Monday, November 4, 2013

Solid group of Dodgers' free agents led by Howell, Uribe and Wilson

When the Dodgers' season ended, the thought was the team wouldn't need a bunch of changes or other acquisitions. While the managerial situation is still officially unresolved, Don Mattingly is said to be back as the Dodgers' manager for 2014 (and hopefully beyond).

But the Dodgers have 12 free agents and some decisions to make on those guys, other free agents, international players and potential trade acquisitions.

Dodger free agents
Chris Capuano (option declined)
Mark Ellis (option declined)
Jerry Hairston
J.P. Howell
Carlos Marmol
Ricky Nolasco
Nick Punto
Skip Schumaker
Juan Uribe
Edinson Volquez
Brian Wilson
Michael Young

Both Capuano and Ellis had their options declined, and they were subsequently bought out ($1 million each). There's no reason to bring back guys like Hairston, Marmol, Schumaker and Volquez. I'd throw Young in there, but we all know how the Dodgers like their veteran players. Personally, I don't want him back.

So, that leaves Howell, Nolasco, Punto, Uribe and Wilson.

The left-hander had an excellent season out of the Dodger bullpen. He posted career-bests in ERA (2.18), fielding independent pitching (2.89), ground ball percentage (57.2) and home runs per nine innings pitched (0.3). Better yet, he was dominant against left-handed hitters, holding them to a .164 batting average against and a .452 OPS, fifth-best lefty vs. lefty mark in baseball. Howell is also durable (62 IP, 67 appearances) and can get right-handers out (.222/.312/.296). With Scott Elbert out until midseason, the Dodgers will need Howell to take pressure off Paco Rodriguez, who was bad for the last six weeks of the season. In my eyes, he's a must-re-sign player (at a reasonable cost, of course).
Verdict: Re-sign -- 2 years, $7 million

I was originally against a Nolasco acquisition, but the Dodgers paid pennies to get him, and it was pretty good, until the last few starts of the season. Nolasco posted a solid 3.52 ERA in 16 appearances (15 starts) as a Dodger. But he faltered late and didn't fare well in Game 4 of the NLCS -- his only postseason appearance. The Twins are reportedly interested in his services and will probably get a healthy deal on the open market. The Dodgers can do better on the open market.
Verdict: Don't re-sign

At one time this season, Punto was third among Dodger position players in WAR. That isn't a typo. As the season wore on, his effectiveness wore down. He finished the season as nearly a 2-win player. I wouldn't expect that kind of production in 2014 (or beyond), but his ability to play a decent shortstop (as well as second- and third base) make him valuable, even if he gets picked off second base in huge postseason situations.
Verdict: Re-sign -- 1 year, $1.5 million

If there was ever an example of a redemption story, it's Uribe, or "Uribear," as he was known for most of the 2013 season. While he was one of the worst Dodgers in his first two seasons in Blue, he was a 5-win player in 2013. His 5.1 WAR was seventh-best of any third baseman in baseball (right behind Adrian Beltre's 5.2 and well ahead of future Dodger Chase Headley's 3.6). He hit .278.331/.438 with 12 home runs, but his defense was Gold Glove-caliber (even if he was beaten out by Nolan Arenado) and among the league's best (and the best, in other categories). With the third base market (free agent and trade) wafer-thin, bringing back Uribe is a must. A 2-year deal wouldn't be bad, as long as he has a platoonmate.
Verdict: Re-sign -- 2 years, $10 million

Some questioned whether the Dodgers did the right thing by signing Wilson at the end of July. Well, Wilson made everyone believers again with a great -- albeit abbreviate -- 2013 campaign and a solid postseason showing. He became the Dodgers' setup man and thrived. It's a no-brainer to want to bring him back, but it's another question as to whether he wants to stay. If he wants to be part of a great team, doesn't care about closing and wants to form one of the best 1-2 punches in baseball, sure. If he wants to be "the guy" elsewhere, you couldn't blame him. No 3-year deals here, but I'd give him a couple years at a decent price.
Verdict: Re-sign -- 2 years, $11 million (if he wants to stay)

Photo credits
Howell: Keith Allison, Wikimedia Commons
Nolasco: Not that Bob James, Flickr
Uribe: Dustin Nosler, Feelin' Kinda Blue

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