Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Dodgers make the right call in dumping Wilson

It's about time.

That's the first thing that came to mind when I read the surprising move today that the Dodgers have designated Brian Wilson for assignment with the addition of Brandon McCarthy.  He picked up his player option after the season, so unless he's traded or claimed by another club in the next 10 days, the Dodgers will owe him his entire $10 million salary.

In other words, in 10 days from now, the Dodgers will then owe him $10 million. 

It's as simple as that, because as surprising as this move was, it would be a flat out shocker if some other team actually spends that kind of money on him.

I'm saying "surprising" only because the Dodgers sure as hell loved to use him over and over last season, despite the big warning signs that he was completely washed up.  But then again, there's a whole new management in town, and they clearly saw what the rest of us saw when it came to Wilson.

Just to review, Wilson ended last year with 22 holds, but four blown saves, a 4.66 ERA, and 1.61 WHIP, which is ridiculously high.  Time and time again Don Mattingly would run him out there in the eighth inning as the setup man, and time and time again he would look like crap.  It had to be a huge relief to the other teams that Donny kept going to him so much.  Granted, there weren't a lot of other options, but Wilson was still the worst.

What Wilson should be given credit for was his excellent 2013 season.  He was signed that year at the trade deadline, and went on to post an 0.66 ERA and 0.88 WHIP in 18 games.  He formed a fantastic 1-2 punch with Kenley Jansen, so the expectation coming into 2014 was that they would lock down the final two innings all season.  Needless to say, it didn't happen.

Eating $10 million is never a fun thing to do, but I love the message being sent by Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zadi.  The Dodgers don't need to keep an awful player just because of his contract.  It's time to clean house, hold everyone responsible, and build a winner.

This is a great step in that direction.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The good and bad of trading Kemp

By now, we've all had some time to recover from the absolutely insane couple of days at the Winter Meetings for the Dodgers.  I don't think we've seen anything like it before, and probably won't see anything like it again.

Through all of the comings and goings, perhaps none hit closer to home for Dodger fans than moving Matt Kemp to the Padres for catcher Yasmani Grandal.  It's a move that wasn't exactly surprising considering the trade rumors involving Kemp for years, but still may have been hard to accept that it actually happened.

Technically the trade isn't official yet, as medical exams still need to be completed.  But let's just go ahead and call it a done deal for the sake of this post.

Now, let's take a look at the positives and negatives of trading away a guy who at one point was the clear franchise player:

Good
* Andrew Friedman clearly did not see him as being a franchise player anymore, so it was the perfect time to sell high (ala Dee Gordon).  There are countless amount of teams out there that are willing to ignore his weak first half (.269, 8 homers, 35 RBIs), and want a whole lot of his second half (.309, 17, 54).  Considering how much noise is being made about a lack of right-handed power hitters, now was the time to make a deal.

* Don Mattingly can now go to the ballpark each day only worrying about managing a baseball game, and not managing egos on top of that.  Make no mistake about it - Kemp had a massive ego at times.  That's not necessarily a bad thing, as he wanted to be the everyday center fielder for the Dodgers.  But reality is that injuries have cost him much of his athleticism, and it wasn't coming back.  Without him around anymore, that's one less headache to worry about.

* As I said above, Kemp had a great second half of 2014, and was probably the best hitter in the lineup.  But before that, he hadn't done much since the very beginning of 2012, and then it was a laundry list of injuries.  It's not like he was trying to get hurt, but he's on the wrong side of 30 now, and one would think that without the luxury of days spent in the DH spot, the risk of injury again is right around the corner.

* Those two Gold Gloves he won in 2009 and 2011?  Let's just say that it won't be happening again.  That guy is a thing of the past.

* Friedman and his friends clearly are looking for guys who can get on base.  Kemp averages nearly a strikeout per game over his career, and that's probably not going to change.

Bad
* Dodger fans have long waited to see the Kemp circa 2011 (when he was robbed of the MVP by Ryan Fraud), and they saw lots of glimpses of that guy at the end of '14.  That seemed like a great reason to keep a guy around, not trade him away to a division opponent.

* After playing in 106 games in 2012 and 73 in 2013, Kemp was on the field in 150 games this past season.  It seemed like that would never happen again, but he finally found a way to stay on the field and not in the trainer's room.

* How many people realize he was third in the Majors in home runs in the second half of '14, and second in RBIs?  No, that's not just that National League, it's in all of baseball.  That's very impressive.

