Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Hanley bolts for Beantown

The Hanley Ramirez era in Los Angeles is officially over.

Wanting a big money contract that the Dodgers were not willing to offer, Hanley has signed a four-year, $88 million deal with the Red Sox, going back to the original team he made his professional debut with in 2005.

For the Dodgers, it's an obvious blow to the offense, as it will be hard to replace the damage he can cause at the plate.

As for his defense and health?  Well, his departure equals an immediate upgrade, quite frankly.

This is no knock on Hanley, who came over to the Dodgers in 2012, then put together a fantastic 2013 campaign by hitting .345 with 20 homers and 57 RBIs.  Had he not been beaned in the ribs by the Cardinals' Joe Kelly in Game 1 of that season's NLCS, then it may have been the Dodgers who advanced to play the Red Sox in the World Series.

The problem?  He got those numbers in only 86 games, as the injury bug just never seemed to leave him.  This past season he played in 128 games, but his numbers dipped to .287/13/71.  His Defensive Wins Above Replacement (DWAR) also went down from 0.7 to -0.6.

Simply put, he's a much better fit for the American League at this point.  The Red Sox can keep his bat in the lineup at DH when he's banged up.  Well, that may be tough with David Ortiz there, but perhaps they would be more comfortable giving Big Papi more rest with a lefty on the mound.  Already, Hanley has been introduced as the team's new left fielder, which makes sense.

Ken Gurnick over at Dodgers.com takes a look at potential replacements for Hanley, albeit short-term ones.  Right now on the roster there's Justin Turner, Miguel Rojas, and Erisbel Arruebarrena, who are hardly considered the future.  The guy who gets that distinction is Corey Seager, who might not be quite ready for the everyday role yet.

There's also free agents such as Asdrubal Cabrera and Stephen Drew, and trade possibilities like Jimmy Rollins and Alexei Ramierz.  We shall see.

In the meantime, I truly believe Dodger fans should be grateful towards Hanley and all he brought to the table for a little over two seasons.  Yes, I know it was frustrating watching him miss so much time to injuries, and his defense left something to be desired of late.  But, when everything was clicking and he felt right, he was a lot of fun to watch.  The ball would jump off of his bat, which was a beautiful sight.

And THAT'S what I'll remember most about him.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Maybe Kemp is the one who gets dealt

Interesting story from baseball insider Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com this week, as he's hearing from sources within the industry that Matt Kemp is drawing strong trade interest from other teams.  So while the Dodgers would prefer to move guys like Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford, Kemp could be the more realistic deal.

The bottom line?  Andrew Friedman and the Dodgers are serious about moving an outfielder, and making Don Mattingly's life a lot easier in 2015.  Good for them.

There are seven reasons listed by Heyman as to why Kemp could be moved.  To view them, click on the link above.

Here's a few highlights from his article.  If the Dodgers are serious about dumping cash, then Heyman thinks teams would be willing to take on the entire $107 million left on Kemp's remaining five years.  The reason?  Kemp finished with 25 homers and 89 RBIs, and that was mostly from just one good half of the season after the All-Star break.  With power at such a premium, especially from the right side, Kemp could be coveted that much more.

Joc Pederson's presence in center could muddle things up a bit as well.  There's no doubt he's the guy to roam center for years to come.  That would bump Yasiel Puig back to right, which is his best position.  And Kemp?  Back to left, where he was clearly unhappy after being yanked from center early last season.  Kemp seemed to embrace going to right, but for whatever reason, wants nothing to do with left.

The final highlight is about "chemistry issues" in the clubhouse, and how Kemp might not exactly be helping things.  Who knows how true that is, as only the guys who are actually in the clubhouse day in and day out truly know what's going on.  But there's no secret that when things aren't going well, Kemp might not be the happiest guy to be around.

I'm sure the Dodgers would love to enter 2015 with a starting outfield of Kemp, Puig, and Pederson.  The reality is that if they want to lower their payroll and straighten out the crowded outfield, then Kemp could be the guy to go.  I've already accepted that, and at this point, I'm waiting for it to happen.

And if it does, whom will the Dodgers bring in?  More bullpen help?  A replacement for Hanley Ramirez at short?  Help for the end of the rotation?  Stay tuned and we will see.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Bullpen makeover begins with Peralta

Where did Andrew Friedman turn to in his first big move with the Dodgers?  Why his old club in Tampa, of course.

The Dodgers acquired veteran righty Joel Peralta from the Rays on Tuesday in exchange for Jose Dominguez and Greg Harris.  Lefty Adam Liberatore was also obtained in the 2-for-2 deal.

There's obviously a lot of familiarity for Friedman in this move, as Peralta has spent the last four seasons as one of the Rays' top setup men.  That included excellent season in 2011 and 2012 in which he posted an American League best 37 and 41 holds, respectively.

Last season, those numbers dipped some to the tune of 18 holds with a 4.41 ERA and 1.18 WHIP.  Still, he's made the most appearances in the Majors since 2011 at 296, and is second to Tyler Clippard with 115 holds.  He's only been on the DL once in 10 years, and that was last July when he missed time because of a mosquito bite.  Seriously.

