Dodgers Report: winter meetings

What did the Dodgers accomplish at the winter meetings?

December, 12, 2013
12/12/13
10:42
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- It’s not entirely fair to say the Dodgers left the winter meetings without adding to their roster. In a trade with the New York Mets Thursday, they landed Seth Rosin, a 6-foot-6 24-year-old right-handed pitcher who had a 4.33 ERA at Double-A last season. The Mets had just taken Rosin in the Rule 5 draft from the Philadelphia Phillies, who had left him off their 40-man roster.

Not exactly the name Dodgers fans were hoping for, perhaps?

The Dodgers, always popular with agents and other teams because they spend money and have an active general manager, arrived at the Swan and Dolphin Resort here as a magnet for attention. They left it early Thursday surrounded by silence, but this should be far from alarming to Dodgers fans for two primary reasons.

For one thing, they arrived with far humbler aspirations than most people figured. They were more intent on finding a solution at third base or shortstop, signing a couple of relievers and, maybe, a bench guy than they were in trading Matt Kemp, landing David Price or zeroing in on Masahiro Tanaka.

And, for another thing, they still have nearly two months before they begin spring training.

“It’d be great to establish your team by the end of the calendar year and have it all set, but you know what, we know that that doesn’t always happen,” general manager Ned Colletti said.

So, let’s take a look at the still-unfilled needs and how things evolved in the past four days in Florida:

The Infield

The Dodgers have options, but before too much longer, they’re going to need to turn those options into an actual infield. If they can’t re-sign Juan Uribe -- and indications are they’re hung up by his agent’s demand for a two-year deal -- they continue to talk about sliding Hanley Ramirez to third base.

That would give them the option of signing a free-agent shortstop. Stephen Drew is the best option left in free agency, but he would cost the Dodgers a draft pick, a commodity they’re hesitant to give away as they look to restock their system. They could also use Alexander Guerrero at shortstop, his natural position. In that scenario, they would make a push to re-sign Mark Ellis and those conversations have continued, Colletti said.

Unfortunately, the Dodgers can’t get a look at Guerrero’s shortstop skills, because his Dominican winter league team is trying to win a championship and is using what it views as its best option, Jonathan Diaz. Colletti recently dispatched special assistant Jose Vizcaino to the Dominican to give them a report on Guerrero. What did he say?

“Hard worker, wants to be great, learning second base, good shortstop,” Colletti said.

If that’s an accurate report, Guerrero looks like the hinge that is allowing the Dodgers to take their time in locking up their starting infield, but given the fact Guerrero has never played a major-league game, it seems like a risky move. Look for the Dodgers to land one of the two veterans, either Uribe or Ellis, in the coming weeks.

The Outfield

No matter what Matt Kemp’s agent, Dave Stewart says, there are no guarantees the Dodgers will arrive at Camelback Ranch with the four starting outfielders they now have on their roster. They could trade Andre Ethier or, maybe, Carl Crawford. And, though the Dodgers assured Stewart they’re not shopping Kemp, they could still part with him if a team overwhelms them with an offer of talented young players.

But indications are the Dodgers haven’t received any interesting offers and will open spring training with all four. They might even travel to Australia for Opening Day with all four. Beyond that, all bets are off.

Manager Don Mattingly said he expects to have them all next season and he views that as a strength rather than a weakness.

“It’s a good problem to have, for me,” Mattingly said. “I really like it that people are saying you can’t have four. We had four last year that never seemed to work out, but there’s nothing wrong with depth.”

The Bullpen

According to the Denver Post, the Colorado Rockies are making “real progress,” on signing left-hander J.P. Howell. If they’re willing to offer him a three-year deal, the Dodgers likely won’t be willing to match or trump it.

That could prompt the Dodgers to turn their attention to right-handed relievers and to hope that Onelki Garcia is ready to pitch in the major leagues as a complement to their only proven lefty reliever, Paco Rodriguez. There are still plenty of right-handed relievers left and Colletti said the market has been “locked up” lately. Howell’s signing could unlock it and allow the Dodgers to shore up their bullpen quickly.

Colletti hopes to add two more relievers. One could well be former Dodger long man Jamey Wright. The Dodgers have been in discussion with Wright’s agent, Casey Close. The other figures to be a higher-profile move as the Dodgers have their sights set on landing another pitcher with closing experience.

