Sunday, December 18, 2011

Kemp nabs a GIBBY award

Congratulations go out to Matt Kemp, who won a GIBBY award (Greatness in Baseball Yearly) for Player of the Year. He beat out a bunch of other studs, such as Jose Bautista, Miguel Cabrera, Jacoby Ellsbury, Curtis Granderson, Albert Pujols, and the synthetic Ryan Braun.

Kemp collected 33.2% of the vote, well ahead Bautista's 19.8%. Votes are from a collection of the fans, media, front-office personnel, and alumni.

The win isn't much of a surprise, as despite the Dodgers finishing well out of the playoff race, Kemp was clearly the top dog in baseball this past year. He was one homer away from joining the prestigious 40/40 club, while still leading the league with 39 homers, 126 RBIs, 115 runs, and 353 total bases. He also finished second in a bunch of other categories, and was the starting center fielder and #3 hitter in the All-Star Game.

The awards have come in waves this offseason, including a Gold Glove, Sliver Slugger, and Hank Aaron. To get a complete list, click on the link above. There's plenty there to keep you busy.

About the only award that alluded him was the NL MVP, as it went to Braun. And as we recently found out, Braun had some help from a little friend. But as Ted Lilly pointed out, Kemp should've won the award to begin with. How right he is.

Kemp recently signed an eight-year, $160 million extension, and is the clear face of the franchise for many years to come.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Gwynn is back for two more years

The Dodgers had a deadline decision to make on Tony Gwynn. Either let him walk and hope to pick up another outfielder with more offense, or bring him back for his defensive value.

In the end, defense won out, and it's a good thing.

Gwynn was resigned to a two-year, $2 million contract on Monday. In addition, they tendered contracts to reigning Gold Glove winner Andre Ethier, James Loney, and some guy named Clayton Kershaw. I don't know about you, but I really hope they don't regret this Kershaw signing. Seems pretty risky to me.

Anyway, Gwynn will slide in as the fourth outfielder behind Matt Kemp, Juan Rivera, and Ethier. Barring another outfielder being brought in, I can definitely see Gwynn getting some starts as well, especially if Rivera struggles or Ethier isn't fully healthy.

His biggest role, however, will be as a late-inning defensive replacement, a role he played splendidly last season. Who can forget those diving catches he made to seal the deal and get a win? Certainly not the players on the mound. Stick him in left field next to two Gold Glovers, and that's one tough D to beat.

His offensive numbers showed much improvement as well. He went from a putrid .204 with the Padres in 2010 to .256 last year with 22 steals, a career high. I think that's the biggest reason he was brought back - he was able to finally pull his weight for the most part at the plate and not just be labeled as an "all glove, no bat" type of player. Good for him.

With the exception of Kemp's mammoth deal, this is another signing by Ned Colletti that certainly wasn't major by any means, but fills a certain role. Now Don Mattingly knows he has a speed and defense off the bench in a close game (which is how most Dodger games are). If all goes well, he can be a good option at the top of the order to set the table for others.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Braun busted

It's been a crazy sports weekend to say the least, from Robert Griffin III winning the Heisman Trophy, to Indiana beating the buzzer to take down #1 Kentucky, to Chris Paul getting denied access to the Lakers (thanks, Dictator Stern).

But this story has topped it all: Ryan Braun has been busted for using PED's.

That's maddening enough for baseball fans, who look to Braun as a clean-cut mega-star who helped carry them past the Steroid Era. Though he is appealing (and we have to remember the whole innocent until proven guilty thing), it's a definite black eye for the sport.

If you're a Dodger fan, however, it's even more frustrating. Let's not forget that Braun won the National League MVP this year over our own Matt Kemp. Throw in knowledge that Braun actually knew about the positive test a month before winning the award, and you can't help but think that if this news broke much earlier, Kemp would've won hands down.

Of course, there's plenty of people who believed Kemp should have won it in the first place, but obviously the Brewers' postseason run played a huge role. Take Braun out of the picture, and Kemp would've raised his first place vote total from 10. The only other players to receive votes for first were Prince Fielder and Justin Upton, who got one a piece.

For those of you wondering if Braun could get stripped of the award if the positive test holds up, you can forget about that. I haven't heard one word spoken of that. The ship has sailed, unfortunately.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Dodgers add Harang and move Eveland

The Dodgers made a couple of moves today that officially rounded out their starting rotation... and brought an end to Hiroki Kuroda's tenure in LA.

Aaron Harang was signed to a two-year, $12 million deal with an option for 2014. He will join Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly, and Chris Capuano in the rotation of proven arms. Ned Colletti did not want to see young Nathan Eovaldi handle the #5 role this soon, so getting Capuano and Harang turned out to be of high priority.

The other move, albiet a minor one, was to trade Dana Eveland to the Orioles for minor league starter Jarret Martin and outfielder Tyler Henson. Martin pitched in Single-A, while Henson appeared in Triple-A last season.

For awhile, it looked like Colletti would add either Capuano or Harang. After Caps signed last week, I didn't think they would even want Harang still. Fortunately, I was wrong, as I valued Harang as the better pitcher all along. Neither one of them is as good as Kuroda, but that ship has sailed regardless of who signed.

Last season was a good one for Harang, who bounced back from a horrible 2010 campaign with the Reds. After going to the Padres, he went 14-7 with a 3.64 ERA and 1.37 WHIP. He was obviously a much better pitcher at home (3.05 home vs. 4.70 road), but geez, who the heck wouldn't pitch better at PETCO Park? I think my ERA would be under four there.

