April 16, 2014

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

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

Carroll Makes Sense for the Dodgers

Lots to get caught up in Dodgerland these days (which we’ll get to over the course of the coming days), but the most recent news is the Dodgers signing veteran  infielder Jamey Carroll to a two-year $3.85 million deal to share time with Blake DeWitt at second and back up Rafael Furcal at shortstop.  The split with DeWitt will most likely include Carroll facing right-handed hitters with DeWitt taking on the left-handers.

According to Dylan Hernandez, the 36 year-old Carroll played in 93 games last season for Cleveland, hitting .276 with two home runs and 26 RBI.

This deal also is a classic Ned Colletti deal: Carroll is also known as a good guy in the clubhouse and Ned likes adding those guys to the mix for obvious reasons.  Plus, he’s reasonably affordable and only with the team for two years (short contracts being another signature Ned Colletti move).  Hell, Carroll could even play third base or the outfield, so he gives Joe Torre a ton of options, which I love.  And as has been previously reported, Carroll was excited to work with Joe Torre and Don Mattingly and that’s what pushed the Dodgers to the top of his list.

Ned was on the “Mason & Ireland” show this evening on 710 ESPN this evening and explained how a veteran bench can help you as much when they’re not playing, as when they’re on the field, coaching and giving advice to the Dodgers’ younger players.  Carroll fits that description.

“I see him (Carroll) as a more versatile player than Mark (Loretta) right now, and someone who can get more playing time…Carroll is maybe a 300 or 350 at bat kind of guy.”

Good move, Ned!

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.