Friday, February 27, 2009

Manny says no

The Dodgers thought they were on to something when Scott Boras actually seemed happy with the latest contract offer to Manny Ramirez. Instead of rejected it himself, Boras actually took this offer to Manny for his word. But in the end...

Manny Ramirez turned down yet another offer from the Dodgers.

The holdup? It's not that Manny doesn't like the 2-year, $45 million offer. It's that he doesn't want the money to be deferred. He wants all of his money this year and next. Right or wrong, he feels that he shouldn't wait until 2013 to get all of it.

Here's how it would break down: $10 million in each year from 2009-2012. The last $5 million would come in 2013.

So does Manny have a good point? Look, I'm not an expert on the current economy, but I even I know it's in the toilet. So getting $45 in 2 years seems like quite a bit of dough. I don't think it's unreasonable of the Dodgers to want to spread they payments out.

Then again, it's Manny that put the Dodgers on his back into the playoffs and past the Cubs in the Division Series. It was him that sold all of those tickets from August on. So if anyone on that team deserves to get paid like that, it's him.

The latest word is that the 2 sides will continue to talk today. I can guess that it'll all be about deferring the money. Let's see who blinks first.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Doug Mientkiewicz looks to earn a spot

Add Doug Mientkiewicz to the list of veteran names who have signed Minor League contracts with the Dodgers. His goal will be to backup James Loney and be a key left-handed hitter off the bench.

Mientkiewicz's biggest strength has long been his defensive ability, as he won a Gold Glove in 2001 with the Minnesota Twins. Last year he hit .277, but with an encouraging .374 OBP. Another good sign is that he took 44 walks while only striking out 28 times.

His odds of making the team are probably about 50-50. On one hand there's already utility guys in the infield who will see some time like Blake DeWitt and Mark Loretta. There's also Tony Abreu and Juan Castro looking to earn a spot. So it won't be easy.

The defense for Mientkiewicz will never be in question. What he has to hope for is that his bat will show enough spark that the Dodgers can trust him over a younger guy. It could happen.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

New deal on the table for Manny

GM Ned Colletti had an interesting day. He was supposed to be in Mesa, AZ for the Dodgers first Spring Training game of the year. Instead, he flew back to Los Angeles for more negotiations with Manny Ramirez's agent, Scott Boras. The end result was a new 2-year, $45 million deal for Manny.

This is how it would work out. The first year would pay $25 million. The second year is actually a player-option, which Manny can forgo to enter back into free agency after this season. If he picks it up, he'll get the remaining $20 million. The option is to allow Manny the, well, option of going back into the free agent market if he deems it stronger than this year.

So now we'll see where this goes. Manny has long wanted a 4-year, $100 million deal, but that's obviously not going to happen. He then supposedly wanted at least 3 years, but the Dodgers won't budge on only 2 at the most. Maybe Manny will finally see that this is the best that's going to be offered to him and to take it. We will see.

Like always, stay tuned...

Dodgers fall in Spring Training debut

The Dodgers got things underway in 2009 with their first exhibition game of the season. After taking an early 2-1 lead, the Chicago Cubs were able to put up 4 runs in the 6th to take the game, 5-3.

Not that the end result matters because it doesn't. The important thing is to look at the pitchers competing for the #5 starter spot. Today it was Claudio Vargas and Ramon Troncoso, though he may not even officially be in the running. Vargas let the first 3 hitters reach base, but settled down to only give up 1 run. He then got through the 2nd unscathed to end his day. Overall, I think the Dodgers should be happy that he pitched strongly after some big early adversity.

As for Troncoso..... yikes! He was awful. In 1.1 IP, he gave up 4 runs, with 3 earned. Those 4 runs were on a grand slam to some guy named Micah Hoffpauir, who is looking to make the Cubs' roster at 1st base. Yes, I know it's only the first game, but he was pounded nonetheless.

As for the Dodgers at the plate, Tony Abreu had a nice 2 out, 2 RBI single in the 2nd for the 2-1 lead. James Loney had 2 hits.

