Print and Go Back ESPN: SportsNation

February 11, 3:00 PM ET
Chat with Tony Jackson

Tony Jackson
  (3:00 PM)

Good afternoon everyone, and welcome to this week's Dodgers chat. Starting today, we're going to try to do these every Thursday at noon whenever my schedule permits.

MrSinister (Los Angeles)

Why doesnt frank mccourt sell the team, its obvious he cant spend money like the rest of the big markets.

Tony Jackson
  (3:02 PM)

Actually, if you do the math, the Dodgers' opening-day payroll is still going to be in the $95-$100 million range, and that's before you even factor in performance bonuses and midseason acquisitions. The opening-day payroll is actually going to be a few million HIGHER than last year's. And frankly, in the sad-sack National League, you don't have to spend that much to win a division. Now are they still behind the Phillies? Yes, there is no doubt about that. But another NLCS matchup with the Phils is a long way off, and a lot can happen between now and then.

Dan (Long Beach)

It's obvious the Dodgers are afraid to spend any big money on pitching because of their recent past failures. They don't seem willing to trade for an ace either. Do we have what it takes pitching wise to keep up with SF and AZ?

Tony Jackson
  (3:04 PM)

I believe the division is a little more of a crapshoot than it was last year, but I still believe the Dodgers go into it as a slight favorite. I worry more about Colorado and San Francisco than I do Arizona, even though the D-backs' rotation is as good as any in the league. They still don't seem to have much on the offensive side, same with the Giants. The Rockies match up well with the Dodgers offensively.

Jonathan (LA)

Which Dodger minor leaguer do you expect to be the star of spring training?

Tony Jackson
  (3:16 PM)

Well, the first guy who pops into my head is Josh Lindblom, simply because he made such a splash last year after being promoted from minor-league camp. But you should also keep an eye on A.J. Ellis, who knows he's playing in front of scouts from other teams every time he steps on the field. The Dodgers don't seem to have a place for this talented catching prospect, and you can bet he'll be motivated this spring.

Daniel Niku (Encino)

Sounds like Ellis could potentially be traded. He had a good OBP in Triple A last year, but do you see any teams giving up something of value for a 29 year old catcher who has yet to play any meaningful games in the majors?

Tony Jackson
  (3:27 PM)

No, I don't, Daniel. But the Dodgers' 40-man roster is presently full, and they're going to have to clear spots if they're going to keep any of their non-roster guys -- and you can bet they're going to keep at least one or two, probably Jeff Weaver and either Brian Giles or Doug Mientkiewicz. I could see them cutting Ellis loose for the same reason they traded Cody Ross a few years ago, to give him a chance somewhere else. Of course, Ross blew up in their faces and became a solid, everyday big leaguer. On the other hand, Colletti is big on inventory, and he might want to keep Ellis in the fold in case something happens to Martin or Ausmus, because they don't think Lucas May is ready yet.

Francisco F. (Los Angeles)

Well, I want to why they let go of Carlos Santana? he could be the starting C. Sorry Rusell Martin..

Tony Jackson
  (3:28 PM)

Francisco, if you ask Ned Colletti, he will tell you that was the toughest move he has made since he took over. They knew what Santana was going to become. But their thinking at the time was that they had Russell Martin for the forseeable future, and they really believed acquiring a player like Casey Blake could help put them over the top for what he brings to the field and to the clubhouse. I really don't think they would have made it as far as they did the past two years without Blake. But it'll be a few years before we get a really accurate read on how that trade worked out for the Dodgers.

dennis (Denver)

In terms of talent, do you think the Dodgers are still vastly/slightly/not better than the Rockies, and if so, in which areas?

Tony Jackson
  (3:34 PM)

I think both teams are coming back with basically the same teams, although the Dodgers have made a change at 2B and the Rockies have made a change at 3B. The big difference is that the Dodgers lost Randy Wolf, so it'll be interesting to see how their rotation comes back from that. The Rockies have two of the most talented young (and underrated) players in the league in their everyday lineup in Tulo and Hawpe, but I still think the Dodgers match up fairly well at those two positions. Two things that intrigue me about the Rockies: Can Jeff Francis come back and be as good as he once was, and if he can, that rotation is solid with Jimenez and Cook at the front; and how are they going to utilize Melvin Mora at 3B, because you have to be careful with a guy at his age but even so he might be an upgrade over Garrett Atkins.

