Sunday, December 1, 2013

Dodgers should cut ties with Ronald Belisario, but they probably won't

As the deadline to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players approaches (Monday), the Dodgers have already offered three of their eligible players arbitration.

Mike Baxter, Drew Butera and Scott Elbert were all tendered offers by the Dodgers on Friday.
  • Baxter: $700,000
  • Butera: $700,000
  • Elbert: $575,000
All three contracts are not guaranteed, meaning the Dodgers can let go of them to avoid paying the contracts. I don't see that happening to any of them as they're making chump change, even if Baxter is a fifth outfielder (at best), Butera is one of the worst hitters in MLB history and Elbert didn't throw a single pitch in 2013. It's less than $2 million for three MLB-capable players. It's hard to beat that.

That brings us to Ronald Belisario. Belisario is due about $2.3 million in arbitration. In the Frank McCourt days, that looked like a ton of money. In the Guggenheim days, that amount can probably be found in Ned Colletti's 70-grade mustache.

Despite that, the Dodgers should end their relationship with Belisario. Here's what I wrote in early November about Belisario and arbitration.
"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."
Obviously, nothing has changed. The last part is the biggest reason why the Dodgers should let Belisario go. They can fill his spot and get at least replacement-level production from Dominguez or Garcia (likely Dominguez), or even a non-roster invitee who is bound to make the team -- all for a fraction of the cost.

Yes, the Dodgers aren't going to miss $1.8 million (difference between Belisario's projected contract and what Dominguez and Co., could make in 2014), but that doesn't mean they should just throw it away on such an unsure thing.

I was impressed and surprised last year when the Dodgers got rid of Matt Guerrier and cut Brandon League's playing time to go with Chris Withrow and Dominguez. That was a definite change from the way the team had conducted business in the past. I say, let it continue.

Also, non-tendering Belisario opens up a spot on the 40-man roster. The Dodgers have 35 spots occupied (including Belisario's). With the Winter Meetings in eight days, that roster spot could be valuable if the team decides to make some free agent signings and/or trades.

Unfortunately for me and people who share my opinion, this probably won't happen. The potential for Belisario to be a quality reliever is still there, but the uncertainty he brings, coupled with the price tag, means it'd be better if the Dodgers just went with a young guy or NRI than to tender Belisario a contract.

Photo credit: Keith Allison, Wikimedia Commons

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