I like this move for a couple of reasons.  One, Peralta is a proven commodity in the 'pen, as he's been able to overpower the mighty AL East for a few seasons.  Two, Dominguez is a guy who can regularly throw 100+ mph, but can't locate and was still hit around last season to the tune of a 6.14 ERA.  He's had his moments, but is not a reliable, consistent arm to build around.  He won't be missed.

Immediately, Peralta should be propelled into the setup role, as the Dodgers are DESPERATELY trying to find any sort of solution to getting the ball to Kenley Jansen late in games.  The regular season was bad enough, but the NLDS against the Cardinals magnified this even more.

This is a good start for Friedman with more work to do.  Peralta may not reach the level of leading the league in holds anymore, but with an ability to still get strikeouts (74 in 63 1/3 innings last year), he can definitely be a needed boost to the 'pen.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Cy Young. MVP. No-hitter. There's just ONE last hurdle for Kershaw...


And he conquered it on Friday by signing an endorsement deal with Subway!

All kidding aside (though he really is a new Subway spokesman), Clayton Kershaw has done it all in the regular season by the young age of 26.  He claimed his third Cy Young Award in four years this past week.  A day later, he became the first NL pitcher to sweep the Cy Young and MVP awards since Bob Gibson in 1968.

He threw a no-hitter back in June with 15 strikeouts, and was a Hanley Ramirez throwing error away from it being a perfect game.  So yes, it was practically a perfect game.

There's also that cool little seven-year, $215 contract extension he inked after last season.

Now that the soon-to-be father has accomplished all of that already, we all know what his next goal will be.  The elephant in the room during all of this is the memories of a couple horrific seventh innings against the Cardinals in the NLDS, as the Dodgers fell in four games.

Simply put, here's his pitching splits between the regular season and playoffs:

Regular Season: 211 G, 98-49, 2.48 ERA, 1.06 WHIP
Postseason: 11 G, 1-5, 5.12 ERA, 1.24 WHIP

I think it's fair to point out that while Kershaw certainly wasn't at his best in his two playoff starts this year, and three dating back to his final start in the NLCS last season, it's not like he's gotten shelled in every single postseason start.  Last season, he had three very good starts before getting shelled in the final game against the Cardinals.  In 2009, he helped put the Dodgers up 2-0 on those same Cardinals in the NLDS with nearly seven innings of two-run ball.

The problem?  When he's lost, he's REALLY lost.  There's no hiding the fact that he's been absolutely shelled when he's been off.  We've seen what the Cardinals have done against him, and the also struggled against the Phillies in the NLCS back in 2009.

I remember hearing Jim Kelly saying that if the Bills had won their first Super Bowl against the Giants, then they might not have been as motivated to go to four straight.  They may have gotten complacent, and who knows what kind of run they would've had.

If you're looking for a silver lining, perhaps this is it: Kershaw needs something to strive for after having so much come so easy to him already.  He's certainly not the only reason the Dodgers haven't gotten as far as they thought they would the last couple of season, but he knows as the team leader, a lot rests on his strong left arm.  That's what he's aiming to correct each day this offseason.

No one will work harder or wants a championship more than Kershaw, as the last thing he wants to be known as is the guy who pitches well in the regular season, but wilts under the intense pressures of the postseason.  He has his huge contract and plays on a team willing to dish out all sorts of cash to ensure more trips to October.  You know he'll be get more cracks at this thing.

Hopefully 2015 it will all come together for him, as he lands a shiny, new piece of jewelry to go with all the hardware.  If there's anyone you can count on for it to happen, it's Kershaw.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Kershaw mows 'em down to win 3rd Cy Young

There was never any doubt Clayton Kershaw would win his third Cy Young Award.  The question was, By how much?

A lot.  As in 30 first place votes for him, and none for the rest.

The Baseball Writers' Association of America left no doubt, as Kershaw received every first place vote en route to an incredible third Cy Young Award in four years.  And to think, he actually could've made it 4-for-4 had R.A. Dickey not had the season of his life in 2012.  But one second place finish ain't bad, either.

The 2014 season was certainly an interesting one for Kershaw.  He started the year Down Under pitching 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball against the Diamondbacks in Australia, then found himself on the DL with a sore back muscle.  After overcoming that, he returned in May and looked better than ever, soon pitching a no-hitter on June 18 over the Rockies, striking out 15 in what is considered one of the best pitched games of all time.

He ended the season 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, and 239 K's.  Those were far and away the best in baseball, and with all due respect to guys like Johnny Cueto and Adam Wainwright, he was clearly the top dog in the NL.

Of course, the voting for the award took place after the regular season ended, as his NLDS was a disaster, dropping two games to the Cardinals to the tune of a 7.82 ERA.  Take away two bad seventh innings, and who knows how far the Dodgers could've gone.  But alas, it wasn't meant to be.

Postseason aside, let's not forget just how unbelievably awesome Kershaw was during 2014.  He's as must-see a pitcher as there is in baseball right now, as the Dodgers can count on such a great show every fifth day.  Right now he's the best there is, and two bad starts in October doesn't change that.