The Rotation

It appears that any team willing to offer a $20 million posting fee will have the right to speak with the best free agent starting pitcher available, Masahiro Tanaka. That’s assuming Tanaka convinces his Japanese team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles, to post him.

If he is made available, it’s too early to rule the Dodgers out as a possible landing spot though the latest indications are that the New York Yankees, Chicago Cubs, Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox could be his most aggressive pursuers. The Dodgers have said they are happy with their starting rotation going into spring training and they wouldn’t seem to have the right prospects to land David Price, but they also have been keeping closely abreast of negotiations over the new posting system.

If Dodgers fans get excited thinking about a rotation with North America’s best starting pitcher, Clayton Kershaw, and Asia’s greatest pitcher, Tanaka, you can bet that Dodgers executives do, too.

Dodgers expect to leave winter meetings without a move

December, 11, 2013
12/11/13
6:45
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said he doesn't anticipate leaving the winter meetings with any changes to his roster.

"We'd have to get a phone call or meeting that we're not expecting," Colletti said.

The Dodgers came here in search of a solution to the unsettled left side of their infield, and in search of relievers. They're still looking and probably still will be when the front office staff arrives back in Los Angeles Thursday evening.

The Dodgers have made more than one offer to third baseman Juan Uribe, but have gotten no closer to making a deal, apparently because Uribe is holding out for a two-year deal and the Dodgers would prefer to keep it to one. Meanwhile, Colletti said the team had made overtures to free-agent shortstops but wouldn't characterize how aggressive they've been.

Such a scenario would require Hanley Ramirez to move to third base, a far-from-ideal solution given his defensive struggles there and the fact he would prefer not to move again. In 2012, he moved to third base grudgingly in Miami, played third for the Dodgers for a while and then moved back to his natural position, shortstop.

"The question would be are we moving off of Uribe? We're not," Colletti said. "We have different people we continue to have discussions with, we're walking along some at a little different pace depending on what they're trying to accomplish. We've had conversations on four or five different variations of what the left side looks like.

--

Colletti said Matt Kemp's agent, Dave Stewart, called him to apologize for his comments to several reporters Wednesday in which Stewart said Colletti told him that Kemp would not be traded. Colletti said he would have preferred that such talks remain private. Colletti said he called Stewart to arrange the meeting.

"He's called me and let me know that he probably spoke out of turn or whatever you want to call it, so that's fine," Colletti said.

Colletti said he has had no such meeting with the agent for Andre Ethier. He wouldn't divulge whether the topic of the Dodgers possibly trading Ethier came up.

"It may have, but you know what that was? That was a private conversation," Colletti said.
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – The Dodgers continue to be linked to the Tampa Bay Rays’ David Price, but general manager Ned Colletti said the team has not spent time here in trade talks for a frontline starting pitcher, so that could be a conversation for another day, if it happens at all.

“That’s not where our concentration is right now,” Colletti said.

Colletti and manager Don Mattingly both said Tuesday they would be happy to go into next season with a starting rotation of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dan Haren and Josh Beckett, with Chad Billingsley likely ready by May. Presuming the Dodgers don’t begin talks to acquire Price later in the winter, the only X factor could be Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka and it remains uncertain whether his team, the Rakuten Golden Eagles will make him available through the posting system.

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Colletti met with the agent for third baseman Juan Uribe late Monday night, but it remains clear that the sides remain at odds about whether it will be a one- or two-year contract. Enrique Rojas reported that the Dodgers have offered Uribe a one-year deal with a 2015 option while the Chicago White Sox have offered him two years.

Monday, Colletti was growing impatient with the lack of action from Uribe’s camp.
“They’re more inclined to talk at this point about getting something done,” Colletti said.

Should the talks with Uribe fall through, Colletti said they have talked to Mark Ellis and Michael Young about returning, but there has been no dialogue with Kevin Youkilis.

--

Colletti said he has not met with the agents to discuss contract extensions for either Clayton Kershaw or Hanley Ramirez, who would be free agents following the upcoming season, but that he expects to after the winter meetings conclude.

