Dodgers Report: Anibal Sanchez

Where's the fun in fiscal restraint?

December, 8, 2012
12/08/12
7:38
PM PT
The time likely will come when the Dodgers regret this spending frenzy, but why let that spoil a good holiday party?

Zack Greinke, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez are all going to slow down in the next few years, but their earnings are going to keep zipping right along. Aging, expensive rosters have a way of handcuffing teams eventually. The challenge will be finding creative ways to get younger.

But news that the Dodgers are closing in on a six-year deal with Greinke -- tossing about $147 million more onto what has been more than a half-billion dollars in expenditures since the Guggenheim group bought the team -- puts the right gift under Dodgers fans' trees. It's a pretty fancy way to kick off Hanukkah as well.

Greinke is about to get paid like the best right-handed pitcher of all time. He's not. He's probably not among the best 15 active pitchers in the major leagues. He is, however, easily the best available option. The drop-off to Anibal Sanchez was fairly dramatic, to Kyle Lohse even steeper, and the Dodgers were starting to get an uncertain vibe as they inquired about trade possibilities for R.A. Dickey or James Shields.

The Dodgers didn't need the best right-handed starting pitcher of all time because they have, perhaps, the best left-handed pitcher of a generation in Clayton Kershaw. Greinke immediately becomes the best No. 2 starter west of Washington, D.C. The rare lefty-righty power duo at the top of the Dodgers rotation could make them a nasty matchup come October. Just ask those teams that had to grapple with Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling a decade ago.

The Dodgers' front office left Nashville in a sour mood Thursday, and contrary to what some people are thinking now, it wasn't a negotiating ploy. The numbers had been spinning out of control, with rumors of a possible seven-year, $175 million deal for Greinke causing them to examine the direction their winter would take.

Whether things changed so dramatically over 36 hours because the Texas Rangers pulled out or because Greinke suddenly realized Los Angeles is a pretty nice place to live and play, we might never know. The point is that the Dodgers -- with some of the nicest weather in the country, the richest owners on earth and a legendary past -- shouldn't have to overspend as if they were some bland city in the middle of nowhere.

Make no mistake, this move will have financial ramifications that won't just tick off the rest of the league's owners. They will also blow back on the Dodgers at some point, probably soon. It sent the cost of pitching skyrocketing. If Greinke is worth $147 million, what's to say Kershaw isn't worth more than $200 million when the Dodgers sit down with his agent?

Common sense, apparently, has gone out the window, because these aren't common cents.

But as they say, it isn't our money.

What's more outrageous: These owners sending costs soaring throughout baseball or pocketing the $6 billion or so they're about to get over the next 25 years in a new TV deal? I guess it depends on your perspective. Baseball fans in Oakland and Kansas City might say it's the former. If you root for the Dodgers, you prefer it this way.

It would all ring a bit hollow if the Dodgers weren't intent on bulking up their operations in Latin America and spending more on scouting and development. Signing free agents winter after winter rarely works, especially when you're adding pitching. But if they rebuild the pipeline from below, the occasional addition at the top becomes a lot more effective.

Now the Dodgers have two of the best 25 or so starting pitchers in baseball. If Chad Billingsley is healthy, they have three of the top 50. We'll find out by Sunday afternoon whether they've signed Korean lefty Ryu Hyun-jin, who could be a solid No. 3. Josh Beckett and Aaron Harang or Chris Capuano are better than OK at the back of the rotation.

And they might deal from a position of strength -- starting pitching -- to land their final pieces heading into the spring: a fourth outfielder, a left-handed reliever and a catcher. Or they could just hoard it all and be heavily insured against injuries.

Are the Dodgers the World Series favorite now? It's an absurd question. Not at all. Not when a team in their division, the San Francisco Giants, has won two of the past three and has essentially kept the team intact.

The other day at the winter meetings, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said the National League West is "starting to get nasty."

After this latest move by the Dodgers, no one else in the division would argue with that.

So far, Dodgers are chasing moving targets

December, 7, 2012
12/07/12
11:07
AM PT
While the Dodgers were working out a three-year contract extension with reliever Brandon League earlier this offseason, they started talking to lefty reliever Randy Choate about whether he, too, wanted to return.

The discussions with Choate dragged all the way into the early days of this week's winter meetings. The Dodgers finally declined when it became clear Choate wanted three years and about $2.5 million per season, a hefty price tag for a one-out lefty. Choate got that deal instead from the St. Louis Cardinals.

Simultaneously, the Dodgers began discussing a deal with the agent for prized right-handed pitcher Zack Greinke. They were also exchanging ideas with potential trade partners that could land them the top-of-the-rotation starter they want. They began hammering out parameters of a deal for Korean lefty Ryu Hyun-jin, trying to bridge a canyon-sized gap between their valuation and that of agent Scott Boras.

For several slow-paced weeks and four hectic days, there was plenty of motion. And no action.

If Dodgers fans are lamenting their team's lack of progress so far this offseason, though, they have company. Fans of virtually every other team have seen mostly marginal and, in some cases, baffling moves. The market remains stuck in a strange limbo for now, with teams and agents waiting for Greinke and Josh Hamilton to find homes and establish the market for the high-end talent.

So for now, the transactions involve names like Choate, Jeff Keppinger and Ben Revere -- not exactly sending fans scurrying for their season-ticket applications.

"It's ... how do I describe this?" said Boras, rarely at a loss for words. "A laissez-faire market. The way it works is, it's like putting on your pants. It starts bottom up."

While Dodgers fans haven't yet opened a present, there are still a bunch of big, sparkly toys left on the shelves. The Dodgers keep shopping. Maybe Greinke prefers to pitch elsewhere and he's just waiting for the Texas Rangers' offer to enter the same neighborhood as the Dodgers? Or maybe he's just waiting for Texas -- or somebody else -- to come up so he can leverage up a Dodgers' package?

