Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Claudio Vargas signed

Veteran righty Claudio Vargas was signed yesterday to add depth to the Dodgers' rotation and compete for a possible starting rotation spot. The deal is only for a year and for the minimum $400,000, but could be bumped up more with incentives.

I can't help but think of last year when the Dodgers signed Chan Ho Park in very similar fashion and I couldn't stop laughing at how ridiculous it was. Then he went out and appeared in 54 games with 5 starts, and posted a 4-4 record and 3.40 ERA. Obviously, a minor signing turned out to help them big time, and he was great pitching out of the bullpen and in spot starts.

So, maybe it can happen again with Vargas. And if any team can make it happen, it's the Dodgers. They've done it with guys like Jose Lima, Wilson Alvarez, and Park. From my fantasy baseball playing days, I know that Vargas was once a promising rookie with the Montreal Expos a few years back, but that never panned out.

With Brad Penny gone to the Red Sox and Derek Lowe probably to the Mets, the Dodgers have to try to replace them. Vargas won't set the world on fire, but like I've pointed out before, maybe the Dodgers can continue to rebuild broken down pitchers into getting a solid season out of them.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Dunn and Abreu are now targeted

With Manny Ramirez in some sort of a deep hibernation, the Dodgers are going forward and making overtures to other free agents. The 2 big names being floated around today are Adam Dunn and Bobby Abreu.

First, let's look at both players. Dunn does 1 of 3 things each at bat: strike out, walk, or hit a home run. There's really not a whole lot else going on with him. He was 7th in all of baseball with 164 K's (Matt Kemp was right behind him with 153), 1st in walks with 122, and 2nd in homers with 40. I'm not sure there's any player in baseball with numbers as weird as those. If you can live with his K's and .236 AVG, then his OBP of .386 and power numbers are great.

Abreu is not the power hitter he once was, hence will not be someone to replace Ramirez. But, he still can drive in runs. For 6 straight seasons, he's been at nearly exactly the 100 mark. He did hit 20 homers last year after not getting to that mark for 2 straight seasons, so maybe he can get to that again. His walks used to top 100, but haven't in both seasons with the Yankees. Perhaps in the NL, he can be more patient again.

From the report I read on, it seems as if the Dodgers are more interested in Dunn, and less so in Abreu. Still, I can't blame them and certainly do commend them for reaching out and trying to make things happen while Manny takes his sweet time. And that's the right thing for the Dodgers to do. They can't just assume Manny will be back. What if he gets another offer and bolts to them? The Dodgers have every right and are only smart to be aggressive.

So what happens from here? If Manny is smart, he'll come to his senses and realize that the Dodgers are the only team that truly wants him back. If not, he could absolutely regret not signing with them.

Who would I rather have? I'm really mixed on this one. Dunn's power stats can't be denied. Getting 40 and 100 would be really sweet. Watching him get on base would also be nice. But, I think his K's would be hard to take on most nights. It's hard to believe that someone with as good an eye as him strikes out that much, but he does. If the Dodgers are slumping and he's K'ing all the time, he could take a lot of heat.

With Abreu, the Dodgers would have to remember that it's not the guy that won the Home Run Derby a few years back. He'll get hits, steal some bases, play good D, but won't be the power hitter of Manny. If fans understand that, it could work.

I guess I never really answered which one I'd rather have, but it's too hard to say. They won't do what Manny did down the stretch, but they both can help the Dodgers win in their own ways.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Around the NL West

Let's take a look at how the other teams in the NL West have fared this offseason...

Arizona Diamondbacks
The DBacks were in cruise control for most of last season until the Dodgers caught and passed them at the end. So far, they have not made a big splash, instead relying on their young stars that lead them to the NLCS in 2007 and into the last week of 2008 of being NL West champions.

They started off by resigning Jon Rauch, who gathered 18 saves in splitting the role with Brandon Lyon. Should Lyon not come back (he's been linked to the Twins), he and Chad Qualls could get their shot at closer. Augie Ojeda was resigned for a year to back up 2nd and SS. Felipe Lopez was signed to play 2nd after spending last season in Washington. He'll hit for a decent average but provide no power. Scott Schoeneweis was acquired from the Mets to get bullpen depth.

