The Dodgers are entering expensive territory with some of their arbitration eligible players. Before, guys like Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw and James Loney were making peanuts. Now, they're going to break the bank -- well, at least Kemp and Kershaw will.
The Dodgers have seven arbitration eligible players. Their 2011 base salaries are included.
Andre Ethier, $9.25M
Matt Kemp, $7.1M*
James Loney, $4.875M
Hong-Chih Kuo, $2.725M
Dana Eveland, $500,000 (estimated)
Tony Gwynn, $675,000
Clayton Kershaw, $500,000
*-Included here despite avoiding arbitration last year.
Ethier: The Dodgers certainly aren't going to non-tender Ethier, but the salary he earns in 2012 will be a substantial amount. If he had continued to perform at his career clip, he could be looking at a $12 or $13 million payday. Instead, he struggled mightily -- especially in the power department -- and that might actually help the Dodgers in terms of salary (but not much). He's looking at about a $10-11 million payday.
Kemp: If the Dodgers are smart, they'll offer Kemp a long-term contract this winter -- provided they have the money, of course. A 7-year, $140 million contract might get it done. MLB Trade Rumors is predicting Kemp to get a $16.3 million payday if he goes to arbitration, which would be a record, and I'm sure he'd be worth every penny. If the Dodgers can get him for $12-15 million in 2012, that'd be a nice get.
Loney: With a hot August and September, Loney might have convinced the Dodgers to tender him a contract. Prior to August, he was a surefire candidate to get non-tendered. I wouldn't be opposed to bringing him back. His glove is among the best in the game and there's still the potential to be a good Major League hitter. For $6 million, the Dodgers could do a lot worse.
Kuo: Before a few days ago, the Dodgers were going to have a tough time deciding whether to bring Kuo back or non-tender him. With his most recent surgery, it should be a no-brainer -- Kuo has thrown his last pitch with the Dodgers. It's a sad fall from just one year ago when Kuo was considered among the best relievers in the game. He has all the talent, but he just underwent his fifth elbow operation and the Dodgers can't afford to spend $3-4 million on a guy who might not pitch (or be effective) in 2012.
Eveland: Eveland pitched in September and did a solid job. However, there's a reason the Dodgers ended up with the "crafty" (i.e. junkballer) lefty -- he's not that good. Still, the Dodgers could offer him arbitration because he could start. With Rubby De La Rosa down for the majority of the 2012 season and Nathan Eovaldi's role still undefined, Eveland could be an innings-eater (not necessarily effective, though).
Gwynn: Tony, Jr. was a solid reserve outfielder for the Dodgers. He wasn't expected to do much with the bat, but he did play great defense and stole some bases. He should absolutely be offered arbitration. He could make upward of $1.5 million in the process.
Kershaw: Ahh, we're finally here. The potential National League Cy Young Award winner, Kershaw made $500,000 in 2011. He pitched like a $20-million pitcher. He won't make that much, but he could make as much as $8 million if he goes to arbitration.
Chad Billingsley would be on this list, but he signed a contract extension just before the 2011 season.
The Dodgers are going to have to pay handsomely to keep their two best players, which is just fine. They'd be smart to explore long-term deals, but it might not be feasible money-wise. They're going to have to pay a little more to keep Loney and Ethier than their worth, but they probably can't do much better at either position. Gwynn, if retained, will be worth his salary. Eveland could be a decent source of cheap innings. Kuo might just retire than try to come back from a fifth surgery on his elbow.
Next up: Free agent position players