Dodgers Report: free agents

Dodgers GM open to adding another star pitcher

December, 18, 2013
LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said Wednesday his team could be in the market for a top-flight starting pitcher between now and spring training.

In an appearance on 710 ESPNLA, Colletti was asked about the possibility of making a play for Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka, who said earlier this week he would like to come to the United States, or Tampa Bay Rays ace David Price, who is rumored to be available on the trade market.

“I think there’s some chance to that. There are a lot of dynamics that we’re not aware of yet,” Colletti said. “You kind of pointed to a couple of them there and that’s accurate. We’ll see. Any time we see a player that we think can help our club, we make an inroad to find out what the rest of the dynamics are.”

The Dodgers have three healthy returning starters in Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu and they signed Dan Haren to a $10 million, one-year deal last month. Josh Beckett and Chad Billingsley are coming off surgery.

Colletti said the Dodgers owners have kept an open mind about making a big move this off-season. So far, the Dodgers’ biggest expenditure has been a four-year, $28 million deal with Cuban infielder Alexander Guerrero.

“Thankfully, [the owners] give us the opportunity to think big things and to do some things that are bold here and there,” Colletti said. “That’s a great thing, not a good thing.”

-- Colletti wouldn’t categorically dismiss the possibility of trading Matt Kemp, whose agent, Dave Stewart, told reporters last week Kemp was off the trade bloc.

“I can’t necessarily answer that, because I don’t know when the phone’s going to ring with something that changes that,” Colletti said. “Our intent is to keep our outfielders, our intent is to get them healthy and get them productive. We wouldn’t be doing our job if the phone rang and we wouldn’t take the call. People have asked us about our outfielders, just in general. I say, ‘Hey, you know what? If you’ve got an interest, tell me who it’s in and what type of interest it is.’ So, that’s kind of where it is.”

-- Colletti made it sound as if a decision about Kershaw's long-term future is in the pitcher's hands, which makes sense considering ESPN’s Buster Olney reported earlier this winter that the Dodgers offered Kershaw what amounted to a lifetime contract (valued at about $300 million) last season. Kershaw is eligible for arbitration next season and would be a free agent starting next November unless he signs an extension.

“We’re going to do everything we can to keep him and, hopefully, he likes L.A. enough and the Dodgers enough and his situation here enough to want to be a part of it, but admittedly guys like him don’t come around very often,” Colletti said.

Dodgers prepared to move on from Juan Uribe

December, 9, 2013
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – The Los Angeles Dodgers are running out of patience as they await word from free agent third baseman Juan Uribe on their latest offer, general manager Ned Colletti said Monday, the first day of baseball’s winter meetings.

The latest rumor has the Chicago White Sox emerging as possible suitors for Uribe. The Miami Marlins also have reportedly reached out to him.

Colletti said the Dodgers are considering moving on and concentrating their efforts on trading for a third baseman. Beyond Uribe, Colletti said, the team is not pursuing any other free-agent third basemen, probably the thinnest position in the market.

“Everybody can go do what they want to go do,” Colletti said. “Hopefully, this week we’ll have more conversations with them and at least get an update on their position. I’m in need of an update on their position.”

Uribe is seeking a two-year deal, it’s believed, while the Dodgers have signed only one-year deals with players in their 30s this winter. Uribe, 34, batted .278 with 12 home runs, the game-winning homer in Game 4 of the NLCS, after two abysmal seasons with the Dodgers. He signed a three-year, $21 million contract entering the 2011 season.

Winter wish list: Bench

November, 22, 2013
The biggest beneficiaries of the Dodgers’ carousel of injuries last season, it turns out, were veteran bench guys Nick Punto and Skip Schumaker.

Punto played well at multiple positions, including shortstop, and for a time was one of the Dodgers’ more productive offensive players, which tells you something about their litany of injuries. Punto, who had languished in Boston, re-established his value and, even at 36, was able to double his salary, signing a one-year, $3 million deal with the Oakland A’s.

Schumaker, 33, had a rough National League Division Series (.231) filling in for Andre Ethier, but was solid enough over the course of the season, with a .332 on-base percentage while playing five positions (including pitcher) that he was able to sign a two-year, $5 million deal with the Cincinnati Reds.

Neither player fit the Dodgers’ mandate to get younger, so it’s understandable the team didn’t make much effort to retain them. But where does that leave the Dodgers’ bench? They won’t just be replacing two players. Jerry Hairston Jr. and Michael Young, both 37, are unlikely to return even if they choose to try to keep playing. Elian Herrera got claimed off waivers by the Milwaukee Brewers and the Dodgers traded Alex Castellanos to the Boston Red Sox.