Randy Johnson was not retained, as they never really seemed to want him back. He recently signed with the Giants. Eric Byrnes is still with the team, though he's been rumored to go to the Red Sox.

Colorado Rockies
The Rocks went from NL champions to the forgotten child of baseball last season. With a core of solid, young players, the thought was that they'd take the next step in being a force. Instead, they tanked. And with that, changes have been made.

It all started on November 11 when Matt Holliday, a perennial All Star and stud hitter, was traded to the Oakland A's. In return, the Rockies received closer Huston Street, lefty starter Greg Smith, and blue chip outfielder Carlos Gonzalez. The loss of Holliday is obviously huge, but they did get good talent in return. They must have thought the chances of signing Holliday to a long-term deal was slim, so they pulled the trigger.

Street closed 18 games last year, but he also blew 7. Still, he forms a nice combination with Manny Corpes for the end of games. Smith was 7-16 last year, but with a somewhat respectable 4.16 ERA. Gonzalez only hit .242 last year, but his upside is much better. With the departure of Willy Taveras to the Reds, his playing time will come.

The only other additions are lefties Alan Embree and Glendon Rusch. Embree will provide more bullpen depth and Rusch could provide starts when needed.

San Diego Padres

The Padres have probably made the most noise this offseason for a team that hasn't actually done anything. But the Jake Peavy saga just refuses to die. For a team that went from a favorite in the West to start last season to a complete joke by the end, they have a largely unchanged roster. Puzzling.

Peavy had been heavily rumored to go to the Cubs, but it just never happened. Lesser talk was also to the Braves and Dodgers, but with an asking price of too many prospects, both teams balked. The Pads really need to figure out what they want to do with him. At this point, they won't get the prospects they want, so if they truly do want to move him, they have to lower their demands a bit. So far, it hasn't happened.

The other signings haven't been that big of a deal. They reupped with Brian Giles, who had a nice bounce-back season last year with a .306 AVG and .398 OBP. Jody Gerut was also brought back, and he hit .296 in 100 games in centerfield. Luis Rodriguez will most likely return as the starting SS, a role he took over from Khalil Greene (who has moved on to the Cardinals). Rodriguez his .287 in 64 games.

Then there's the mystery of Trevor Hoffman, who despite being a franchise icon and career MLB leader in saves, was not offered a chance to come back. The Dodgers have talked about getting him, but there hasn't been much else. I suppose he could resign, but that does not seem too likely.

San Francisco Giants
The Giants started off the year looking old and lost, probably because they were old and lost. But, they have turned their roster over to a team that could be a sleeper in 2009.

Their rotation should be solid with the addition of Randy Johnson. He was 11-10 with a 3.91 ERA and 173 K's in 184 IP last season with the Diamondbacks. Teaming with Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Jonathan Sanchez will give the Giants good depth. If Johnson can somehow get anything out of Barry Zito, he should be signed as pitching coach as well.

The other big addition is SS Edgar Renteria, who will take over the role of Omar Vizquel, who looks to be as good as gone from the Bay. Renteria saw a big dip in his numbers last year with Detroit, but is clearly an offensive upgrade from Vizquel. The Giants still don't have a big, middle-of-the-order hitter, which is a concern.

The only other noteworthy additions are Jeremy Affeldt and Bobby Howry. Affeldt had a 3.33 ERA in 74 games with the Reds last year, and Howry had his worst season in years with a 5.35 ERA in 72 games with the Cubs last year. If they're both on, it makes their pitching that much stronger.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Are the Dodgers Manny's only option?

With the New York Yankees putting a stranglehold on the rest of Major League Baseball by signing Mark Teixeira yesterday for a boatload of cash (like they always do...), Manny Ramirez may have just found his way back in Dodger blue by default.

The Dodgers are still officially the only team to have offered Manny a contract, which has since been pulled. It was for 2 years and $45 million with an option for a 3rd year. Thanks, but no thanks, was the response. He was still holding out hope for a much longer deal, ala the type of deals the Yankees gave to C.C. Sabathia and Teixeira.

The Angels and Mets have been been linked to him, but they have passed. The Angels say they're looking elsewhere, and the rumor in New York is that Omar Minaya can't talk ownership into going after him. The Yankees? Maybe even they can't afford to spend more money at this point.