Then there's Blake DeWitt. His first at-bat he has the bases loaded with no outs. What happens? 1-2-3 double play. I don't care if it's just Spring Training, that guy's head has to be spinning considering that his last game he played in featured him hitting into run-killing DP's. I feel bad for the kid. He thankfully did have an RBI single in the 4th.

Next up is a game against the San Francisco Giants in Scottsdale, AZ. Randy Wolf, Jeff Weaver, and Jonathan Broxton will get the ball.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

First Spring Training game Wednesday vs. Cubs

The Dodgers open their Cactus League schedule with their first game in 2009 Wednesday vs. the Chicago Cubs. Claudio Vargas is the expected starter, as he is one of a handful of people vying for the 5th starter role.

The first 4 games of the Spring schedule will all be away. It will be quite a different sight on Sunday, March 1 when the Chicago White Sox come to Camelback Ranch for the Dodgers' home opener. Gone are the days in Vero Beach and Dodgertown. In is the brand new ballpark in Glendale, Arizona.

The game is not scheduled to be on TV (at least from what I can tell), but if you have XM Radio (like me!) you're in luck. It'll be on channel 178 at 3:05 Eastern, or 12:05 Pacific time. All I know is that on my drive home from work, I can click on the game and enjoy. Ya, I'm sure I won't be staring at the clock all day wishing it was 3:05 and the game was on...

Monday, February 23, 2009

Good stuff from Schmidt in first outing

Jason Schmidt only threw an inning today during the intrasquad game, but it was an encouraging sign. He faced 4 batters and only gave up a single to Casey Blake. Juan Pierre, Mark Loretta, and Matt Kemp were all retired. Huge shock that Pierre didn't get a hit (NOT).

I didn't think I'd ever write about a guy throwing 1 inning against his own team, but in the case of Schmidt, anything positive is worth talking about. I'm glad Joe Torre had him face Major League hitters and not some Single A scrubs. Even the hit by Blake was off of Luis Maza's glove at 3rd base.

In the last year of his 3-year, $47 million contract that has been mostly flushed down the toilet to this point, you'd think that Schmidt would have the first crack at the #5 spot in the rotation. As I've talked about already, he could set himself up to be quite the sleeper if he's throwing well. I doubt many people expect him to do well (or anything for that matter), so he could be a nice bonus for the Dodgers if things go right.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Schmidt to get first test Monday

Jason Schmidt will begin his quest for the #5 starter spot by pitching in an intrasquad game on Monday. He will be 1 of 10 pitchers used in the game.

As the article correctly points out, intrasquad games are normally not newsworthy. However, anything to do with Schmidt will be closely monitored, as he's had 2 shoulder operations the last 2 seasons. The Dodgers are looking to get something, ANYTHING, out of him this season. If he is healthy, he could be a nice bonus in that last slot.

Also appearing will be closer Jonathan Broxton, who will be leaving for the World Baseball Classic on March 1. Youngsters Scott Elbert and Greg Miller will also throw.

Manny talks picking up

While there's no breakthroughs in the Manny Ramirez talks, GM Ned Colletti has indicated that the negotiations are becoming "more frequent and longer in duration." Whether that means he'll sign soon or not is anybody's guess.

Like always, the issue still seems to be the years. The Dodgers have held their ground on 2 years, and the Manny Camp wants at least 4. In what may be a good sign, there are indications that Manny would accept a 3-year deal with an option for a 4th.

In my mind, I think the 3-year deal with the 4th year option is what it will take to get this deal done. It'll take between $20-$25 million (probably more in the $25 range). Even with all the back-and-forth that has gone on, I'd be pretty surprised if he got 4 years guaranteed out of this.

So now the countdown to Spring Training has reached 3 days, with everyone reporting on Wednesday, February 25. Will Manny be a part of that? Let's hope so.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Orlando Hudson signs with the Dodgers

Not long after I got done writing about the possibility of adding Orlando Cabrera, it was the original Orlando that signed on the dotted line. The Dodgers just announced that Orlando Hudson has signed a 1-year, $3.38 million deal with up to $4.6 million in incentives.

