls under with 100 being league average) was an incredible 60. This means he was 40% below the league average hitter. No amount of defense can offset his inability to hit, and Izturis’s defense+combination of age certainly doesn’t justify such a poor bat. Nick Punto was worth 1.9 wins according to fangraphs last season, Cesar Izturis in 12 seasons has been worth 3.2. He hasn’t recorded positive value in terms of fangraphs WAR in 5 years, unless you want to count his 18 game run in 2011 where he was worth a whopping 0.1 fWAR. Pass.
The guy I have in mind is somewhat of an eccentric fellow. It’s the one and only Munenori Kawasaki. He’s downright silly. An excerpt from one of his interviews last year which was taken from that notgraphs article:
You were not planning on getting an interpreter?
I thought I could figure things out, but things did not work out quite that well. There were times I sat through hour-long meetings and could not understand a word that was said.
What did you do?
I pretended I understood. Then I would go to the coaches later on and they would draw me pictures to help me understand. It was like, “Oh, that’s what they were saying.” That’s what it was like.
Sign this man.
But really he can do more than just dance.
*completely acceptable if you just want to see the man dance*
He slashed .229/.326/.308, and while the power numbers certainly aren’t good, the walk rate is very nice. In 289 PA’s last season he walked 11.1% of the time. He was worth a cool .8 WAR and plays a very demanding position decently (2 Defensive Runs Saved and a 1.1 UZR). He’s a nice utility man to have on the roster regardless of what silliness he brings.
Putting this man on a team that already features Hanley Ramirez, Yasiel Puig, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Juan Uribe, Adrian Gonzalez, AJ Ellis, Brian Wilson and many others would be something else, he’s the utility guy I want.