Sunday, August 29, 2010

Adios, Manny Ramirez

And just like that, Manny Ramirez is on his way out of town.

The Chicago White Sox, who claimed him off waivers on Friday, are about to acquire the veteran for nothing but salary relief.

Ramirez is owed anyhwere from $4.1-$4.4 million for the rest of the season depending which source you believe. Either way, this is a win for the Dodgers -- and the White Sox.

The White Sox get a guy who isn't always the most motivated player playing for a 2011 contract. There's no doubt in my mind he's going to mash. He's going to be a hot fantasy waiver wire pickup.

The Dodgers were reportedly deciding whether or not to pay a portion of Ramirez's salary to acquire third base prospect Jon Gilmore from the White Sox. Gilmore is in his age-21 season (just turned 22) and has a solid .318 average and .354 on-base percentage, but he hits for minimal power. His career slugging percentage in the minors is .380, which just isn't going to cut it at the hot corner. He also owns an .887 fielding percentage, which could spell a move to a corner outfield position.

Long story short, he's a fringe prospect at best (not ranked by Baseball America in the White Sox's top 30). It seems the Dodgers know this and aren't going to send any money to Chicago.

The Dodgers get some much-needed salary relief. There's no way they were going to offer Ramirez arbitration after the season, so getting him off the books (for this season, at least) a month early is well worth it. Not to mention he's played sparingly since returning from the disabled list.

The Boston fans tried to warn us Dodger fans of Ramirez's antics. We were so blinding by his mashing that we blew them off and said they were just jealous. Now, far be it from me to agree with anything that comes from Boston -- but they were right.

Aside from the last two months of the 2008 season, Ramirez has been a disappointment. His numbers have been solid (.297/.413/.524), but that hasn't been enough for Dodger fans to overlook everything else -- 50-game suspension, lack of hustle at times, his 2010 season, etc.

This guy won over the L.A. crowd in the matter of a few weeks. That is a difficult feat that almost no athlete can lay claim to. Hell, for a time, he was probably more popular than Kobe Bryant. But how quickly that went away.

Ramirez might very well the best hitter the Dodgers have ever had. Even without the performance-enhancing drugs, the guy was still going to get into the Hall of Fame (kind of like the 'roider [allegedly] in 'Frisco).

It's unfortunate the Ramirez-L.A. relationship had to end this way. He had a chance to be as beloved as Fernando Valenzuela, but he couldn't take advantage of that.

Ramirez may not help the ChiSox get into the playoffs, but he'll rip the cover off the ball, ultimately earning a 1- or 2-year deal following the season from an American League team.

In the meantime, Scott Podsednik should start the majority of the season in left field. Come the winter, the Dodgers will -- once again -- be looking for a big bat to plop in the middle of the lineup.

Friday, August 27, 2010

White Sox claim Manny Ramirez

The Chicago White Sox officially won the waiver claim on Manny Ramirez today.

This was long expected, as the White Sox were the only team to show legitimate interest in Ramirez prior to the July 31 trade deadline.

The Dodgers have three options here:

  1. They trade Ramirez to the White Sox for players not on the 40-man roster or players on the 40-man roster who have cleared waivers;
  2. Pull him back not not trade him, thus being stuck with his salary the rest of the seaosn ($4.1-$4.25 million);
  3. They can just let Ramirez go to the White Sox for nothing but salary relief.

With the Dodgers just five games back in the wild card race, GM Ned Colletti might not be so quick to trade Ramirez.

This would be foolish. Ramirez has been injured much of the season and can barely field his position anymore. The Dodgers aren't too likely to offer Ramirez arbitration following the season, so getting whatever they can for him would be the smart move.

The Dodgers need minor league catching depth. The White Sox have a few catchers of interest, including Tyler Flowers. However, Flowers is on the 40-man roster and can't be traded without clearing waivers (which he wouldn't). Josh Phegley is another option. He's 22 and has had a taste of Double-A, which means he isn't too far away.

Third baseman Brent Morel could also be an option. He's 23 and in Triple-A right now, where he's putting up a solid .323/.353/.502 line. Third base is also a weakness within the Dodger system, so Morel would make sense.

