Sunday, January 31, 2010

With Pierre gone, Dodgers shopping for fourth outfielder

The Dodgers have made a few moves to shore up their infield, and are now looking to do the same in the outfield.

Talks have picked up the last couple of days of the Dodgers looking to sign either Reed Johnson or Garrett Anderson. The goal is to replace Juan Pierre and his ability to make a difference late in games as a sub. To a lesser extend, Gabe Gross and Brian Giles have also been mentioned.

It appears as if Johnson is the lead choice, so I'll start with him. His season was cut short last year because of a fractured left foot. So, he only hit .255 with four home runs and 22 RBIs in 65 games. The year before, however, he hit .303 in 109 games and is a career .282 hitter.

What makes him attractive is his ability to play all three outfield positions. As a career .991 fielder, it's hard not to like someone like that.

As for Anderson, his calling card would be his ability to create power off the bench. He's probably one of the more underrated hitters that I can recall over his 16-year career. But his numbers jump out at you: .295 average, 285 homers, and 1353 RBIs.

He spent last season in Atlanta, starting 124 games in left field, so he can still play in the field. He's obviously slowing down, because he only hit .268 with 13 homers and 61 RBIs, easily his worst statistical year since early in his career.

The part about Anderson that makes him very appealing is that by making him the top dog off the bench, he'd be kept fresh. Plus, the Dodgers can definitely use a lefty power threat late in the game, which is exactly what made the deal for Jim Thome last year necessary.

The feeling is that the Dodgers will most likely get one (probably Johnson) with an outside chance at both. Since Jason Repko (always hurt) and Xavier Paul (talented but young) as the top choices right now, it would be a good idea to get someone.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Interesting note on Belliard's deal

After reading a little more about Ronnie Belliard's new one-year deal with the Dodgers, I came across a pretty interesting detail.

Belliard must report to spring training at 209 pounds or less for the deal to become guaranteed. If he fails to do so, he can be released and only owed termination pay.

Who knows what he's weighing in at right now, but it's obviously a concern. If you look at video of him last season, it was also obvious that he wasnt' exactly spending much time on a treadmill. Even with that, he still managed to swing the bat very well.

I can't imagine he'd show up in spring training overweight, so we'll just assume this was for precautionary reasons. Now I hope I'm not wrong, because he's a good addition to the infield.

Unless he's fat, then it won't matter.

Belliard and Ausmus on their way back

The Dodgers strengthened their infield even more today by agreeing to contracts with Ronnie Belliard and Brad Ausmus. Belliard will compete for the starting job at second base, and Ausmus resumes his role as Russell Martin's backup behind the plate.

Belliard signed a one-year deal for $825,000 plus incentives. Ausmus' deal is also for one-year and worth $850,000. He'll have a $1 million option for 2011 with a $150,000 buyout if he chooses to move on.

Right before the trade deadline on August 30 of last season, Belliard was acquired for a couple of minor league pitchers. The deal didn't look like a big move at the time, but then he started swinging a hot bat and took off. In 24 games with the Dodgers, he hit a terrific .351 with five homers and 17 RBIs. In the playoffs, he got a hit in all eight games for a .300 average.

Blake DeWitt must be feeling like the odd man out. He looked to be the starting second baseman at the start of the winter, then Jamey Carroll was acquired. Now with Belliard aboard, DeWitt could go from starter to fighting for a pinch-hitting/defensive replacement role late in games.

If second base doesn't work out for Belliard, he can be a key backup for Casey Blake at third. Belliard also has experience at first base, so the Dodgers basically have three guys in Carroll, DeWitt, and Belliard that can play most infield spots. Nick Green has a shot at Rafael Furcal's backup at short.

The resigning of Ausmus is a quiet move, but a very good one. I'm not sure many people realized that he hit .295 in 36 games last season. I doubt he'll hit that again, but he's most valuable for his defense and clubhouse leadership anyway. At 41 years of age, I'm glad he held off retirement.