In the immediate future, Kershaw has a possible MVP award to be looking forward to, as he will find out if he did the impossible on Thursday night.  He'll have to hold off studs like Giancarlo Stanton and Andrew McCutchen, but thing are looking good for the rare MVP going to a pitcher.

In the long term, it's obviously all about finding success in October and getting the Dodgers a World Series title they haven't seen since 1988.  He's won awards, pitched a no-hitter (which was an error away from a perfect game), and now wants a ring.

Hopefully it'll all come together for him in 2015.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The outfield logjam could soon be cleared

Reports are surfacing in recent days that the Dodgers are finally serious about clearing up their crowded outfield.  According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the main goal of president Andrew Friedman and general manager Farhan Zaidi at the General Managers' meetings is to move an outfielder.

Or two, maybe.

Right now, the Dodgers have four main guys (Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford) and one rising prospect (Joc Pederson).

With that said, let's take a look at each one.  In addition to their 2014 stats and remaining money owed, I'll discuss the pros and cons of each player, along with the possibility of each being moved.

Yasiel Puig
2014: 148 G, .296 AVG, .382 OBP, 37 2B, 9 3B, 16 HR, 69 RBI, 11 SB, 5.3 OWAR
Remaining Contract: Four years, $24 million

Pros: Simply put, when Puig puts his total game together, it's hard to find many who are better.  He can hit, run, and throw all at a very high level, which only guys like Mike Trout and Andrew McCutchen can claim to do.  His power was down this year, but he's shown in the past that he can certainly straighten that out.  He can hit anywhere in the order thanks to his speed.  And on defense, opposing runners are largely learned not to test his arm.  At 24 next season, the sky is still the limit.

Cons: There's always going to be questions about his maturity, as he showed way back in the first home game of the season that he can be hard to be relied upon when he was late to the park and scratched from the lineup.  A big swing shows his reluctance to get adjusted at the plate, as he was completely lost for nearly all of the NLDS.  Is he too stubborn to make changes?  That's still a question that lingers.

Trade Him?  Nope, I just can't see it happening.  There's way too much talent in that body, and for a team that desires to get younger, it's hard to imagine them getting rid of a chip like him.

Matt Kemp
2014: 150 G, .287 AVG, .346 OBP, 38 2B, 3 3B, 25 HR, 89 RBI, 8 SB, 3.8 OWAR
Remaining Contract: Five years, $107 million

Pros: It looked like it took awhile, but he finally reached a point in his recovery from all sorts of injuries where he put it all together in the second half of 2014.  He turned himself back into an MVP-type player, as the ball was jumping off of his bat.  He also found a home in right field after being so reluctant to switch from center.  It worked, as he was a huge reason why the Dodgers claimed the NL West.

Cons: With his recent success is also a reminder not to get too excited, as we've seen this before.  Fair or not, he's an injury-prone player, and when he's hurt, he's very easy to pitch to.  It's unknown if he'll ever be ready to be an effective center fielder again, as he's made it crystal clear that that's where he sees himself playing again.

Trade Him?  After watching him come back to life this past season, it's hard to see it happening.  Then again, maybe this is the time to get something good back for him if the Dodgers think he's already peaked.  I'm sure they would rather keep him, but if the offer is there, I bet they pull the trigger.

Carl Crawford
2014: 105 G, .300 AVG, .339 OBP, 14 2B, 3 3B, 8 HR, 46 RBI, 23 SB, 2.3 OWAR
Remaining Contract: Three years, $62.25 million

Pros: After battling his way back from injuries, he showed that he still has some magic back in that bat.  It's not as much, but much like Kemp, when he's locked in and feeling good, he can be an effective piece in the lineup.  He can still steal a base as well, albeit not at the humongous rate like he once did.

Cons: He'll turn 34 next August, but seems like he's much older.  His career has gone downhill since signing that mega-contract with the Red Sox back in 2011, which is the same contract the Dodgers must now deal with.  At this point he's a decent outfielder and a pretty good bad when healthy, but has not played in more than 116 games the last three seasons.

Trade Him?  Absolutely.  The Dodgers would love to make it happen, but it will come at a price.  Nonetheless, I would think they'd be OK with that, as he's obviously on the wrong side of his career, but can maybe still get something decent in return.

Andre Ethier
2014: 130 G, .249 AVG, .322 OBP, 17 2B, 6 3B, 4 HR, 42 RBI, 2 SB, 0.8 OWAR
Remaining Contract: Three years, $56 million

Pros: Ethier got squeezed out by the logjam more than anyone, but has won both a Gold Glove (2011) and Silver Slugger (2009) in the past, which could earn him a starting job somewhere.  He can play any outfield position pretty well, as he originally took over for Kemp in center back in May.  Is much more effective against right-handed hurlers.

Cons: Another guy who's past the magic age of 30 (will be 33 next April), and isn't looked at as "Andre the Giant" like he once was.  What hurts him even more is his atrocious numbers against left-handed pitchers, as he's all but useless against them.  His power numbers are practically a thing of the past.