* While Clayton Kershaw has taken over the "franchise player" label, there was still a soft spot for Kemp, as he was as dynamic as they came in that magical 2011 season.  Fans will never forget .324 with 39 homers, 126 RBIs, and 40 stolen bases.  There may have been boos scattered in the few years since then, but the second he showed he was right, he was instantly a fan favorite all over again.

* Even if fans accepted Kemp being traded, did they really envision the return being a catcher from the Padres who was suspended 50 games for PEDs and has torn his ACL and MCL?  I'm guessing that's a no.

Add it all up, and there's no definitive answer to whether or not this was a smart trade.  Only time will tell on that.  Maybe Kemp goes to San Diego, is miserable on a bad team, gets the injury bug again, and kind of fades away.

Or, maybe he goes to San Diego, becomes the team leader that franchise has been looking for, and resurrects his All-Star career.

At the end of the day, whether he plays well with the Padres or not, I know that I will miss him, as it's going to be very, very weird seeing him in that ugly jersey.  I won't miss the drama that was associated with him at times, as it seemed that too often he was the last to realize how lousy he was performing on the field.  But I will miss the stud who showed up down the stretch for the Dodgers last season, and the guy who hit the game-winning home run in their only playoff win.

We won't have to waste much time in seeing Kemp again, as the Dodgers host the Padres on Opening Day April 6, 2015.  Just thinking about the first inning of Kershaw vs. Kemp gets me excited for the return of baseball already!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Dodgers nab McCarthy to strengthen rotation

Through all of the wheeling and dealing with the Dodgers on Thursday, there was one signing that may have flown a bit under the radar.  But with Dan Haren on his way to Miami (or retirement, perhaps), the back end of the rotation needed to be addressed.

It certainly has been, as the Dodgers have signed right-handed Brandon McCarthy to a four-year, $48 million deal.  He'll slot in nicely right behind Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Hyun-Jin Ryu as the team can flip-flop between lefties and righties at the top.

McCarthy has certainly had an interesting career to say the least.  If you recall, he's the guy who got beaned in the head off of a line drive from Erick Aybar of the Angles in 2012.  He was rushed into emergency surgery, and then a year later with the Diamondbacks, suffered a seizure that was probably related to that liner.

So, things were definitely not looking up for his career as he was traded to the Yankees last July.  At the time, it sure looked like another desperate move by the Yanks to find lightning in a bottle.  Sure enough, they did find lightning, as he went 7-5 with a 2.89 ERA, and looked like a completely different pitcher than the one who got creamed in Arizona time after time.

And now here we are, as McCarthy got his four-year deal he was seeking, and the Dodgers have four starters they can trust in the playoffs.  Yes, I know Kershaw got crushed once again by the Cardinals, but he's still the MVP and Cy Young winner.  So zip it.  McCarthy can match up against other team's fourth or fifth starters, which is to his advantage.

Obviously the Dodgers are hoping they find the guy who pitched with the Yankees at the end of last season, along with his excellent numbers for the A's in 2011 and 2012.  In '11, he put together a 3.32 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, and career-high 2.9 WAR.  Then he suffered that horrifically scary injury, and it looks like it took him a couple of years to fully get over it.  That's more than understandable.

Now the Dodgers must turn to their shaky bullpen, as thus far only Joel Peralta has been added.  That's a pretty good start, but they must do more from there.  Also, look for another starting pitcher to be added to go behind McCarthy.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Gordon and Haren traded to the Marlins

Day Three of the 2014 Winter Meetings will go down as a very big, and a very busy, one for the Dodgers.

First there was the acquisition of Jimmy Rollins from the Phillies.  That alone seemed like enough for the day.  Except it wasn't.

One day ago the Dodgers were both being linked to and denying a Dee Gordon trade to the Marlins.  Well, it's happened, and Dan Haren will go along for the ride.

The Dodgers have traded Gordon and Haren to the Marlins for top pitching prospect Andrew Heaney.  Also coming from Miami are second baseman Enrique Hernandez, right-handed pitcher Chris Hatcher, and catcher Austin Barnes.

First, let's take a look at Heaney.  MLB.com has him ranked as the #18 overall prospect, and the #2 overall left-handed pitcher.  He's stands 6'2" and will turn 24 next June.  His profile describes him as a guy who throws up to 95 mph with a "wipeout" slider.  Sounds like another lefty on the Dodgers right now.  He also has developed a changeup for his third pitch, which has really raised his stock.