The Dodgers aren't just sitting there, waiting for Greinke to call them. General manager Ned Colletti continues to work toward something with other teams and representatives. Anibal Sanchez, Kyle Lohse, R.A. Dickey, Ryu or James Shields might be consolation prizes (over the long term) compared to Greinke, but they would all help the Dodgers field a better team in 2013.

So stay tuned. The hot stove stays lit a little bit longer for Dodgers fans, and that's not a bad way to spend your Web-surfing time.

"There’s this artificial deadline that gets set at the end of the Rule 5 draft, like nothing else is ever going to happen," Colletti said. "Then, at the beginning of spring training -- nothing else is going to happen. Then, who’s going to make the Opening Day roster? Oh geez, is this the 25 guys we’re going to see for the next 162 games and six months?

"Everything’s fluid. It’s always fluid."

As many of the baseball people -- scouts, executives, agents and writers -- shuffled off to catch their flights at the Nashville airport Thursday evening, there was a duet strumming and singing to country music at one of the airport lounges. Most of the songs were about connections lost, but at least a couple of them had happy endings.

Is the field narrowing for Zack Greinke?

December, 5, 2012
12/05/12
5:44
PM PT
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The best thing to happen to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Day 3 of the winter meetings was what one of their competitors did -- or won't do -- and that's not uncommon this time of year.

The Los Angeles Angels reached agreement with Joe Blanton, reportedly for two years and $15 million, and that -- plus their trade for Atlanta's Tommy Hanson -- would seem to indicate they're moving away from a mega-deal with free agent Zack Greinke. The floor, at least for now, appears to be a two-team dance between the Dodgers and Texas Rangers.

Not that Greinke's agent doesn't continue to wait to see if others want to cut in.

Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti met with Greinke's agent, Casey Close on Wednesday and, unlike the day before, Colletti wouldn't say whether he has extended an offer. That lack of comment in itself could be meaningful.

"I can't tell you we have any movement, I can't tell you we're close to anything," Colletti said. "A lot of groups, including some of the bigger names out there, are still doing due diligence and not necessarily in a mood to do anything."

The Dodgers have shelved some of their other business to concentrate on starting pitching. On Wednesday that meant one of the pitchers they were considering for their bullpen signed elsewhere. The Dodgers discussed re-signing lefty Randy Choate, but shied away when Choate asked for a three-year deal and a hefty raise. He got both by signing Wednesday with the St. Louis Cardinals for $7.5 million.

The Dodgers also have made no appreciable progress in signing Korean lefty Ryu Hyun-jin, who will return to pitch in Korea if he doesn't come to an agreement by 2 p.m. Sunday. Agent Scott Boras said he made a counteroffer to the Dodgers of shorter duration. But asked if that got the sides any closer, Colletti said, "No, we just got closer to Sunday."

Other notes

The Dodgers are looking to add a catcher before spring training, but Colletti indicated they're setting their sights on backup types who could offer competition to rookie Tim Federowicz. The Dodgers are content with A.J. Ellis as their No. 1 catcher.

Some have speculated that Greinke would prefer not to pitch in Los Angeles because of the size of the city and the media attention, but Colletti said he hasn't been told by any free agents that they don't want to pitch in L.A.

"We're not going to try to convince anybody this is a great place and a great city and a great ownership," Colletti said. "If they don't want to be part of it, we're not going to convince them."

Day 3 progress: Scant

Wish list: Starting pitcher(s); left-handed reliever; fourth outfielder; catcher

Colletti's wish list heavy on pitching

October, 4, 2012
10/04/12
4:41
PM PT
Offensive malfunctions caused the Dodgers to falter in September, but general manager Ned Colletti said his focus this winter is on the pitching staff -- adding a starter and trying to keep his bullpen together.

"I would say starting pitching is an area that we're going to have to seriously look at," Colletti said.

This spring, Ted Lilly will be coming off arthroscopic shoulder surgery and the Dodgers are preparing themselves for the possibility that Chad Billingsley will undergo Tommy John surgery that will cost him all of 2013. That means they enter the off-season with four starters: Clayton Kershaw, Chris Capuano, Josh Beckett and Aaron Harang. Joe Blanton is a free agent and unlikely to return.

It's not a particularly deep free agent market, but expect the Dodgers to be heavily engaged. They also could be in position to make a trade if another team is willing to move a top-flight starter for salary relief.

The top free agent this winter is Zack Greinke, but the Angels are likely to make a strong bid to retain him. Other possibilities are Ryan Dempster and James Shields, if the Tampa Bay Rays decline a $9 million option. The Dodgers also could check into acquiring Anibal Sanchez.

Colletti's priority in the bullpen is to hang onto closer Brandon League, who had a 0.73 ERA and was 6-for-6 in save opportunities after Aug. 11. League told ESPNLosAngeles.com Wednesday that he would like to re-sign with the Dodgers.

The Dodgers would prefer to keep Kenley Jansen in an eighth-inning role, though they're prepared to go into spring training with Jansen as the closer if they can't hold onto League. Jansen is scheduled to undergo a procedure in the coming weeks for the irregular heartbeat that has cost him time on the disabled list, but the Dodgers expect him to be fully cleared by spring training.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Zack Greinke
WINS ERA SO IP
11 2.73 127 118
OTHER LEADERS
BAY. Puig .309
HRA. Gonzalez 14
RBIA. Gonzalez 60
RY. Puig 53
OPSY. Puig .916
ERAC. Kershaw 1.78
SOZ. Greinke 127