Colletti did meet with Kershaw’s agent, Casey Close, but it was to discuss another client, long reliever Jamey Wright.

--

Colletti said the team expects outfielder Matt Kemp to be in better shape at the start of the upcoming spring training than he was the previous season. This time, Kemp is coming off two surgeries -- ankle and shoulder -- instead of one, but he has been able to lift weights for the past month, an activity that was curtailed after a more invasive shoulder surgery in 2012.

Could one big Dodgers trade lead to another?

December, 9, 2013
12/09/13
4:58
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Could the Los Angeles Dodgers acquire David Price by trading Matt Kemp?

Of course, we’re not talking about a one-for-one trade. The Tampa Bay Rays are willing to trade their Cy Young-caliber left-hander, according to myriad reports, because they can’t afford to pay him as he nears arbitration. Kemp will make $128 million over the next six years. No-go, right?

But that doesn’t mean the sides couldn’t eventually line up for a deal, provided the Dodgers can get a nice return on Kemp or Andre Ethier, who are considered their two outfielders most likely to be traded.

The Dodgers’ farm system is thin, particularly at the upper levels, where teams like the Rays -- frugal but competitive -- will be looking for players. The Dodgers are hoping to hold on to most of their prospects -- guys like infielder Corey Seager, outfielder Joc Pederson and pitchers Zach Lee and Julio Urias -- and aren’t interested in shipping out a big package of young talent, even for a player like Price.

But what if they could land a couple of well-regarded prospects for Kemp or Ethier and then use those players to land Price? It could be either part of a three-team trade or two separate transactions. It’s probably something the team has considered. To get higher-end prospects, the Dodgers likely would have to absorb more of either outfielder's salary, but that shouldn’t be a problem as the Dodgers embark on their new multibillion-dollar TV deal.

The Dodgers have fielded plenty of calls on all their outfielders. Eventually, those calls could turn into face-to-face meetings and then, according to general manager Ned Colletti, “we’ll see where it goes.” There's no reason it couldn't then turn into a different conversation.

Dodgers prepared to move on from Juan Uribe

December, 9, 2013
12/09/13
1:08
PM PT
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.

Stan Kasten on Bobby Cox and rebuilding the farm

December, 9, 2013
12/09/13
10:49
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- When Ted Turner asked Stan Kasten to go from running one of his sports teams, the Atlanta Hawks, to another, the Atlanta Braves, 26 years ago, Kasten came into the job with a staunch philosophy he’d had in the NBA.

Acquire young players and be patient enough to let them grow.

The general manager of that Braves team, Bobby Cox, concurred. From 1987 to 2003, the Braves won more games than any team in baseball. On Monday, Cox, who moved to the dugout at Kasten’s request in 1990, was picked by the veterans committee for the Hall of Fame, along with Joe Torre and Tony LaRussa.

Perhaps there is a lesson in there somewhere for the Dodgers, who spent lavishly in the first year under the new owners, who include Kasten. They could be shifting to development mode, a push Kasten is championing.

“For me, Bobby and anyone who’s ever had sustained success, we talk about it all the time. We didn’t invent the philosophy,” Kasten said. “We had owners who were A, committed to committing resources in the minor leagues and, B, patient. The difference between then and now with the Dodgers is that, because of our market place, we can talk about doing both jobs at the same time.”

Kasten, who arrived at baseball’s winter meetings Sunday, reiterated his feeling that the Dodgers don’t need to make a major splash this winter, as they did by signing their No. 2 and 3 starters last year for more than $200 million combined.

“This year, I think we’re more into fine tuning,” Kasten said. “That doesn’t mean we won’t be opportunistic if some opportunity presents itself, but it also wouldn’t surprise me if we went through the whole winter without doing a big deal.”

Among the fine tuning the Dodgers are intent on here: finding a solution for the left side of their infield and acquiring a reliever or two.

Dodgers' plans could be more frugal, focused this winter

December, 4, 2013
12/04/13
11:40
AM PT
A year ago, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ front office team flew to Nashville in the middle of negotiations for their No. 2 and 3 starting pitchers and three months removed from the most expensive trade in baseball history.

This weekend, they will head a little bit south of there -- to Lake Buena Vista, Fla. -- for the 2013 winter meetings and their aspirations figure to be more modest.

Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said his focus is on adding relief help and signing a third baseman, adding only that if, “something else comes out of the blue, we’ll obviously look at it.”

It’s no coincidence. The Dodgers’ owners have been frank about their intentions since they took over. They would spend lavishly early, rebuild fan loyalty and accelerate the team’s rebuilding, and then settle in, allowing the longer-term investments in scouting and player development to take seed. A year ago, the focus was on getting better. Now, coming off an appearance in the National League Championship Series, it’s on getting younger.

Already this winter, you can see the plan in action. The Dodgers thus far have allowed 13 free agents to walk, with three of them already signing elsewhere. They are in talks to retain third baseman Juan Uribe and, according to reports, nearing agreement to hold onto reliever Brian Wilson, but neither deal figures to exceed two years in length.

They signed Cuban defector Alexander Guerrero, 26, to a four-year, $28 million deal a few days after the season ended, declined a $5.75 million option on steady second baseman Mark Ellis, 36, and later signed Dan Haren as a stopgap solution to their shaky starting pitching depth. Even that can be viewed as part of the youth movement. Acquiring Haren on a one-year, $10 million contract (with a second-year option) as opposed to swinging a four-year deal with the likes of Ricky Nolasco will open a spot for one of the promising starters who finished the season at Double-A Chattanooga, Ross Stripling, Zach Lee or Chris Reed.

The Dodgers will stay active. It’s in general manager Ned Colletti’s nature and, after Jacoby Ellsbury agreed to a seven-year, $153 million deal with the New York Yankees, teams seeking outfielders will be more motivated to try to acquire one of the Dodgers’ excess outfielders, whether it be Matt Kemp or Andre Ethier.

The Dodgers still don’t have a third baseman and, if talks fall apart with Uribe, the free agent options are grim. Their bench is virtually barren after the losses of Nick Punto, Skip Schumaker, Jerry Hairston Jr. and Michael Young. They could probably use another veteran reliever or two. But they’ll be in a good posture, able to sit back and listen rather than force the action.

The Dodgers’ plans with their starting rotation are the most difficult to read. There has been rampant speculation they will make a run at Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka once the new posting system is in place, but there are indications they’re not willing to outbid the New York Yankees. Team president Stan Kasten told reporters at last month’s general managers’ meetings that, “it wouldn’t surprise me if we went through the winter without a huge move . . . not that it couldn’t happen.”

Even if the Dodgers don’t make a huge move (and the total package for Tanaka is expected to top $100 million), they’re not exactly going to be pinching pennies. They already have $182 million committed to 13 players for 2014 and they’d like to work out long-term contracts with Clayton Kershaw and Hanley Ramirez before they reach free agency next November.

With four healthy, experienced starters and Josh Beckett and Chad Billingsley expected back from surgery by June, signing Tanaka seems like a longshot. Acquiring David Price from the Tampa Bay Rays also seems difficult if the Dodgers are serious about building from their farm system moving forward.

If anything, the Dodgers will be everybody’s favorite straw man at the winter meetings. Because of last year’s moves and because everybody knows they’re flush with money off their new TV deal, they’ll be rumored to be in on some major free agents they’ve shown scant or no interest in. That’s the nature of the beast at the winter meetings.

It’s more instructive to follow the signs and most of them point toward smaller-scale moves heading into 2014. It may not sound like it if you're a big fan of baseball's hot stove, but that's the good news.

Signing Haren looks like a sensible move

November, 24, 2013
11/24/13
9:56
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The Los Angeles Dodgers might have been able to wait and acquire a pitcher with better numbers over the past couple of seasons. Dan Haren might have been able to find a better opportunity elsewhere, in which he could have been an entrenched No. 3 or 4 starter and would not have to look over his shoulder if he hits a rough patch.

[+] EnlargeDan Haren
Jonathan Ernst/Getty ImagesDan Haren has led the league in starts three times in his career, pitching at least 216 innings every season from 2005 to 2011.
But sometimes, there is a perfect storm of intersecting self-interests.

The Dodgers, intent on entering 2014 with the best staff in baseball, needed to clean up the back end of their rotation and have seen -- and contributed to -- the soaring cost of starting pitching. Haren was born and raised 25 miles east of Dodger Stadium. He lives 50 miles south and thrived for most of his career pitching on the West Coast, mostly in Oakland and Anaheim.

