Sunday, January 26, 2014

Kemp looking doubtful for Australia

A lot can change between now and March 22, but at this point, don't expect to see Matt Kemp in the lineup when the Dodgers take on the Diamondbacks in a two-game set Down Under.

It should be noted that the source of the above information is former All-Star Dave Stewart, whose current career is being Kemp's agent.  The logic is simple: Kemp has rushed back way too many times before, so he shouldn't do it again.

Does that mean Kemp has suffered another setback?  Apparently not.  He's been lifting weights for awhile, and just recently started running on a treadmill.  That's much more than he did last winter, when left shoulder surgery prevented him from doing much of anything with weights.

I'm sure when Spring Training starts, we'll be getting our daily updates on how Kemp looks and what he did on the field.  We'll probably get just as many updates on how he thinks he "feels great" and is "ready for Opening Day."

Maybe the more realistic goal for him to is to be ready for the games back in the States.  The Dodgers play three in San Diego, starting with ESPN Sunday Night Baseball on March 30, before playing the Giants for three on April 4 in Dodger Stadium.  Possibly he'll pinch-hit against the Diamondbacks and Padres before starting in center against the Giants?  Just a thought.

Let's hope Kemp finds any sort of consistent health this season.  I know the Dodgers still made the NLCS without him contributing much last year, but as I've said all along, they need him to get to where they want to be (on top of the world).

In the meantime, it's good to know that he has a Kardashian to keep him occupied in the offseason!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Yankees pony up for Tanaka, and the Dodgers are better off for it

No disrespect to Masahiro Tanaka, but I'm glad the Dodgers didn't get him.

Not for that price.  Not even for a mega-rich team like the Dodgers.

For those of you who don't know, Japan's best pitcher decided to don the Yankee pinstripes for the next seven seasons and $155 million today.  He'll get an opt-out after four seasons and a full no-trade clause.  Not too shabby for a guy who has yet to make one big league pitch.

Look, would Tanaka have helped the Dodgers?  Absolutely.  If he signed, then the top four of their rotation of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Tanaka would be deadly.  There isn't a weak pitcher in that bunch, and you can legitimately say the Dodgers are favorites to beat almost anybody four out of five games.

But even though money is not an object in LA, they're still better off not giving ANOTHER huge contract to a pitcher.  Just look at what the top three in the rotation are raking in: Kershaw - seven years and $215 million, Greinke - six years and $147 million, Ryu - six years and $36 million.  Heck, even Chad Billingsley has one year left on his three-year, $35 million deal, with an option for 2015.

If you add up all the bucks, it's $433 million.  Oh, and how about the $17 million for each of the past two seasons the Dodgers have been paying Josh Beckett since he came over in August of 2012 from the Red Sox.  That's $34 million, bumping the total up to $467 million.

Do I even want to remind all of you about Brandon League's HORRIFIC three-year, $22.5 million deal that still has two years remaining?  Sorry, but I had to go there.

The bottom line is that as good of a player as Tanaka could end up being, the Dodgers have more than committed enough money to the pitching side of the equation.  Now they need to take that reported $100+ million they offered Tanaka and use it on the offense.

How about extending Hanley Ramirez?  Yes, that comes with a risk, but it's hard to deny how impactful his bat was in the lineup last season.  Perhaps the Dodgers show good faith in him by rewarding him with a deal before Spring Training.

In looking at the list of players in their "contract year," about the only ones who jump out are Billy Butler, Adam Lind, Chase Headley, and Aramis Ramirez.  Not exactly the most exciting players, but ones who have shown some good to really good power.  If any of them are on the trading block during the season, the Dodgers are definitely a team that could offer up the cash to take on a contract or two.

Best of luck to Tanaka in New York, as the Yankees are really trying to find superstars now that Robinson Cano, Mariano Rivera, and Alex Rodriguez are all gone for one reason or another, and Derek Jeter appears to be on his last legs of life.  But in the end, I'm glad the Dodgers came up short.

