What Next?

The Dodger front office completed more moves in the past month than I can ever remember.  An analysis of their roster and the contracts in place shows that there is very little left to be done of a major caliber.  Here’s my analysis of position by position and where they stand financially.  I think most will conclude that this Dodger team in place is going to be a core that that we see for a few years.  There really aren’t a lot of moves left to be made at this point, except maybe to claim Scott Hairston in an effort to block the Giants from obtaining him.

First Base:  Adrian Gonzalez has a long term contract that doesn’t expire until he’s age 36 in 2018.  A-Gon will be a fixture on this team for years, and a productive one at that.

The Dodgers have finally solved their first baseman problems through 2018. (Photo credit – Jill Weisleder)

Second Base:  Mark Ellis has one year remaining on his contract.  He’ll be 37 years old next year. They pay him $5.75 million next year and then it’ll cost $1 million to buy him out.  I think it’s safe to say that Ellis will not be a Dodger beyond 2013.  There is talk of Dee Gordon converting over the 2B, but I think it’s a bad idea and a waste of his range and arm.

Shortstop: Hanley Ramirez has two years remaining on his contract after this season ends.  He’ll get $15.5 million in 2013 and $16 million in 2014.  I haven’t given up on Dee Gordon though and I really believe that Gordon should return to shortstop when healthy and Ramirez should be the third baseman.  It’ll be up for debate though.  Either way, Hanley remains in the lineup and a Dodger for two more years.

Third Base: Luis Cruz is my choice here and he isn’t even arbitration eligible, making the major league minimum.  He has proven to be a solid addition and he’s a happy Dodger.  L.A. is really a perfect fit for players from Mexico and I’m surprised that they haven’t keyed in on that advantage in the past.  Uribe is signed through next season, but he’s not in the mix to be a starter ever again.  Punto and Hairston are backup options at 3B and 2B.

Left Field: Carl Crawford is signed through 2017 when he’ll be 35 years old.  Crawford will be paid over $120 million during that span.  Based on reports I am reading, he will be back by May or June, 2013 and fingers are crossed that he can regain some of the past magic he had while playing for Tampa Bay.  Yasiel Puig is locked up for 7 years – $42 million, but he probably won’t be big league ready until 2014 at the earliest.  What the Crawford acquisition does is buy the Dodgers time to properly develop the young Cuban signee.  Shane Victorino will be gone elsewhere after this season.  There is no place for him on this team unless he is willing to accept a backup role, and that ain’t happening.

Center Field: Matt Kemp is signed to a long term deal, $160 million through 2019, when he’ll be 34 years old.  Kemp isn’t going anywhere and by 2019, he might hold every Dodger offensive record in the books.

Right Field:  Andre Ethier is signed through 2018 for $100 million.  He’ll be 36 years old at that time.  Ethier makes up the third spot of what is easily the most expensive outfield in the majors and probably the best one too.

Catcher: A.J. Ellis isn’t even arbitration eligible until after the 2013 season.  He has been by far the best bargain of any Dodger player on the roster, making the major league minimum.  I am hopeful that the Dodgers in a gesture of good faith and decency agree to pay A.J. well above the MLB minimum next year.  This guy has paid his dues and at age 32 next year, he deserves a well earned pay raise.  All other catchers in the system are at the minimum salary too.

Although Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis won’t be arbitration eligible until after the 2013 season, he deserves a raise next season. (Photo credit – Christian Petersen)

Starting pitching:

Clayton Kershaw has two years of arbitration eligibility remaining before he can become a free agent.  The smartest move ownership can make this off season would be to lock up Kershaw to a long term deal.  As of now, he’s earning $7.5 million this season and $11 million in 2013 – a bargain.

Chad Billingsley is signed through 2014.  He’ll earn $11 million in 2013, $12 million in 2014.  The team has the option to keep him in 2015 at $14 million.  If not they buy him out at $3 million.  Bills will be 30 years old in 2015.  Hopefully that barking elbow isn’t requiring TJ surgery.  If it is, Billingsley will be an expensive cheerleader in 2013.

Josh Beckett has two years remaining on that monster contract he signed with Boston that the Dodgers are now on the hook for.  Total cost in 2013-14 $31.5 million.

Ted Lilly might be done as a starter.  I strongly think he might need major surgery, but they aren’t saying anything.  He is owed one more year on his contract, $12 million for 2013.

Chris Capuano has one year remaining on his contract, $6 million for 2013 when he’ll be 34 years old.  If the Dodgers want him in 2014, they get him at a bargain for $6 million again.  If not, the buyout clause is $1 million.

Aaron Harang has one year remaining plus an option, just like Capuano, but a little more expensive.  He’s paid $7 million in 2013 and the option year (2014) is also at $7 million with a $2 million buyout.

Relievers:  Almost all of them are under team control with the exception of Jamey Wright, who will become a free agent after this year.  This is good news in the case of Jansen, Elbert, Guerra, Choate, Tolleson, and Belisario.  Injured reliever Matt Guerrier is signed through next year at $4.75 million.  Brandon League is arbitration eligible for 2013.

Moves to be made:

1- Sign Kershaw long term.  Break the bank and get it done – since they are so willing to pay the big bucks at this point of the season in an effort to buy themselves into a position to win it all.  Certainly the Dodgers can invest $150 million plus to lock up Kershaw well into his thirties.  I know long term deals for pitchers are risky, but I see no signs that Kershaw has ever had an arm issue.  Plantar fasciitis yes, but his arm has a clean bill of health.