I'm glad I said before that I'd rather have Hudson, because now I feel pretty darn good about this deal. He has a great glove to shore up the middle of the infield with Rafael Furcal. The Dodgers have to be feeling really good about their defense in the infield now.

I've talked plenty about Hudson's OBP, which was at .367 last year. That's the main reason I liked him over Cabrera, because he can move Furcal over or get on base himself. If the Dodgers do get Manny Ramirez back, then a Furcal-Hudson-Manny trio at the top of the order looks really good.

Kudos to the Dodgers for making this happen. But my feeling is that none of it will matter if Manny doesn't come back. Well, it'll matter simply because signing guys like Hudson and Randy Wolf are good decisions regardless if Manny returns. But still, they need him back in order for every piece to fall in place.

Other than Manny, about the only move I can see left is adding another reliever. A couple names I've seen are Denys Reyes and Jason Isringhausen.

O Dawg out... O Cab in?

With the likelihood of acquiring Orlando Hudson up in the air, the Dodgers have now turned their focus to Orlando Cabrera, formally of the Chicago White Sox. Normally a shortstop, Cabrera has indicated that he would be more than happy to switch to 2nd base if signed.

First, a look at Cabrera. He's been in the Majors since 1997, playing for the Expos, Red Sox, Angels, and White Sox. If you recall, he was the man the Red Sox traded Nomar Garciaparra for in 2004, and his slick glove helped break the curse. He's a career .274 hitter with a .322 OBP.

His best season was in '07 with the Angels where he hit .301 with a .345 OBP, 35 2B, 8 HR, 86 RBI, 20 SB. He played in 161 games last year with the White Sox, but his numbers took a dive, with a .281 AVG, .334 OBP, 57 RBI.

He seems like the kind of guy that could get some hits in bunches, but will never be one to work a walk. In fact, he only had 56 walks last season, which is about 1 every 3 games. Because of that, he'd probably have to hit either 7-8 in the order, as hitting him in the #2 spot would be a little scary since he can't get on base enough.

His biggest asset is his glove. Much like Hudson, he's a good fielder, with only 16 errors last season. That's good for a .978 fielding %. With good range, he could work very well with Rafael Furcal up the middle turning double plays.

If I had to pick between the 2 Orlando's, I would have to give the edge to Hudson. Hudson can get on base more and is a slightly better fielder. Granted, his health is a bit in question coming off a broken wrist last season, but I would think he's fully healed now.

It appears as if Ned Colletti is fully committed to signing 1 of the 2 to play 2nd base.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Hudson still being targetted

While the world is still waiting to see if Manny Ramirez will grace the Dodgers with his presence, the Dodgers are still the front-runners to sign 2B Orlando Hudson. Even with the pursuit of Manny, GM Ned Colletti says that he has flexibility to add Hudson as well.

As of now, the Dodgers have about $75 million committed to this season, well below the $120 million from last season. But, you have to remember that Manny's deal could easily push that up another $20-$25 million, plus Hudson's potential deal. Hudson originally wanted $10 million per, but that's just not going to happen. They still won't be near last year's salary even if both come in, though.

A double-play combination of Hudson and Rafael Furcal could be fun to see, but how often can we expect to see that? Both are coming off major injuries last year that kept them out a big chunk of the season. Hudson broke his left wrist last year, keeping him out for 2 months. Could that injury be making GM's gun shy about signing him? It's a possibility.

In my mind, I think signing Hudson could be a nice boost, but it's not extremely important like getting Manny back would be. He's always been a solid player, as his glove is among the best in the league. But he's also handled the bat pretty well the last 2 years, with AVG's of .294 and .305 and OBP's of .376 and .367. He'd be a nice option in the #2 hole to move Furcal over and get on base himself.

Blake DeWitt fans may not be crazy about this, and I understand that. But he is still is only 23 and has plenty of time to progress. He had his share of ups and downs last season, and was clearly overmatched in the NLCS against the Phillies. I'm sure he'll be fine.