That could lead them to coming out big in the end.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

With a week to go, we'll see if the Dodgers really want Tanaka

Now that Clayton Kershaw is officially $215 million richer, the Dodgers, along with many other teams in baseball, are turning their attention to the top free agent, Masahiro Tanaka.

And if you thought the Dodgers would be priced out of the bidding war, think again.

Teams have until next Friday, January 24 to reach a deal with Tanaka after they have posted the $20 million fee.  What kind of deal will he receive?  It's hard to accurately pinpoint, but it's not out of the question to see him rake in over $100 million.

What's also hard to pinpoint is exactly how much interest the Dodgers have in Tanaka.  Or more specifically, how much they're willing out outbid other teams like the Cubs, White Sox, and Yankees.  Those are the teams we know about, but there could be more.  On Tanaka's side, he's given virtually no indication which way he's leaning, so he's playing it right down the middle through all of this.

Ken Gurnick (the guy who wouldn't vote for Greg Maddux or Tom Glavine...) on seems to think that the Dodgers will be in on Tanaka, but won't go overboard.  They seem more likely to extend Hanley Ramirez than pour more bucks into a pitcher.  He's not so sure Tanaka would want to "blend in" on a star studded Dodger team; he'd rather be the front and center star on another team, which is certainly his right.  Ramirez has his drawbacks because of past maturity issues and current injuries, but as Gurnick point out, he still finished eighth in the NL MVP voting despite playing in only 86 games.  That says it all about his massive talent right there.

If I had to guess, I'll say that Tanaka ends up with the Cubs.  Lord knows they need an injection of life, and if Theo Epstein is looking to do that, he'll dish out the cash to get him.  The only way the Dodgers end up with him is if other teams become too reluctant to make a big deal.

If the Dodgers do end up with Tanaka, then that is an absolutely lethal starting rotation of Kershaw, Tanaka, Zack Greinke, Hyun Jin-Ryu, and take your pick between Josh Beckett, Dan Haren, and Chad Billingsley.  Let's just say pitching depth won't be a problem.

Keep an eye on the news over the next week, as is on top of all of this, as it's an excellent site year round for baseball news.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The $30 Million Club begins with Clayton Kershaw

If there was ever someone who would break the $30 million annual salary plateau, it was Clayton Kershaw.  And boy does he deserve it.

The Dodgers and Kershaw agreed to a seven-year, $215 million deal today, with an out clause after five years.  It's by far the highest salary for a pitcher, eclipsing Justin Verlander's $180 million he signed for last season.  It's also the highest per year salary ever ($30,714,286 to be exact), breaking Roger Clemens's $28 million he signed for in the 2007 season.


As a die-hard Dodger fan, I'm pumped for a variety of reasons.  Kershaw's starts are "Must See TV" every fifth day, as his dazzling display of fastball, slider, curveball, and changeup can get any hitter out.  He's also the ultimate competitor, always looking for an advantage and battling to the last out.

He also means everything to Los Angeles, as he's earned his star status by winning two of the past three NL Cy Young Awards, including a second place finish to R.A. Dickey in 2012.

It's also exciting that the Dodgers didn't actually give him $300 million, which has been rumored since last summer.  Hey, I love the guy, but that's a whole lot of bread, especially for a position so fragile as pitcher.  $214 is certainly no joke, but MUCH more reasonable.

While there's a whole lot to like about this deal, I also have to acknowledge some obvious risks.  As I just mentioned, there's always some apprehension when a pitcher not only receives so much dough, but gets multiple years as well.  It's understandable, especially considering guys like Stephen Strasburg and Matt Harvey have gone through Tommy John surgeries lately.

Plus, the Dodgers have been burned in the past by dishing out big deals for pitchers.  Remember Kevin Brown?  He was pretty good for a bit, but that's it.  How about Jason Schmidt?  Yuck.  The Dodgers have also given big deals to Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu, and while Ryu held up very well, Greinke had some ups and downs in the first half of last season with injuries.

