April 18, 2014

Straight Dealin’: Dodgers Go Big at the Trading Deadline

Hanley Ramirez.  Randy Choate.  Shane Victorino.  Brandon League.  Did the Dodgers really pick up all four of those guys at the trading deadline? Un-freaking-believable.  Say what you will about the Dodgers not landing Ryan Dempster (or any starting pitcher for that matter) after trading away starter Nathan Eovaldi, but this ownership group made a statement that that they are here to win – and win soon.

Before the game, Magic Johnson said (per Eric Stephen): “We definitely want to win this year.  We’re not sitting back waiting on next year or the year after.  We want to win now.  We had needs, and we feel like we upgraded our team.”

But best of all, General Manager Ned Colletti didn’t give up any of his top-tier minor leaguers, instead keeping those guys off the block and moving strong minor leaguers (along with Eovaldi and Josh Lindbloom) while stockpiling arms in the bullpen, adding outfield depth and an explosive (albeit temperamental) young third baseman/shortstop who will be with the Dodgers for another two years.

And with the NL West all tied up with the Giants and the Diamondbacks lurking in the shadows, this summer is looking really, really exciting.

Go Blue!

Photo Credit: REUTERS/Katoly Arvai

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

My Thoughts on Ted Lilly’s Return to LA

I realized I hadn’t commented on the return of Ted Lilly (well, outside of Twitter) so wanted to officially weigh in on his return to the Dodgers.  To recap, Lilly signed a three-year contract worth a total of $33 million.  At nearly 35, Lilly isn’t exactly a spring chicken, but he is a durable, consistent starting pitcher that’s had a high degree of success throughout his career. 

Most importantly, he’s a veteran who knows how to win and will be an excellent mentor to both Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw in the years ahead.  I think this is just one of many intangibles that are often overlooked by fans and bloggers when assessing whether or not a free agent signing or trade is a success or not.  Yes, bringing back Lilly shows the Dodgers are willing to spend money to improve the club, but more importantly it shows they are willing to invest in a quality starting pitcher.

Plus, Lilly’s a really good guy and character matters when building a baseball team. 

Like many fans, I would have liked for the deal to have been for two years instead of three.  But the reality is that Lilly would have commanded three years in today’s free agent market and I’m not opposed to spending the extra $11 million if that’s what it takes to bring him back.

Lilly had solid success while in LA (and was simply amazing upon his arrival), going 7-4 with a 3.52 ERA and a 0.99 WHIP in 12 starts.  For the season, Lilly was 10-12 with a 3.62 ERA.  I’m sure Lilly recognized that his season really turned around when he came to the Dodgers, and was a factor in him resigning vs. testing the free agent market and probably obtaining a slightly larger contract elsewhere.  Whatever the reason, I’m glad he’s back and will look forward to him pitching and representing LA for the next few years while he’s in Dodger Blue.

Now for a #4 starter…any ideas?

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Danny Moloshok

George Sherrill Rides off into a Blue Sunset?

George Sherrill is no longer “The Sheriff” of Dodgertown after being put on waivers today, according to Ed Price of AOL FanHouse.  Not completely surprising, as Sherrill’s decline this season has been nothing short of shocking.  But now what?  As a veteran, Sherrill would have to give the OK to be sent down to the minors, or if he clears waivers (as he most likely will), he’s also free to sign as a free agent with another club.

Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness and True Blue LA have their takes on the roster move and Sherrill’s freefall this season, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sherrill head to the minors.  It’s my understanding that this possibility may have previously been discussed with the pitcher.  It could be that as his slump has continued, he’s come around to the fact that his “mechanical issues” would be best addressed away from Dodger Stadium.

As Ned Colletti has noted in the past, middle relief pitching can be extremely volitle, which makes things even more tricky as the trade deadline approaches.

UPDATE (July 19): Sherrill cleared waivers, which is no surprise.  I don’t think anyone thought another team would be willing to pick up that contract with Sherrill as out of whack mechanically as he is. So now the Dodgers have until July 31st to either send him to the minors, release him or just keep him on the active roster.  As a veteran with more than five years of experience, Sherrill would have to agree to go to Albuquerque, and that’s not expected to happen, no matter how much the Dodgers front office would like it to.  Plus, with the current state of the bullpen, a shaky George Sherrill is better than no George Sherrill.  My best guess is that Sherrill will ultimately be flat-out released once Ned can pull off a trade or two for some bullpen help (remember the trade deadline is Saturday, August 1st).  Again, just a guess.

Photo Credit: Jon SooHoo/2010 LA Dodgers

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