Why else were the Dodgers impressed with Harang? Well, in three starts against them, he went 2-0 with an 0.45 ERA. That's one earned run in 20 innings. I'd say that's pretty good. Granted, the Dodgers didn't exactly set the world on fire at the plate (minus Matt Kemp), but those are still dominating numbers.

With the rotation now locked in, what the Dodgers really need to hope for is that Billingsley and Lilly pitch more consistently than they did last year. More so Bills than Lilly, as he has yet to match his so-called "mega-talent" to any sort of steady success. Lilly was awesome in the final two months, but pretty awful in the first four.

Kershaw will be Kershaw, as he's a legit ace now. The Dodgers know they'll have a great chance to win each of his 30+ starts he gets.

Since scoring runs should still be hard on plenty of nights, the rest of the rotation will be counted on even more to pitch solidly and give the Dodgers a chance to win in the late innings. Capuano and Harang will be at the back end, and it's good to know that while they're not dominating by any means, they are good matchups against most other team's 4-5 pitchers.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Jerry Hairston - your latest veteran utility man

The Dodgers don't have a lot of resources when it comes to signing free agents. So rather than going after the big dogs like Prince Fielder, Albert Pujols, or Jose Reyes, Ned Colletti has filled in the blanks with veteran role players.

The newest example was Monday's signing of Jerry Hairstron, Jr., who agreed to a two-year, $6 million deal. He'll fill in the spot vacated by Jamey Carroll of ultimate utility man, able to play both infield and outfield whenever called upon.

Hairston split time between the Nationals and Brewers last season, hitting a combined .270 with five homers and 31 RBIs. He really came on late in the year as part of the Brew Crew's postseason run, taking over the third base spot and hitting .385 with a .422 OBP in 39 at-bats. Not too shabby for a guy expected to play off the bench.

Like I said before, his greatest quality is the ability to play practically any spot on defense. Last season he spent some amount of time at second, third, short, left, and center for both teams. It's nice to know that you can put him in and not miss a beat in up to six positions on the field. He's made a career out of that.

Much like the deals with Mark Ellis and Adam Kennedy, these are by no means major happenings. But, the Dodgers got some good production last year from Aaron Miles and Jamey Carroll, so there was a need to replace them considering the youth of Dee Gordon and Justin Sellers. Mix the vets with the young guns, and hope everyone pushes each other to get better.

Plus, it's the best Colletti can do considering the money he has... or money he doesn't have.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Hello, Capuano... Goodbye, Kuroda?

If you are reading between the lines of Ned Colletti's newest signing, Friday appears to have marked the end of Hiroki Kuroda's Dodger career.

Chris Capuano was signed to a two-year, $10 million deal, with a club option for 2014. He rounds out the rotation, for now anyway, that includes Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw, Ted Lilly, Chad Billingsley, and Nathan Eovaldi.

The odd man out? By all indications, it's Kuroda, who appears to be too pricey for the Dodgers. It's not exactly clear just how much money he's looking for, but the common number I've seen is $12 million to come back for one more go-around. And even if the Dodgers could come up with that kind of cash for just a year, it's not even known if he would definitely want to come back. It's been said that he wants to either go back to Japan to finish his career, or sign with a contender.

The bottom line: Kuroda is gone. That's all there is to that.

As for Capuano, he made himself relevant again by pitching pretty well for the Mets last season. Even though his numbers aren't exactly top-notch (11-12, 4.55 ERA, 1.35 WHIP), there are indications that he actually pitched better than that. For example, in 186 innings, he struck out 168 and only walked 53.

Capuano did give up 27 homers last year, which is high. But, Kuroda actually gave up 24 himself, so perhaps Caps had a case of bad luck. With a good defense behind him, I can see his ERA easily going down.

With payroll what is it, which isn't much, signings like Capuano, Mark Ellis, and Adam Kennedy are about all we can expect as fans. Serviceable players, but certainly nothing flashy. The Dodgers have to hope that they get the most out of their role players, and guys like Andre Ethier, James Loney, and Juan Uribe put up much better numbers to support Matt Kemp in the lineup.

Kennedy added for bench depth

With Aaron Miles out of the picture, the Dodgers got to work replacing him on Thursday, signing Adam Kennedy to a one-year, $800,000 deal. He can earn up to an additional $150,000 based on plate appearances, which judging by Miles's playing time last year, is very possible.

The signing was necessary for a couple of reasons. One, he can play up to three infield positions (second and third, and a little bit of first). With Juan Uribe recovering from an injury-plagued, horrendous first season in LA, it's good to know someone else is there just in case. Second, he's a left-handed bat off the bench for pinch-hitting roles.

Kennedy has been in the bigs since breaking in with the Cardinals in 1999. He's best known for being with the Angels, as he was a big part of their postseason success in 2002, culminating with a ring. His three homers against the Twins in the ALCS helped pave the way.

He's also been described as a "good clubhouse presence." Though to be fair, I highly doubt anyone would actually say something like, "He's a cancer in the clubhouse, but we'll try it anyway." Still, I'll give Ned Colletti the benefit of the doubt.

It's going to be hard to replace what Jamey Carroll and Miles gave to the Dodgers last year, as they really came out of nowhere to give some great production. They've basically been replaced by Mark Ellis and Kennedy, two more veterans who are on their way down. Still, with payroll options very limited, it's about the best we can expect.

So, look for even more small ball in LA in 2012.