Trade Him?  Just like Crawford, absolutely.  In Ethier's case, it would appear to be an easier move, as he's a little younger, healthier, and has a slightly more manageable contract.  He's given LA many good moments, but it's time to move on, which is something I bet he wants more than anyone.

Joc Pederson
2014: 18 G, .143 AVG, .351 OBP, 0 2B, 0 3B, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 0 SB, -0.1 OWAR
Remaining Contract: ? (No information found)

Pros: Right now, we're judging him solely on his work in the minors.  Luckily for him, he did some very impressive things down on the farm, including 33 homers and 30 steals in Triple-A last season.  He also plays some great defense, as he's already been viewed as the next center fielder for years to come.  All in all, he has largely been considered the next big thing for the Dodgers.

Cons: The funny thing about potential is that you haven't actually done anything yet.  He still will get plenty of time to, but in his brief stint in LA during September, the game looked to be a little too big for him.  Granted, it's a very small sample size with only 28 at-bats, but no extra-base hits shows he has plenty of work left to do.

Trade Him?  No way.  There's too much untapped talent to move him now.  The management team before Friedman took over did not want to move him, and I can't imagine that changing now.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A-Gon and Greinke come up Golden

Congratulations goes out to a pair of Dodgers on Tuesday, as Adrian Gonzalez and Zack Greinke won Gold Glove Awards for first base and pitcher.

For A-Gon, it's his fourth overall award, as he won twice with the Padres (2008, 2009), and once with the Red Sox (2011).  This season, he had a magnificent .996 fielding %, with only six errors in 1,442 total chances.  That's amazing, and an improvement on his 11 errors in 2013.

Greinke is a first-time winner, but a very well-deserved one.  The funny thing is that he actually had his first error since 2010 with the Royals, but even Andrelton Simmons messes up every once in a blue moon.  This season, Greinke had 30 assists and a career-high eight double plays turned, which I'm sure played a huge role in winning this award.

One man who got close but narrowly missed out for the second straight year is Juan Uribe at third base.  Nolan Arenado had his number once again, though it seems a bit odd.  Uribe had a .979 fielding %, six errors, and a 2.0 Defensive WAR; Arenado had a .959/11/1.9 line.  But for whatever reason, Arenado is still considered better, so it is what it is.

Despite another Uribe snub, the Dodgers have to be very proud of landing two defensive stars for 2014, along with Uribe and Clayton Kershaw as nominees.

Wilson exercises his option as Elbert walks

A could news of note on the bullpen from Monday.

As expected, Brian Wilson exercised his massive $10 million option for 2015.  There was no way in the world any team would pay anything even close to that, or even half of that.  So ya, there was zero suspense in this decision.

Last season was just an absolute disaster for Wilson, who wasn't anywhere close to the pitcher who signed with the Dodgers at the trade deadline in 2013.  In 61 games, he went 2-4 with a 4.66 ERA and 1.61 WHIP.  It was stunning to see just how ineffective he was.  I thought he would be even stronger following Tommy John surgery a couple years ago.  Boy was I wrong.

Like it or not, he'll be back.  That doesn't mean he won't be released at some point, but that's a big chunk of change to eat.  Let's just hope he mercifully doesn't pitch in the setup role again.  That would be embarrassing.

Someone who will not be back is Scott Elbert, who rejected a minor league assignment and chose free agency.  He was nowhere to be found for two years with one elbow injury after another.  Then he resurfaced at the end of this season and made the playoff roster, but gave up a huge two-run homer to Kolten Wong in Game 3 of the NLDS, putting the Dodgers in a hole they would not recover from.

In a perfect world both of these guys would be gone, but one out of two ain't bad.

Don't expect to see Hanley back in 2015

The days of Hanley Ramirez in Dodger blue appear to be over.

On Monday, the Dodgers extended a qualifying offer to their shortstop, which is for one year and $15.3 million.  The reason the Dodgers did this was so they could be awarded a supplemental draft pick in case he rejects the deal and walks.

And guess what?  It looks as if Hanley will walk.

Accepting this deal would not only represent a pay cut from $16 million, but would obviously be less than the multi-year deal he is seeking.  The Dodgers have made it clear that while they would welcome him back next season, his history of injuries and defensive liabilities is simply too much to ignore anymore.

Never say never, but consider this: in the last two off-seasons, 22 big league players have been given qualifying offers.  All 22 of them rejected it.

I wouldn't expect Hanley to be any different.  He still has plenty of talent at the plate when he's healthy, and can at least slide over to third if a club wants, a position he's played in the past with the Marlins.

We will have to wait and see what Hanley ultimately decides to do, as he has seven days to decide whether or not to accept the one-year deal.  What should also be noted is that he's still eligible to sign with the Dodgers even if he rejects the deal.

The chances of that happening?  Slim and none.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Billingsley bought out and probably gone

In an unsurprising move, the Dodgers have elected to buy out Chad Billingsley for $3 million on Friday, declining to pick up his $14 million option.  He is now officially a free agent.

Considering Bills missed all of 2014 with Tommy John surgery and started two games in 2013, this was a mere formality.  He's looking to bounce back from a partially torn flexor tendon.

