I think the title here just about says it all. I wanted to reply a bit to Kyle's earlier mini-analysis of the trade that brought Nyjer Morgan to the Brewers. In all, the two small deals this week are at the very worst a wash and at best something like a 1-win upgrade. In the past I've argued that the Brewers should be looking for any upgrade, no matter how small, because the value of each additional win at this point is very large.
Dealing Dickerson for Mitre, and then Dykstra for Morgan, is a set of moves that I feel like I would make in a video game-- they are small tricky little upgrades that help the team but that a GM like Doug Melvin rarely seems to make. He tends to stick with a guy instead of making a sneaky little group of moves like this. But I like this out of him. Who knows if this is exactly how he planned for this to work out, or if the Nationals were just desperate to get rid of Morgan, but as it turns out, the Brewers get a bit more starting pitching depth and a better backup outfielder. And they get a bit more entertaining in the process. I'll take my two arguments here one at a time.
Nyjer Morgan is a better backup outfielder than Chris Dickerson
I took a liking to Dickerson when he was a Brewer and hoped he would get a decent amount of playing time in 2010. He has some definite tools as a player, and between 2008 and 2009 he hit .283/.383/.440 in 421 plate appearances for the Reds. His 2010 was brutal, with a .518 OPS. HIs track record in the minors certainly was not bad, but wasn't exactly spectacular until he was getting a bit old for AAA. As far as we can tell, Dickerson is also a quality defender. How good is tough to tell. His UZR ratings in center field were nothing short of phenomenal, but in the small amount of innings he actually played I wouldn't really feel comfortable categorizing him as anything more than solidly above-average.
Morgan moved up to the majors a year before Dickerson, in 2007, and in his first 3 seasons seeing action in the big leagues he put together a .303/.362/.391 line over 826 plate appearances with Pittsburgh and Washington. Like Dickerson, he also had a rough 2010 season: .253/.319/.314 over 577 plate appearances (tcyoung has a nice Fanpost looking at why that might have happened). He also had a down year on defense in 2010, but a down year for Morgan on defense is still above-average by just about any measure. His 2009, in which he split between playing LF for the Pirates and CF for the Nationals, was remarkably good, saving 27 runs on defense. Throughout his career he's been solidly above average wherever he's played, so it would be fair to project him as well above-average in center field, and expect him to be extremely good on an outfield corner.
Dickerson and Morgan do have quite similar profiles, but Morgan's best year was far better than Dickerson's best, and Morgan's tough season last year was still substantially better than Dickerson's. His upside is higher and downside is higher. After 2009, he was something of a rising star, and in his down 2010 he was still worth about a win more than a replacement level center fielder-- very close to Carlos Gomez.
I'm all for letting Gomez have at the starting center field job this year. His skill as a defender is pretty much unmatched, and there's obviously potential there offensively. Morgan is a really nice backup for a player like Gomez-- If Gomez tanks, there's a backup available who is also a very good defender and has some big-time offensive upside as well. I'll take my chances that between Gomez and Morgan, the Brewers end up with average or better production this season from center field, especially if they're utilized to take advantage of their opposite handed-ness. And if a disaster were to strike and one of the three outfielders was out for a significant amount of time, Morgan is by far a better option to replace that production than anyone else they could obtain for a non-prospect like Cutter Dykstra. Consider that Morgan's 4.9 WAR in 2009 ties Ryan Braun's career high, also in 2009. No one in their right mind would expect Morgan to produce more than Braun ever again, because that value was jacked up by defense that he probably can never expect to get to again. But I'm confident he would hold his own if he needed to be a regular for a period of time-- more so than I would be with Dickerson, who has had health issues and some strange volatility in hitting production.
Sergio Mitre is better than Replacement Level
After Chris Narveson, the Brewers starting pitcher depth chart looked something like:
6. Manny Parra
7. Mark Rogers
8. Marco Estrada
Which, well, has some definite upside, but also has a lot of potential problems. A team should go into the season prepared to get around 10-20 starts from pitchers outside the top 5, and if they're really going to try to maximize those wins this season, it makes a lot of sense to go out and get a veteran who can at least be projected to be better than replacement level. A guy like Estrada is pretty much the definition of replacement level-- we'd project him for something like a 5.5 ERA, and it would be pretty easy to sign a minor league free agent who could be expected to perform similarly. Mitre is no star, but his ZiPS projection of 91 innings in 14 starts, 25 games total, and a 4.71 ERA in the American League is a welcome addition to the staff. If he makes 5 decent starts this year and is a decent long man out of the pen, mission accomplished. If he's not needed because the staff stays generally healthy and/or Parra and Rogers step up, all the better.
It's probably over-analyzing to break down things this far, but I like the idea of staying on the prowl and continuing to improve the roster in whatever ways possible. And even if Morgan and Dickerson have the exact same stats this year, but Nyjer does at least one thing that is funny (the odds are good), I think we come out ahead.