Saturday, October 30, 2010

2010 Los Angeles Dodger off-season preview, part IV

When I was writing part three -- potential free agent targets -- I saw it was getting a bit long after just the position players. So this part of the off-season preview is about potential free agent targets on the pitching market.

The biggest prize, despite his putrid Game 1 performance against the Giants, is Cliff Lee. He has the best control in baseball (10.28 K:BB ratio) and shows up in the playoffs. In theory, the Dodgers should be all over this guy, especially after failed attempts to trade for him in the past. However, these are the Frank McCourt Los Angeles Dodgers, where money is apparently a factor in the second-largest media market in the country. But I digress.

Right now, the Dodgers have three quality starting pitchers under contract: Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley and Ted Lilly. If the season started today, guys like John Ely and Carlos Monasterios would fill out the Dodger rotation. Truthfully, the Dodgers can only have one of those guys in the rotation at worst.

So the Dodgers are definitely in the market for a starter or two. Here's a look at who's available and who might be worth a signing.

Starting Pitchers
Hiroki Kuroda, LA
11-13, 3.39 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 7.3 K/9
- Kuroda had his best season as a Major Leaguer in 2010. He battled injuries but was still able to log a career-high 196.1 innings while posting the lowest ERA of his career. When the Dodgers re-signed Lilly, it effectively took them out of the Kuroda sweepstakes -- unfortunately. Kuroda will be 36 years old by the time the season starts and odds are he'll return to Japan.

Vicente Padilla, LA
6-5, 4.07 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 8.0 K/9
- I wasn't exactly a fan when the Dodgers first brought Padilla over in late 2009, but before a few poor starts toward the end of his season, Padilla was one of the biggest surprises for the Dodgers. He returned to the Dodgers in 2010 on a 1-year, $5.025 million contract with performance bonuses (none of which he reached). He was only able to log 95 innings, though, which is a concern. If the Dodgers could get him back at a cheap rate with incentives, it'd be worth a look.

Kevin Millwood, BAL
4-16, 5.10 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, 6.2 K/9
- Millwood is coming off the worst season of his career after a solid 2009 with Texas. He isn't the pitcher he once was, but he could fit well into the back of the rotation as an innings-eater (has averaged 189 innings a season since 1998). Millwood made $12 million last season and probably will not be offered arbitration by the Orioles. If the Dodgers could nab him at a deal similar to Padilla, it might be worth a chance.

Carl Pavano, MIN
17-12, 3.75 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 4.8 K/9
- Pavano came out of nowhere in 2010 after four putrid seasons with the Yankees, Indians and half a season with the Twins. He'll be 35 years old before the season and there's no guarantee he'll repeat his 2010 performance. He signed a 1-year, $7 million contract with the Twins last year and I wouldn't be surprised if he signs for more than that this winter. He is a Type-A free agent, which could hurt him if Minnesota offers arbitration.

Jake Westbrook, CLE-STL
10-11, 4.22 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 5.7 K/9
- Westbrook seemed to fit right in with the Cardinals after being traded to St. Louis at the trade deadline. He performed significantly better in the National League than the American League. He is coming off a 3-year, $33 million contract and could net something in the $8- to $10 million/year annually. I wouldn't be surprised if he stays in St. Louis (perhaps at a discount).

Others: Erik Bedard*, SEA; Justin Duchscherer, OAK; Aaron Harang*, CIN; Rich Harden*, TEX; Ben Sheets, OAK; Brandon Webb, ARI
- The common theme with all these guys -- they're all projects. All are coming off injuries or poor performances. A guy like Duchscherer could be a nice risk for the Dodgers.

What to do: At least one starting pitcher must be signed so the Dodgers don't have to go with two unproven arms in the rotation. I suspect another starter will be explored via trade.

The Dodgers always seem to find a way to fill out the bullpen with quality arms (Troncoso, Bellisario, etc.), so signing free agent relievers doesn't seem like the smartest allocation of resources. With Kenley Jansen emerging and Hong-Chih Kuo dominating, the Dodgers have two quality relievers. And if Jonathan Broxton returns to form (which I think he will), the Dodgers will be in great shape in the 'pen.

I'm not including guys like Mariano Rivera, Rafael Soriano or Brian Fuentes as they are likely to get closing jobs elsewhere (Rivera will stay in New York or retire).