So, the Dodgers and Haren have agreed on a one-year deal worth $10 million that will turn into a two-year deal if Haren pitches 180 innings this season. It seems like, even if things don’t work out perfectly for one side or the other, nobody’s going to end up too badly bruised.

Sunday night, Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis tweeted:



If you’re a Dodgers fan, you can be underwhelmed by Sunday’s news, but it’s hard to work up much reason to be upset.

Haren led the league in starts three times in his career. From 2005 to 2011, he pitched at least 216 innings every single season. With a low-90s fastball, a devastating split-finger pitch and a nasty cutter, he could sometimes dominate and was good for 200 strikeouts or more every season.

He’s not that kind of pitcher -- one who started an All-Star Game for the American League -- any more. The innings have taken their toll. The past two seasons, according to Fangraphs, Haren’s average fastball hasn’t broken 89 mph.

(Read full post)

Winter wish list: Bench

November, 22, 2013
11/22/13
12:07
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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: Relievers

November, 21, 2013
11/21/13
10:27
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One of the more quietly gratifying developments of 2013 for the Dodgers’ front office was the emergence of some homegrown relief pitchers.

Paco Rodriguez was among the Dodgers’ top two or three relievers until a heavy workload took its toll in September. Chris Withrow was a viable late-inning alternative by the end of the season. Jose Dominguez, another hard thrower, dominated in the minor leagues and gave the Dodgers some useful July innings before his season got shut down by a strained left quadriceps.

There are two (unrelated) Garcias -- lefty Onelki and righty Yimi -- who had impressive minor-league seasons and look like good bets to help the Dodgers’ bullpen next season.
All of which raises the possibility the Dodgers could avoid wading into the most overpriced market in baseball this winter: bullpen help.

Granted, their two free agent relievers, Brian Wilson and J.P. Howell, played important roles in both the regular season and the playoffs. Wilson was virtually flawless, eventually working into an eighth-inning role and pitching to a 0.66 ERA in the regular season with six scoreless innings in October. Howell quietly was the most consistent reliever in the Dodgers’ bullpen after April.

The Dodgers are looking into bringing both veterans back, but is it worth the cost? Probably not, at least if early reports of their cost are to be believed and the Dodgers like their in-house alternatives.

Wilson is a former All-Star closer who helped the San Francisco Giants win the 2010 World Series and again proved his October mettle for the Dodgers. His $1 million signing in August helped both parties, giving the Dodgers a reliable right-hander to get the ball to Kenley Jansen and re-launching Wilson as a closer candidate.

Would he merit a closer contract pitching the eighth inning for the Dodgers, who think they have a superstar young closer in Jansen? Seems like a stretch. As good as Wilson was, he pitched all of 19 2/3 innings coming off his second Tommy John surgery. The Dodgers fell into a trap a year ago of trusting a small sample size -- a lights-out September -- when they gave Brandon League three years and $22.5 million. League went into 2013 as the closer, but didn’t make either of the Dodgers’ post-season rosters. He’s still on the books, making $7.5 million in both 2014 and 2015.

According to reports, the Dodgers have company, with as many as seven other teams in the pursuit of Wilson. My hunch is somebody is going to overpay Wilson based on a good month-and-a-half. It may as well not be the Dodgers.

Amazingly, Howell also could be in line for a three-year deal. ESPN’s Buster Olney cited Howell as an example of what could be the going rate for serviceable middle relief this winter: three years and $12 million to $18 million. That's stunning inflation when you consider the Dodgers signed Howell to $2.85 million on a one-year deal last winter.

With five relievers returning and those two prospects on the cusp, the Dodgers are one of the few contenders in position to sit out the frenzied market for relievers this winter. Perhaps they could sign one aging veteran with a reliable track record, preferably a lefty (Scott Downs and Mike Gonzalez are a couple of the names out there). But to squander serious resources in such an unpredictable area with holes at third base and the back of the rotation seems misguided.

Winter wish list: Infielders

November, 19, 2013
11/19/13
11:39
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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.

