Something that could influence the off-season preview is the following tweet from Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times:
"Dodgers' payroll will increase in 2011, GM Ned Colletti said."
The Dodgers' 2010 payroll was just over $102 million. For all we know, the Dodgers could raise payroll by $1 and it would technically be an "increase." However, this should be somewhat encouraging for Dodger fans. They aren't going to go on a massive spending spree, but at least there's hope for the off-season, unlike last year.
The Dodgers jumped into the off-season rather quickly, signing left-handed starter Ted Lilly to a 3-year, $33 million contract. Hernandez said Lilly will get a $3.5 million signing bonus spread out over the three years, as well as a full no-trade clause in the first two years of the deal.
On the surface, this isn't the worst deal in the world, now that we know the money. The Dodgers now have three established starting pitchers. In this market, $11 million a season for a guy who could give you an ERA in the mid-to-upper 3s and good control. Still, the Dodgers probably overpaid a bit for Lilly's services. The deal should be decent for the first two years, but the third year could be when the Dodgers regret giving a soon-to-be 35-year-old starter a three-year commitment.
Anyway, onto the Dodger free agents. The team has eight (remaining) free agents. Compared to last year's 15, this crop should be a lot easier to deal with. Lilly was a Type A free agent.
Dodger Free Agents
C Brad Ausmus
C Rod Barajas (Type B)
OF Reed Johnson
OF/1B Jay Gibbons
OF Scott Podsednik (Type B, $2M club option which he could void)
RHP Hiroki Kuroda (Type B)
RHP Vicente Padilla
RHP Jeff Weaver
Barajas: He was quite the surprise after coming over from the Mets in an August trade. He was so surprising he might have very well earned a spot on the 2011 team. His .297/.361/.578 line in 25 games was something the Dodgers haven't had out of the position in a long time. However, he is strictly a part-time player. If the Dodgers bring him back with the intention of him playing 130 games, his production won't look nearly as good. Arbitration: Yes
Podsednik: When he came over from the Royals at the deadline, I thought it was a decent pickup. The fact that he is a Type B free agent made the deal a lot more acceptable. He didn't play much of the last month as he was injured. In spite of that, I would not be opposed to him coming back as a fourth outfielder. My fear is the Dodgers will give him 600 PAs as the regular left fielder, which would be a mistake. If he voids his option or the Dodgers buy him out, they can always offer him arbitration. A team are less likely to hesitate to sign him because he is a Type B free agent. If he comes back, he's a solid fourth outfielder -- if the Dodgers use him in that manner. Arbitration: Yes, without a doubt
Kuroda: I absolutely love Kuroda. He is a gamer. He is a battler. But unless he comes back at a reduced rate from his $13 million salary -- and he has no reason to do so -- then good for him and the Dodgers. Speculation is he could return to Japan to finish his career. With a potential $15 or $16 million arbitration case, that is a risk the Dodgers are not likely to take. Arbitration: No
Padilla: For a stretch last season, he was the Dodgers' best pitcher. A few poor outings toward the end of the season inflated his numbers. Padilla made $5.025 million last season (with $1 million deferred). If the Dodgers could bring him back at a similar rate, I'd be all for it. Unfortunately for the Dodgers, he just missed being a Type B free agent. But it could be beneficial in bringing him back. Arbitration: No
Ausmus is retiring. The Dodgers need to bring back Gibbons. He proved to be a valuable asset of the bench. He should be relatively easy to re-sign. I really don't see the need for Johnson. His .262/.291/.366 line and 5:50 BB:K ratio can easily be replaced. Weaver had a terrible season and appears to have nothing left in the tank, despite wanting to pitch one more season.
Next up: Arbitration-eligible players