The most important stat for Ausmus? In 17 big league seasons, he's never been on the DL. Now that's amazing.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Dodgers turn to Padilla

Vicente Padilla has agreed to a one-year deal worth $5.025 million to rejoin the starting rotation. The deal is for a base salary of $4.025 million with a $1 million signing bonus.

The signing isn't a surprise, as there was definite interest from both sides for Padilla to make his return. With the way he pitched after coming over from Texas on August 19 of last season, it's no wonder the Dodgers feel confident in giving him a slot in the rotation.

In seven starts with his new team, he went 4-0 with a 3.20 ERA. He was also brilliant against the Cardinals in closing out the NLDS. He split great and lousy performances against the Phillies in the NLCS. Even with the one bad start (which was the final game of the season), it was obvious that he had turned his career around for the better.

Now come a couple of challenges, both for Padilla and for the team. First, can Padilla regain the form that left him overpowering hitters at the end of last season? By many accounts, he was a head case with the Rangers, but well-behaved in L.A. I'm sure it's no coincidence that a better attitude resulted in much better numbers.

Second, do the Dodgers have enough guns in the rotation to get back to the playoffs? Along with Padilla, there's Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw, Hiroki Kuroda, and another slot that will be determined in spring training. For now, the rotation looks solid, but not spectacular.

With Padilla signed, it's unknown if the Dodgers will make any more moves. They got their second baseman in Jamey Carroll, and have already resigned all their arbitration players. This could be it for the winter.

Like always, stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

No arbitration needed as four more sign

The Dodgers were able to avoid arbitration altogether this season by agreeing on one-year deals with Russell Martin, James Loney, Hong-Chih Kuo, and George Sherrill. All four have received raises as well, so they must have done something right last season.

Martin will be the one who cashes in the most, going from $3.9 million last season to $5.05 this season. He's coming off a down year offensively, but has been a two-time All Star, so it's not like we haven't seen him thrive before. After leading the majors in innings caught last year, you have to hope he gets a little more rest this time around. A .250 average, seven home runs, and 53 RBIs pretty much confirmed that he was worn out at times.

Loney goes from $465,000 to $3.1 million. He only had 13 homers, but still was third on the team with 91 RBIs. Of his 162 hits, only 40 were for extra bases. But hey, 90 RBIs is 90 RBIs, so give credit where it's due.

Sherrill made $2.75 million with the Orioles last season and now will make $4.5 million. As has been stated before, he was simply fantastic after his late-season acquisition last year. The Dodgers can pretty much turn games into seven inning contests with Sherrill and Jonathan Broxton teaming up in the last two innings. A full year of those two will be fun to watch.

Kuo gets bumped up from $437,000 to $975,000. My guess for not breaking the million mark is because of his injuries, but it's nearly that anyway. He gave a great lift in the second half of last season, and is another dangerous weapon from the 'pen.

With everyone under contract after today's action, Ned Colletti can now turn his attention to signing a veteran starting pitcher.

Either and Broxton the latest with two-year deals

Add Andre Ethier and Jonathan Broxton to the list of names that avoided arbitration by agreeing to two-year deals. Ethier will earn $15.25 million plus more with incentives, and Broxton gets $11 million.

Matt Kemp has previously inked a two-year deal for $11.25 million.

With a handful of other signings taking place today (see above post), the Dodgers didn't end up going to arbitration with anybody. Give the team some credit for finding ways to get it done.

Like the Kemp deal, both signings are good short-term investments. All three have proven that they have unlimited potential. And all three have been right in the thick of back-to-back NL West championships and first round sweeps.

Ethier will team up with Manny Ramirez and Kemp to form a solid middle of the order. That's one of the best outfields in baseball. Ethier had the power numbers last year with 31 homers, 106 RBIs, and 41 doubles. He'll look to improve upon his .272 average as well.

Broxton stepped up to be the man in the bullpen in his first full season as a closer. He went 36-for-42 in save opportunities with one hold sprinkled in. He also had a 2.61 ERA with an amazing 114 strikeouts in 76 innings. Wow.

