Monday, December 27, 2010

Hu is shipped across the country

The Dodgers have given up on Chin-lung Hu, trading him to the Mets today for lefty Michael Antonini. The trade signals an end to Hu's career with the Dodgers in which he had many call-ups, many demotions, and not many hits.

Over the course of four seasons, Hu appeared in 96 games, hitting a paltry .191 with a .241 OBP. He did hit .400 in 2009... though that was by going 2-for-5 in five games. He also had little power and virtually no stolen bases. Other than those minor points, I'd say he really left his mark.

But seriously, Hu was a guy that never could firmly grasp his hold on a big league job. With Rafael Furcal getting up there in age and injuries, Hu was groomed to one day take over, yet could never make it happen. There was no doubt he had a good glove (three errors in 225 total chances), but with such poor numbers at the plate, it wasn't nearly good enough.

Besides, Hu was out of options, and with Jamey Carroll and Juan Uribe ready to play some short when necessary, trading him was a smart move. Plus, the Dodgers would like to see Ivan DeJesus Jr. get his chance, and that certainly looks to be the case now.

Antonini has gotten as high as the Triple-A level, but has never appeared in a major league game. In four seasons with many different minor league teams, he has a 25-26 record and a 4.04 ERA. Last season with Double-A Binghamton and Triple-A Buffalo, he went 8-12 with a 4.49 ERA.

It's hard to get too excited over a guy like Antonini, but we'll just have to keep an eye on him for the future.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Durable Guerrier joins the 'pen


Well, so much for the rumors about Bill Hall joining the Dodgers. Ken Rosenthal is reporting that Hall has inked a deal with the Astros to play second base. Oh well.


The Dodgers made yet another offseason move to strengthen their bullpen on Thursday. This time they plucked away Matt Guerrier from the Twins with a three-year, $12 million deal. Other teams interested in his services were the Rockies, Yankees, and Red Sox.

What we know about Guerrier is that if the bullpen needs to be called upon, he's most likely the guy to answer. His 76 appearances in 2008 and 79 in 2009 led the American League, and 74 last season was third. If Don Mattingly wanted a workhorse, he's got one.

Guerrier also has some nice statistics for holds the last four seasons: 14, 20, 33, and 23. Last season he went 5-7 with one save, a 3.17 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and 42 strikeouts in 71 innings. The year before he had a 2.36 ERA, but in '08 it was 5.19. Let's hope that was an aberration.

In looking at last season's splits, he did his best work in the beginning and end of the year. His July ERA was 8.00, and 5.27 in August. But, he bounced back with great work in September at 1.67, and didn't give up a run in 1 1/3 innings against the Yankees in the postseason.

As of now, Jonathan Broxton is still the closer, so it looks like Guerrier will team with Hong-Chih Kuo to bridge the gap. That's a pretty good combination from both sides of the rubber. Plus, there's young Kenley Jansen, who was very impressive at the end of the season. If Ronald Belisario and Broxton get back to normal, that's a fantastic bullpen.

But, if there's one thing we learned about last season, it's that looking good on paper means nothing once the games have started. A bullpen that dominated in 2009 looked all out of whack last year. So, if Broxton continues to fade under the spotlight, Belisario remains ineffective, Jansen shows his youth, and Kuo's arm troubles resurface, then the Dodgers are thin once again, even with Guerrier.

While many things can happen, the Dodgers have to love what they did this offseason to improve their pitching. They have five legit starters (Kershaw, Billingsley, Lilly, Kuroda, and Garland), a swingman that can do a little of everything (Padilla), and a bullpen that is deep (Broxton, Kuo, Guerrier, Jansen, and Belisario). Ned Colletti has definitely taken a huge step forward in that regard.

Next up is still looking to add a left fielder. There's rumors about getting Bill Hall, who spent last year with the Red Sox and hit .247 with 18 homers and 46 RBIs in 119 games. Not exactly a killer year, but he does have pop, and hit 35 homers in 2006, so maybe he's still good, right?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Dodgers add Gwynn to the outfield mix

It wasn't the big splash Dodger fans were looking for, but Tony Gwynn, Jr. hopes to be the sparkplug the Dodgers need in their order.

Tony Gwynn's baby boy has inked a one-year, $675,000 deal. His role is yet to be determined, but if the roster stays in place, he'll compete with Jay Gibbons to start in left field. Both are lefties, so adding a right-handed bat seems to make sense.

Gwynn is known for two things: defense and speed. His range in the outfield is incredible, as he can play all three positions and cover a whole lot of range, which will immediately place him in the role of defensive replacement late in close games at the very least. Whether he starts games is something that won't be answered for now.

The other plus is his speed, as he has stolen 42 bases in parts of five seasons with the Brewers and Padres. He's also been caught only 14 times, and was 17-for-21 last season.

The downside is that his bat is pretty weak, as evidenced by his career .244 average and .323 OBP. After hitting for a promising .270/.350 in 2009, he went backwards last season with a .204/.304. That's a good reason for concern.

Still, he's a young player who has plenty of time to figure things out. Plus, he could always nicely ask his dad for help. But seriously, at 28 next season and with his speed, he just needs to figure out how to use his legs to get on base more often. If he does that, he can be a good addition at the top of the lineup.

If he still can't hit, or the Dodgers bring in a better hitter to play left, he'll be the first option off the bench to pinch-run and play the outfield late in games.

Navarro comes full circle

The never-ending saga of who will be the starting catcher for the Dodgers has taking another turn.

Not long after Russell Martin was let go and Rod Barajas was brought back, the Dodgers have come to terms on a one-year deal with Dioner Navarro. That's the same Navarro who was once the "catcher of the future" a few years ago for the Dodgers before being shipped off to the Rays in 2006.