The mass exodus of reserves is good news for Scott Van Slyke and Dee Gordon, who both would appear to have easy paths to 2014 playing time and it could also benefit outfielder Nick Buss, who played in eight September games. Of course, barring a trade, the Dodgers have four everyday options in the outfield, but it seems unlikely they’ll carry Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and Yasiel Puig all season if they remain healthy.

The Dodgers clearly are trying to force more versatility out of Gordon. A natural shortstop, he has played second base in the minor leagues and is playing center field in the Dominican winter league. Van Slyke currently is the only backup at first base to Adrian Gonzalez. The Dodgers signed infielder Brendan Harris to a minor-league deal recently, so he’ll be vying for a role this spring.

But with so much turnover, it’s hard to imagine the Dodgers have the in-house alternatives to provide adequate depth for 2014, so general manager Ned Colletti figures to wade into an expensive free agent pool for bench players. Brendan Ryan, a slick fielder but a .237 lifetime hitter, signed a $2 million contract with the New York Yankees. Of course, Punto and Schumaker both were acquired via trades, so that might be a likelier avenue for the Dodgers to land the bench players they want.

The most pressing need is a reliable glove to play up-the-middle defense, particularly since shortstop Hanley Ramirez is a below-average defender and, according to scouting reports, Alexander Guerrero has limited range and questionable hands at second base.

The Dodgers could scoop up Ramon Santiago, a .243 hitter but a solid defender. Munenori Kawasaki, who played 96 games for the Toronto Blue Jays last year, is a free agent, as are Cesar Izturis, Willie Bloomquist, Robert Andino and Alex Gonzalez. It may not get as much scrutiny, but remaking the bench will be fairly high on Colletti’s to-do list this winter and, if last season was any guide, he might want to select carefully.

Winter wish list: Infielders

November, 19, 2013
At least until rumors spring up that the Dodgers have had a secret dinner meeting with the representatives for Robinson Cano, which presumably should happen any minute now, here is how the infield situation shapes up:

The Dodgers have no third baseman, a second baseman who has never played a major-league game and a shortstop who some people think should be playing the outfield or designated hitter. It’s Adrian Gonzalez and three question marks.

Not exactly a settled situation, but that’s not necessarily a disastrous state of affairs for the Dodgers. Given the dearth of free agent talent and the unpredictability of trade talks, the Dodgers’ flexibility when it comes to rebuilding their infield could be a major advantage. And with their perfectly reasonable off-season imperative to get younger, openings in the infield give them the crucial soil to plant young talent.

They signed Cuban defector Alexander Guerrero to a four-year, $28 million deal. That’s the contract of a solid everyday player, so the Dodgers expect Guerrero to be on the field for them quickly rather than developing at Triple-A, but at what position? The likelihood is he will take over second base from Mark Ellis, but Guerrero has played shortstop most of his life, which usually means he could play any other infield position.

Not a single player who logged an inning at third base last season is still with the organization, except for Justin Sellers, who, according to the team, didn’t even merit a September call-up.

This would be a good class of free agent third basemen if it were 2005. Juan Uribe, who turns 35 before Opening Day, is the best of the bunch and the Dodgers would like to re-sign him, but would it be wise to give him another three-year deal after watching him produce in just one of the three seasons of the last contract they gave him?

Their safest route might be to sign Uribe to a two-year deal, if they can, hope his body holds up and that top prospect Corey Seager is ready by 2016. According to Fangraphs, Uribe had a 5.1 WAR last season, which was essentially identical to that of Adrian Beltre (5.2). On the other hand, only two third basemen in the last four years -- Alex Rodriguez and Scott Rolen -- have produced a WAR of 3.0 or better after turning 35. Third basemen tend to age fast.

Beyond Uribe, it’s impossible to find an everyday option among free agents. Eric Chavez is a 90-games-a-season guy these days. Placido Polanco will be 38.

The options are more interesting at shortstop and the Dodgers have been non-committal when asked where they plan to play Hanley Ramirez next season. For the first time since 2008, Ramirez rated out as an adequate shortstop last season, but that seemed largely due to the fact he only played 76 games there. Assuming he can stay healthy next season, he could be exposed as a major liability at shortstop, not an ideal situation for a team that relies on its pitching.