The two-year window for manageable money is the smart thing to do for the Dodgers. If all three players become superstars, then they will earn their mega-contracts in due time. But, if there's slippage, the team can thank themselves for not overreacting early and blowing tons of money.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Six Dodgers file for arbitration

Six premium members of the Dodgers' core filed for salary arbitration on Friday: Andre Ethier, James Loney, Jonathan Broxton, Russell Martin, George Sherrill, and Hong-Chih Kuo. Each player will exchange figures with the team on Tuesday.

It's not a slam dunk that each player will head into an arbitration case, as two-year deals have been discussed with Ethier and Broxton. Matt Kemp previously signed a two-year contract of his own.

While predicting a salary is never an exact science, certain players appear to be in line for a raise compared to others.

Ethier made $3.2 million last year, and he had a career-year with six walk-off hits and a Silver Slugger award. He would most assuredly be in for a raise. Broxton earned $1.925 million, and then went on to get 36 saves, a 2.61 ERA, and 114 strikeouts. He'll be richer.

Kuo made only $475,000 (and I say "only" in baseball terms... I'll happily take that any day of the week), but had a great year by being lights-out in the seventh inning with a 2.19 ERA. He'll get more money.

Sherrill made $2.75 million, but was fantastic going from Baltimore to LA and never missing a beat. In the second half between the two clubs, he had a fantastic 0.85 ERA. He, too, would appear to be richer.

Loney will probably be in for around the same $465,000 that he made last year, only because his numbers aren't much different the last two seasons. Martin earned $3.1 million, but is coming off a down year, so that number may go down as well.

I'll keep you updated as the deals become finalized.

Kemp officially signs two-year deal

Matt Kemp has cashed in on a great 2009 by officially signing a two-year, $10.95 million contract. He passed his physical on Friday.

With Manny Ramirez on board for another season and Andre Ethier heading towards arbitration, the Dodgers can certainly boast one of the best outfields in all of baseball. Manny brings power, Ethier clutch hitting, and Kemp all five tools.

In addition to the remaining six players facing arbitration, the Dodgers will now shift their focus towards signing another starting pitcher.

Billingsley signs for a year

Chad Billingsley stayed away from arbitration by inking a one-year, $3.85 million deal. His deal last season was for $475,000.

Billingsley had one of the strangest seasons I can recall a starting pitcher having last year. In the first half, he looked every bit like the ace the Dodgers thought he could be. His 9-4 record and 3.38 ERA earned him a trip to St. Louis for the All Star Game.

Then he plummeted in the second half, going 3-7 with a 5.20 ERA. He was also winless in his last seven starts. Any way you look at it, it was ugly. And quite shocking that he just flat out fell apart.

Bills did battle hamstring issues on a couple of different occasions, but he also said that a mechanical flaw was his biggest problem. I'm not sure I can totally believe that it's solely because of a mechanical flaw, but who knows. I just think things went from bad to worse, and he was mentally fried when it was all said and done.

Lousy end or not, he's firmly in the rotation this upcoming season, as only Clayton Kershaw and Hiroki Kuroda are etched in stone. The Dodgers are still looking to add another arm, but that shouldn't affect Billingsley from staying in the rotation. Let's hope he has his stuff figured out.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The search for another starter continues

As January starts to creep towards February, the Dodgers still find themselves looking to strengthen their rotation. Finally, they seem to be making some progress.

While it's only names at this point, at least the Dodgers appear to be very much involved in signing either Vicente Padilla or Joel Pineiro. Also, Braden Looper and Jon Garland have been talked about as well.

The top dog seems to be Pineiro. He's coming off a great season in St. Louis, going 15-12 with a 3.29 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in 214 innings. Basically, he picked a great year to produce. The Mets have looked at a deal with him in the two-year, $15 million range. The Dodgers look like they only want to do one year, so that may put him out of reach.