Relief Pitchers

Scott Downs, TOR
5-5, 2.64 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 7.0 K/9

- Downs has been one of Toronto's best relievers since 2007. He's a quality left-handed arm out of the 'pen who can get lefties and righties out. The one thing that will hurt his stock is he's a Type-A free agent and Toronto is quite likely to offer him arbitration. If Toronto doesn't, for some reason, a lot of teams will be in line for his services.

Pedro Feliciano, NYM
3-6, 3.30 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, 8.0 K/9
- Feliciano is nothing if not durable. He has led the Majors in relief appearances each of the last three years (average: 88.7 appearances). And he has a 3.44 ERA and 8.5 K/9 rate in those three years. He's a valuable lefty out of the bullpen and could be a hot commodity on the market. He's a Type-B free agent.

J.J. Putz, CWS
7-5, 2.83 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 10.8 K/9
- After a poor and injury-riddled 2009, Putz seemed to return to form in 2010. He signed a $3 million contract with the White Sox last winter and is primed to improve on that. He has a mid-90s fastball and a nasty upper-80s splitter. He could be an asset to any bullpen, but he's probably priced out of the Dodgers' range. He is also a Type-B free agent.

Others: Jeremy Affeldt, SF; Grant Balfour, TB; Jason Frasor, TOR; Kevin Gregg, TOR; Chad Qualls, TB
- Affeldt could be worth a look, but the Giants aren't likely to let him go. Qualls has good stuff but was downright awful last season. Gregg had a solid season as the Jays' closer.

What to do: Unless the Dodgers can get one of the better relievers at a great price, just pass and patch the 'pen with young guys or non-roster invitees.

Next up: Potential trade targets

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

2010 Los Angeles Dodger off-season preview, part III

Editor's note: I've decided to extend this to a five-part series. The added element is free agent pitching targets. Basically, I'm dividing up the free agent section of the series.

This Dodger off-season is just as unsure as the last. The team did not sign any big free agents during the 2009 winter and despite General Manager Ned Colletti's statement the Dodgers would raise payroll, I wouldn't hold my breath, especially after signing Lilly to a $33 million, 3-year contract.

But still, it's fun to speculate.

The Dodgers need power. Period. Andre Ethier seemed primed to break out before breaking his pinkie early in the season. Matt Kemp regressed and James Loney's power may never develop. Casey Blake, despite hitting 17 home runs, had a down year.

Here are some of free agent position players the Dodgers could be interested in.

Catcher - This is only a need if the Dodgers non-tender Martin. They could go with the in-house platoon of Rod Barajas and A.J. Ellis, which wouldn't be that far-fetched.
John Buck, TOR
.281/.314/.489, 20 HR, 66 RBI
- Buck is the consolation prize in the catcher market, which makes it unlikely the Dodgers will make a play for him. He made the All-Star team this season, but only played in 118 games.
Victor Martinez, BOS
.302/.351/.493, 20 HR, 79 RBI
- Martinez is the prize. He's destined for first base in the future, but he has another season or two left behind the dish. His bat is great, his glove isn't. And the Red Sox are probably going to keep him anyway.
Miguel Olivo*, COL
.269/.315/.449, 14 HR, 58 RBI
- Olivo isn't much of an upgrade for what he might get on the open market.

Others: Ramon Hernandez, CIN; A.J. Pierzynski, CWS; Jason Varitek, BOS
- Varitek could be worth a look as a backup. Hernandez and Pierzynski will get starting jobs elsewhere.

What to do: Go with Barajas and Ellis and invest the money Russell Martin would have made in another position.

First Base - This depends on whether or not the Dodgers decide to keep Loney in the fold.
Adam Dunn, WAS
.260/.356/.536, 38 HR, 103 RBI
- A poor defensive player overall, Dunn will command a multi-year, multi-million dollar deal on the open market. He could be signed to play left field, too.
Aubrey Huff, SF
.290/.385/.506, 26 HR, 86 RBI
- Huff enjoyed a great bounce-back season in 'Frisco. He isn't great with the glove, but he's acceptable. He can play a corner outfield position, if needed. The Giants probably won't let him get away.
Adam LaRoche, ARI
.261/.320/.468, 25 HR, 100 RBI
- LaRoche eclipsed his career-high in RBI (100), but he actually had one of his worst seasons since 2007, according to OPS+ (106 after 122 the previous three seasons).
Paul Konerko, CWS
.312/.393/.584, 39 HR, 111 RBI
- Konerko had a fantastic season. In fact, it was a career-best season for the one-time Dodger. He's entering his age-35 season, so a long-term deal for him is risky. I don't see the Dodgers being contenders for his services.