Winter wish list: Starting Pitching

November, 18, 2013
11/18/13
11:53
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For a team picked by many to win the World Series next year, the Dodgers aren’t exactly the complete package just yet. At the top of their priority list for offseason upgrades is completing a starting rotation that only has three bankable pitchers at the moment.

Granted, “bankable,” might be an understatement for a trio that includes two Cy Young winners (including a two-time winner) and a Rookie of the Year contender. But beyond Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu, the Dodgers have nothing but questions.

Back in September, five months removed from reconstructive elbow surgery, Chad Billingsley was feeling great. He was hoping to be throwing off a mound some time early in 2014 and competing by spring training. Maybe it will happen, but most pitchers need a little more time than that to return from Tommy John surgery. The Dodgers can’t write Billingsley’s name into their plans until they see him pitching again, pain-free. It could be May or June before that happens.

Josh Beckett is even more of a mystery, primarily because he’s four years older than Billingsley and more than 1,900 innings into his major league career. Beckett had a rib removed in July to ease the discomfort stemming from thoracic outlet syndrome. He was hoping to be ready in February or March, but again, much is still unknown.

The Dodgers don’t seem confident in their internal options at the moment. That's not surprising since journeyman Matt Palmer led their Triple-A team in innings, Matt Magill struggled badly in his last two major-league starts, Stephen Fife got hurt and most of the team’s top pitching prospects were in Class-A ball last year.

So, of all the Dodgers’ needs, adding rotation depth will be at the top of their priority list going into next month’s winter meetings and, probably, beyond. Let’s explore some options:

Masahiro Tanaka: We’ve already discussed this possibility, so we’ll keep this fairly concise. It speaks volumes about the simultaneous rise in free-agent prices and decline in free-agent talent that teams are seriously considering making a run at the best pitcher in Japan given the costs involved. MLB and the Japanese league are still working out details of the new posting system, but it’s widely believed Tanaka’s team will get more than the previous record of $52 million and that the total cost of signing Tanaka could approach $150 million. He’s coming off a magical season and only 25 years old, but just a year ago, that was the going rate for a Cy Young-caliber pitcher who had already proven himself in the majors, eg., Zack Greinke.

On the plus side, the Dodgers wouldn’t have to surrender a draft pick to sign Tanaka, he would fit perfectly into their push to get younger, he’d help them own the Pacific Rim in terms of marketing and the posting fee wouldn’t count against the luxury tax. Oh, and he was 24-0 last year, so there’s that. Some people have taken to comparing the Dodgers to the New York Yankees. We’ll find out, because the Yankees might be their primary rivals for Tanaka.

Chances: Strong

David Price: Imagine a rotation with the two best left-handed starters in baseball sandwiched around Greinke. At that point, who cares who the fifth starter is? You or I could probably do it and the Dodgers could still win 95 games. He just turned 28, has a lifetime 3.16 ERA and averages 199 strikeouts per year. He’d probably thrive even more pitching in the National League. If the Dodgers could acquire him and then agree to a multi-year extension, he could also give them some insurance in case, somehow, they couldn’t reach a long-term deal with Kershaw. On the other hand, Tampa Bay hasn’t thrived in the toughest division in baseball for all these years because it makes bad decisions. The Rays are going to want a quality return of young talent to part with Price and, even if the Dodgers had all those pieces to trade, it would drain an already-thin system.

Chances: Slim

Ricky Nolasco: He struggled in September and gave up a punishing home run to Matt Holliday in the playoffs, but when the Dodgers acquired him in June, he was the perfect addition to their rotation. He added quality depth. Could he be the answer in the long term? He’s from Southern California and said he wanted to remain a Dodger. Keeping Nolasco just might prove too pricey for the return. There were reports out of last week’s general manager meetings that Nolasco already had a four-year deal in hand, with the Minnesota Twins apparently in serious pursuit. Is he worth $60 million or more? It’s an overheated market for pitching and Nolasco seems like the embodiment of that.

Chances: Slim

Hiroki Kuroda: He gets older, but the results stay the same. In six seasons in the major leagues, four of them with the Dodgers, Kuroda has never had an ERA higher than 3.76. The past two seasons, he has given the New York Yankees 421 innings and posted a 3.31 ERA. He could probably be signed on a one-year deal. Perfect, right? No, because he rejected the Yankees’ $14.1 million qualifying offer, which means two things. He wants to be paid more than that if he’s going to stay in the U.S. and he would cost the Dodgers a valuable draft pick, which would run counter to their rebuild-the-system push. Plus, he’ll be 39 next year.