Here's a scenario to consider from RotoWire: if Manny doesn't resign and Hudson does sign, then perhaps Hudson plays 2nd, DeWitt 3rd, and Casey Blake goes to LF. I'd be very surprised if that does happen since good ol' Juan "For Five" Pierre is still there with that huge contract.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Ethier barely avoids arbitration

Andre Ethier was the last person on the arbitration list, and was supposed to go to a hearing today. But all of that was avoided when he inked a 1-year, $3.1 million deal.

Ethier's numbers last year were pretty darn good, finishing at .305 AVG, 20 HR, 77 RBI. He started off the year with a .329 AVG in April, but that quickly went downhill by the end of June, when he was at .271. He was always a good player, but pretty inconsistent.

Never fear, enter Manny Ramirez, who Dre quickly took advantage of. He hit a sizzling .429 in September, raising his average from a .277 to .305. Hitting in front of or behind Manny did wonders for his confidence. Hopefully that will be the case again this season.

One important thing not in question this season is that he will be a starter. If you can remember to last Spring Training, the starting left field job was between Ethier and Juan "For Five" Pierre (Andruw Jones in center and Matt Kemp in right). Even if Manny comes back, Ethier will start in right field.

Entering his 4th season in the Majors and at only 27, big things could be expected from him.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Kuroda may start Opening Day

After showing in the playoffs how good he could be, Hiroki Kuroda may get the Opening Day nod on April 6 in San Diego. While it's not set in stone, Joe Torre seemed like that's the way he's leaning as of now.

There's a few reasons this may happen. For one, both Derek Lowe and Brad Penny are gone, and they have gotten the ball in recent years to start the season. Lowe is now in Atlanta and Penny is in Boston.

Two, Chad Billingsley broke his leg in the offseason, so it may take some pressure off of him knowing that he's not going to start the first game. Bills is said to be completely healthy, so we'll see. Plus, it's hard to forget just how lousy he was against the Phillies in the NLCS, so maybe a little less pressure will put him at ease to get back to his old self once the year starts. Remember, he's only 24, with plenty of good pitching ahead of him.

Kuroda was signed last year to be the 4th starter, but with Penny going down during the year, he was a great #3 guy. His record was only 9-10 during the regular season, but with a 3.73 ERA (great run support...). As I said before, he was awesome in the playoffs against the Cubs and Phillies, going 2-0 with a 1.46 ERA, including the lone with against the Phills.

So with Kuroda most likely going Opening Day, the rest of the rotation order is up in the air. Will Torre want to split the righties and lefties? Will he come right back with Billingsley the 2nd game? There's a lot left to answer.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Spring Training starts... without Manny

The second season of the Joe Torre Era is officially underway, as pitchers and catchers have reported not to Vero Beach, but to Glendale, Arizona. After reaching the NLCS last season and trading for Manny Ramirez at the trade deadline, the Dodgers are looking to retain their NL West championship and make another playoff run.

Speaking of that Ramirez guy, there's STILL nothing new to report as far as him signing. Torre chipped in during his meeting with the media on Friday (he obviously had a few things to talk about!) that he'd be surprised if he's not back with in LA. With Adam Dunn going to Washington and Bobby Abreu going to Anaheim, Manny is the lone big dog left in the kennel. Will the Dodgers finally get this thing done? Like I've said since October, we'll see.

For now, only pitchers and catchers have reported, as position players will come on Wednesday. In some good news, Chad Billingsley and Jason Schmidt are said to be fully healed and throwing bullpen sessions. Well, I'm not sure Schmidt will ever be "fully" healed, but he could be a sleeper this season.

Rafael Furcal and Delwyn Young are also there since they are technically rehabbing injuries. Raffy played winter ball and is said to be at 100%, while Young still is a bit banged up.

For those of you keeping track, the first Spring Training game will be in 11 days, which is February 25 against the Chicago Cubs.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Dodgers could make big moves very soon

After all the talk this offseason about signing Manny Ramirez, it appears as if he's not the only one who could be targeted. Sources close to the team are saying that within the next few days, both Manny and Orlando Hudson could land in LA.