Don (LA)

Who do you think will be a starter in opening game? How's it going on Chad Billingsley's extension? I rememer saying his agent about that.

Tony Jackson
  (3:35 PM)

I'm guessing that will be Kuroda just because he was the guy last year, and while he was less than stellar in 2009, nobody else really stepped up to take it away from him. As far as the extension, I think they were going to table that until spring training. The goal with the one-year deal was just to avoid arbitration for now and then get back to discussions at a convenient time when everyone could get together.

Phil (Simi Valley)

If the Frank says the dodgers can spend money they just want to spend it wisely why did they waste that much money on Jamey Carroll? Couldn't they have pushed harder for Chone Figgins for 2B and DeWitt could have backed up at 3B, 2B and SS.

Tony Jackson
  (3:37 PM)

Good point, Phil. But I think they were looking at the big picture and the budget they had to fill every hole they needed to fill. DeWitt has also given indications in the past couple of years that he can be a solid big leaguer, even though he has been going through some growing pains. That's another one we won't be able to judge until some time has passed.

erik (la)

It seems from everywhere you read the dodgers farm system is barren, but from your story a week back you say that its just underrated because the best prospects are in low A. Whom of the younger kids do you see making a name this year, besides Dee Gordon and Withrow?

Tony Jackson
  (3:40 PM)

Well, other than Lindblom, who is probably the next big-name prospect to make it to the big leagues, the next guy you have to really keep an eye on is Andrew Lambo. He struggled a little at Double-A last year, but came back and had a really strong Fall League. If you're ever around him, you can tell very quickly that he has the swagger and the confidence. I think he's a can't-miss, it's just a matter of when. But again, after a down year at Chattanooga, where he'll probably start the year again, this is a very important season for him.

John (San Jose)

Will the Giants get a deal done for Lincecum? Will the amount of money they spend on him hamper their efforts to get some other FAs?

Tony Jackson
  (3:45 PM)

Hey John. I believe I read a comment from Larry Baer, the Giants' president, the other day in which he said that even if they lose their case against Lincecum, the extra money won't affect their payroll and will simply come off their bottom line. One way or another, yes, they'll get a deal done, but they might have to go to an arbitration hearing to do it. This is one of the most interesting arbitration cases in a long time, if not ever. You almost HOPE it goes to a hearing just to see what happens, because there really are no other players or precedents to compare it to.

Phil (Simi Valley)

Speaking of Andrew Lambo, do you think he will be ready to take over after Manny leaves or maybe even Xavier Paul? I like it when we use our own players and hope one of these guys is ready so we don't have to sign some Vet.

Tony Jackson
  (3:50 PM)

Hi Phil. Again, I think that's why this is a very big year for Lambo. I'm not sold on X Paul as an everyday prospect, he seems more like a fourth OF to me, so I think Lambo is more the heir apparent there, but you might need to a sign an older FA to a one- or two-year deal next winter to kind of bridge that gap. My guess is neither one of those guys is ready to be the Dodgers' everyday LF in 2011.

Suheal (Tracy, California)

dont you think they should bring a franchise to LA? I mean come on this city is one of the biggest in the world and it dosent have a football team. They should make a new team for LA so the raiders dont come back because they will do horrible right?

Tony Jackson
  (3:52 PM)

Hi Suheal. Football ... let's see ... that's that sport they play with that funny-shaped ball, right? Where the field has all those stripes and numbers on it?

Warren (Dalton, GA)

Hey Tony I'm a long time fan of your work. I'm thrilled to see you at ESPN. A few years ago we were all hoping that the Dodgers would hang on to the young core of the team. Do you think McCourt/Colletti get enough credit for keeping them intact? It seems to me that everyone wants the big sign or the big trade and we forget this team is pretty good and setup for some time to come.