By the way, who's the #1 ranked lefty?  Julio Urias... of the Dodgers.  Nice!

The other three players are more for depth.  Hernandez has one year of big league experience, appearing in 42 games with the Astros and Marlins, hitting .248.  Hatcher has appeared in 81 games for the Marlins, all out of the bullpen, with a 4.82 ERA.  Barnes has never played above the Double-A level after being drafted in 2011.

So, the big chip is obviously Heaney, who will join Urias as the next big guns ready to step in for the Dodgers.  This makes me think that the new management might not be afraid to trade Zack Greinke this upcoming year if they really do think he'll opt out of his contract.  At least they have some very good arms ready to step in, plus they can get more value in return via trade.  We shall see.

I discussed Gordon more in-depth yesterday, so check out my post about him here.  I will say that I very much enjoyed watching him emerge as an everyday player this past season, as there is simply no match for his speed.  His defense at second was much-improved throughout the season, so I hope the Marlins leave him there.  If he can cut down on his strikeouts and not be tempted to crush the ball too often, he'll be an All-Star again for sure.

Haren certainly had an up-and-down year in LA, as he looked like steal of the free agency class to start the season, fell into a horrible slump around July, then settled back down for some good starts down the stretch.  He finished at 13-11 with a 4.02 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 32 starts.  All things considered, he did his job for the most part at the back end of the rotation.  I just wish he was more consistent, as when he was bad, he was REALLY bad.

With Rollins in the fold and Gordon and Haren shipped out, the next big name on the list is Matt Kemp.  There's still plenty of talk about him going to the Padres, so don't fall asleep on that yet.  Considering how rapid fire the moves on this day have gone, it could only be a matter of "when" and not "if" this will happen.

Jimmy Rollins: Dodgers shortstop


With Hanley Ramirez gone, the Dodgers had a big hole to fill at shortstop.  Sure, they have in-house replacements like Alex Guerrero, Erisbel Arruebarrena, and Justin Turner.  Then there's the 20-year-old top prospect Corey Seager, who is indeed the future, but not necessarily the current.

What did the Dodgers decide to do?  Trade for a three-time All-Star, MVP, and World Series champion.

That man is Jimmy Rollins, who has been acquired from the Phillies.  He's entering the final year of his contract paying him $11 million, which is practically chump change to the rich Dodgers.  What is not yet known is whom the Dodgers gave in return, but stay tuned for that.

Right away, a few things come to mind when seeing this trade.  There's no disputing that the Rollins of 2007 is not walking through that door, as that guy hit .296 with 30 homers, 94 RBIs, and 41 stolen bases on his way to an MVP, Silver Slugger, and Gold Glove awards.  Not a bad season, to say the least.

This version of Rollins is past his prime, no doubt.  But even with that, I think there's plenty of things to like about this deal.  Last season he hit .243 with 17 homers, 55 RBIs, and 28 steals in 126 games.  Hanley hit .283 with 13 homers, 71 RBIs, and 14 steals in 128 games.  Those are surprisingly even numbers, with Rollins getting the edge in the speed department.  That will come in handy for a team that doesn't rely on the long ball to score the majority of their runs.

The other major difference is on defense.  Simply put, Rollins is good, and Hanley is not.  Last season Rollins had a .988 fielding %, seven errors, and a 1.1 Defensive WAR.  Hanley had a .961/16/-0.6 line.  It's not hard to figure out that Rollins is clearly the better choice at short.

When this deal went down, one of the first things the baseball reporters were saying is that Rollins still has something left in the tank, and is still a very good defensive player to boot.  He brings instant credibility to a team that is on the verge of taking the next step, and getting a second ring while leading a new team has to mean a lot to him.

Of course, if Rollins starts off the year slowly and isn't getting any big hits, then I'm sure plenty of fans won't be afraid to express their displeasure at not re-signing Hanley.  I can understand that.  But everyone needs to remember that Hanley made a very smart decision for his career as well, as going to the American League and getting his big money contract is exactly what he wanted to happen.  Good for him.

In the meantime, let's enjoy the top shortstop in Phillies' history coming to the Dodgers for a year (or more, who knows), while Seager continues his climb to the Majors.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Gordon could go from All-Star to traded

While the Matt Kemp to San Diego rumors continue to dominate talk about the Dodgers at the Winter Meetings, here's another tidbit that could be interesting - Dee Gordon is being made available by the new management.

