September 2, 2014

Can the Dodgers Make a “Major Transaction?”

Jim Bowden, the co-host of “Inside Pitch” on MLB Network Radio and a baseball analyst for Fox Sports, tweeted today that Ned Colletti told him that the Dodgers have “the flexibility to make a major transaction.”

Not sure I buy that, but the Dodgers definitely are looking for starting pitching and relievers. Relievers are always a crapshoot (case in point, George Sherrill), so don’t expect Ned to give up much for a bullpen arm, but there are some interesting #1-caliber starters out there.  For example, we know that Roy Oswalt is available, and I suspect Ben Sheets and Dan Haren can be had for the right price, but I just don’t see how the Dodgers can make take on that kind of salary right now.

Photo Credit: Jon SooHoo/UPI

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

Ben Sheets a Future Dodger?

Ben Sheets

It’s actually not as much of a long shot as you might first think.  Here’s why:

1.) The free agent market for starting pitchers is pretty thin.

2.) Ned Colletti doesn’t like offering contracts longer than three years to anyone.

3.) Ned likes signing players that have something to prove and giving them an incentive-laden contract (Orlando Hudson).

Now the Dodgers, like many teams, also have a history of giving big money contracts to starting pitchers that flame-out in notorious fashion, leaving the team on the hook for tens of millions of dollars (Jason Schmidt – 10 wins over three years, Darren Dreifort).  I’m not saying that Ben Sheets is the next in this line, but all teams need to be cautious with his medical history.  That may play into the Dodgers’ thought process when considering premiere free agent starters like John Lackey.

From ESPN:

Agent Casey Close said that Sheets is doing “very well” in his rehab from flexor tendon surgery and plans to be 100 percent by the start of spring training. Close also anticipates no shortage of interest from clubs in the coming weeks.

“We have already heard from a number of teams inquiring about Ben’s health and availability for 2010,” Close said in an e-mail Friday to ESPN.com. “I will tell you that he has a very good chance to be one of the most impactful free agents, without question.”

Now I’m a PR guy by trade, and that is classic agent-speak.  As Jerry Crasnick and his sources speculate in the article, I imagine Sheets will eventually sign late in the off-season when teams that don’t land some of the prominent free agents available come sniffing around, kicking the tires on Sheets and deciding how much of a gamble they’re willing to take on a rehabbing former All-Star. 

Given that Sheets’ injuries are known, I believe we’re looking at more of an Orlando Hudson contract situation, and think it’s totally plausible that he could end up a Dodger if he checks out medically and the deal is done late in the off-season.  Either way, it’s certainly going to be interesting!