April 23, 2014

Dodgers Ask About Roy Oswalt and Cliff Lee

All I have to say is, thank god!  I believe it’s an encouraging sign that, according to the Los Angeles Times, the Dodgers placed a couple calls to the Houston Astros and the Seattle Mariners about the availability of Roy Oswalt and Cliff Lee, respectively.

Frankly, there’s no better way for Frank McCourt and the Dodgers organization to overcome the perception that the divorce is having a negative impact on the team’s cash flow then by trading for one of the two biggest names rumored to be on the trading block.  Both guys do have significant salary issues, with Oswalt due $39.5 million over 2 1/2 years (assuming the Dodgers pick up his 2012 option) and Lee is due $4.5 million for the remainder of this season.  Then, of course, there is the price in terms of players both clubs would want in return.

And let’s be realistic, for the Dodgers to make a serious run at a World Series title, they absolutely, positively need a veteran starting pitcher.  I love the up-and-coming tandem of Billingsley and Kershaw along with the surprising duo of Carlos Monasterios and John Ely, but as Bill Shaikin notes, none of these guys are older than 25 and the elder statesman of that quartet is Bills, who was struggled with his confidence in the playoffs and was left off of the NLCS roster by the Dodgers.  And yes, the Dodgers do have Vicente Padilla coming back soon, but while he and Hiroki Kuroda are solid starters, they’re not #1 starters that can make the Dodgers a truly elite team.

In other positive news, Ramon Ortiz has finally left the Dodgers, after being designated for assignment today.  Reliever Justin Miller thankfully takes Ortiz’s spot on the roster.  Miller has a 2.22 ERA in 22 games for the Albuquerque Dukes.

Elymania continues as well, with the rookie starter going 7.1 innings, giving up just four hits, two walks and one earned run on the road in Chicago (his hometown).  Are you kidding me?  The kid threw 98 pitches with 68 of them being strikes.  Ely continues to show excellent discipline and control of his pitches.  Pretty remarkable stuff, and undoubtedly, a lot of the credit for Ely’s development goes to Russell Martin and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt.  Unfortunately the Dodgers lost the game due to a complete lack of offense, but Ely’s continued development should not be overlooked.

Roy Oswalt Photo Credit: UPI

John Ely Photo Credit: Jon SooHoo/LA Dodgers 2010

Does Padilla Bring the Dodgers Closer to the World Series?

So here we are, January 21, 2010, and the Dodgers have finally signed their #4 starter, Vicente Padilla.  As Eric Stephen over at True Blue LA accurately points out, Padilla was money in the bank for the Dodgers down the stretch and for the majority of the post-season.  But the question is, in 2010 will we get the clutch Padilla that pitched so well in big games for LA, or the Padilla with the attitude issues that was released by the Rangers?

On December 23, 2009, Dodgers’ President Dennis Mannion said the following to the Times’ Bill Shaikin:

Ned has demonstrated a fantastic ability to read the talent market. We made back-to-back NLCS appearances for the first time in three decades as a result of Ned’s ability to make the right acquisitions at the right time. We want the same thing our fans want, a team that can compete for a world championship year in and year out, and we’ve been in that position for the last two seasons. We expect that to continue.

From the Dodgers’ official press release:

“Vicente did a tremendous job for us down the stretch and his continued success in the postseason proved that he can pitch when there’s a lot at stake,” said Colletti.

The 32-year-old Padilla has won 14 or more games in four of the last eight seasons, joining Andy Pettitte as the only two pitchers to accomplish that feat among a free-agent pitching market that has included John Lackey, Randy Wolf, Joel Pineiro, Brett Myers, Jason Marquis and Jon Garland, among others.

That’s an interesting statistic, but is losing Wolf and bringing pack Padilla to be the veteran presence among the Dodgers’ starting pitchers a step in the right direction for “a team that can compete for a world championship year in and year out?”  Call me skeptical.  Don’t get me wrong, I think that top to bottom, the Dodgers are in an excellent position to make another deep run in the 2010 post-season – no matter who the Dodgers plug in as the 5th starter.  But is this a team that has the starting pitching to truly and legitimately compete for a World Series by getting by a Phillies team that’s bolstered their starting rotation with the likes of Roy Halladay?  Time will tell, as we see Kershaw, Bills and Kuroda continue to develop into strong veteran starters.

The 32-year-old Padilla has won 14 or more games in four of the last eight seasons, joining Andy Pettitte as the only two pitchers to accomplish that feat among a free-agent pitching market that has included John Lackey, Randy Wolf, Joel Pineiro, Brett Myers, Jason Marquis and Jon Garland, among others.

Now I wasn’t expecting the Dodgers to really make a run at the guys looking for $8-$10 million per year, so the Padilla signing makes sense, especially after looking at the remaining starters on the market and the bargain price of $5 million that Ned was able to negotiate.  Plus he was clutch down the stretch.  I get it.  If he pitches like he did last year, Padilla would be a bargain for a solid #4 starter.

But from an emotional standpoint as a fan of this team, I’ve been hoping since October that the Dodgers would make an impact signing to put this club over the top for the coming year, rather than just filling the remaining holes with less commanding options.  In my opinion, that didn’t happen.  Call me frustrated, but that’s how I feel right now.  I’m sure I’ll come around once Spring Training arrives though!

