Time to Shop for Pierre Replacements

By Ted Cahill

No Manny has meant no problem for Los Angeles, but with the left fielder preparing to return to Dodger Stadium next week a log jam is in the making in the outfield.

Juan Pierre, the player who underperformed so much last year that they had to bring Ramirez out West, is having a career six weeks. Right fielder Andre Ethier struggled initially without Ramirez in the lineup, but has really returned to form during June. Center fielder Matt Kemp seems to be fulfilling his potential, hitting .314 with 11 stolen bases this year.

Ramirez, of course, is a former All-Star and the Dodgers’ savior last season. So who will take a seat next to Joe Torre when Ramirez’s 50-game suspension ends July 3?

The Dodgers say the answer is Pierre, who has taken baseball by storm this year. A key pickup in many fantasy leagues, the 31-year old will return to the bench where he spent most of the first 29 games of the season.

Pierre got only 31 at bats with Ramirez in the lineup, and it seems unlikely that he will get any more chances. General Manager Ned Colletti said trading Pierre is unlikely, given that no deal was made during the offseason. The Dodgers hope to acquire a pitcher before the deadline, but have plenty of other pieces to make a deal happen.

This leaves Pierre owners in a tight spot. He has no trade value, but has been a very important contributor thus far. He has stolen 17 bases this season and replacing that production could be difficult.

However, it may be easier than it appears on the surface.

2009 may be remembered as the season that previously great singles hitters return to prominence. That might be a bit of a stretch, but in addition to Pierre, Scott Podsednik is back to slapping the ball across the South Side of Chicago.

So for all of Pierre’s fantasy owners replacing him may be as simple as picking up Podsednik. The White Sock is available in 83 percent of ESPN leagues and 80 percent of Yahoo! Leagues. He’s hitting .312 with 22 runs and 10 stolen bases.

Podsednik is a very similar hitter to Pierre, but probably with a bit better job security. His return to the White Sox was brought on by an injury to Carlos Quentin, who isn’t expected to return until after the All-Star break. When Quentin does return, Podsednik could move to center field, where Brian Anderson has not played very well.

Another option may be Brett Gardner, if Podsednik happens to already be taken. Gardner seems to have adjusted to the Major Leagues and is having a fine season. He’s hitting .285 with 27 runs and 16 stolen bases. Also because Gardner plays his home games at Yankee Stadium, he may luck into a few home runs.

Because of Denard Span’s recent trip on the DL he has become available in a few more leagues and Michael Bourn is still not universally owned. If either of them is on the waiver wire, they are better pickups than Podsednik and Gardner.

No matter what, there is no reason to worry about where your fantasy team will find a replacement for Pierre. As long as you plan now, your team can be almost as prepared as the Dodgers for July 3.