So that leaves LA (the real LA team, not the one stealing the name in a cheap ploy to get more recognition). Now that leaves the Dodgers with another big question: do they really want him back?

It's obvious they're not going to throw long contracts out there, which is why they passed on all the big name stars. They have the money, but not the patience to sit through more could-be Juan Pierre/Jason Schmidt results. And let's not forget about the Andruw Jones debacle, but at least that's only a 2-year deal. For those reasons, I can't at all blame the Dodgers for their approach to go with short deals and continue to develop from within.

But there's the problem - building from within was getting them a .500 ballclub last season until Manny arrived. The rest is history. As Dodger fans, how could they accept anything other than bringing him back? Even by making their youth movement known to the world, it'd be a tough sell to the fans that they are really trying to win if they don't make another offer to him.

Of course, anything can change, as we've seen with both Teixeira and Rafael Furcal supposedly signing with one team only to go with another. But if the Dodgers truly are the only team left for Manny to go to, both sides really have no choice but to see #99 back in left field at Dodger Stadium.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


The mailbag is back for this week, and here's the topics: if the Dodgers are going to make another offer to Manny, why they haven't entered the bidding for Mark Teixeira, compensation for Type-A free agents, salary amount committed for the upcoming season, if anyone will be on a World Baseball Classic team, and free agent pitchers they're interested in.

Read and be joyful.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Raffy is back in Dodger blue

After weeks of wavering and never really sure what was going to happen, Rafael Furcal has resigned with the Dodgers. This just a couple days after it looked as good as gold that he would go back home to the Atlanta Braves. It's been a weird few days.

So here's how everything has turned out. Two weeks ago, the Oakland A's were looking to give Furcal the magical 4th year he wanted, but for only $9 million (I say "only" as if that's chump change!). Probably not too willing to go to the A's, he declined saying that he thinks he's worth more.

Then a "mystery" team was thrown into the mix, which turned out to be the Braves. They wasted little time in supposedly getting him signed to a deal, but then the Dodgers were talked back into the mix. As I said on an earlier post, he must have not wanted to leave the Dodgers at all.

Now he's back in LA, but a compromise had to be reached. He wanted 4 years, the Dodgers wanted 2, so they settled on 3. It makes sense. I've seen that the deal is for either $30 or $33 million.

Since he is officially back (at least I think...), the Dodgers can now quit worrying about the leadoff spot and shortstop. What he can do hitting leadoff is anything from drop down a bunt to hit 15-20 homers. In the field, he has a cannon arm that is hard to match. It's obvious to see why he would have been very hard to replace.

Of course, that's all contingent on his health, which has been horrible the last couple of years. I guess it's worth rolling the dice on it, because when he's healthy, he's easily an All Star. Can he withstand a full season of good health? Just like any player, who knows. But it's worth the risk. With all due respect to guys like Orlando Cabrera and Jack Wilson, the Dodgers would have taken a hit if they lost Raffy and gained one of those guys.

Now that Raffy and Casey Blake are back, it's time to turn to Manny. For awhile, it looked as if it was just the Dodgers in the running, but of course the Yankees had to join the fun. So it looks to be down to those 2. Who's going to get him? That'll be the next big story.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

This Furcal thing is getting confusing...

It seems like everyday, there's a new "Rafael Furcal is on the verge of signing with..." rumor. Today it got even crazier.

"Sources" were spreading word that Furcal was about to sign with his old team, the Atlanta Braves, by today. The deal was something around 3 years/$30 million with an option for a 4th. Just like his signing with the Oakland A's a week or so ago, this was a done deal. Signed, sealed, and delivered. Furcal is as good as gone!

So of course that meant that this thing isn't done yet. Now comes word that nothing has been signed, and the Dodgers are still in the mix. The holdup, like it has been since day one, has been the amount of years desired (4) and the amount of years offered (2). And neither side appears to be budging from that.

My guess is that Raffy really doesn't want to leave LA, or he would have been gone already. He must be holding out every hope that the Dodgers kick in another year guaranteed, which doesn't seem like it'll happen. He must have some nice property near Dodger Stadium.

As always, I'll keep you posted...