Frankly, anything the Dodgers get in return for Ramirez is a plus. His days in the National League are numbered. The ride was good while it lasted -- or at least until Ramirez was busted for a banned substance. A return to the American League will do him some good and extend his career two or three more years.

Let's just hope the Dodgers' recent "hot streak" does not deter them from doing the right thing -- trading Manny Ramirez to the White Sox.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Vin Scully to return, Dodgers pick up Barajas

I try to avoid calling people I don't know personally by their first name. I try my best not to call Manny Ramirez, "Manny."

When it comes to Vin Scully, that rule goes out the window -- and he probably wouldn't have it any other way.

Vin announced he's going to return to the Dodger broadcast booth for the 2011 season. He is finishing up his unprecedented 61st year in the broadcast booth.

This is quite possibly the best news of the entire season. The day Vin retires will be a sad day for Dodger baseball -- not only because Vin is a legend and the best broadcaster of all time, but his replacement options are not promising.

Mr. Scully, thank you for your continued service and keep up the great work. You are a joy and pleasure to listen to.


The Dodgers claimed Mets' catcher Rod Barajas off waivers, as the combination of Brad Ausmus and A.J. Ellis isn't exactly getting the job done since Russell Martin's season ended earlier this month.

Barajas is hitting .225/.263/.414 this season, which is quite the upgrade to the Ausmus-Ellis duo. Barajas started the season off by hitting 11 home runs in the first two months of the season (.269/.292/.551 overall) before hitting .168 for the last two months. He has all of three at-bats this month.

The Dodgers are not giving up anything but money in this deal, which isn't much, as Barajas' 2010 salary is $500,000.

The Dodgers are just stubborn. I know Ellis isn't the catcher of the future, but there wasn't much reason to pick up Barajas. This coming from the team that probably can't wait to move Manny Ramirez.

The Dodgers have long since been out of it, even if they aren't mathematically eliminated yet.

The move gives the Dodgers another option behind the plate. Barajas will get the majority of the starts for the remained of the season.


The Tampa Bay Rays might take a chance on Manny Ramirez when he hits the waiver wire, says St. Petersburg Times Rays' beat writer Marc Topkin.

The Rays currently have the second-best record in the Majors. To get him, a team like the Chicago White Sox would have to pass on claiming him. Then the Rays could either claim him and work out a deal (or the Dodgers could let Ramirez and his reamining $4 million go to Tampa) for Ramirez. This is assuming Ramirez clears all the National League teams first, which will assuredly happen.

It's hard to tell what teams are going to do. The White Sox could claim him to help their chances, which would keep the Rays from grabbing him.

The waiver trade deadline is Aug. 31.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Dodgers sign Zach Lee, three others

This is a bit of good news on top of another Dodger late-inning meltdown -- this time to the Braves. The Dodgers led 3-1 going into the 9th. Hong-Chih Kuo retired the side in the 8th on seven pitches. He then proceeded to load the bases (recording one out) before Octavio Dotel came in with his gas can and allowed three runners to score.

Anyway, onto the good news.

The Dodgers shocked a lot of people by signing first-round pick RHP Zach Lee on Monday prior to the 9 p.m. Pacific deadline.

Lee, who was committed to play football and baseball at LSU, signed for an undisclosed bonus. Update 1: Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times says the bonus is $5.25 million spread out over five years, which is nearly $3 million more than Clayton Kershaw got in 2006 ($2.3 million). It was the largest bonus for a Dodger draftee (Hiroki Kuroda got $7.3 million in 2008 as part of a Major League contract). Update 2: Steve Henson of Yahoo! Sports says Lee is giving up football.

Immediate speculation was the Dodgers' had punted the pick by choosing perhaps the most unsignable player in the draft.

Lee profiles as a No. 2 or No. 3 starter. He has a four-seam fastball that sits in the low 90s with a little movement. He has touched 95 mph and if he can sustain that as a starter, he could valut into No. 1- or 2-starter territory because of his surprising polish. He also has a low 80s slider. Lee's best pitch might be his changeup, which calls "Major League average right now." It has a chance to be a plus pitch for him. Lee, like many of the Dodger high school draftees (Billingsley, Kershaw, Withrow, Martin) is projectable with a strong frame (6'4, 195 lbs.).

