August 20, 2014

So Long Juan Pierre…Hello John Ely and Jon Link!

Juan-PierreAhhh…the departure of Juan Pierre.  Looking back, it’s still amazing to me how polarizing Juan (and his contract) were to Dodger fans everywhere.  It’s crazy to think how many arguments I got in with friends and fellow fans over his value to the team (will we ever forget Beast Mode?).  As noted previously on this site, I was (and still am) a huge Juan Pierre fan.  I loved his speed on the base paths, and whether in the clubhouse or in the dugout, Juan always had a smile on his face.

From the Dodgers’ press release:

“Juan always put the Dodgers first, even when it wasn’t in his personal best interest,” said Colletti. “In this day, that is a rare attribute. When he and I spoke at the end of the season, we agreed that if an opportunity presented itself in which his chance to play would be enhanced, we would pursue it and that’s what we’ve done. He deserved the chance to play more.”

During his three seasons with Los Angeles , Pierre batted .294 with a .339 on-base percentage and 134 stolen bases in 173 attempts. Last season, his 10th in the Majors, Pierre hit .308 (117-for-380) with a .365 on-base percentage in 145 games.

And as all Dodger fans will remember, Juan’s ability to not just fill in but excel when Manny Ramirez was suspended for 50 games was amazing.  What was even more amazing was how he returned silently to the bench when Ramirez returned to the lineup.  Still, it was time for Juan to go…he never would have been a legitimate starter for the Dodgers, and the fourth outfielder spot really should go to an up-and-comer like Jason Repko or Xavier Paul.

As for the trade itself, I thought Ned did a great job.  Not only did he save over $8 million over the next two years, but he aquired two righties: John Ely and John Link.  Ely is 23 and last year had a 14-2 with a 2.82 ERA in 27 starts with Double-A Birmingham.  He also led the Southern League in strikeouts (125) and was tied for the lead in victories…not bad!

The 25 year-old Link had 13 saves for Triple-A Charlotte  last year with a 3.99 ERA in 48 relief appearances.

Time will tell if these guys pan out (the Chicago mediaand bloggers are pretty dubious on this, given the White Sox inability to develop much in the way of pitching from their minor league system).  Still, Ned likes these guys and told “Mason & Ireland” on 710 ESPN that he’s received some calls from other teams asking about the pitchers.

Photo credit: Yahoo News

Bring on the Giants!

Jonathan Sanchez, SF Giants

There’s nothing like a three game series against the hated San Francisco Giants to get the blood going, and Vincente Padilla (3-0, 2.01) starts the series off against Jonathan Sanchez (6-12, 4.16).  According to the Giants media notes, Sanchez has been pitching well as of late, going 2-1 with a 1.16 ERA, holding opponents to a .154 average in his last five starts on the road against the Mets, Phillies, Rockies, Astros and Brewers.  Sanchez also has the lowest ERA of any pitcher in the NL on the road since August 4th (the next closest is Chris Carpenter with a 1.69 ERA, and Randy Wolf is fourth with an ERA of 1.96).

On another note, Ken Gurnick has a good article on Ned Colletti and his shrewd wheeling and dealing, that has brought George Sherrill, Ronnie Belliard, Vincente Padilla, Jon Garland and Jim Thome to Los Angeles.  From the story:

“Frank McCourt owns the Dodgers and Joe Torre manages them, but this is Ned Colletti’s club. He traded for Andre Ethier and Manny Ramirez, he refused to trade away Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw, and he signed Randy Wolf and Vicente Padilla.

Since the general manager took over four years ago, the only team in the league with more wins is Philadelphia. Colletti inherited a club that finished 20 games below .500, and in four years, the Dodgers are 50 games above .500. Colletti’s best win-loss record of the four seasons will be this year — after trimming the payroll by $20 million.”

Here’s hoping that Ned’s work will finally lead this team back to the World Series.

Photo Credit: Examiner.com

Orlando Hudson and The New Business of Baseball

Orlando Hudson
Orlando Hudson, the former D-Backs second baseman who replaced the now retired Jeff Kent on the Dodgers roster this off-season, may very well be the face of things to come in the business of Major League Baseball.

Hudson, who had a wrist injury last season that likely limited his prospects during the off-season, was reported to have been offered $29 million over four years by the Diamondbacks to remain with the franchise. Many have suspected that Hudson turned down this offer partly because he was focused on securing a deal in either New York or Los Angeles before the free agent market disintegrated.

The Dodgers, meanwhile, have exerted extraordinary patience this off-season when chasing free agents. The Manny Ramirez negotiations in particular have shown how the Dodgers have been willing to wait out positions and players in order to stay true to their business philosophy. That philosophy, it would seem, is to focus on shorter-term deals that are tied to pay-for-performance models and incentives that reward players for delivering results while limiting team exposure to longer-term deals.

Such an approach would have been unthinkable a year ago, when teams were more than willing to shell out large, multi-year contracts with lots of up-front money in order to bring a contender to their team. Anyone remember our old friend Andruw Jones? Today, however, the business has changed. Free agents proliferate the market and those that have held out for 2008 money appear about as smart as homeowners who have refused to lower their home prices in response to a deteriorating market.

So the question remains – is Orlando Hudson the face of the “intelligent” player over the next few years? And are the Dodgers ahead of the game by exercising patience in their negotiations with players?