Chances: Slim

Other free agents: Ervin Santana and Matt Garza have their appeals, but not at the price tags they’re likely to command. Bartolo Colon might be available on a reasonable one-year deal and wouldn’t cost the Dodgers a draft pick, but he turns 41 next May. With the exception of Tanaka, it’s an exceptionally flawed market for free agent starting pitchers and it seems like the Dodgers are more than aware of that. Much as they’d like to improve their rotation, they might be better served to sit this one out.

Chances: Slim

Other trade candidates: There have been reports that both the Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers have engaged the Dodgers in trade talks lately involving one of the Dodgers’ spare outfielders. If the Dodgers are willing to move Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford or Andre Ethier, and it certainly appears they are, they might be able to land a starter that way. If Texas isn’t willing to part with Elvis Andrus, for example, what if the Dodgers could land Ian Kinsler and Alexi Ogando in some kind of multi-player transaction? Texas has a deep system, so the Dodgers might be able to land a Triple-A arm that would be ready to help them at some point this season. And, of course, if the Dodgers are willing to field offers for Yasiel Puig, there’s no telling the kind of talent they could get in return, including the most coveted treasure of all, a quality starting pitcher or two.

Chances: Strong

Dodgers should listen to offers for Puig

November, 8, 2013
11/08/13
10:09
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LOS ANGELES -- This won’t be popular with Dodgers fans who got caught up in Puig-mania, particularly the people who dropped some cash on No. 66 jerseys, but it might be time for the Dodgers at least to consider trading Yasiel Puig.

Not that it’s going to happen. Puig sells tickets and moves merchandise like nobody else in a Dodgers uniform. He might be the second-most popular Dodger employee after Vin Scully these days.

But if they can get superstar young talent in return, it could make sense for their baseball team. Matt Vasgersian of the MLB Network was among the first to broach the topic recently, suggesting the Dodgers should package Puig and “anyone not named Clayton Kershaw,” for the Miami Marlins’ young slugger, Giancarlo Stanton. Hall of Fame baseball writer Peter Gammons jumped on board, via Twitter, saying, “Puig=tickets, Stanton=World Series.”

Maybe, you think, Stanton isn’t the guy. Maybe you think he’s proven too fragile, that the last thing the Dodgers need is another injury-prone outfielder. And Stanton, 24, only has the edge over Puig in one of the five baseball tools -- power.

But the Dodgers could use younger starting pitching. They could use a better option than aging Juan Uribe at third base. Even better, they could use a good, young shortstop who would allow them to move Hanley Ramirez back to third, where he is less of a defensive liability.

They have three above-average major-league outfielders even without Puig and, if things go well, they could have three All-Star caliber outfielders. The Dodgers owe Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier more than $282 million in coming years, so they’re certainly not giving up on any of those guys any time soon. Nor should they. Each is capable of being above-average at their positions for years to come.

One of the Dodgers' favorite prospects, center fielder Joc Pederson, is viewed internally as ready for 2014. Moving Ethier or Kemp, who are either too well-paid or too injury-prone to draw much interest from other teams, won’t be easy.

The Dodgers have to find a way to move Kemp out of center field and into a corner spot to preserve his health. The Dodgers clearly don’t trust Puig in center field or they would have used him there in the playoffs.

Moving Puig, who is coming off a .925 OPS, 5-WAR season (despite coming up in June) and doesn’t turn 23 until early December, could prove both easy and rewarding in terms of the return on talent. Plenty of mid-market teams would line up for a chance at a player this talented and attention-getting who is heading into the third year of a perfectly reasonable seven-year, $42 million deal.

Do the Dodgers’ owners have enough belief in the business momentum they generated last season to make such a move, and snatch their shiniest object from a fan base that soaked up Puig’s style of play? Puig came up in June and, after the All-Star break, fans gobbled up more of his jerseys than all but two major-league players, New York stars Mariano Rivera and Matt Harvey.