This is a nice coup for the Dodgers. I, like many, doubted the Dodgers would sign Lee when he was chosen. I'm glad to say I was wrong. There hasn't been a whole lot to get excited about recently for the Dodgers. However, this would be a spot of good news and go a long way to start rebuilding the farm system after 2-3 years of minimal spending. I would rank Lee in the Dodgers' top 20 for sure and potentially the top 15.


The Dodgers also signed 11th-round pick OF Joc Pederson to a deal Monday, which inludes a $600,000 signing bonus, or four times the recommended slot value for an 11th rounder.

Pederson was commited to USC but passed up the opportunity to be a Trojan to be a Dodger. The Dodgers have a glut of outfield prospects, but the toolsy Pederson will need some time to develop. Baseball America says his tools are potentially average or better. We could be looking at a top 10 Dodger prospect in a couple of years.

The Dodgers also signed two more outfielders -- 21st-rounder Noel Cuveas and 26th-round pick Scott Schebler to a contract with a $300,000 bonus. The Dodgers spent more than $1 million in bonuses for guys drafted in the 11th round and later. It only made sense for them to ink Lee to a deal. The Dodger farm system got much stronger today.


Former Dodger draftee Kyle Blair signed with the Cleveland Indians for $580,000 today. The Dodgers grabbed him in the fifth round of the 2007 draft and BA considered him one of the best pitch high school pitching prospects. He fell to the fifth round because of signability issues. The Indians took a chance on him in the fourth round this year.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Still backing Broxton... for now

I haven't written many, if any, blogs about the polarizing Jonathan Broxton. I figured after tonight's meltdown, now is the time.

I've been on the supporting side of the Broxton debate. He had the numbers to warrant such support. From 2006-2009, he was flat-out dominant: 2.79 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 11.8 K/9, 6.8 H/9 and a 3.49 K/BB ratio. The 2010 season started off great for Broxton, as he didn't allow a single run in nine April appearances, posting a 14:1 K/BB ratio and a .133 opponents batting average. Broxton gave up four runs (three earned) in 14 May appearances and was still his dominant self: 21:2 K/BB ratio and a 1.84 ERA to go along with 12 saves. He was still rolling along in June (9 1/3 innings, 8 hits, 13:2 K:BB, 3 saves).

Then June 27 came around. That was the infamous "Yankee" game. He entered the game with a four-run lead only to allow the Bronx Bombers to tie it. The Dodgers would lose the game in the 10th inning.

Since that time, Broxton has been downright awful. He's 1-3 with 7.90 ERA, .308 opp. BA and a 12:11 K:BB ratio.

Some argue Broxton doesn't have the mental toughness to be a top flight closer. I don't buy into that theory. That is one aspect of closing that is completely overblown by the fans and media alike.

Broxton has been a top flight closer since he took over for the injured Takashi Saito in 2008. He was a top flight closer for the better part of three months this season. In this day of "What have you done for me lately?" people seem to forget all the good Broxton has done.

As for his postseason struggles, well, that boils down to two pitches (the one to Stairs and the one to Rollins). Kind of a small sample size, wouldn't you say? But fans and the media will focus on that because it was in the playoffs -- right or not.

Despite my backing and positive thinking when it comes to Broxton, I cannot defend him tonight. While he didn't get much help from his 'mates (I'm looking at you Ronald Belisario and Casey Blake), he was still staked to a three-run lead facing a depleated Philadelphia lineup. Broxton did not record a single out while giving up four runs and the game. He hadn't pitched since Saturday, so I'm almost certain Broxton would take the mound regardless of the situation -- it just happened to be a save opportunity. I mean, when you walk Mike Sweeney by throwing a 3-2 slider that was nowhere near the strike zone, you knew it wasn't going to be a good night.

Dodger fans were spoiled for nearly 6 years with the closing combination of Eric Gagne and Saito. That is definitely a part of why people are so quick to criticize Broxton when he as a bad game. However, there aren't many, if any, who can defend him after this debacle.

Having said all that, Broxton is still the best closer option on this team. If Hong-Chih Kuo had the ability to pitch two or three days in a row, things might be different. Unfortunately, Broxton has lost the command on his pitches. When he's bad, he's baaaad. His velocity dipped a little in the middle of the season, but he was hitting 98 mph on the gun tonight, so we know he isn't hurt. His slider did not have the kind of bite it needed. While he's throwing slightly more sliders this season, he has completely abandoned the changeup. But none of that matters if he can't throw strikes with his fastball.

