July 25, 2014

A Dodgers Deal for Eric Chavez Not Dead Yet

If you believe the comments from a rival NL Scout, the Dodgers were “raving” about free agent third baseman Eric Chavez’s recent workout, according to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle and Mark J. Miller of the Yahoo! Sports blog “Scoop Du Jour.”

As we know from Ken Gurnick, the 33-year-old often injured power hitter worked out at Camelback Ranch this past Thursday for assistant general managers De Jon Watson and Logan White and batting coach Jeff Pentland.  Remember when Chavez was a young hitter, full of potential?  The kid seemed like a lock for 100 RBIs and 25+ home runs. 

I’ve always felt that, if healthy by the start of Spring Training, Chavez would be a great value-based signing for Colletti and the Dodgers.  Plus Chavez loves playing in California (in Ned-speak: “a guy who wants to be here.”)  Here’s part of what I wrote back on November 17, 2010 ( “Eric Chavez and the Dodgers are a Good Fit” ):

Ned’s going to be looking at inexpensive sources of power, and having Chavez platoon with Casey Blake at third base seems completely realistic.  Plus the Dodgers like signing players that are rebounding from injuries that they might be able to catch on the uptick.  The Dodgers’ signing of Orlando Hudson is probably the best comparison to how a possible Chavez deal could look (obviously the dollars would be different), but the Dodgers did work Hudson out in secret on two consecutive days to test out his surgically repaired wrist before signing him.  Granted, Chavez could be considered a bigger gamble than Hudson was at that time, but I could easily see Chavez working out for Ned & Co. a couple of times and then getting a one-year deal that’s low on base salary, yet full of incentives if everything checks out physically.  I like it.

And here’s what Gurnick reported on Thursday:

If the Dodgers are impressed, they would be looking at Chavez as a backup or platoon-mate with Casey Blake at third base and a power left-handed bat off the bench. They would likely offer him an incentive-filled Minor League contract, as their 40-man roster if full.

The deal isn’t done yet, but this is totally the type of signing that has Ned Colletti written all over it.  If there was a way to bet on free agent signings, I would put money down on Chavez being in Dodger Blue by this time next month.

Photo Credit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images, Ronald Martinez/Getty Images North America

Dodgers Pick Up Jon Garland on Black Friday

Ned Colletti has surprised me on several ocassions during this offseason, and he did so again today by picking up RHP Jon Garland on a one-year, $5 million contract (kudos to the Times’ Dylan Hernandez for breaking the story on Twitter).

As Dodgers fans know, Garland has averaged 190+ innings per year over the past nine years and is about as stable and reliable as they come, going 14-12 with a 3.46 ERA over 33 starts and 200 innings in 2010.  The contract also includes a club option for 2012 for $8 million, along with an automatic kicker if Garland reaches 190 innings this season.

“We’re very pleased to have Jon join this group and give us five very strong starters going into Spring Training,” said General Manager Ned Colletti in a statement. “We saw what Jon was capable of down the stretch in 2009 and again last year within our division. Year after year, he takes the ball 30-plus times and gives his team a chance to win every time out.”

While I’m not totally surprised to see Garland back in Dodger Blue (he seemed to like it here in 2009), I am surprised to see him as the #5 starter on this team.  Before the signings of Ted Lilly and Hiroki Kuroda, I could have seen the Dodgers trying to get Garland and sliding him into a #3 or #4 slot, but getting him at the #5 position is just fantastic news and gives the Dodgers a very, very solid  and impressive starting five…the best five starting pitchers we’ve seen in years in LA – certainly in the Frank McCourt era.

Per Ken Gurnick, the move also allows the Dodgers to shore up the bullpen a bit by sliding former #5 starters Carlos Monasterios back to the bullpen full-time while giving John Ely the chance to stay on the roster as the long-reliever (a role previously occupied by Jeff Weaver).

While the Dodgers recent spending spree in November has been impressive, at some point Ned & Co. need to turn their attention to the offense, and look for a power-hitting left-fielder and/or first baseman (if Loney is somehow traded).  My gut tells me that Ned will most likely work on shoring up the bullpen first, figuring out who is going to catch all of these new starters and then pulling in a few aging sluggers to act as part-time players in left field and maybe at first or third.  I just don’t see 2011 as the year that the Dodgers unload with a mega-contract for an Adam Dunn or a Carl Crawford, especially after the moves for Lilly, Kuroda and Garland.  But then again, Ned has been full of surprises so far this offseason, so maybe we will get a Christmas Miracle after all.

Photo Credit: Jon SooHoo/LA Dodgers 2009

LHP Dana Eveland Signs Minor League Deal

The Dodgers have reportedly signed 27 year-old free agent pitcher Dana Eveland to a minor league split contract. 

Eveland pitched for the Toronto Blue Jays and Pittsburgh Pirates last season. He was 3-5 with a 6.79 ERA in 12 games (10 starts).  For his career, Eveland has pitched 330.2 innings with a 5.74 ERA and a 16-22 record with stops in Milwaukee, Arizona, Oakland, Toronto and Pittsburgh.  And for the record, five teams in six years officially earns you the title of being a journeyman pitcher.

Plus, if Eveland does make the Dodgers, he replaces former reliever Justin Miller as one of the biggest fans of ink on the team.  Eveland apparently has his last name tattooed across his back.

