November 26, 2014

Pitching Becomes Dodgers Offseason Priority

Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times had a great article about the upcoming offseason work that the Dodgers need to do to begin prep for the 2009 season.

Here is a small exerpt:

Twelve players from this year’s NL West championship team will be free agents, including Ramirez, pitcher Derek Lowe, shortstop Rafael Furcal, third baseman Casey Blake and second baseman Jeff Kent, who is pondering retirement. McCourt ensured a certain level of stability when he told The Times on Wednesday that Colletti would be back next season, but the front office could lose assistant general manager Kim Ng, who is a finalist for the GM vacancy in Seattle.

This seems like a staggering number in my book – I don’t know how it compares to other playoff teams, but clearly Casey Blake and Manny Ramirez (both acquired prior to the trading deadline) inflated this # a bit.

With the Dodgers not scheduled to hold their organizational meetings until later this month, the most Torre could say was that pitching would probably be their top priority.

“I still think that pitching is really something you really have to pay attention to,” Torre said. “I know we all get caught up in the offensive part of this game, but I certainly think that pitching is something that really should be front and center as far as being addressed.”

YOU THINK??? Wow, amazing that Torre could utter this after the debacle in the playoffs and seem so understated about the whole thing. Maybe he is in shock over the collapse in the NLCS, but appearing a bit more focused on pitching being priority #1 would probably make sense.

Lowe is assumed to be leaving. He has often felt underappreciated in his four seasons with the Dodgers, according to sources close to him who spoke anonymously to avoid creating tension while the team was still in the playoffs. The club never approached Lowe, 35, about a contract extension this season, though that in part was because he is represented by Scott Boras, who prefers that his clients test the market.

Another big decision in the coming weeks will concern Brad Penny, who was 16-4 in 2007 and was the opening day starter this season. But Penny was 6-9 with a 6.27 earned-run average and left the team after being put on the 60-day disabled list, which ended his year.

Penny’s contract includes a $9.25-million club option for 2009 that could be bought out for $2 million.

Torre said he recently reached out to Penny and said he wanted to have lunch with him.

“He’s been frustrated with his condition,” Torre said. “He’s a young man with a bright future, whether it’s with us or somebody else.”

Amazing that with so much riding on the Dodgers future pitching staff that there was almost a lack of courting going on with Lowe and Penny. The Manny Ramirez factor has to be tough for these guys, as they were trying to shine in order to maximize value ahead of free agency, only to see Manny grab the spotlight and never let go during his Red Sox paid tenure in L.A..

With or without Penny, the Dodgers will be forced to target a top-of-the-rotation arm if they can’t re-sign Lowe. At this point, the only sure bets for the rotation are Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda and Clayton Kershaw. James McDonald, who impressed as a September call-up, and damage-shouldered Jason Schmidt, who has a year left on his three-year, $47-million contract, could also be factors.

CC Sabathia, who pitched the Milwaukee Brewers into the postseason, is the top free-agent pitcher but could command a deal similar to the seven-year, $126-million contract that Barry Zito signed with San Francisco two winters ago.

A.J. Burnett and Ben Sheets could also be available. A longshot could be 2007 Cy Young Award winner Jake Peavy, whom San Diego is attempting to shop.

Trading for Peavy would probably force Colletti to break up the Dodgers’ nucleus of young players that includes catcher Russell Martin, first baseman James Loney, and outfielders Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. Colletti says he intends to keep the group intact.

Still, there are plenty of openings.

Torre Says Penny Likely Out For Season

Dodger manager Joe Torre indicated Saturday that pitcher Brad Penny was likely out for the remainder of the season, according to published reports.

“I can’t think Penny is going to come back,” said the Dodgers manager. “It’s nothing anybody has said. It’s off what happened this year. Coming off the DL, it’s been a slow process. He had only one rehab start, but it just seems it doesn’t feel right to him.”

A buildup of scar tissue that was spotted during a recent MRI. During his rehab, Penny has not returned to original form and was recently shelled for three home runs (six runs in total) over three innings. Definitely not the Brad Penny we remember from earlier in the season.

“Bad Penny” Brad Penny Keeps Turning Up

Brad Penny in 2007
Just like any other bad penny, the Dodgers’ own Brad Penny keeps turning up – and nursing problems that continue to plague his performance. Saturday’s outing, in which Penny allowed seven runs on seven hits and two walks in just 3 2/3 innings, was his shortest of the season and left him sitting at 5-9 with a 5.88 ERA in 15 starts to-date.

So what’s the problem?

According to published reports, Penny was experiencing soreness in his shoulder during his pregame warm-up as well as after the game on Saturday. The 2007 NL All-Star has been experiencing discomfort all season and was sent home to undergo an MRI to determine the cause of the pain. Torre has indicated to that it is likely that Penny will end up on the DL following the results of the exam, although the specific duration is still TBD.

All of this sidelines another Dodger veteran (albeit one who has not performed up to his talent and 2007 record this year) and forces Torre to head to the Minor Leagues AGAIN to find a prospect to bring up (assuming Penny’s stay on the DL is longer than one start). If Penny ends up being sidelined much past the all-star break, it is likely the Dodgers would opt to buy out the last year of Brad’s contract for the stipulated $2 million fee. Rolling the dice on Penny would mean taking on the risk that these mysterious shoulder pains might return and also paying up a hefty $9.25 million for the final year of his contract.

Perhaps the most frustrating part of Penny’s latest problems is that the Dodgers bats actually came alive on Saturday night, as Andre Ethier homered and had four RBIs while Loney put up a single and a pair of doubles and Young singled three times. Even Matt Kemp, back from his two-game suspension, ponied up an RBI infield single.

At this stage in his career, Penny has to decide if he can play through painful moments and synch with the offense when it counts. Saturday’s meltdown and ensuing comments from Penny appear to indicate he is reluctant to utilize all of the pitches in his arsenal when he’s hurting:

I tried to get through it. It’s the same thing that’s been going on. I thought I was over it. The last two starts were pretty good but it’s back again and I’ve just got to get it checked out…I didn’t feel good in the first inning, and I didn’t feel good in the bullpen…I feel it on every pitch, so that makes it tough. It affects everything. The big thing is location. When you know it’s going to hurt, you don’t really want to throw it.

Now the big question – who to bring up if Penny is out for the forseeable future? My thoughts on that topic tomorrow…