Who knows what the level of "available" is, as this doesn't initially strike me as something the Dodgers are hotly pursuing.  I get the feeling it's more of an "If you like him, let's talk" type of thing.

One team that perhaps would like to talk is the Marlins, who might already be showing some interest.

There are a couple of reasons to believe that Gordon really could be on his way out.  For starters, the Gordon we saw in the second half of last season did not come close to matching the All-Star reserve at second base we saw in the first.  His average was around the same (.292 before, .284 after), but his OBP went way down (.344/.300).  He also started striking out a bunch more, and while he led all of baseball in stolen bases at 64, he started getting caught more in the second half despite playing in much less games.

The other reason is that the Dodgers have Alex Guerrero and Erisbel Arruebarrena waiting in the wings, and they're not cheap.  They're pretty much opposites of each other right now, as Guerrero has the bat, and Arruebarrena has the glove.

A major factor that could keep Gordon right where he is is that Hanley Ramirez is now in Boston.  Perhaps the Dodgers would be satisfied with Arruebarrena at short and Guerrero at second, but that's a lot of inexperience up the middle on a "win now" club.

I'm not ready to give up on Gordon for slowing down in the second half, as his 148 games far outpaced his next highest career total of 87 in 2012.  I think a smaller, speedy guy like him just naturally started feeling the wear and tear of a long Major League season.  If you recall, he bulked up some before last season started, and helped the Dodgers solve their leadoff issues.

Right now the Dodgers are waiting to see if Jon Lester comes aboard, and maybe finalizing the Kemp trade to the Padres.  After that, then possibly this talk of moving Gordon begins to take on more importance.  Stay tuned.

Kemp to the Padres is heating up

For the first time in his career, Matt Kemp could be on his way out of LA.

I know, I know... we've certainly been through this before.  Kemp has battled trade rumors his whole career, save for a couple of years in which he turned himself into an MVP candidate.  But after coming off a season in which he hit .287 with 25 homers and 89 RBIs, perhaps the Dodgers feel the time is right to move him while he's healthy and his stock is high.

That leads us to his likely destination, the San Diego Padres.  The latest talk is that Kemp would move to the Padres for catcher Yasmani Grandal and a prospect.  The holdup appears to be just who that other prospect would be, along with how much of Kemp's contract the Dodgers would have to eat.

Those two things certainly aren't minor, so keep in mind that no matter what is reported, nothing is a guarantee until both sides make it official.

To take a quick look at Grandal, he's mostly a catcher who can sprinkle in some first base as well.  He's an emerging power threat from the right side of the plate, and is only 27.  Last season he hit 15 homers, 19 doubles, and 49 RBIs in 128 games.  So you can see why the Dodgers would like to add him, especially with the virtually non-existent numbers from A.J. Ellis last year.

The downside is that Grandal has already been busted for 50 games in 2012 for PEDs, and tore his ACL and MCL in July of 2013.  For his case, you hope he's already been through the worst of things.

One other guy who has been whispered to come along with Grandal is pitching prospect Matt Wisler, who is the Padres' #2 ranked prospect according to MLB.com.  He's a righty with both good movement and good control, so you can see why he'd be coveted.

Stay tuned to see if the Dodgers and Padres indeed do pull the trigger on this.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Seven years ago Saturday...

An anniversary of two sorts took place on Saturday, and they both had to do with the same thing.  One I like, and the other still sends shudders down the spines of Dodger fans everywhere.

For starters, it's the anniversary of me starting this site seven years ago.  I grew up a Dodger fan, I love to write, so I figured, What the heck?  Combine them both.  Seven years later, here I am, and I still love doing this.

The flip side?  It's also the anniversary of the Dodgers' infamous free agent deal with Andruw Jones.  It's a marriage that was supposed to last for two years, but thanks to one of the worst seasons anyone has ever seen, he was mercifully sent packing after the 2008 season.  No worries, as he still pocketed $36.2 million in a deal that was deferred through last season.

Yes, that's right - the Dodgers were STILL paying off Jones's contract through this past season.  At least that finally ran out.