2- Make an offer to the Mets for Scott Hairston in order to keep him from going to the Giants.  Allow them to obtain Jeff Francoeur, who is an out machine with a poor on base percentage, but Hairston is a clutch player and I could see him thriving in Frisco.  Additionally, a utility guy like Hairston in the final month, when the roster expands to 40 players, will be an additional sparkplug that this team can use during the pennant stretch.

Should the Dodgers go after Scott Hairston this off season to prevent the Giants from getting him? (Photo credit – cbssports.com)

3- This off season, offer A.J. Ellis a pay raise and more than double his salary. A $1.2 million deal for next year should do it.  He deserves it.  The Dodgers have no obligation to make this move, but it is the decent thing to do.

4- Third base is the position that could use an upgrade and most likely will be the off-season target for Colletti.  There is always the talk of a dream acquisition at the hot corner – David Wright.  I won’t put anything past Colletti anymore.  With the resources this team has, money is no object.  Available players to trade may get in the way, but money is not an issue any longer.  Wright won’t be a free agent until the end of 2013.  I believe that 3B is the position to attempt to upgrade because Cruz, Punto and Hairston can easily play second base.  If Mattingly opts to move Ramirez to 3B and return Gordon to SS, there won’t be a need to seek out solid third baseman.  Oh, one more 3B issue that hasn’t been addressed.  It’s OK to release Juan Uribe.  Maybe they can invest in a shrink that convinces him to retire.

5- Strengthening the bench should be an off season priority – a strong righty/lefty combination off the bench, perhaps someone with some pop and power potential.

6- Wait and see how things play out next year.  There will be an inevitable injury or two next year.  The front office will need to wait and access things at the midpoint next season.  Meanwhile, such prospects as Seager, Pederson, Puig, Z. Lee, Reed and Withrow will continue to progress and some may possibly be trading fodder.

7- Invest big money in international scouting and development.  It’s time for the Dodgers to regain that status as the top organization in overseas acquisitions.

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3 Responses to “What Next?”

  1. KSparkuhl says:

    Another good article, Ron.

    “What Next?”

    Pitching. Nuff said.

  2. Ron Cervenka says:

    Yet another great article, Evan – thanks.

    I disagree with you that this ownership group is finished. I honestly believe that they will never be finished – especially where pitching is concerned. Acquiring the best players available, whether through trades, free agency, or from within one’s own farm system is an on-going and never-ending process – especially with inevitable injuries and, again, where pitching is concerned.

    Do you really think that spending money to acquire a guy solely to prevent another team from getting him is a sound business move for an MLB team? I can see blocking a guy from clearing waivers for this purpose, but not to actually sign a guy for only this reason. Aside from maybe a little more pop, I don’t see Scott Hairston all that much more valuable than his brother… or Nick Punto (although the jury is still out on him).

    As much as I like A.J. Ellis and agree that he has done an outstanding job, it is not a common practice for teams to give guys pay raises until they are actually due for one (via arbitration or tendering them a contract). Yes, it would be a show of good faith, but it sets a precedent that they might not want to set. I would much rather see the Dodgers simply offer A.J. a 2 or 3 year contract extension. This would give him the raise that he deserves without disrupting the normal process. I know that several TBLA forum regulars (including me) were screaming for Frank McCourt to do this with Kemp, Kershaw, Ethier, Russell Martin, and maybe 1 or 2 others guys several years ago. My point of contention was that these guys would never come any cheaper than right now and not doing so would end up costing him tons more the longer that he waited (e.g. Matt Kemp).

    I absolutely love Luis Cruz. I mean, he is the best third baseman that the Dodgers have had since Adrian Beltre (defensively), but I honestly believe that he will never be looked at as anything other than a utility player by the Dodgers. As such, I believe that his playing time as the Dodgers everyday 3B will come to an end at the end of this season and that the Dodgers will go after a free agent 3B (Lord knows, they don’t have any down on the farm – thanks to McCourt)). David Wright? It’s possible; as you said, nothing would surprise me with this ownership group. HOWEVER; I don’t think that there is any way in hell that the Mets won’t pick up Wright’s option for 2013, and I don’t think that he has an escape clause.

    Again, a great read.

  3. Evan Bladh says:

    Ron,

    Addressing your points:

    1) Scott Hairston. When you are blocking the Giants from getting a decent left fielder and money is no object with your ownership group. Yes, you claim the guy to block him from them. The Gnats did this in 2010 to keep the Padres from getting Cody Ross. It turned out that Ross was responsible for getting them to the World Series. Sometimes these block moves turn out better than expected. Look at Scott Hairston’s numbers in games at ATT Park. He kills the Giants and they know that up here. They want him bad.

    2) AJ Ellis. I agree with you. Signing him to a 2-3 year contract would be ideal. Cant’ believe I didn’t think of that.

    3) Third base and Luis Cruz. ( re: your comment that he’s the best 3B option since Beltre- I thought Casey Blake fielded his position well while he was healthy and I was happy with his production over there). But it is my position that Hanley should be a third baseman and Gordon returns to short. We have lost one game due to Hanley’s lack of range and nonchalanting it out at short. Plays that should have been made. Yeah, Gordon made tons of errors, but it was never due to his inability to get to the ball. Cruz is a super-utility guy and I believe we’ll see plenty of him, especially when someone goes down with injury. Wright’s option for 2013 will be picked up by the Mets, but when they fall short and are out of the running next year, maybe he’s available at the trade deadline.

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