Monday, December 15, 2008


A new mailbag has been posted, and here's what's going on: why Joe Beimel wasn't offered arbitration, if Dodger fans will turn their backs on their team, signing Mark Loretta over Nomar Garciaparra for the utility role, and who closes with Takashi Saito likely on his way out.

Read happily.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Manny and Furcal rumblings

Here's the latest word on 2 of the Dodgers' biggest free agents, Manny Ramirez and Rafael Furcal:

Just when it looked like the Dodgers were the only team that really wanted Manny, the good old Yankees jump right in. If the Yanks lose out on Mark Teixeira (who was just offered an 8-year deal from the Angels), then they could turn to Manny to add that extra offensive thump. Manny and A-Rod hitting back-to-back? Wow, that could be scary. Scott Boras still wouldn't get his long-term deal; rather, it would be more like 3 years.

Furcal has not made any noise since turning down the A's offer of 4 years about a week ago. One agent claims the reason he did so is because he truly does not want to leave the Dodgers. The Dodgers are still holding firm that he won't get 4 years, but will get a bit less than that with provisions against injury in case that happens (again). If Raffy does leave, then it's down to signing Angel Berroa, Orlando Cabrera, or trading for Jack Wilson (a rumor that never seems to go away).

Saito's LA days likely done

The speculation came true, as the Dodgers have non-tendered Takashi Saito, officially making him a free agent. He's now eligible to sign with any team, including the Dodgers.

Based on the Elias Rankings, Saito is the best NL reliever of the past 2 years. But, his elbow injury suffered in the 2nd half of last season made the Dodgers not want to commit too much to him, obviously wary of his health and not wanting to sign damaged goods again, ala Jason Schmidt. It's unfortunate because Saito is brilliant when he's on, but that ship looks to have been sailed.

It's not like the Dodgers didn't offer a contract, because they did. They wanted him to sign for $2.5 million with incentives. Saito's people, however, wanted $3.5 million, which is the amount his value would have increased to had he been offered arbitration. I wonder if we'd even be having this conversation if he didn't look so atrocious in his playoff appearance against the Cubs. But he did, and here we are.

Where do the Dodgers go from here? With Saito highly unlikely to come back, Jonathan Broxton is now the closer. His stuff is fantastic, but I think there's still some hesitation to just hand the job over to him since he's been a big shaky at it in the past. Corey Wade had a great year, so he may get his chances as well. Hong-Chih Kuo would be an easy choice, but with his bad arm history, there's no way he can go out there day after day.

So, if you look at my previous post, that could leave the Dodgers making a run at Trevor Hoffman. Right about now, that looks like a good option. If anything, it gives them another option in the 'pen that can get the job done. I think the Dodgers should seriously consider making an offer to him.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

If Saito is out, Hoffman could be in

With Takashi Saito's status uncertain, the Dodgers could shift their focus to Trevor Hoffman, according to Jayson Stark of ESPN.

Hoffman's contract situation with the San Diego Padres has been ugly to say the least. There's some definite bad blood going on there, despite the fact that he's the all-time saves leader. Their offer was for $4 million, but was yanked off the table for whatever reason. Weird.

The Dodgers have to decide if they want to roll the dice with Saito. He missed 2 months at the end of last season with an elbow injury, obviously a big deal for a pitcher. He tried to come back for the postseason, but was horrible in his only appearance against the Cubs (thankfully the Dodgers were up big). It sure looks like the Dodgers would rather release him and move on, not being fully convinced he'll have the same effectiveness that he had as a closer since 2006.

If Saito is indeed gone, then Hoffman is an interesting option. True, he's 41 and understandably doesn't have his best stuff he once had, but he's still pretty darn good. The start of last season didn't go so well, but he turned it around to go 30/34 in save opportunities.

If anything, he can be a mentor for Jonathan Broxton, as well as play a key role in the late innings, whether it's closing or not. I think it'd be worth a shot at a 1-year deal.

4 teams courting Furcal

With Casey Blake and Mark Loretta signed, and with C.C. Sabathia gone and Manny Ramirez taking his time in deciding what to do, the Dodgers are now focusing on retaining Rafael Furcal. The holdup is the same - he wants 4 years, and the Dodgers aren't willing to go that high.

