December 18, 2014

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

12-0, Baby!!

Would you have ever believed before the season started that the Dodgers would be 12-0 at home with Jeff Friggin’ Weaver locking down the W and what sounded like an unbelievable catch by the O-Dog in the 1st.  Crazy stuff is afoot at the Ravine.  As Dylan notes, the last team to start 12-0 at home was the Detroit Tigers 98 years ago in1911 (which predates Tiger Stadium, by the way).  Crazy!

I believe it was Charley Steiner who reminded us listening to the game tonight on the radio that the D-Backs started last season 20-8, so it’s important to not get ahead of ourselves, but it sure is fun to enjoy the ride, isn’t it?

Who’s going tomorrow (besides me) to see the guys go for that 13th win against the Nationals during Joe Beimel’s first return to Dodger Stadium since the team released him?  Oh, it’s going to be a treat indeed!

Orlando Hudson Grabs Center Stage from Manny Ramirez in Dodgers Home Opener

Orlando Hudson

Orlando Hudson taking center stage from Manny? How did that happen?

Easy – he became the first Dodger since 1970 to hit for the cycle (the last guy to do it was Wes Parker and it took him more than nine innings) as the Dodgers trounced the much maligned Giants and the ever-aging Randy Johnson.

From SFGate:

“I saw my boy Randy Winn turn his back and I was going,” said Hudson, although he swears he didn’t know what he was going for. “After I hit the triple and scored, that’s when (pitching coach) Rick Honeycutt and Doug Mientkiewicz and Casey Blake came over and said, ‘Congratulations.’ I was like, ‘Congratulations for what?’ I had no idea what was going on.”

Interestingly, Manny opted to bolt from the locker room before the press was allowed in, despite all the fanfare and the deluxe introduction he received prior to the game.

From CBS Sports:

As both clubs lined up along the baselines for introductions, Ramirez’s came dead last. Forget introducing the batting order in, ah, order. With everyone else out there, the Dodgers had Ramirez thread his way through the left-field bleachers like Moses parting the Red Sea. Man-Ram then descended down a flight of stairs onto the field and directly into another warm, extended Los Angeles hug.

It’s clearly going to be Season 2 of the Manny Ramirez Show here in Chavez Ravine, but yesterday Orlando Hudson stole the show and added his name to the Dodger record books in just his first game with the team. Manny can’t be happy ’bout that.

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.

2B Orlando Hudson Inks 1-year, $3.4M Deal with Dodgers

dodgerfans, there is another free agent on the roster for the Dodgers – second baseman Orlando Hudson.

According to MLB, Hudson signed a one-year deal worth $3.4 million with some nice incentives built in that could kick him over $4.5 mil for the year. Hudson replaces the aging Jeff Kent who decided to retire at the end of last season.

This is a relative bargain if Hudson plays to his capability as he was earning over $6 million last year and was hoping for a multi-year deal for over $10 million per year but the falling free agent market took care of those dreams.

Hudson was batting .305 last season before an injury cut his season short. Let’s hope we get him back at his forrner level of glory and not another Andruw Jones :)