Others: Lyle Overbay, TOR; Carlos Pena, TB; Ty Wigginton, BAL
- Overbay isn't an upgrade over Loney, Pena cannot hit the ball and Wigginton is a platoon player.

I'm a Loney backer. However, after last season's second-half decline, I've lost a little confidence in him. I'd still rather the Dodgers improve elsewhere, as his glove is almost invaluable at first base.

What to do: Take a look at Dunn, but look to upgrade elsewhere.

Middle Infield - Almost anyone is an upgrade over Theriot, but the 2B crop is pretty awful this year. Furcal, unless traded, will be the Dodgers' opening day SS.
Mark Ellis*, OAK
.291/.358/.381, 5 HR, 49 RBI
- Ellis is a Gold Glove-caliber second baseman. However, he has a $6 million club option with Oakland, which is surprisingly affordable for the A's. It isn't guaranteed he'll have it picked up, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was.
Orlando Hudson, MIN
.268/.338/.372, 6 HR, 37 RBI
- The former Dodger will not be coming back to L.A. He had a down year in 2010 after returning to the American league.
Juan Uribe, SF
.248/.310/.440, 24 HR, 85 RBI
- I've seen other blogs mention Uribe as an acquisition. While it pains me to say it, he would be a good utility player. Like Huff, though, I'd be shocked if 'Frisco lets him go.
J.J. Hardy, MIN
.268/.320/.394, 6 HR, 38 RBI
- Hardy was an All-Star in Milwaukee and many thought a change of scenery to Minnesota would help. It did not. Hardy could be a valuable utility player, as he can play all three infield positions. This is one guy I'd really like the Dodgers to sign.

Others: Adam Kennedy, OAK; Jerry Hairston, Jr., SD; Bill Hall*, BOS; Jose Lopez*, SEA; Omar Infante*, ATL

What to do: I'd love to see Hardy in the fold as a super utility player, with most of his playing time coming at 2B. Hall, if he hits the market, could be that kind of guy, too. Theriot could return, but at a salary closer to what he earned in 2010.

Third Base - If the Dodgers spend big, it should be here... on an old friend.
Adrian Beltre*, BOS
.321/.365/.553, 28 HR, 102 RBI (AL-leading 49 2Bs)
- Beltre didn't put up 2004 numbers, but he was one of the best signings of last off-season. Not only did his bat return, but he is still one of the best defensive 3Bs in baseball. If the Dodgers want to bring in one big-time free agent, this should be the guy. He has a $10 million player option that he will almost certainly decline.
Jorge Cantu, FLA-TEX
.256/.304/.392, 11 HR, 56 RBI
- Cantu re-energized his career in Florida, but had a poor 2010. A trade to the soon-to-be-champion Texas Rangers (hopefully) didn't help his production. At this point, I'd rather just go with Blake for 135-140 games.
Brandon Inge, DET
.247/.321/.397, 13 HR, 70 RBI
- Inge isn't a prototypical 3B. He hasn't had an OPS+ of league-average since 2005 (when it was 100). His career OPS+ is 85, which isn't an improvement over Blake.
Aramis Ramirez*, CHC
.241/.294/.452, 25 HR, 83 RBI
- Ramirez had a woeful start to the 2010 season. However, when the Cubs came to L.A. before the All-Star Break, he started to heat up. He has a player option for 2011 and team option for 2012 -- he's not going anywhere.
Miguel Tejada, BAL-SD
.269/.312/.381, 15 HR, 71 RBI
- Tejada is in the twilight of his career. He's best suited for utility duty. He isn't much of a third-base option for L.A.

Others: Pedro Feliz, HOU-STL; Maicer Izturis, ANA; Melvin Mora, COL
- None of these guys would be an upgrade over Blake. Izturis is sure to be a hot commodity in the utility man market.

What to do: Beltre or bust. It's that simple.