At last check, Raffy is being pursued by 3 other teams as well: Oakland, Toronto, and Kansas City. I thought the ship had sailed as far as the A's were concerned considering he turned down their last offer of 4 years and about $9 million per. He got the years he wanted, just not the money. Smart of not, he's playing hardball and not backing down from what he thinks he deserves.

The Royals are looking to get rid of Jose Guillen and his remaining $24 million to make an offer. Their interest seems serious. I'm not sure about the Blue Jays other than they've thrown their hat in there, whether that serious or not.

The contract that the Dodgers have on the table right now is understandably incentive-laden. It's for 2 years with an option for a 3rd. Seems fair in my mind. Raffy is an electric player, but I think it's kind of hard to claim that he's so valuable when he only played in 36 games last year and was banged up in '07 as well, causing his numbers to take a big dip.

Should he decide to go elsewhere, all indications now are that the Dodgers will look to replace him in-house, with Angel Berroa being the leading candidate.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Manny and C.C. updates

A few quick notes on the 2 biggest free agents this offseason, Manny Ramirez and C.C. Sabathia...

The Dodgers and agent Scott Boras talked Monday night about Ramirez to see where each other stands. While there's definite interest on both sides, the Dodgers have not put their 2-year/$45 million deal back on the table. The story is still the same: Manny wants a long-term deal (believed to be a whopping 6 years), but the Dodgers will only go for 2 with an option for a 3rd. Talks should/will continue.

As for Sabathia, the Dodgers are certainly not the only team that are hot on his trails. In addition to the Brewers, Yankees, and Dodgers, there's also the Red Sox and Giants that have thrown their names into the giant hat of his. Hearing that he has verbally expressed his interest in LA, it's still an encouraging sign, even with more teams stepping up. Keep in mind, however, that the Dodgers have not officially made an offer, but stay tuned.

Blake on his way back to Dodgers

Casey Blake appears to be on his way back to the Dodgers, signing a 3-year/$17 million deal earlier today. After being acquired from the Cleveland Indians towards the trade deadline last year, Blake played a key role in pushing the Dodgers to the postseason.

There was plenty of doubt if any of the left side of the infield from the postseason would be back for 2009, but now it looks as if only Rafael Furcal is in limbo. Signing Blake gives the Dodgers the comfort of not having to make a trade for another 3rd baseman, such as an Adrian Beltre, and they can now focus on their other needs.

In 58 games with the Dodgers after the trade, Blake didn't exactly set the world on fire with a .251 AVG and .313 OBP. But, he's a career .264/.334 guy, so I expect him to pick up those numbers now that he's more familiar with the National League. Even more encouraging was his .985 fielding % in 56 starts at 3rd base - obviously a great number.

Depending on who is signed to beef up the offense (like that Manny guy), Blake will probably be about a 5-7 hitter, which is where he's most useful.

Mark Loretta the utility man

With Nomar Garciaparra on the verge of retirement thanks to his injuries finally getting the best of him, the Dodgers have found a perfect replacement to fill the utility role: Mark Loretta. Loretta was signed today for 1 year and $1.4 million.

Loretta has long been known as a solid hitter, as evidenced by his career .297 AVG and .361 OBP. He'll be entering his 16th season, and is capable of playing any of the infield positions. With the way the Dodgers cycle through injuries all year, he'll definitely get his playing time.

After peeking at .335 for San Diego in 2004, his average has settled down into the .280 range the last 4 seasons. For a bench player, that's fine. While he'll never be confused with a power hitter, he hit .330 against lefties last year. He also has a career .987 fielding %. Both are encouraging numbers for next season.

With 2 lefties starting on the right side of the infield (James Loney at 1st and Blake DeWitt at 2nd), Loretta will get chances in later innings with left-handed pitchers on the mound.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Sabathia tells Colletti of interest coming to Dodgers

Take this for what it's worth, but GM Ned Colletti has said that C.C. Sabathia has told him he would like to play for the Dodgers. This conversation occurred during the Winter Meetings on Sunday.

There had already been reports that the Dodgers either have or were thinking of offering a huge deal for Sabathia (read a few posts back), but nothing really came of it... until now. For Colletti to flat out say that the ace free agent wants to come aboard, that would certainly be a good sign.