Let’s leave aside non-measurable qualities, such as a sometimes reckless approach to baseball basics, or suggestions there is internal dissension over how to handle Puig. All of that is relevant, of course, to whether the Dodgers should consider Puig a franchise cornerstone, but it’s too vague to build much of an argument around now. They claim he isn’t a problem, so -- for now -- let’s believe them.

The question isn’t whether Puig is a good player. He’s at least a good player and maybe a great one. It’s just that there aren’t many signs he is the kind of player who will improve over time, that he will make the necessary changes to his game that all players inevitably are forced to make as their bodies change. There’s also the matter of his head-long style and whether that will subject him to undue injury risk over time. Everybody loved watching Jim Edmonds make those diving catches when he was in his 20’s, but how did that work out for him in his mid-30’s?

Puig’s best month (.436, 1.180 OPS) was June, when he jolted a team and energized a fan base. His worst month was September (.214, .786). He had a bunch of singles in the Dodgers’ first-round playoff series, hitting .471, in fact, but he looked lost in the NLCS against some of the best young power pitchers in the game. He struck out in 10 of his 22 at-bats against the St. Louis Cardinals. He drew the wrath of the umpires, who probably would have thrown him out of regular season games for arguing balls and strikes.

The bottom line is this: His value might never be higher. It might be considerably lower in a year or two, if there are injuries or underperformance.

Puig would be a strong draw in Miami, with its extensive Cuban fan base. The Marlins drew more than 27,000 fans when Puig was matched up against Cuban-American pitcher Jose Fernandez. The day the Dodgers left town, the Marlins drew about 19,000, their season average at a nice new ballpark. Stanton is from the San Fernando Valley. He went to school at Notre Dame High in Sherman Oaks. He’d probably thrive if he came home and with his strength -- he probably has the most isolated power in the major leagues -- he can hit the ball out of any ballpark, even Dodger Stadium on a cool, foggy April night.

The Texas Rangers were thin in the outfield going into this off-season and they could lose Nelson Cruz to free agency. Maybe the sides could work out a deal in which the Dodgers would land Elvis Andrus and one of the many good young power arms in the Texas system.

You can come up with endless scenarios and, with trade bait as appealing as Puig, there aren't many major-league players who would be completely out of the Dodgers' reach. It might be time to open the dialog or at least field some phone calls before next month's winter meetings. What can it hurt?

If you’re still bathed in the light of Puig’s magical impact on the Dodger season, just remember: No moment lasts forever.

So far, Dodgers are chasing moving targets

December, 7, 2012
12/07/12
11:07
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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.

Dodgers add two, subtract one

December, 6, 2012
12/06/12
10:47
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Rule 5 draft, otherwise known as the final bell for the winter meetings, is typically a low-impact affair. Every once in a while, a team finds a hidden gem. Josh Hamilton, Johan Santana and Joakim Soria all were Rule 5 picks early in their careers.

Maybe Thursday's draft will prove more meaningful than we all realize. The Dodgers lost one player in the major-league phase Thursday, Triple-A outfielder Alfredo Silverio to the Miami Marlins, and added a couple of players to their Triple-A roster: infielder Elevys Gonzalez from Pittsburgh's system and right-handed pitcher Hector Nelo from Washington's Double-A club.

Silverio, once one of the Dodgers' brighter prospects, missed all of 2012 after a January car accident in the Dominican Republic. He had ligament-replacement surgery on his elbow in May.

He hit .306 in Double-A in 2011. If the Marlins don't keep him on their major-league roster all season, the Dodgers could reclaim him.

The Dodgers figured Gonzalez was worth a pick based on his 2011 season, when he batted .322 with 83 RBIs in Single-A Bradenton. He struggled last season, batting .206 between Bradenton and Double-A Altoona. Nelo, 26, had a 2.73 ERA in 47 relief appearances for Double-A Harrisburg last year.

In the Rule 5 draft, teams are able to select players not on other teams' 40-man rosters.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Dee Gordon
BA HR RBI R
.404 1 6 5
OTHER LEADERS
HRA. Gonzalez 5
RBIA. Gonzalez 14
RA. Gonzalez 11
OPSD. Gordon 1.006
WZ. Greinke 3
ERAD. Haren 2.04
SOH. Ryu 22