April 25, 2014

Kuroda’s Back!

 In a move most Dodger fans never saw coming, the club and Hiroki Kuroda have reached agreement on a one-year, $12 million contract for the 2011 season.

How cool is this news?  Most people, including myself, assumed Kuroda would be returning to pitch in his native Japan in 2011.  But now, with the return of starter Ted Lilly, the Dodgers have a formidable starting rotation of Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Lilly and Kuroda.  The fifth starter will most likely come from within the Dodgers system, but GM Ned Colletti is also well-known for bringing in a wide selection of veteran arms to Spring Training as non-roster invitees as he tries to capture magic in a bottle.

Other than his numbers (11-13 with a 3.39 ERA over 196 1/3 innings), one of the things that really excites me about the Kuroda deal is that it’s only for one year.  At 35 and arguably one of the best free agent pitchers available in a limited market, Kuroda could have easily obtained a two or possibly three-year deal from a major league club.  But it was his strong comfort level with the Dodgers organization and his desire to eventually to Japan to pitch that led him to sign a one-year deal with LA.  For that, all Dodger fans should be very thankful, as a multi-year contract brings a lot of obvious risk for a pitcher who turns 36 in February.

It’s also worth noting that $4 million of Kuroda’s salary (technically this portion is considered a signing bonus) is deferred to 2012 and 2013.  I really don’t see this as a problem…this is the model the Dodgers have chosen to use when paying players, and if it can be managed in a fiscally responsible way so as to field the most competitive team now while also not bankrupting the team in the future, then I’m fine with it.  Jon Weisman has some additional thoughts on the Dodgers’ salary defferment program that are worth checking out.

“As we continue our commitment to winning, Hiroki Kuroda will play a significant role in our rotation, which is a very important part of our club,” said Colletti in a Dodgers press release. “He has had success in the regular season as well as the postseason and we look forward to having him back in a Dodger uniform in 2011. With four starters returning from last year, we feel very good about our rotation and we will continue to look for ways to improve the staff.”

Now that the starting rotation is set, Colletti has to turn his attention to the noticeable power gap on this team.  While Dodger fans are definitely excited about the Kuroda and Lilly signings, they’re looking for Colletti & Co. to bring in a big bat, either in left field (the logical destination), first base (as a potential replacement for James Loney) or in a platoon option at third base with Casey Blake.  Kemp and Ethier are still developing as power hitters, and we all saw how much better Ethier was when he was protected by Manny Ramirez’s bat in late-2008 and 2009.

Photo Credit: Jon SooHoo/LA Dodgers 2010

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

Is the Sun Setting on the Dodgers Season?

My fellow Dodger fans, I apologize for the lack of posts since the trading deadline.  Life sometimes gets in the way of things, and that’s been the case as of late.  But I’m back, and will be at the game tonight covering all the action of Ted Lilly’s first start in Dodger Blue.

Before then, I did want to address the trade deadline dealing.  Like our friends over at the Sons of Steve Garvey, I really noticed an interesting schism between the “mainstream media” that seemed to love the Dodgers recent acquisitions, and the bloggers that cover the team who did not (I also just noticed that Orel and I both share a love for the word “schism”).  Here’s my take:

Yes, Ned Colletti did continue to live up to his reputation as a dealmaker, making two three trades at or near the deadline, landing veteran outfielder Scott Podsednik, veteran lefty starter Ted Lilly, veteran infielder Ryan Theriot and veteran reliever Octavio Dotel.  See a pattern?

We know Joe Torre likes his veterans, but I’m sure he’s not excited about the quality of these moves, despite what he says publicly.  Afterall, he came from the Yankees…a team that makes big moves when they need to.  And the Dodgers (other than last night) are a team that’s had an absolutely horrific time scoring runs over the course of a six-game losing streak. 

I give Ned credit for making moves given the financial restrictions that he’s facing (the Dodgers assert there are no financial restrictions) and not sacrificing a ton in terms of the prospect department, but when I look at these moves, I just don’t think they’re collectively big enough to turn this club around.

Right now, I’m think of the Dodgers like a slow-moving freighter, slowly making their way down the NL West standings.  The effort to turn around said freighter is going to be a Herculean task requiring all hands on deck.  Do the recent additions (and the subtraction of fan favorite Blake DeWitt) help the Dodgers accomplish this?  Theoretically, yes it helps, but I fear it’s just too little, too late.  What the Dodgers desperately needed was a shot of addrenalin…ala Manny Ramirez at the trading deadline in 2008.  As I noted on my Twitter feed yesterday, the Dodgers need motivation.  Passion.  Desire.  The offense is simply listless and the position players are like zombies out there. Short of the arrival of Kenley Jansen, I just don’t see the necessary heroics for the team or its fans to rally around.

Yes, there’s still time, but winning the remaining three games against the Padres is an absolutely critical first step.  Otherwise, the sun might set on the Dodgers’ season a lot quicker than we all would like.

Photo Credit: Jon SooHoo/LA Dodgers 2010