Padilla had a roller coaster year, but it thankfully was a positive ride once he came to Los Angeles. He went 4-0 with a 3.20 ERA, plus had two great starts in the playoffs. He was garbage with the Rangers, but looked golden with the Dodgers. So the reality is that he's probably somewhere in between. Still, he'd be a good signing for a year.

Looper had the best record for a bad pitcher that I maybe have ever seen last season. He went 14-7, which is really good. He also had a 5.22 ERA and 1.49 WHIP, which is horrible. He also gave up 39 long balls. Yikes! Though to be fair, he did play in a homer friendly park in Milwaukee.

Garland gave the Dodgers good innings at the end of last year as well. He went 3-2 with a 2.72 ERA. He's an innings-eater, so you can count on around 200 innings each year from him. I've never gotten the feeling this offseason that he'd be brought back, but I guess it's a possibility if nothing else pans out.

Kemp closing in on two-year deal

The Dodgers have been in discussions with Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, James Loney, and Jonathan Broxton on two-year deals. However, only Kemp appears to be close to inking a new deal.

Talks with Kemp have been described as "progressing smoothly" between the two sides. He's at a prime spot to cash in, as he's coming off a big season where he took a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards. Plus, he's 25 and is probably still getting better (at least I hope).

As for the other three, while talks have occurred, it's hard to get the impression that anything but one-year deals will happen.

Both Ethier and Loney look like locks for one year. Broxton is said to be discussing multiple scenarios, so maybe he's another possibility for an extended deal.

Dodgers add Nick Green

The Dodgers are looking to replace the many departures from last year's bench by signing infielder Nick Green to a minor league contract. He'll earn $500,000 plus $100,000 in incentives if he makes the big club.

With Juan Castro and Mark Loretta gone, the Dodgers lost some good depth that filled in some big innings. Jamey Carroll has already been added, so maybe Green can back up Rafael Furcal at short since Carroll plays pretty much everywhere else but there.

Green appeared in 103 games with the Red Sox last season. He hit .236 with six homers and 35 RBIs. Not exactly huge numbers. Not that I follow the Red Sox closely, but I do know they had problems at short all year, and Green was one of the few that had a chance to make an impact and never really did.

Keep in mind he's not on the major league roster, so he'll have to work his way up during the spring.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

Just wanted to pass along a quick "Happy New Year!" to all of my readers out there.

I started this blog in December of 2007 and am thrilled that I have readers from all over the globe checking in. I love my Dodgers and I hope you enjoy reading my perspective on them.

While the offseason hasn't exactly been action packed, there's still plenty of time left to make some noise. And with the back end of the rotation still up in the air, there's more to come.

Be healthy, be safe, and be praying for a World Series run 2010! Thanks again!

Kemp talks multi-year deal

With Matt Kemp arbitration-eligible for the first time in his career, the Dodgers have approached him about a multi-year deal. Kemp's agent Dave Stewart (yes, THAT Dave Stewart, the former starting pitcher), says that Kemp may just go year-to-year for now.

The talk doesn't look too serious, more like a feeling out process. With Kemp so young, he may do the arbitration thing (meaning one-year deals) until he reaches six years of service. Currently, he's entering his fifth year.

On paper, it looks like an easy decision for the Dodgers to lock up one of their bright, young stars. But dig deeper into the Dodgers recent history of multi-year deals for young players, and it's not pretty.

Paul LoDuca got one in 2002, and Cesar Izturis and Eric Gagne is 2005. Well, Izturis and Gagne suffered major injuries that derailed their careers, and LoDuca's career went into a tailspin shortly after. Oh ya, LoDuca and Gagne were on the Mitchell Report. Coincidence? Ah, no.

So you can see why Ned Colletti might hold off on dishing out the years and money right now, and rightfully so. While Kemp sure looks like the real deal, it's not a bad idea to stay the one-year rout for now until he's shown he's consistent enough of a player to earn a fat contract.

After winning the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards in '09, Kemp will get a big raise from his $467,000 deal of last season. So it's not like he'll need a winter job or anything for support. He'll be fine.