The bottom line is that in order to keep a superstar, some concessions had to be made by Ned Colletti, and that's exactly what happened.  Perhaps a little by Kershaw as well, as that $300 million deal could have come from some other team in free agency.  We'll never know, and Dodger fans are grateful for it.

Now that Kershaw has his money and comfort of officially calling LA his home for the next several years, he'll have to do the same thing any other player with a big contract has had to do: prove that he's worth it.  I can say with full confidence that there's no need to worry about that at all.  Kershaw is a stud, plain and simple.  And he'll continue to be one going forward.

Should we expect a 1.83 ERA and 232 K's for the next seven seasons?  Probably not, and we shouldn't hold even someone as great as him to such a high standard.  The 2013 season was a historically magnificent season, and even he would be hard pressed to match it.  Let's not expect a complete game shutout every fifth day either.

What we can expect is the same dominant "gamer" we've grown to love the last few years.  And we should also expect many big postseason starts as well.  That's the guy I'm looking forward to seeing.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Busy Dodgers to open the 2014 season... twice

The beginning of the 2014 season just got a little more interesting for the Dodgers.

We already know that they will open the season on March 22 and 23 against the Diamondbacks in Sydney, Australia in the "Stay Out of My Pool!" two-game series.  Although if you want to be technical about it, both games are actually March 22 in the Eastern time zone, as the first game is at 4:00 AM and the second at 10:00 PM.  Just in case you weren't confused enough already.

Then came word today that ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball season will kick off March 30 with the Dodgers visiting the San Diego Padres.  Most other teams will open up the next day, and the Dodgers and Padres will resume their three-game set on Tuesday.

The announcement seemed a little strange, as making the Dodgers play three games before 27 other teams have even played one might not be the fairest thing I've ever heard.  But then again, it's a compliment to the Dodgers that ESPN tabbed them to "open" the season (at least with many more eyes than the Australia games) on Sunday night.  So it's cool.

Another cool thing is that we should be able get watch Clayton Kershaw get two starts in as many games.  Can't beat those odds.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Mattingly gets his new deal

Monday, October 21, 2013 sure looked like the end of the line for Don Mattingly with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Instead, it may have only helped him get what he wanted.

About two-and-a-half months after that infamous press conference in which Mattingly and Ned Colletti practically refused to look to each other, the Dodgers have given Mattingly a new contract, reportedly for three years through 2016.  Terms have yet to be disclosed.

It's the right move for both sides, as Mattingly made it clear that having a one-year, "lame duck" contract just wasn't going to cut it.  His reasoning was that the players know he could be on the way out very soon, so he can't get as much production out of them.  That's debatable, but certainly understandable from his point of view.

I'm not sure how many other managers can claim to have gone 42-8 during a 50-game stretch at any point of any season (probably very few), so he's shown he can win.  He guided the Dodgers to Game 6 of the NLCS before the Cardinals advanced, and that was without Matt Kemp and with a very banged up Hanley Ramirez.

Now that Mattingly has been taken care of, it's time to keep moving forward.  They certainly have the pitching addressed, as they've added arms like Dan Haren and Jamey Wright, and re-signed Brian Wilson and J.P. Howell.  There's always the possibility of trading an outfielder, though that seems less likely as time passes.  Maybe Andre Ethier gets moved closer to the season, if I had to guess.

I think the biggest issue is whether or not Clayton Kershaw and/or Hanley Ramirez get their extensions.  I would certainly hope so, but that's going to cost a lot of loot.  Even the Dodgers may have to be cautious there.

In the meantime, kudos to Colletti, Mattingly, and the rest of Dodgers' management for getting this deal done and moving forward.  Let's remember that Mattingly has only managed three seasons (260-225), so he's still learning and improving his in-game tactics.  With a new deal that brings stability, maybe 2014 is the year the Dodgers put it all together.