Let’s start with the question of Hudson. By all accounts, he is an intelligent, articulate man whose performance has been stellar. However, the three-time Gold Glove winner and former all-star earned $6.25 million last year with the D-Backs. In addition, Hudson hit a career high .305 last year with eight home runs and 41 RBIs. Why sign for $3.38 million plus another $4mil+ in incentives?
1. Geographic Sensitivity – Hudson was focused on NY and LA. Washington indicated interest, but wasn’t really a factor
2. The market changed, and Hudson knew it- the wrist was a warning sign for teams (go see how many times he had to work out for the teams courting him) and there were too many folks willing to play chicken and see what else they could land for a similar short-term deal. There weren’t many infielders of Hudson’s caliber available, but it was a buyers market.
3. Hudson’s view on money had changed- During the off-season, Hudson went to South Africa on his honeymoon and saw first-hand the impact that poverty was having on people with far less than he had.

In the end, Orlando Hudson got paid to play, and was incentivized to maximize the return to the team. In addition, he can be focused on courting potential suitors for when his contract expires and hope that the macroeconomic situation changes in the meantime. Seems like an intelligent choice when the alternative is waiting out Spring Training on a wing and a prayer.

So one to Question Two: Are the Dodgers ahead of the game in their patience and approach to player negotiations? I say yes. Consider this:
1. The Payroll is down $30mil (give or take) – the Dodgers can expect to expend $90 million or so right now for a team that is (pitching aside) eerily similar in talent to last year.
2. In most cases, the Dodgers have landed the key players they wanted to short-term deals that minimize risk and kept them from overpaying for talent and taking on risk over the long-term (a la Andruw Jones).
3. Will Ohman – The LHP turned down more money in a two-year deal earlier in the off-season from the Braves before signing with the Dodgers. Ohman told the L.A. Times “Initially, there was regret…for me to live at that address with that mind-set wouldn’t have done anything positive for me because there was nothing to foresee there would be a downturn of this magnitude.” Patience enabled the Dodgers to grab Ohman on a one-year minor league deal to see if he can play a role in the organization and was able to leverage his desire to be with a team prior to the start of the season to lock him down.

Now, Orlando Hudson (and arguably even Will Ohman) are not your typicall ballplayers who let their agents dictate their business affairs to a fault. Granted, both players overestimated the free agent market and paid for it, but both signed with a team that will be a contender in a weak NL West division and are not tied to low-paying multi-year contracts. The Dodgers get two solid players that are incentivized to perform this year both to maximize their current year earnings and the prospects for a fat, multi-year contract next offseason (should the macroeconomic environment improve).

To me, Orlando Hudson and the Dodgers represent the New Business of Baseball – a business I hope other players and teams embrace if they hope to survive and possibly even florish in today’s environment.

Dodgers Open the Doors of Camelback Ranch to Team Bloggers

 

Camelback Ranch
Camelback Ranch

Today the Dodgers once again opened their doors to some of the team’s bloggers (including DodgerDugout.com and TrueBlueLA.com) and extended an opportunity to tour the new Camelback Ranch Spring Training facility.  Both Alex and I will be sharing our thoughts on the experience (and photos) over the course of the coming days, but we came away very impressed both with the facility, as well as the team’s ongoing commitment to social media.

Some of the most impressive things about the facility include how they’ve managed to keep many of the quirky traditions from Vero Beach, while also giving the coaches, players, staff and fans everything they’ve dreamed of, from state-of-the art video facilities, to a professional locker r00m to having 18 different beers available for fans to choose from. 

“It’s [Camelback Ranch] more about what the Dodgers should be,” said Vice President of Public Relations Josh Rawitch (and fellow blogger from Inside the Dodgers). 

Again, there’s way too much to cover off on now, but safe to say, this is truly a jewel in the desert and the McCourts deserve a lot of credit for pulling this off so quickly.

Additional highlights of the trip included meeting Hall of Famers Don Newcome and broadcaster Jaime Jarrin, chatting with Charley Steiner and sitting down for a good hour and fifteen minutes with general managers Ned Colletti.  We learned a tremendous amount about the thought that goes into every baseball decision the club makes, and we look forward to sharing these insights with you throughout the season.

Again, more to come, but we wanted to say thanks to Josh for organizing such a fantastic experience!

Manny Offer Is In; Penny Gone

So Ned reportedly made a play for Manny, but it surely is a two-year deal for $55 million.  A nice move, but does anyone seriously think Manny is going to take that?  Not with Boras as his agent!  Good thing the Dodgers cleared some salary by buying out Penny’s contract for $2 million (not a pretty penny! sorry, couldn’t help myself…) as they’ll need that for either Ramirez or Sabathia.

On a related note, Blue Notes had an interesting post relating to comments from Steve Henson at Yahoo! Sports on the Padres’ asking price for Jake Peavy:

The Dodgers would be long shots because the Padres are loathe to help their intra-divisional neighbors to the north. It would take Clayton Kershaw or Jonathan Broxton, plus DeWitt and Ethier, just to pique the Padres’ interest.

JUST TO PIQUE THEIR INTEREST!!! Whatever…could you seriously imagine playing the Pad’s and seeing Kershaw on the mound with DeWitt and Eithier behind him?  Unbelievable.