With all pitchers, though, it always comes back to command and location. Broxton simply does not have it right now.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Most surprising Dodger players and prospects

This is the Yin to Monday's Yang. With the Dodgers playing a little better of late and giving us false hope, I present to you my three most surprising Dodger major leaguers and prospects.

MLB Players

LHP Hong-Chih Kuo

- Kuo is as dominant as he's ever been. The Taiwanese lefty has a 0.93 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 11.2 K/9, 3.69 K/BB ratio and an ERA+ of 420 (league-average is 100). He's been especially dominant against left-handed hitters, as he's allowed two hits to them all season. Two! That's good for a .049 average. He's allowed five lefties to reach base in 45 plate appearances. The most surprising part is he's been healthy the entire season. Here's hoping he keeps it up.

SS Rafael Furcal

- After a dismal 2009 in which he played through injury, Furcal has been one of the team's most valuable players. His slash line is .316/.380/.492/.872 -- all career highs (not counting his 36-game 2008 season). However, he has been on the disabled list once and was just placed on the DL again after last night's game. I'm betting Furcal doesn't play a game for the rest of the season.

INF Jamey Carroll

- I was upset at this signing when it first came down, as I didn't think spending nearly $4 million for two years of a utility player was the smartest thing, considering the Dodgers' financial woes. But this signing has been terrific. While he's hitting an empty .276, he has a .3734 OBP and has the highest walk percentage of any Dodger (min. 250 PA) at 13.6 percent. He's played solid defense and has done everything asked of him (even play left field). He'll be getting the bulk of playing time at shortstop for the injured Furcal.

Just missed
: Vicente Padilla


OF Trayvon Robinson

- After a breakout 2009, Robinson valuted himself into many top 10 Dodger prospect lists, including my own. Some we skeptical that he could continue to improve, especially against advanced competiton (Double-A). So far, Robinson has not disappointed. He has a .312/.409/.456./.856 line with 32 stolen bases. His walk rate is up (from 10 percent to 13.2 percent). His power has gone down, but only a little. He profiles as a solid center fielder. At worse, he's a serviceable fourth outfielder.

RHP (Carl) Allen Webster
- Webster came from out of nowhere last season to establish himself as one of the Dodgers' top RHP prospects. He is proving his 2009 was no fluke. He has a 2.50 ERA and 1.31 WHIP as a 20-year-old in Class-A ball. His K/9 is down from last year (10.1 to 7.9), but that's to be expected. He can still get a strikeout when he needs it. Webster has yet to be promoted, but I wouldn't be shocked if he gets promoted to High-A or Double-A before season's end.

RHP Matt Magill

- Magill is quickly becoming one of my favorite Dodger prospects. He's paired with Webster in the Great Lakes rotation and, like Webster, Magill is just 20 years old. He has a 3.36 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 9.5 K/9 and a low 6.7 H/9 ratio. If he has a good or great 2011, he could head a Dodger prospect list in 2012. He was in my midseason top 20 and barring a major meltdown or acquisition via trade, Magill is a lock for my top 10.

Just missed
: RHP Rubby De La Rosa

Monday, August 9, 2010

Most disappointing players and prospects

The 2010 season, while not over, has been a disappointment for the Dodgers. Despite not making any major moves in the off-season, the core of a 95-win team returned. Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier were coming off career seasons and Clayton Kershaw established himself as a top-of-the-rotation pitcher.

But it just hasn't come together as some thought it would, and should, have.

This is a list of my three most disappointing players and prospects in the Dodger organization.

MLB players

C Russell Martin
- I have railed on Martin enough, but suffice it to say, he has been going downhill for the last nearly three years. And now he's out for the rest of the season.

3B Casey Blake
- Blake has performed like one would expect a 36-year-old third basemen to perform. After a solid .280/.363/.468/.832 line in 2009, Blake has completely fallen off from those numbers. He's putting up .247/.324/.401/.725 this season while striking out in 26.1 percent of his at-bats, which is up from 22.4 percent for his career. His WAR was a surprising 6.1 last season. This year, it's 1.3. There's no doubt he's been one of the most disappointing.