Tony Jackson
  (3:54 PM)

Hi Warren. Thanks for the kind words, and to answer your question, no I don't think they get enough credit for that. I think you hit the nail on the head with your comment, and that's true especially in a ''big market" like L.A., where rebuilding isn't a luxury. I think one of the biggest downfalls of some of the previous regimes was that they tried to build the team every year with big-name veterans, often trading young talent to get them. That isn't to say Ned hasn't traded some of those guys -- Santana, Edwin Jackson, etc -- and Paul DePodesta traded Franklin Gutierrez for Milton Bradley. But there were plenty of offers over the years for Loney, Kemp, Kershaw, etc., and some of that had to be tempting.

ben (los angeles)

In May when the McCourts go before the judge to determine who owns the Dodgers what happens if he says each owns half?

Tony Jackson
  (4:00 PM)

Hey Ben. That's when it all will hit the fan. Now, mind you, I think there is very little chance that will happen. But in California court system, a lot of strange things happen. If it does happen, I think at that point the McCourts will have no choice but to sell the team, and before they can sell it they'll have to divest a lot of the payroll. It's going to be a sad day for Dodgers fans, because the Dodgers will probably turn into the Padres for a year or two thereafter. So keep your fingers crossed on that one.

Jeff (Newport Beach)

Hey Tony, I love your work. You mentioned earlier that the Dodgers were thinking about extending Chad Billingsley. Do you know how long they were thinking about extending him? I would think it would be in the Dodgers best interest to see how he rebounded from the horrible second-half that he had last year. What are your thoughts?

Tony Jackson
  (4:02 PM)

Jeff, I'm guessing an extension wouldn't be for more than a year. That seems to be the patters with the Dodgers this winter with the two-year deals they gave Kemp/Ethier. They're not buying guys completely out of arbitration, just up to their final year of arbitration, so they can have a clearer projection of what their overall payroll is going to be for the next couple of years.

Daniel Niku (Encino)

Are you going to write those post-game paragraph blog entries that were such a hit over at that other blog?

Tony Jackson
  (4:05 PM)

Daniel, sadly, no, I won't be. Jon Weisman has joined the team at ESPNLosAngeles and will be handling all our Dodgers blogging duties. I will, however, be providing plenty of coverage from the ballpark, including pregame stuff most of the time and postgame stuff after every game, so check in often. I miss that blog that you refer to, but that was a different kind of media outlet, a small newspaper where writers were kind of free to experiment. Some of the snide remarks I frequently made on that blog probably wouldn't be appropriate here at ESPN, and rightfully so.

Jeff (Newport Beach)

Since the Dodgers need a solid number 5 starter, why don't they take flyer out on Braden Looper or Jarrod Washburn? These guys seem like they could be serviceable at Dodger Stadium and eat up a lot of innings.

Tony Jackson
  (4:06 PM)

Jeff, they did have Braden Looper on their radar this winter, but that was before they signed Padilla. With the payroll creeping up near $100 million already, I dont' think they're going to add another starter anytime soon. So get ready to monitor that spring-training free-for-all between Stults, Haeger, Elbert, McDonald, et al

ben (los angeles)

Tony, carrying the McCourt divorce case a bit further, lets assume that the judge says Frank owns the team. Since Calif divorce laws state that the wife is entitled to half of everything else. Won't this put Frank in a bit of a financial bind and limit the cash the Dodgers can spend?

Tony Jackson
  (4:07 PM)

No, because basically, Jamie already owns everything else. That was the agreement she signed back in '04 that Frank is now holding up as proof that she doesn't have an ownership claim in the team. That agreement gave HER ownership of all the houses. So whatever Frank loses there has already been accounted for. At least that's my understanding.

Tony Jackson
  (4:08 PM)

Great job everyone, and great questions. Thanks for your participation. Time really flies doesn't it? We actually went OVER by eight minutes. Have a great week, and I'll see you all next Thursday, when we'll be about 72 hours from the first pitcher/catcher workout of the spring.