Still, will it happen? Well, I would think there's a definite chance of it. First, the Dodgers have lost Greg Maddux officially, and Derek Lowe and Brad Penny will soon be right behind. Two, Manny Ramirez never accepted the 2-year/$45 million deal he was offered before the start of free agency. Finally, Sabathia makes his home in Southern California, so if the money is there, he would seem to be more than willing to come.

We all know the Yankees are still hanging over his head, and with a deal like the one he was offered, it's no surprise. But if the Dodgers do step up, I think it's not out of the question that we all look forward to the big lefty on the mound Opening Day in Dodger blue.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Raffy says no to A's 4-year offer

In a bit of surprising news, free agent Rafael Furcal has rejected the Oakland A's offer of 4 years and anywhere between $35-$40 million. Despite getting the multi-year deal he was searching for, it still wasn't enough.

The holdup in this deal appears to be the money, as Raffy still feels he's worth more than the money they were offering him. The A's were certainly the leading contenders for him, even with Bobby Crosby as their shortstop right now. But, he's going to roll the dice once again that he can get a deal that matches the 3-year/$39 million deal the Dodgers gave to him.

2 other teams that appeared to be in the running, the Blue Jays and Cardinals, are also set at SS. The Blue Jays have John McDonald or Marco Scutaro, and are also not looking to spend more money. The Cardinals just recently traded for Khalil Greene from the San Diego Padres.

I guess there's something that the Furcal camp knows that the rest of us don't, because this left me scratching my head. I can't imagine another team giving him a 4-year offer considering how injury-prone he's been the last 2 years. Rejected the A's deal would seem to indicate to me that the years aren't the issue and that the money is.

The Dodgers can still come back with a similar structure of a deal that they want to give Manny Ramirez. It obviously won't come close to the dollar amount, but a short-term deal (maybe 2 years) for $12-$15 per? That could happen.

We know how electric he can be when he is healthy, and that's what he's banking on right now. But, the Dodgers of all teams know how risky it is to sign players who can immediately be decimated by injuries. The last thing they need is another Jason Schmidt or Andruw Jones type of result.

The rest of the winter will be an intriguing one for Raffy. Once Spring Training comes around, it will be real interesting to look back at this time and see if the A's deal was one he should have said yes to, or if he truly did make the smart move and not sign.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Andy Pettitte could fill a rotation spot

*** UPDATE ***
Maybe not. Joe Torre says that Pettitte's unlikely to come, and that his goal is to still be a Yankee. Nothing official has happened anywhere, though, so stay tuned.


With so much talk on who is leaving the rotation (Brad Penny, Derek Lowe, Greg Maddux) and if guys like C.C. Sabathia and Randy Johnson will be offered deals, one name has emerged as a possible fit: Andy Pettitte.

Unless you know absolutely nothing about Joe Torre and Pettitte, then it's hardly worth mentioning the time those 2 spent together in New York. Take away Pettitte's 3 year stop in Houston, and Torre was his manager practically his whole career. Now that he's a free agent, a reunion seems like a good possibility.

Pettitte will turn 37 coming May, and he will be entering his 15th season in the Bigs. Last year with the Yankees, he was 14-14, 204 IP, 4.54 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 158 K. That's the highest ERA he's had since a 4.70 spot in 1999. On his career, he's at 3.89.

This could make sense for a few reasons. One, they need a damn pitcher! With likely only 3 guys returning to the rotation (Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw, and Hiroki Kuroda), it would be nice to add another quality arm. Two, it would be great for young guys like Kershaw to learn from someone as good as Pettitte.

While his numbers dipped last year, I think a return to the National League would do him some good. Take away his injury-plagued 2004 season, and he had wins of 17 and 14 in '05 and '06 with the Astros. Pitching at Dodger Stadium and in the NL West against mediocre teams would be a nice fit.

So, chalk this up as another rumor for now (on top of all the others), but this does seem to have some legs underneath it. We shall see.


Here's another edition of the mailbag, with the free agency theme continuing. This week's topics are why the Dodgers are reluctant to sign Rafael Furcal for 4 years, what to do with Manny Ramirez, how free agents who left the team in the past have done, and who the top prospect would now be.

Here it is.