Now the question turns to whether or not the Dodgers may look to bring him back anyway, albeit for a much cheaper price.  It would have to be something along the lines of a low guarantee with performance incentives.

My initial though is no way.  Despite once being thought of as on a higher caliber than Clayton Kershaw, he just never found the consistency on the mound that would make him a staff ace.  In 219 career games (190 starts), he's 81-61 with a 3.65 ERA and 1.36 WHIP.  The WHIP is on the high end, which shows the difficulties he's had keeping runners off base.

I can't see him coming back as a starter, but when you take into consideration the porous bullpen performance during the much of the season and especially the playoffs, maybe he can pull a Wade Davis and reinvent himself as a dominant setup man.  He has 1,037 career strikeouts, so the power has always been there.

My guess it that he'll be looking to sign somewhere as a starter, so I don't see him in Dodger blue next year.  But if that fizzles out, then maybe he can be talked into a relief role.  We shall see.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Another Rays departure could impact Mattingly

I wouldn't want to be around Don Mattingly right now.

Not even two weeks after Andrew Friedman left the Rays to join the Dodgers as president of baseball operations, Joe Maddon pulled a stunner by opting out of his deal today, ending his nine-year tenure in Tampa Bay.

And just like that, it looks as if another East Coast shakeup is directly impacting a West Coast club.

I'll give Friedman credit for immediately coming out and saying that Mattingly will still be the manager of the Dodgers in 2015.  Part of his statement alluded to the fact that he hopes Mattingly will be the manager next season and "for a long time to come."

But then again, Maddon said all of a week ago how much he loves being in Tampa.  So go figure.

I'm not saying that I think Maddon will be LA bound, because early speculation has him possibly going to the Cubs.  I am saying that if I'm Mattingly, I have to deal with yet another distraction in a short managerial career that has been one distraction after another.  And I'm not too happy about it.

And yet again, no matter what Friedman might claim, you can't help but think there's been some discussion in Friedman's inner circle about what it would take to get Maddon to the Dodgers.  It could all by hypothetical, it possibly wasn't even a serious discussion, but there's no denying that there has to have been at least SOME sort of talk.

Obviously, the three-year extension Mattingly inked after last season has turned out to be his saving grace.  Even in a money rich place like LA, I'm not sure they'd be willing to eat yet another contract.  You would think they have to draw the line somewhere.

Besides, Mattingly did lead the Dodgers to the playoffs the last couple of seasons, something that is much harder to do than people realize.  Winning back-to-back division titles in any sport is tough, but especially in baseball.

Yes, I realize his handling of the bullpen in the NLDS left something to be desired, and sitting Yasiel Puig in the finale against the Cardinals didn't turn out to be a smart move.  But nobody could've won with the bums in this 'pen, and Puig looked completely lost.  In other words, I'm fairly certainly plenty of other managers would've met the same fate.

We'll see how this plays out in the upcoming weeks.  Perhaps the lure of flashy Los Angeles will be too much to pass up for Maddon, and he'll quietly lobby for the job, leading to Mattingly's demise.  Perhaps nothing comes of it at all, and Mattingly is back.

Either way, I'm guessing we haven't heard the last of this.  These are the Dodgers, so that's a pretty safe bet.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

How much blame should be on Colletti for the failed bullpen?

As Andrew Friedman gets settled into his position of the man pulling all the strings for the Dodgers, Ned Colletti is quietly getting adjusted to his new role as well.  A new role that will no longer allow him to be the trigger man in player movement.

Much of the focus since news broke this week of Friedman getting hired has been about the construction of the bullpen under Ned Colletti.  As the Royals have shown in the playoffs, a top-notch bullpen can carry a team a long, long way.

Something the Dodgers didn't come close to having.

So now, the question can be asked of how much blame Colletti should receive for the bullpen he put together this season.  There's definitely two ways of looking at it, so let's dive right in.

1) Bringing in ex-closers like Brandon League, Brian Wilson, and Chris Perez is an easy move to make.  They have experience pitching in big situations.

When looking at the bullpen on paper before the season started, the breakdown looked something like this: Perez for the 7th, Wilson for the 8th, Kenley Jansen to close things out.  That certainly looked like a good trio in the final innings, especially after the success of Wilson at the end of 2013.

With the great starting pitching the Dodgers have, it looked like they could turn games into six-inning affairs.  It's not a stretch to say that they felt like they were going to win lots of games when they had the lead going into the late innings.  Either they had a starting pitcher rolling along, or their bullpen full of former closers would close the door.

2) There's a reason League, Perez, and Wilson are ex-closers.  It's because they're washed up and clearly not what they used to be.

Unfortunately for Colletti, this turned out to be the case, especially in the NLDS when the middle relief time and time again failed to bridge the gap to Jansen.  It was an ugly way to end the season to say the least.

Everyone but Jansen was a disaster pretty much all season long.  Perez had a 4.27 ERA in 49 games, though it seemed like it was much worse.  Wilson lost all of the zip on his pitches, and ended up with a 4.66 ERA in 61 games.  League was improved at 2.57 in 63 games, but that was mostly in low-pressure situations.