As readers of this blog know, I really like signings like this.  It’s classic Ned Colletti strategy to invite a bunch of pitchers with question marks to Spring Training as it’s a cheap roll of the dice.  If Eveland performs well at Camelback Ranch, he could be the #5 starter or be a long reliever in the bullpen.  Maybe he ends up in Albuquerque or maybe he’s just released.  However it plays out, the Dodgers will have a relatively young arm in camp that could provide dividends in 2011 for pitching coach Rick Honeycutt without much of a financial investment.

Photo Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Eric Chavez and the Dodgers Are a Good Fit

Ahh…the baseball offseason.  One of my favorite times of year.  With all of the rumors and possibilities swirling, it’s like getting a sneak peak at what might happen for baseball fans on Christmas or before Spring Training.

Dodger fans should already feel pretty good about this offseason with the signings of free agent starting pitchers Ted Lilly and Hiroki Kuroda, but there are several additional names that the Dodgers are reportedly linked to that I want to bring up over the course of the next few weeks.  And as always, please remember that my analysis is based off of current rumors; this is the Hot Stove League, after all.  While some reports are inevitably true (or have grains of truth to them), many are fabricated to serve the needs of the agents, players or teams.  So take everything you read with a grain of salt.  And with that said, here’s my first name that I wanted to throw out there:

Eric Chavez (3B):

Earlier in his career, Eric Chavez was a #10 overall pick by the A’s, a six-time Gold Glove-winning third baseman with power and was considered a lock for 27+ HR and 100+ RBI.  As a result, he signed a six-year, $66 million contract with Oakland.  But those days ended around 2005, which seems like a long, long time ago.  Since then, Chavez has been riddled by injuries, most recently with a few bad discs in his back and neck.  He’s now attempting a comeback at the age of 32 (he’ll be 33 in December) and his agent claims the Dodgers are interested in having him work out for them.  Per the Boston Herald:

“…according to his representative, Scott Leventhal, Chavez is handling ‘pretty strenuous workouts’ five days a week at Athletes Performance in Arizona just fine and ‘from our perspective, is completely healthy.’ Chavez turns 33 next month.”

Now this is actually the kind of rumor that I believe.  Ned’s going to be looking at inexpensive sources of power, and having Chavez platoon with Casey Blake at third base seems completely realistic.  Plus the Dodgers like signing players that are rebounding from injuries that they might be able to catch on the uptick.  The Dodgers’ signing of Orlando Hudson is probably the best comparison to how a possible Chavez deal could look (obviously the dollars would be different), but the Dodgers did work Hudson out in secret on two consecutive days to test out his surgically repaired wrist before signing him.  Granted, Chavez could be considered a bigger gamble than Hudson was at that time, but I could easily see Chavez working out for Ned & Co. a couple of times and then getting a one-year deal that’s low on base salary, yet full of incentives if everything checks out physically.  I like it.

Photo Credit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Kuroda’s Back!

 In a move most Dodger fans never saw coming, the club and Hiroki Kuroda have reached agreement on a one-year, $12 million contract for the 2011 season.

How cool is this news?  Most people, including myself, assumed Kuroda would be returning to pitch in his native Japan in 2011.  But now, with the return of starter Ted Lilly, the Dodgers have a formidable starting rotation of Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Lilly and Kuroda.  The fifth starter will most likely come from within the Dodgers system, but GM Ned Colletti is also well-known for bringing in a wide selection of veteran arms to Spring Training as non-roster invitees as he tries to capture magic in a bottle.

Other than his numbers (11-13 with a 3.39 ERA over 196 1/3 innings), one of the things that really excites me about the Kuroda deal is that it’s only for one year.  At 35 and arguably one of the best free agent pitchers available in a limited market, Kuroda could have easily obtained a two or possibly three-year deal from a major league club.  But it was his strong comfort level with the Dodgers organization and his desire to eventually to Japan to pitch that led him to sign a one-year deal with LA.  For that, all Dodger fans should be very thankful, as a multi-year contract brings a lot of obvious risk for a pitcher who turns 36 in February.

It’s also worth noting that $4 million of Kuroda’s salary (technically this portion is considered a signing bonus) is deferred to 2012 and 2013.  I really don’t see this as a problem…this is the model the Dodgers have chosen to use when paying players, and if it can be managed in a fiscally responsible way so as to field the most competitive team now while also not bankrupting the team in the future, then I’m fine with it.  Jon Weisman has some additional thoughts on the Dodgers’ salary defferment program that are worth checking out.

“As we continue our commitment to winning, Hiroki Kuroda will play a significant role in our rotation, which is a very important part of our club,” said Colletti in a Dodgers press release. “He has had success in the regular season as well as the postseason and we look forward to having him back in a Dodger uniform in 2011. With four starters returning from last year, we feel very good about our rotation and we will continue to look for ways to improve the staff.”

Now that the starting rotation is set, Colletti has to turn his attention to the noticeable power gap on this team.  While Dodger fans are definitely excited about the Kuroda and Lilly signings, they’re looking for Colletti & Co. to bring in a big bat, either in left field (the logical destination), first base (as a potential replacement for James Loney) or in a platoon option at third base with Casey Blake.  Kemp and Ethier are still developing as power hitters, and we all saw how much better Ethier was when he was protected by Manny Ramirez’s bat in late-2008 and 2009.

Photo Credit: Jon SooHoo/LA Dodgers 2010