In many ways, the tales of Navarro and Martin are eerily similar. Both were young backstops in the Dodgers' organization, both played in the '08 All-Star Game in Yankee Stadium, both looked ready to become the best catchers in baseball... and both crashed and burned and were non-tendered. As Martin most likely moves on to another team to catch, Navarro is back to where he started.

Navarro only appeared in a combined 75 games over the '05 and '06 seasons before moving on to the Rays. In Tampa, he hit his peak in '08 by hitting .295 with seven homers and 54 RBIs. Just when things appeared to looking bright, he tanked to an abysmal .218 in '09 and .194 last year.

The last straw for the Rays was when Navarro was not announced to be a part of the postseason roster, and he packed his bags and went home. So much for staying to root your teammates on. Anyway, the writing was obviously on the wall for his dismissal.

The Dodgers will now have three catchers of various experience. Barajas is the #1 catcher right now, as he was brought back because of the pop in his bat and ability to handle a staff. A.J. Ellis came on in September of last season to show some promise going forward. Now Navarro will return to L.A. looking to stake his claim as the top guy.

I honestly feel bad for Ellis at this point, as he must never feel comfortable with the big club. Just when he thought he'd be getting some starts and be the backup to Barajas, he once again will have to compete to stay away from the minors. But, maybe this will be extra motivation for him this offseason.

Padilla is back for insurance

The Dodgers continued their rapid-fire rebuilding of the starting rotation by resigning Vicente Padilla to a one-year, $2 million deal. The sweet thing for him is that he can get bumped an extra $8 million by hitting various incentives.

Padilla has rebuilt himself into an effective starting pitcher the last couple of seasons with the Dodgers. He made eight starts at the end of the 2009 season and went 4-0 with a 3.20 ERA, and had two great starts that postseason. Last year with marred with all sorts of injuries, as he made 16 starts for a 6-5 record and 4.07 ERA.

What makes Padilla so intriguing is that when he is healthy, he has some nasty stuff. His fastball shows good movement, and he even unleashed the "Bugs Bunny" curveball this past year, which totally threw off hitters. So, a healthy Padilla makes for a good pitcher.

But, at 33 next season, there's definite concern about maintaining his health. With Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda, and Jon Garland slated to be in the rotation, Padilla can take the role of swingman. He can make spot starts after the inevitable injury bug hits. He can fill the role that Jeff Weaver performed in the past by taking the ball for multiple innings of middle relief as well.

In addition, don't be surprised to see him close out games as well. Jonathan Broxton is the closer as of now, but with the way he melted down at the end of last season, Padilla would be a good person to step into that role. I doubt that's the plan now, but as the season progresses, I can see it happening.

I'll bet Garland is a big uncomfortable with this signing, as Padilla could seemingly aim for that #5 spot in the rotation. I think Garland will keep it, as he's a whole heck of a lot more durable than Padilla. But, a poor spring from Garland and a good one by Padilla, and that may become an interesting story.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The catching shuffle: Barajas in, Martin out

One of Ned Colletti's biggest offseason decisions to make was what to do with Russell Martin. Bring him back in, or cut ties with the injured former star? Turns out the former beat out the latter.

Colletti has made up his mind, as Martin was non-tendered at Thursday's deadline. In his place will be Rod Barajas, who was acquired during last season from the Mets. Barajas signed a one-year, $3.25 million deal and will start behind the plate with A.J. Ellis the backup.

Despite the fact that Martin has had an alarming drop of production the last three seasons, and that he currently isn't even running because of a hip injury, Colletti called this one of the toughest decisions he's ever made. It's understandable, considering that Martin is a two-time All-Star who at one point looked like he was close to becoming the best catcher in the game.

But then a surprising free-fall came, in which his numbers tanked the last three seasons. In 2007, he hit .297 with 19 homers and 87 RBIs. In '08, it was .280 with 13 homers and 69 RBIs. In '09, .250 with seven homers and 53 RBIs. Finally, last season was cut short to 97 games, but his numbers were .248, five homers, and 26 RBIs. Wow.

After Martin was non-tendered, reports came out that Colletti was unwilling to pay Martin as much as he thought he deserved. The Dodgers and Martin tried to work out a contract before the deadline, but Martin's asking price of $5 million, even with that lowered from previous asking prices, was still too high for Colletti, who reportedly was offering $4.2 million. It was all she wrote once both sides couldn't agree on terms.

Now the question has been raised: Has Martin played his last game as a Dodger? Well, Colletti appears to be willing to let him come back, but only in a utility role. That could mean time at second, third, outfield, and even some catcher. Martin seems interested in doing so, according to a report. Still, I'd be surprised to see this happen. I think if another team guarantees him a spot behind the plate, he'll jump at it. And I can't blame him for doing so.

As for the new starter, Barajas raised some eyebrows when he came over from the Mets on August 22. He ended up playing in 25 games while hitting .297 with five homers and 13 RBIs. Believe me, five homers might not seem like much, but with the power-outage the Dodgers went through at the end of the season, they definitely were a bright spot.

Hitting one homer every five games isn't a likely pace to maintain, but he did hit 17 homers last season in 99 games last season, plus 19 the year before, so he's shown an ability to mash. Ellis improved his numbers in September of last season by hitting .455 with a .561 OBP in 15 games, so his playing time will be increased as well.

Overall, it'll be a strange sight not seeing Martin behind the plate on Opening Day in 2011. But, I have to agree with the decision to non-tender him. He doesn't deserve the money he was asking for based on the last three seasons and his broken hip. He was a great for a few years, but sadly, it's time to move on.