My guess is Colletti went with the experience of guys who have been there, done that over guys who are more comfortable pitching in the middle innings.  It was a chance he was willing to take, and while the Dodgers did win the NL West, it was mostly in spite of the ex-closers.

One interesting little tidbit that has been whispered is about Colletti being handcuffed from making trades at the deadline, as management labeled the top prospects like Corey Seager, Julio Urias, and Joc Pederson as untouchable.  Remember how Colletti said he wanted to improve the 'pen, yet nothing came of it?  It seemed pretty strange at the time, especially considering this team's recent history of taking on all sorts of money to get more talent.

Well, it sure looks like we should cut Colletti some slack, as it appears as if he was willing to get more arms, yet was blocked.  Who knows what those deals may have been, so possibly in the long run, it's a good thing to hold onto the prospects instead of getting the short-term fix.

Bottom Line:

While I can understand Colletti's thought process in regards to the ex-closers, the end result is that it completely blew up in his face.  There's no way any of us thought these guys would be THIS bad, but the reality is they were.  So that makes Colletti's moves to be failures.

Much of the blame needs to be with the pitchers themselves, as they not only made Colletti look like a fool, but completely dropped their stocks as well.  This group was so lousy, even a little bit of improvement would have still made them bad.  That's how poorly they performed.

So let's just call it even down the middle: Colletti gets half the blame for signing the wrong guys, and the ex-closers get the other half for stinking up the joint over and over.  We'll settle at that.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Friedman's main goal: get younger, better

After nine years of serving as the general manager of the Dodgers, Ned Colletti has been told to step aside.  In his place will be one of the brightest and most buzz-worthy young names in baseball: Andrew Friedman of the Tampa Bay Rays.

What will the 37-year-old be focused on as he goes from the money-tight Rays to the free-spending Dodgers?  Simply put, get younger, and get better.

That's the goal for pretty much every team, but especially for a Dodger team that has a ridiculous amount of money tied up to veterans over the next handful of seasons ($190 million next year, $170 million the two after, and $130 million in 2018, according to Hardball Talk).  It's safe to say Friedman is not used to anything quite like that.

But it is reality, and that's the price the Dodgers have paid to be in the postseason the last two seasons.  It's really hard to make the playoffs in baseball, so to that point, all the money has worked to a certain degree.  The downside is that last year they lasted six games in the NLCS, and this year it was only four in the NLDS.  Not exactly what they thought was going to happen.

Now the Dodgers are looking to take that all-important next step, which is a big one.  They want to find guys who will get them over the hump, all while not throwing all sorts of cash to guys on the downsides of their careers.

In other words, don't expect to see anymore Red Sox/Dodgers trades like we did in 2012.

What are some things we might see?  Well, here's a few possibilities.

1) No more overpaying for ex-closers to strengthen the bullpen.  In fact, doing so has had quite the opposite effect.  Brian Wilson had a good end of 2013, and followed that up with an awful 2014.  Brandon League was signed to be a closer, and instead has been relegated to no-stress innings.  Chris Perez has been flat out atrocious, and should not be back.

You can't blame Colletti for trying, but the bottom line is that he gave out a whole lot of money for very little results.  Those guys proved over and over why they're EX-closers, and not current ones.  I doubt Friedman makes the same mistakes.

2) Figure out the outfield mess.  You know part of "get younger" has to include finding a spot for top prospect Joc Pederson.  While Pederson didn't exactly light it up in his brief stint in September, he has shown both the ability to get it done at the plate and in the field in the minors.

How will he crack the lineup?  It will only happen if someone like Carl Crawford or Andre Ethier is moved.  Crawford is still owed a little over $60 million over the next three years, and Ethier just over $50 during that same span.  Moving them won't be easy at all, but at the very least, you have to think one of them is going to be gone.

That would leave Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, and Pederson as the starting outfield.  That's a much younger, less expensive trio.  More importantly, it won't leave the manager needing to juggle the lineup card every single day.

3) Strengthen the bottom of the rotation.  This will especially be useful in the postseason, so the Dodgers don't feel pressured to use Clayton Kershaw on short rest for the third straight year.  Dan Haren was a roller coaster in 2014, and Josh Beckett was lost probably for good because of a bad hip.

Unless the Dodgers want to roll the dice on young Julio Urias, all 18 years of him, then the help will have to come from outside the organization.

4) Decide whether or not to bring back Hanley Ramirez.  The Dodgers could make a qualifying offer of one year and $15.3 million, which he probably wouldn't accept because he can find a better offer on the free agent market.  Or do they decide that a healthy Ramirez for parts of the season is better than nothing, and offer him a multi-year deal?

Friedman built his team in Tampa Bay by not overpaying for veterans like Ramirez, who can't stay in the lineup consistently.  I would think the odds of him coming back just got slimmer.

5) Finally, figure out how much he wants Don Mattingly.  Donny Baseball signed a three-year extension before this season, but after an early playoff exit, the heat has definitely been turned up once again.  Mishandling his entire pitching staff at the worst of times did him no favors.