We all know the impact of getting Manny back would have. He basically is the difference between the offense being a factor every night and having to scratch and claw for every run like before. If he's there, the confidence of the Dodgers would understandably be sky-high.

So now, let's focus on Hudson. The "O-Dog" played his last 3 years with the Arizona Diamondbacks as their 2nd baseman. He declared himself a free agent in the offseason hoping to find a big deal, but that hasn't happened. Coming to the Dodgers would probably be only for a year and between $5-$7 million.

Offensively, he's not at all a power hitter, maybe getting about 10 homers a year. But he can get on base, as he's gathered OBP% of .367 and .378 the last couple of seasons. The story with him is his incredible fielding ability. He has a career .985 fielding %, to go along with 3 straight Gold Glove awards in 2005-2007. He probably would've extended that last season had he not dislocated his left wrist, forcing him to appear in only 107 games.

We'll see what, if anything, comes from this. Getting Manny is huge, but Hudson would probably be met with mixed feelings. On one hand, he'll make your defense that much better, and can team with Rafael Furcal at the top of the order to set the table. But, that could also stall the development of Blake DeWitt, which I'm not sure is the right thing to do now. We need to remember that DeWitt is still young, so having him be a bench player for now might not be the worst thing in the world.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Wolf Pack is back in LA

The Dodgers were successful in getting one of the free agents they targeted, signing lefty Randy Wolf to a 1-year, $5 million deal with incentives. This is Wolf's second stop in Dodger blue, having played for them already in an injury-shortened 2007 season.

Wolf was on a list of secondary free agent pitchers that the Dodgers decided to pursue, passing over higher priced hurlers like Sabathia and Burnett. Once John Garland signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks, it was obvious that Wolf was the Dodgers' main target. Luckily for them, they got him.

The 2008 stats are quite revealing for Wolf. For the whole season between the San Diego Padres and Houston Astros, he was 12-12 with a 4.30 ERA and 1.38 WHIP, in addition to 162 K's in 190.1 IP. His splits between home and away are eye-opening. In 17 starts at home, he was 9-5, 2.98 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, and 86 K's in 99.2 IP. Pretty good stuff, right?

Then there's his road stats: 3-7, 5.76 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, 76 K's in 90.2 IP. Uh, not so good.

Still, it's a good addition for a team that needed another reliable starter. The rotation will most likely go with Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kerhsaw, Hiroki Kuroda, and Wolf. That is if they want to split up the righties and lefties. The 5th starter, just like last Spring Training, will be determined.

So now the next question will be about his health. Remember, this is the same guy that made 18 starts with the Dodgers in '07 before being shut down with season-ending shoulder surgery. Will he be healthy now? That's always a hard question to answer, but he did make 33 starts last year, so his health would appear to be fine. Then again, they thought that with Jason Schmidt a couple years back...

But I'll stay positive on this one. Now that they've got their 4th starter, it's time to put this Manny issue to bed once and for all. Make a decision and live with it. If he's in, fantastic. If not, go get Adam Dunn or Bobby Abreu and get ready for the season.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Manny gets an offer... and quickly rejects it

The Dodgers made their latest move in the never-ending Manny Ramirez saga, offering him a 1-year, $25 million deal. According to them, this makes sense for a couple of reasons. One, he will be the second-highest annual salary in baseball history. Two, he can return to the free agent market next year where the climate can't possibly be as bad.

So of course, Manny said no.

And the beat goes on (and on and on and on...).

With 2 weeks to go before the start of Spring Training, this situation is looking as bleak as ever. Manny (or should I say agent Scott Boras) still thinks he'll get his 4-5 year deal. With the exception of the Dodgers, he hasn't even received an official offer from another team. Both sides won't budge, so nothing is getting done.

Look, I want Manny back. But I'm getting sick and damn tired of this whole thing. Just come back or move on. This thing is dragging on worse than the annual Brett Favre retirement watch. Choose a side, stick with it, and everyone can move on and worry about the upcoming season. All of this delay is just plain old.