Outfield - With Kemp (if he isn't traded) and Ethier, the Dodgers need just one more outfielder. Scott Podesednik is the odds-on favorite to be the starting left fielder, despite it being the wrong move.
Carl Crawford, TB
.307/.356/.495, 19 HR, 90 RBI
- After Cliff Lee, Crawford is the best free agent available. He will get a huge contract from another team -- potentially the Red Sox or Angels. He'd look great in Dodger Blue, but it isn't happening.
Johnny Damon, DET
.271/.355/.401, 8 HR, 51 RBI
- At this stage in his career, Damon wouldn't be much of an upgrade of Podsednik. He likes Detroit and it's likely he'll stay there.
Vladimir Guerrero*, TEX
.300/.345/.496, 29 HR, 115 RBI
- Maybe if this were 2004. Vlad seems to have found a new home in Texas.
Jayson Werth, PHI
.296/.388/.532, 27 HR, 85 RBI (NL-leading 46 2Bs)
- Another former Dodger, eh? Ironically, he might be the best fit of all. However, his time in L.A. didn't end well and it remains to be seen if he would return... and if Frank McCourt would pay what it would cost to land Werth. His home-road splits since going to Philadelphia are cause for future success, though (2010 OPS: .999 at home, .838 on the road).

Others: Pat Burrell, TB-SF; Coco Crisp*, OAK; Brad Hawpe, COL-TB; Xavier Nady, CHC; Marcus Thames, NYY
- Burrell, Nady and Thames would be right-handed platoon partners with a lefty (Podsednik?), Crisp (if he hits the open market) would shore up the outfield defense (Kemp to RF, Ethier to LF) and Hawpe wouldn't be able to do damage against the Dodgers.

What to do: Gauge Werth's interest if the Dodgers fail to land Beltre. Otherwise, just go with a lefty-righty platoon in left field -- preferably with Thames as the righty.

Next up: Free agent targets - pitchers

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:

Martin - $5.05M
Sherrill - $4.5M

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

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

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

2010 Los Angeles Dodger off-season preview, part I

Like last year, I'm going to break down the Los Angeles Dodgers' off-season into four parts: Dodger free agents, arbitration-eligible players, potential free agent targets and potential trade targets.

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

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Dodgers close to inking Lilly to 3-year deal

The ever reliable Ken Rosenthal... (I'll wait while you stop laughing)... tweeted that the Dodgers are close to re-signing Ted Lilly to a 3-year contract. The Los Angeles Times' Dylan Hernandez confirmed the deal (physical pending).

Well, this kind of throws a monkey into my off-season preview, which was set to kickoff next week.

Lilly was really good for the Dodgers after coming over from the Cubs at the trade deadline. The only thing he struggled with was giving up home runs. He gave up 13 in 76 2/3 innings, good for fourth-most on the Dodgers and his 1.53 HR/9 rate tied Carlos Monasterios for highest on the club.

But this move is awfully reminiscent of the Casey Blake re-signing two years ago. The Dodgers rushed to re-sign Blake and they're now paying the price. Lilly is in a different position, but I can't help but make that comparison.

When it comes down to it, I think I might rather have Hiroki Kuroda back over Lilly for roughly the same price -- speculation is $10 to $12 million annually.

Then again, I'm partial to Kuroda. He had the best season of his career in 2010 and will be 36 in February. Lilly will be 35 headed into the 2011 season and has less injury concerns than Kuroda.

I wasn't crazy about the Lilly acquisition at first, but the saving grace was the chance at collecting draft picks. Now, that doesn't seem likely.

Unless Frank McCourt strikes oil in Chavez Ravine, the Dodgers probably won't offer Kuroda arbitration.

Offering Lilly arbitration would have been a no-brainer to me. He's probably a little more attractive on the open market than Kuroda, meaning the Dodgers could have gotten two first-round picks (or one first and one second).

The first domino of the Dodger off-season is close to falling. But one has to wonder: How many more dominoes do the Dodgers have left?

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Dodgers, Matt Kemp and a trade

Matt Kemp is possibly the most talented position player the Los Angeles Dodgers have ever had. His raw talent and ability is second to none. He was once compared to Manny Ramirez with much, much better defense while coming up through the minors.

So why do I get the sinking feeling he will not be a Dodger in 2011 and beyond? There are a lot of reasons:
  • His "I don't care" attitude, blown way out of proportion by the media
  • Ned Colletti seemingly just does not like the guy
  • Dave Stewart, his agent, made some disparaging comments about Colletti's criticism
  • Kemp, despite being locked in at an affordable rate, is getting nearly a $3 million raise
  • The divorce proceedings of the McCourts are no help
  • He is the most valuable trade chip this side of Clayton Kershaw and Andre Ethier
The Washington Post reported the Nationals would have interest in Kemp if he were made available. You don't say? Who wouldn't be interested in an immensely talented 26-year-old center fielder coming off a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger in 2009?