Photo credit: AP Photo/Tom Gannam

Is Ben Sheets the Next Orlando Hudson for the Dodgers?

So I’ve written about this before (way back on April 2, 2009), but the closer we get to Spring Training, the more I think Ben Sheets is secretly Ned Colletti’s #1 choice for the #4 starter slot in the rotation.

Think about it, there really aren’t that many quality starters left on the free agent market and those that are will be looking for long-term deals (Joel Pinero, Jon Garland, etc.).  Then there are the second-tier pitchers (Vicente Padilla, etc.).  That leaves the Big Enigma: Ben Sheets.

Out of baseball since 2008, we really don’t know a lot about how good Sheets is these days and how he’s recovered from his surgery for a torn flexor tendon in his right elbow.  What we do know is that he’s supposedly looking for $10-12 million per year which just isn’t going to happen.  His last year in the majors was 2008 when he started 31 games, going 13-9 with five complete games and 198.1 innings pitched, along with 1 3.09 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP.  Not bad, right?  When not hurt, he’s an innings-eater.  Before the need for elbow surgery was discovered, Sheets was on track to sign a two-year deal with the Rangers before the 2009 season.

What we do know is that Ned loves a good late-season deal.  Let’s look back on Orlando Hudson.  At the time, there was a lot of concern about his surgically-repaired wrist and teams were hesitant to give him a multi-year contract.  Ned worked him out very late in the off-season and eventually signed him on to an incentive-based contract for one year, paying him a base salary of $3.38 million plus another $4+ million in incentives.  Not bad, right?  At the time, this contract looked like a steal. 

In the end, Hudson went on to an All-Star year, playing in 149 games (until being benched by Joe Torre in favor of Rafael Belliard), batting .282 with 62 BI, 9 HR, 8 SB and 35 doubles (a career high).  In addition to being named a 2009 All-Star, he also won a Gold Glove for his defensive prowess.  All of this netted him a whopping $7.99 million.  I don’t have a problem with the Dodgers paying for performance, and I appreciate Ned’s business philosophy of focusing on shorter-term details that are tied to pay-for-performance models and incentives that reward the players for delivering while limiting the Club’s financial exposure when a high-degree of risk is involved.

In the end, it will come down to how well Sheets pitches on Tuesday and how much interest there is from other clubs, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Ned try to land Sheets with a Hudson-type of contract structure if he pitches halfway decently, especially given the rumored financial difficulty the Dodgers are currently facing.

Photo Credit: AP/Morry Gash

Dodgers, Blue Jays Discuss Roy Halladay Trade Again

Roy Halladay

Roy Halladay

The trade rumors around Roy Halladay are flying again – this time courtesy of Tim Brown from Yahoo Sports. While he has most recently cited the deal as “highly unlikely” at this time, it’s clear that the Jays are trying to determine if they can extract maximum value from Halladay before his contract expires at the end of 2010.

Payroll will likely play a big role in whether the Dodgers can land Haladay or any other top-tier pitcher this winter. There are lots of players eligible for salary arbitration this off-season, and this will likely cause the Dodgers 2010 payroll to swell beyond $100 million – a figure even higher than 2009. Even if the Dodgers can scrape together the right combination of talent for a trade, they would have to deal with Halladay’s $15.75 million salary in 2010 – a formidable figure to be sure.

Halladay has been a target of the Dodgers throughout the 2009 season. He finished fifth in the Cy Young voting with 11 third-place votes. Halladay went17-10 with a 2.79 ERA and 208 strikeouts and was the starting AL pitcher in the 2009 All-Star Game.

The Chicago Cubs have also indicated they are currently in talks with the Jays regarding Halladay. The Yankees have said they are monitoring the Halladay situation but aren’t taking any direct action in the talks.

Dodgers Out on Lackey?

John LackeyAccording to Bill Shaikin, the answer is yes.

“We’re not going to make any outlandish-type decisions in a rough economy.” [said Dennis Mannion]

He [Manion] said that would rule out Lackey “unless there is an effective way to make that kind of deal.”

Given the financial uncertainty in the ownership ranks of the Dodgers, I’m not surprised that club president Dennis Mannion is out of the John Lackey sweepstakes, but I am surprised the Dodgers are out before any offers have been made.  As I wrote earlier, Ned Colletti has a history of going after value picks, and giving Lackey a long-term, big money contract would be out of character.  However it’s a bit early to call any Lackey contract an “outlandish-type decision” at this stage of the game.

While I would argue that what the Dodgers really need is a #1 starter and true ace of the rotation, the Dodgers feel that they have that with the combination of Billingsley and Kershaw at #1 and #1a.  They need a #3 starter to replace Randy Wolf, followed by Kuroda and a #5 starter from their ranks of potential candidates.  In theory, given another year of maturity for Bills and Kersh, this would be a better starting five than we had the previous season.

One question I’ve been mulling in my head this off-season is what I really think about Chad Billingsley in my heart of hearts.  Will he develop into a dominant #1 starter, or will his head always get in the way of his natural talent?  I’ll save that for a future post.