Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Dodgers have decisions to make with arbitration-eligible players

Some Dodgers are going to get paid handsomely in arbitration this year. For this team, money is of little object. They'll pay most, if not all, of their arbitration-eligible players while adding significant pieces via the free agent- and trade-market.

Matt Swartz of MLB Trade Rumors projects arbitration numbers every year, and the projections are usually spot-on. The Dodgers have seven arbitration-eligible players this year.

Clayton Kershaw - $18.25 million
Kenley Jansen - $4.8 million
A.J. Ellis - $3.2 million
Ronald Belisario - $2.3 million
Drew Butera - $700,000
Scott Elbert - $600,000
Mike Baxter - $500,000

Kershaw should get a long-term contract worth more money than you and I will ever see (combined) and Jansen's salary is escalating in line with elite relievers (Craig Kimbrel is due $7.25 million this season, which is probably what Jansen will make in arbitration next winter).

Of the five remaining, I could conceivably see the Dodgers jettisoning Butera and Baxter (who was acquired last month after the Dodgers designated Alex Castellanos for assignment), but the catching depth is so thin that Butera might be safe (and have a home in Albuquerque).

Elbert could also be a victim because he's recovering from three surgeries in less than a calendar year. He's due back midseason. If he's anywhere near healthy, he could have some value going forward.

The biggest question in my eyes is Belisario. He was having a decent season through the end of August (with some significant bumps in the road), posting a 3.18 ERA and a .268 batting average against (not great) in 56 2/3 innings. He was used a lot (64 appearances through the end of August), and he broke down in September. He posted a 7.94 ERA, .302 BAA, .842 OPS against and had a horrific 7:3 walk-to-strikeout ratio in 11 1/3 innings.

He went from somewhat reliable to completely unreliable, and that was no different in the playoffs.

He's set to make $2.3 million this winter, but that money could be better spent with an in-house option like Jose Dominguez or Yimi Garcia. The Dodgers wouldn't dare get rid of a "proven veteran" reliever, but it'd be a nice, forward-thinking move for the team.

The Dodgers have 32 spots on the 40-man roster filled up as we speak. Non-tendering Baxter and Belisario could be a way to free up room (and a little money), if they need it.

Photo credit: Keith Allison, Wikimedia Commons

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