RHP Ronald Belisario
- A key cog in the Dodger bullpen in 2009, Belisario was late getting into big league camp because of Visa issues. Then just when it seemed he was getting back to the 2009 Belisario, he is placed on the restricted list for unknown reasons (rumors are it was for substance/alcohol abuse). If Belisario had been a steady contributor to the 'pen, the Dodgers might not have had to waste resources on Octavio Dotel. He is slated to come back Tuesday in Philadelphia. He has nearly two months to win over the management.

Just missed: RHP Ramon Troncoso


RHP Chris Withrow
- Withrow was my No. 3 prospect coming into the season and No. 2 by Baseball America. He had a taste of Double-A last year (27 1/3 innings, 8.6 K/9, 3.95 ERA), but his full season in Double-A is a tad disconcerting. His numbers are worse across the board: ERA up to 5.29; WHIP up to 1.61; K/BB down to 1.73; K/9 down to 8.6; H/9 up to 9.6; BB/9 up to 4.9. One thing he has working in his favor is his age. He's only 21 and playing against advanced competition. Next season will determine whether or not he's a future No. 2 starter.

RHP Ethan Martin
- Martin has disappointed much like Withrow. At A+ Inland Empire, Martin is putting up worse numbers than Withrow -- 5.61 ERA, 1.67 WHIP; 1.4 K/BB, 8.2 K/9, 9.1 H/9, 5.9 BB/9 -- at a lower level. Like Withrow, Martin is just 21 years old, so he has time to turn it around. However, he has a lot of work to do to get back to elite prospect status (was No. 2 on my Top 30 and No. 9 on my Midseason Top 15).

RHP Josh Lindblom
- Lindblom went from potentially making the major league roster out of Spring Training in 2009 to regressing mightily in Triple-A. He is strictly working out of the bullpen now, which is where most predicted he'd end up. He has a lofty 6.18 ERA, 1.78 WHIP and a scary 12.9 H/9 at Albuquerque. He dropped from No. 4 on my list in November to outside the top 15 on my midseason list. Despite the troubles, he still has a chance to be a solid MLB reliever.

Just missed: OF Kyle Russell

I'm not all doom-and-gloom, though. Stay tuned later in the week for my most surprising list -- both major leaguers and prospects.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Russell Martin done for season, Adam Dunn claimed by Dodgers?

Is he done with the Dodgers?

With his failure to slide into home plate on a sacrifice fly attempt on Tuesday night, Russell Martin effectively ended his season, and potentially his Dodger career.

Martin's poor performance is well-documented (not just by this blog). That, coupled with his rising price tag ($5.05 million this year, could rise to more than $6 million in 2011 before unrestricted free agency in 2012) is reason to believe the Dodgers might go in another direction behind the dish.

Two years ago, no one would have thought this was a remote possibility. Now, it makes a lot of sense.
The in-house alternatives leave much to be desired. A.J. Ellis is organizational depth at best and the rest of the Dodger catching prospects are in the low minors -- none of whom are impressive.

And no, trading Lucas May was still not a bad move. He is potentially much better with the bat than Ellis, but his defense leaves a ton to be desired. Ellis definitely has the edge in defense.

The free agent alternatives are decent. The best of the bunch appears to be John Buck, who made the American League All-Star team as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays this season. Other candidates include Miguel Olivo (club option) and Yorvit Torrealba (mutual option), Josh Bard and Gerald Laird. The Dodgers, if they chose to ditch Martin, could also look for a replacement via trade -- either major leaguers or minor leaguers close to the majors.

Martin, once a fan-favorite, is now no more than a Punch 'n Judy hitter with a decent -- not great -- glove. This guy was destined for stardoom after his first season. Everyone thought he was the Dodgers' catcher for the next 10-12 years. Fans and the like wanted the Dodgers to lock him up long-term. Martin's agent wouldn't have any of that. In hindsight, that might be a good thing.

5:11 p.m. update: Martin's career path is eerily similar to Jason Kendall, who was considered one of the best catchers in the NL early in his career. Thanks to Scanman33 for bringing this to my attention.