In spite of all this, I'd say there's better than a 50 percent chance Kemp is traded this off-season. The only way I'd agree with such a move is if it brought equal value in return. However, that is never the case with a player coming off a down season.

Kemp, with his top-10 NL MVP voting finish in 2009, was primed for a huge season. He started off the 2001 campaign on fire only to fizzle out and finish with a .249/.310/.450 line. His strikeout rate increased, all his averages decreased and one of the most alarming stats -- his stolen base percentage plummeted. After going 69-for-88 (78.4 percent) in his last two seasons, he was 19-for-33 (57.6 percent) this season.

Trading Kemp would be a step backward for the Dodgers. He is far from the problem on a team that disappointed greatly this season. The numbers show it was a fluke. He even predicted a 40-40 season in 2011. This is assuming the Dodgers wouldn't get close to fair value.

Now, if the Cardinals come to the Dodgers and say, "We'll give you Albert Pujols in a deal involving Matt Kemp, James Loney and prospects," the Dodgers would be foolish not to explore a deal. But how likely is that?

A deal that could make sense for the Dodgers is a deal with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Rays' principle owner Stuart Sternberg said the team will cut payroll significantly. The Rays had a $72 million payroll this season. Sternberg wants that number around $50 million. The Rays are losing expensive veterans in Carl Crawford (who would look great in Dodger Blue, but that's a pipe dream), Rafael Soriano and Carlos Pena.

Still, the Rays would need to trim some salary.

So what about this proposal:

To Tampa Bay: Matt Kemp, Kyle Russell
To Los Angeles: B.J. Upton, Matt Garza

Why this works for Tampa: Garza made $3.35 million in 2010 and that number will go up (potentially to $6 or $7 million). Upton made $3 million in '10 and, like Garza, could see his salary jump to the $6 to $7 million range, annually. The Rays have a glut of young pitchers ready to take Garza's spot in the rotation -- Jeremy Hellickson, Wade Davis, Jeff Niemann (the latter two would move up in the rotation). Kemp would replace Upton in center field. Plus, Upton has had his work ethic called into question on more than one occasion. Kemp is slated to make $6.95 million in 2011 before one final year of arbitration. They also get a big-time power-hitting prospect in Russell.

Why this works for L.A.: Upton is incredibly talented -- perhaps even more than Kemp -- but he has yet to put it all together. However, his glove in center field would be an upgrade over Kemp. Garza could replace free agents Hiroki Kuroda, Ted Lilly and/or Vicente Padilla. The Dodgers, despite the ownership issues, are still in a better position to add salary than the Rays.

But back to reality. If a deal like the one outlined above went down, I don't think I'd be totally against it or pissed off. But with Kemp coming off a poor season, the Dodgers would have to view a deal that's close to equal value as a miracle.

I'm prepared for the Dodgers to trade Kemp. I probably won't agree with it, but I have mentally prepared myself for the seemingly inevitable day when I read on Twitter, "Kemp traded to TEAM." And you can bet when that day comes, I'll be here to bitch about the move -- or praise it. Yeah, right.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Dodger season ends, off-season awaits

First of all, my apologies for the tardy post.

The Los Angeles Dodgers' miserable season finally ended with an 80-82 record. After being in the NLCS the previous two seasons, this season left quite the bad taste in the fans' mouths. We're not used to the season ending at the beginning of October -- at least, not for the last couple seasons.

Many fans knew the season was over by the trade deadline, but it's too bad management didn't see it the same way. But, it's time to look toward the off-season. It begins with Don Mattingly taking over for Joe Torre. Mattingly began coaching his first games in the Arizona Fall League this week. While I'm not exactly thrilled with the managerial decision, I'm willing to give him a chance.

This off-season, clouded by the McCourt divorce proceedings, will be interesting. It isn't likely the team will add much payroll but will the Dodgers trade some of their arbitration-eligible players? More specifically, will they trade Matt Kemp?

There were reports last week saying the Washington Nationals would be interested in Kemp if he were "made available." I truly feel Kemp will not be a Dodger come 2011, even though it would be a foolish move on management's part. If the Dodgers can get fair value -- which isn't likely -- then trading him would be less painful. I will have an extended look at Kemp and his trade value in a future post.

Also in future posts, I will breakdown the off-season as I did last year in a four-part series.

It's going to be an interesting off-season. General Manager Ned Colletti is going to have to get creative, which doesn't bode well for the Dodgers or their fans. We'll see what happens.

Check back soon for my off-season preview series. Comments and Twitter followers are greatly appreciated.