Thursday, October 21, 2010

2010 Los Angeles Dodger off-season preview, part II

I remember when the "kids" were just kids.

Chad Billingsley was making his debut in Petco Park, throwing 98 pitches in 5 1/3 innings while earning a no-decision.

James Loney started Opening Day 2006 at first base for the Dodgers and came up with five triples in his first 111 plate appearances while wearing the great No. 29.

Russell Martin came up to replace the injured Dioner Navarro and had a .792 OPS in his age-23 season.

Clayton Kershaw, baby-faced and all, was the most exciting prospect to come up through the Dodgers' minor league system in at least a 15 years.

Hong-Chih Kuo had one of the most electric minor league debuts before undergoing two Tommy John surgeries before his age-26 season.

Ramon Troncoso was a garbage-time reliever.

Ryan Theriot played for the Cubs. Not much to go into here.

And George Sherrill... well, let's not go there.

Now, they are no longer the kids. They are the core of the team. They are the veterans. Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp and Jonathan Broxton are included, but they signed two-year deals last winter, buying them out of this year's arbitration.

Aside from Martin and Sherrill, the rest of the arbitration-eligible Dodgers will be tendered contracts. It doesn't guarantee them a spot on the 2011 roster (trades), but the Dodgers will continue to invest in these guys.

Here are the arbitration-eligible players and what they made in 2010:

Third-timers
Martin - $5.05M
Sherrill - $4.5M

Second-timers
Billingsley - $3.85M
Kuo - $0.95M
Loney - $3.1M
Theriot - $2.6M

First-timers
Kershaw - $440,000
Troncoso - $416,000

The Dodgers can go a few directions here. Let's start with Billingsley and Kershaw.

Billingsley: He will get a substantial raise after a solid season. He could make in the neighborhood of $7 million. The Dodgers could make a long-term investment in him by offering a 3-year, $27 million deal. It would buy out Billingsley's remaining arbitration years. There is risk, however, as Billingsley's conditioning isn't the best. But he seems to be back on track after a 3.00 ERA, 1.17 WHIP second half, which included a shutout of the Giants on July 21. What to do: 3 years, $27 million with a $12 million option for 2014

Kershaw: He is going to get a Billingsley-esque raise at worst. Chad got roughly a $3.4 million raise. Kershaw is everything the Dodgers have expected him to be and more. He is the ace of this staff. He is a true ace. For that, they should reward him, much like the Red Sox, Brewers and Blue Jays rewarded their young aces -- Jon Lester, Yovani Gallard and Rickey Romero (respectively). All three got 5-year, $30- to $30.1 million extensions at this point in their careers with options for the sixth year at $13 million.

I would not be opposed to something similar to this. It would lock up a guy whose salary is guaranteed to skyrocket. It would give him long-term security and show the Dodgers are not afraid to make a commitment. What to do: 5 years, $32 million with $13 million for 2016

Troncoso: I could honestly care less if he comes back. He had a poor 2010 season. He gave up more home runs this season (seven) than he had in his entire career (five). His peripherals are poor. He had a solid 2009 season -- 2.72 ERA despite a 1.41 WHIP and 1.62 K/BB ratio. What to do: Non-tender

Loney: He is in line for a raise, despite the worst season of his career. He could make anywhere from $5- to $7 million. With Kim Ng, though, the Dodgers are likely to pay what they offer (that goes for all arbitration-eligible players). What to do: Offer arbitration

Kuo: He will get a hefty raise. He could make the $4.5 million Sherrill made this season. Provided he stays healthy, it'd be money well spent. What to do: Offer arbitration

Theriot: If it were up to me, he'd be gone. But he's one of those "gritty" and "scrappy" players Ned Colletti seems to love so much. He could make $3- to $5 million in arbitration. What to do: Non-tender

Sherrill: It's amazing this guy lasted the season with the Dodgers. He was about as bad as one could be. Still, he got lefties out (.192 BAA). He's a LOOGY (left-handed-one-out-only-guy), but he isn't worth what he would get in arbitration. What to do: Non-tender

Martin: This is by far the toughest case of all. He's going to get $7- or $8 million in arbitration despite his epic decline. With A.J. Ellis performing well toward the end of the season and Rod Barajas mashing in limited action, the Dodgers might be able to non-tender Martin. If they don't, they'll have quite a financial commitment to a guy who provides no pop anymore. Martin was once seen as a potential face of the franchise; a leader. Now, he's forgettable. What to do: Non-tender

Next up: Potential free agent targets

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