Data courtesy of Fangraphs. The first graph is each player's wOBA by year (Martin is green, Kendall is orange, league-average is blue) and the second is each player's wOBA by age. Martin actually started declining quicker than Kendall.

Whatever happens, Martin's tenure as a Dodger has been up and down, with it being down for the last 2 1/2 years. He'll definitely catch on (pardon the pun) with another team (Boston?). However, his days wearing No. 55 in Dodger Blue could -- and should -- be coming to an end.


Dunn claimed by LA?

Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reported the Giants were not awarded the waiver claim on Washington Nationals' 1B/OF Adam Dunn.

"My speculation on who got the waiver claim, and you can call this an educated guess based on some things I heard around the league: It was the Dodgers."

With Manny Ramirez still down, Dunn seems like a viable replacement. However, the Nats were asking for a ransom prior to the July 31 trade deadline, so there's no reason to expect he gets traded now. The Dodgers won't give up the necessary prospects it would take to get him and the Nats aren't going to let him go for salary relief, as they'll either sign him to an extension in the off-season or collect two first-round picks as compensation because of Dunn's Type-A status.

The Dodgers are all but out of the race, so this move is just to block other NL West teams (SF and San Diego) from putting a claim in on him.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Dodgers have an ace

The Dodgers have an ace. His name is Clayton Kershaw.

I made a similar declaration nearly one year ago to the day, with the hope Kershaw would realize his potential. He definitely has. And he's only going to continue improving.

Despite the Dodger offense scoring only 3.9 runs per game, the big lefty is 10-6 on the season for a reeling Dodger team. Even his brilliance could not stop the Dodgers from getting swept by the Wild Card-leading and arch-rival Giants on Sunday, in spite of stupid managerial decisions by Joe Torre (see: Three intentional walks, including one to Aaron Rowand with two outs and a runner on second base in the sixth inning).

The numbers say Kershaw should have a better record. He could easily have 13 or 14 wins by now, because wins are all that matter when evaluating pitchers, right? The funny thing is, the 10 wins this season surpassed his career-high of eight, which he posted in 2009.

Kershaw is an ace -- there's no doubt about that. His 2.94 ERA and 1.23 WHIP are lower than that of reigning two-time NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum. Kershaw's 3.9 BB/9 is down by nearly a one walk from 2009 (4.8 to 3.9), and he isn't sacrificing strikeouts, as he has a 9.4 K/9 rate. He also has the sixth-best Wins Above Replacement rate (3.3) in the NL amongst pitchers.

Kershaw on pace for a career-high 211 innings. His repeatable delievery allows him to pitch deeper into games. He averaged 5.7 innings per start in '09 -- that number is up to 6.25 this season. That, coupled with the lower BB/9, is encouraging for a 22-year-old.

He has a better pitches per plate appearance (P/PA) rate than NL Cy Young frontrunner Josh Johnson (3.99 to 4.01) and better pitches per innings pitched rate (P/IP) than Brewer fireballer and All-Star Yovani Gallardo.

The kid is becoming a pitcher, not just a thrower. If the Dodgers could start scoring some runs, they might not be mired in this five-game (soon to be six-game) losing streak. The team is falling like a rock, but they have a rock heading the rotation in Kershaw.

With Chad Billingsley pitching well of late, there's still hope these two will anchor the Dodger rotation for the next five years. The addition of a top-flight starter in the off-season (Cliff Lee, finally???) could give the Dodgers the best 1-2-3 in the National League -- if not the majors.

Logic would dictate the Dodgers would have some money to play with in the off-season, as Hiroki Kuroda's and Vicente Padilla's contracts will be coming off the books. Manny Ramirez's contract will be as well (perhaps before Aug. 31), but he is still owed a lot of money in deferred payments.

However, the ownership situation could prevent the Dodgers from again adding some much-needed star power in the off-season.

But make no mistake: The Dodgers don't need an ace; they already have one. They need a complimentary piece to the puzzle. If that's a Cliff Lee or Zack Greinke, that would be great.

I'm sure I'll be authoring another "Kershaw is an ace" piece in about a year. Here's hoping it'll also include a case for him winning the 2011 NL Cy Young Award and leading the Dodgers back to the playoffs.