And guess what?  Tampa's Joe Maddon just happens to be in the final year of his deal.  Bring on the speculation of Maddon coming to LA.  It's only natural to wonder, as Maddon is a former coach for the Angels of many years, and has turned himself into one of the top managers in baseball despite the low-budget team he works for.  This year didn't go so hot, but he's consistently turned the Rays into a playoff contender in a very tough AL East.

I just don't see Mattingly staying around long now that Colletti has been pushed aside.  Like I said before, there's so much heat on Mattingly now that it might do everyone good just to move on.  Maybe not in 2015, but after that.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

How the Dodgers can fix their bullpen mess

It's no secret - a huge reason why the Dodgers were sitting home on Saturday night while the Cardinals and Giants opened the NLCS is because of their bullpen.  More specifically, their middle relief, which constantly let them down in their short NLDS stay.

Ken Gurnick over at Dodgers.com penned a good article breaking down each position heading into the offseason.  For now, I'll take a look at the bullpen and offer possible solutions.

Closer
Let's start at the top with Kenley Jansen.  He's really good.  Next!

No seriously, there are plenty of teams out there with closer problems, but Jansen has the stuff and makeup of a solid closer for years to come.  While he's mostly a one-trick pony with a cutter, it's a devastating pitch when it's on.  He's also shown an ability to mix it up, as he started going to a slider a little more often to go with the hard stuff.  Overall, he finished the season with 44 saves and a 2.76 ERA, and was even better in the second half with a 1.69 ERA.

Simply put, he's turned himself into one of the best closers in the game.

Long Relief
The Dodges signed Jamey Wright for this role, though he was mostly used in middle relief.  He's a free agent, and considering how badly he wore down as the season progressed (3.50 ERA before the break, 5.74 after), I'm not sure the Dodgers can rely on a guy who will be 40 next season.

Carlos Frias made the cut for the playoffs, but was a non-factor.  There's too small a sample size to really judge him right now, as he's been both really good and really bad in the little we've seen him.  A younger arm, though, so he'll be in the mix.

Another option who has been long forgotten about is Paul Maholm.  He was signed pretty much last minute in Spring Training with question marks surrounding other arms.  He tore his ACL in the beginning of August, and was pretty lousy with a 4.84 ERA.  I'd say his time in Dodger blue is over.

(Note: I also realize that Roberto Hernandez and Kevin Correia were in the fold at the end of the season, but I would think they'd look to sign elsewhere as starters.  I don't expect either of them to be back.)

Middle Relief
Here's where things get interesting.  There's a lot of arms... and a lot of mediocrity.

Let's start off with three guys who have guaranteed contracts: Brian Wilson (exercised his player option... unfortunately), J.P. Howell, and Brandon League.  All three will be back for the final year of their deals.  We all saw how awful Wilson and Howell were at the end of the season.  Wilson was pretty much bad from day #1, but Howell had a very good first few months until taking a nosedive in September.  League had a good ERA at 2.57, but was given all sorts of money to be a closer, not a guy who pitches meaningless innings.  But that's his role right now.

Don't forget about Paco Rodriguez, too.  He was left off the playoff roster, but has already experienced plenty of success last season, and is a young arm the Dodgers covet.  If he's completely healthy, he'll be in the mix for 2015.

Other young arms to remember are Pedro Baez, Daniel Coulombe, Yimi Garcia, and Onelki Garcia.  Chris Withrow is a power-throwing righty, but also is on the shelf with Tommy John surgery.  We'll see if the Dodgers bring him back.

Thankfully, Chris Perez is also a free agent.  Considering he packed up and skipped town when he found out he wasn't on the playoff roster, and because he was flat out atrocious, he's as good as gone.

Free Agents to Target
Thanks to MLBTradeRumors.com, there's plenty of good arms out there.  Here's a sampling of the best.

Closers - Casey Janssen, David Robertson, Francisco Rodriguez, Koji Uehara.

Right-handed middle relief - Joba Chamberlain, Luke Gregerson, Pat Neshek, Joakim Soria.

Left-handed middle relief - Andrew Miller

There's more names than just these, but those are the ones who stood out to me the most.  Considering the Dodgers' willingness to dole out big cash to guys in the 'pen (Matt Guerrier, League, Wright, Howell, Wilson, for example), don't be surprised to see the same thing happen again.  But I wouldn't blame them, as they need to get new blood.

Bottom Line
Typically during a season, a bullpen will carry about 7-8 players.  We already know Jansen, Wilson, Howell, and League will be back, so the number is cut in half.  In a perfect world, the Dodgers would cut ties with at least Wilson, but since they're looking to trim payroll a bit, I would be surprised if that happens since that would be nearly $10 in dead money.  I just don't see that happening.

Hopefully Paco makes a good comeback, and maybe someone like Elbert can finally stay healthy and show his stuff.  That's a big IF, though.  Baez is an intriguing option because he has powerful stuff and is just getting started.

With all of that said, Ned Colletti (or whoever the GM is...) needs to look outside the organization for help.  They can't come back with the same cast of characters who completely let them down in the postseason.  That would send a horrible message.  The names I listed above are a start.  Even if just one of them is signed, it would be great.