ESPNBoston’s Gordon Edes reported that the Red Sox are convinced Stephen Drew will be signing with another team, so why couldn’t that team be the Dodgers? Drew didn’t hit in the post-season, but he is a more-than-solid shortstop with a knack for getting on base and good pop. He’ll be 31 next season, so swapping him for Uribe would help the Dodgers get younger, but injuries have kept him off the field. He has averaged fewer than 100 games per season the last three years. He also declined the Red Sox’s qualifying offer, which means the Dodgers would have to surrender a draft pick to sign him.

Jhonny Peralta is a solid free-agent alternative to Drew, but he also carries the baggage of last season’s 50-game suspension for using a banned substance.

General manager Ned Colletti’s best option might be to keep Jon Daniels on speed dial. Everybody in baseball knows the Dodgers have an extra outfielder and the Texas Rangers have an extra infielder. According to reports, the two teams had some discussions at the general manager meetings, but they didn’t get all that far. It seems reasonable to assume that the names Matt Kemp and Elvis Andrus arose in those meetings.

Trading a power-hitting center fielder with borderline MVP talent for a light-hitting shortstop might seem folly, but Andrus is only 25, would improve the Dodgers’ infield defense immensely, is one of the fastest players in the game, a deft bunter with good on-base skills. He would be the Dodgers’ logical solution to the leadoff question.

The players have similar contracts, so finances wouldn’t impede a deal. Neither player has no-trade protection. It might be a longshot, but given how much uncertainty the Dodgers have in their infield this winter, a bold plan of action might not be a bad idea.

Predicting the future of Dodgers free agents

October, 24, 2013
For a team with 11 impending free agents, the Los Angeles Dodgers have relatively easy decisions to make regarding each of them. None of their free agents will demand endless hours of the front office's time as the sides negotiate some mega-contract to keep a homegrown superstar from bolting.

Each of the Dodgers' free agents are, as they say, role players. The only two everyday players are Mark Ellis and Juan Uribe. Ellis has already been replaced by Cuban second baseman Alexander Guerrero, who signed earlier this week. The only core pitchers are a No. 4 starter, Ricky Nolasco, and an eighth-inning setup man, Brian Wilson, important but not irreplaceable players.

The Dodgers already have set the narrative for the remainder of their offseason. Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti and manager Don Mattingly (who looks as if he no longer will become a free agent) said it concisely. The Dodgers want to get younger and, as a result, more athletic and less injury-prone.

That should be the lens through which we see each of the following free-agent decisions. We'll rank the free agents in reverse order of relevance and predict whether they will be with the team next spring:

Jerry Hairston Jr.

He's one of the most likeable guys the Dodgers had last year and a good clubhouse guy, because he can roll with a joke and moves easily between various cultures. His versatility also proved important to the Dodgers at times in his two seasons in L.A. They could put him at any position besides pitcher and catcher and he could hold his own. There aren't many guys like that.

He'll be 38 next May, he has been bothered by serious injuries each of the past two seasons. He'll make a great broadcaster some day and he'll have to decide whether he's ready to embark on a new career now or try to latch on with a team on a minor league deal.

Prediction: walks

Edinson Volquez

This was a nice zero-risk move by the front office, scooping him up from the San Diego Padres after they released him. He gave them five starts -- some awful, some decent, some pretty good -- allowing the Dodgers to rest their main starting pitchers for the playoffs.

A few years ago, the Dodgers might have taken a flyer on Volquez to help fill out their No. 4 and 5 rotation spots. Not under these owners. They have far grander designs. If they acquire a pitcher, it probably will be a star-caliber one, not a guy who's questionable to even make the rotation. If he comes back, it would have to be on a minor league deal with the agreement that he will pitch in Triple-A until the Dodgers need him.

Prediction: walks

Chris Capuano

He handled it with class when the Dodgers left him off their NLCS roster even though he had given them three scoreless innings in the previous round. But like some of the other pitchers on this list, he just doesn't seem to fit the Dodgers' current mandate: to win at whatever cost. He might turn out to be a nice bottom-of-the-market signing for a team on a budget looking for a left-hander who can either start or be a reliever. Hard to see that team being the Dodgers.

Prediction: walks

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Clayton Kershaw
21 1.77 239 198
BAY. Puig .296
HRA. Gonzalez 27
RBIA. Gonzalez 116
RY. Puig 92
OPSY. Puig .863
ERAC. Kershaw 1.77
SOC. Kershaw 239