Oh by the way, the Jones signing was my very first post on this site.  Looking back now, it's just laughable at some of reasons why I was excited:

* "the big bat to fill the middle of the order has hopped on the train"
* "Hopefully Jones can right some of his hitting holes and get back to his old self. It's a chance definitely worth taking."
* "it's nice to see the Dodgers sign someone in his prime"

OK, so like Jones in the '08 season, that commentary was a giant swing-and-a-miss.  If you recall at the time, the Dodgers had young players like Matt Kemp, James Loney, and Russell Martin looking to take the next step.  They also still had Jeff Kent, Juan Pierre, and Rafael Furcal.  So there was reason to be excited with Jones coming in to add more pop.

Instead, he hit .158 with three homers, 14 RBIs, and 76 strikeouts in 75 games.  He was just so, so, so, so, so, SO bad.

Which leads me to this point: signing Jones was a great move by the Dodgers.  Why?  Because that led to a trade later in the season for some guy named Manny Ramirez, who went on to have one of the best end of season runs in baseball history by hitting .396 with 17 homers and 53 RBIs and in 53 games.

Granted, he may have had a little help in getting those numbers... but it was sure fun to watch while it lasted.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Lester coming in, Greinke going out?

If you thought the Dodgers would be content just signing guys like Chris Heisey and Darwin Barney this offseason, think again.

Now reports are surfacing that one of the crown jewels of the free agent market could be coming to LA.  Jon Lester is being wooed by the Dodgers, who seem to be competing with the Cubs, Red Sox, and Giants for the ace left-hander.  This is the first we've heard about the Dodgers having a horse in the race, as it was widely believed that those other teams had the best shot.

Who could blame the Dodgers for wanting to sign the guy?  His numbers split between the Red Sox and A's last year were fantastic, compiling a 16-11 record with a 2.46 ERA and 220 strikeouts in 219 2/3 innings.  He gave the A's everything they could've hoped for when they made the big acquisition for him at the deadline, though losing Yoenis Cespedes in the process may have been a bigger blow than anyone imagined.

It's hard to pinpoint exactly what it would take to sign Lester, but one guess is anywhere north of $120 million.  Even for the Dodgers, that's some serious cash.

So, what might the Dodgers do if they really do want to keep payroll manageable (for them, at least)?  They actually could look to shop Zack Greinke, who has an opt-out clause in his contract following the 2015 season.

Greinke is in the midst of a six-year, $147 million deal, which includes the clause of bolting when it's halfway over.  That halfway point will come after 2015, and considering his skill and the demand for top-tier pitching, he could actually roll the dice of getting more money.  When he signed with the Dodgers originally, he made no secret of the fact that money played a big role.  Hey, at least he admitted the obvious, unlike many others.

I'm not sure I can see that happening, at least not this offseason.  In the first link above, ESPN's Jerry Crasnick basically shot any rumor of Greinke being dealt down.  Simply put, the Dodgers want to win now, and don't want to subtract stars from their roster.

We'll see where this all goes, but don't be surprised to see Lester in Dodger blue soon.  A rotation of Clayton Kershaw, Greinke, Lester, and Hyun-Jin Ryu?  Ohh.... that sounds too good to be true!  Let's hope it isn't!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Dodgers trade for Heisey, sign Barney

A couple of moves from the Dodgers in recent days.

The first is trading for outfielder Chris Heisey, who played for the Reds in 2013.  On his way out will be Matt "Ball 4" Magill, who liked to pitch the ball anywhere except over the plate in his brief Dodgers' tenure.

The Heisey move raised some eyebrows at first, as it appears that the last thing the Dodgers need is yet another outfielder.  But, it was then assumed that this move makes guys like Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford, and possibly Matt Kemp even more likely to be traded.  The Winter Meetings start this upcoming Monday in San Diego, so perhaps the trigger on a trade is finally pulled.

Heisey won't light the world on fire, as he hit .222 with eight homers and 22 RBIs last season, but he's there for his versatility in the outfield.  He mostly appeared in left field in 2014, but played the other two positions many times as well.  He'll give Don Mattingly some options for later in the game.

Magill won't be missed, as he's had his chances to prove his worth in the past, but flat out stunk.  He spent all of last season in Triple-A, mostly because he had a 6.51 ERA in six starts with the Dodgers in 2013.  Good bye, good riddance!

The other piece of news is the signing of Darwin Barney, who was brought over from the Cubs last season on July 28.  He'll be in the mix off the bench, as it's hard to imagine he'll be a serious contender to take over Hanley Ramirez's spot at short.  I would like to think the Dodgers can do much better than that.

Barney's deal is for one year and $2.525 million.

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.