Then again, maybe someone in the Wilson, Howell, and League trio completely stinks it up in Spring Training and the Dodgers send them packing despite their price tags.  That would send a positive message of not keeping dead weight around, no matter what they're paid.  That would only happen if they trim their payroll to under $200 like they say they want to do.  Then they might be able to justify keeping some dead money around.

The only thing I fear is that the Dodgers won't be willing to bring in more closers to fill the setup role, as they've been burned by Wilson, League, and Perez.  I guess I wouldn't blame them, but the flipside is that they HAVE to get new blood in the fold.  I would much rather see someone (or two) completely new pitch in innings 7-8.  Having the same old, same old won't solve their problems.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

2014 Postseason Report Card

It didn't last long, as the Dodgers were bounced by the Cardinals in four games in the NLDS.  But nonetheless, here's how I graded everyone based on their short stay.

A

A.J. Ellis - It looked like Ellis jumped out of his own body and straight into Mike Piazza's for the playoffs.  He hit .538, smacked a homer, drove in two, and took four walks for a .647 OBP.  Not bad for a guy who couldn't even break .200 in the regular season.

Zack Greinke - Did all he could in Game 2, which ended up being a victory despite him getting robbed of a win.  Pitched seven scoreless innings, striking out seven.  Also went 2-for-3 at the plate with a run scored.

Hyun-Jin Ryu - Nobody really knew what to expect from him in Game 3, as he hadn't pitched in almost a month because of a bad shoulder.  But when he took the mound, he was really good, giving up one run in six innings.  Like the other loses, a blown lead in the late innings cost him a win.

Hanley Ramirez - Had an impressive showing by hitting .429 with a couple of RBIs, and some slick plays with his glove.  Probably could've caught a liner that was just over his head in the seventh inning of Game 4, which soon led to Matt Adams' game-winning three-run shot, but it wasn't an easy play.  I'd say he left a pretty good impression in his quest for a big contract.

Matt Kemp - Did all of his damage in the first two games, and his solo homer in the eighth inning of Game 2 led to the their only win.  Still hit .353 despite going 1-for-8 over the final two games.

Brandon League - The only middle reliever worth a damn, as he had an 0.00 ERA in four appearances, and allowed none of his inherited runners to score.

Kenley Jansen - Only got one chance for a save, and closed the door in Game 2 with two strikeouts.  The middle relief was so bad, that's the only time we saw him in four games.

B

Andre Ethier - Didn't have much of a chance to make an impact, but made the start in center for Yasiel Puig in Game 4 and took a couple of walks.  Hit a big pinch-hit double in the ninth inning of Game 1 to get the Dodgers that close to tying it up.

C

Carl Crawford - Collected five hits, but took too many strikeouts with seven, one short of Puig for the team lead.  His groundout to second to end Game 4 ended up being the final nail in the coffin.

Brian Wilson - Only made one appearance, giving up a double, intentional walk, and strikeout.  Neither runner ended up scoring, so he got a little lucky.  Still, his stuff was so bad by the end of the year, was barely even worth giving the ball to.

D

Clayton Kershaw - I never thought I'd put him this low, but it's reality.  In both Game 1 and Game 4, took a lead into the seventh inning and just fell apart.  Game 1 was totally on him, but Game 4 he at least kept things manageable.  Still, I'm doubting the Dodgers were counting on a 7.82 ERA from him.  If he could've made a few more big pitches, they could very well still be playing.

Adrian Gonzalez - Hit a two-run shot to try to begin the comeback in Game 1, but that was it for highlights.  Went 3-for-16 and consistently failed to drive in runs from third in key situations.  A big letdown for baseball's leading RBI man in the regular season.

Yasiel Puig - Had two hits and three runs in Game 1, then tripled and scored in Game 3.  In between all of that, looked completely lost and helpless at the plate, striking out a whopping eight times.  Finally got benched for Ethier in Game 4, which was a total slap in the face to him.  But a deserved one.

Dee Gordon - Looked worn out at the plate, and only reached base five times with one steal.  Pretty shocking that the leadoff man never scored one run in all four games.

Pedro Baez - Recovered a bit in Game 4 with 1 2/3 innings of shutout ball.  But his three-run gopher ball he surrendered to Matt Holliday in relief of Kershaw in Game 1 proved to be the difference.

Juan Uribe - Played his typical good defense at third, but a 2-for-17 showing at the plate with six strikeouts was very disappointing.

F

J.P. Howell - His nosedive from September carried over into the playoffs, as he consistently got pounded in three games to the tune of a 13.50 ERA.  Made a very lucky play on a grounder between his legs to turn a double play in Game 4, or his numbers would actually be worse.

Scott Elbert - Relieved Ryu in Game 3 with the game tied 1-1.  Three batters later, the score was 3-1 thanks to a Kolten Wong two-run homer.  Another middle reliever, another bad outing.

Justin Turner - It's not very fair to him, as he only had two at-bats after being the superstar utility guy in the regular season.  Fair or not, failed both times to drive in runs in Games 1 and 4.