And then there were none

In the past it seemed as though one of Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti’s first order of business each off-season was filling utility bench player vacancies on his roster with guys like Jamey Carroll, Aaron Miles, Skip Schumaker, and Jerry Hairston Jr. – just to name a few. From there, Colletti would then go to work filling out his everyday roster with returning veterans or players acquired via trade or free agency, and in extremely rare instances by bringing up prospects from the Dodgers’ minor league system. But this off-season, things have been different for Colletti and the Dodgers – a lot different, in fact.

Even though most of the Dodger regulars from 2013 are returning in 2014 season (which is usually a very good thing for teams that made it into the playoffs), as of this morning, December 16, 2013, the Dodgers officially have exactly zero utility bench players on their 25-man roster – none, zip, zilch, nada.

As of this moment the Dodgers have nobody on their bench. (Photo credit - 'Photos by John' -

As of this moment, the Dodgers have no utility bench players.
(Photo credit – ‘Photos by John’)

Gone are Skip Schumaker (to the Reds), Nick Punto (to the A’s), Mark Ellis ([who the Dodgers were hoping to re-sign as a utility infielder] to the Cardinals) and Jerry Hairston Jr. (to retirement). And though you can argue that Scott Van Slyke is a utility infielder/outfielder, he will most likely begin the 2014 season at Triple-A Albuquerque if Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier, Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp come out of spring training healthy (and still wearing a Dodger uniform). And even if one of them is traded, there is still the possibility that top Dodgers outfield prospect Joc Pederson might emerge from spring training ahead of Van Slyke on the Dodgers outfield depth chart.

It would be unfair to criticize Colletti for being this far into the off-season without having signed any bench players – Heaven knows he has had his hands full re-signing Brian Wilson and even more so Juan Uribe. He also has contract extensions to work out with Clayton Kershaw and Hanley Ramirez and is still working on re-signing left-hander J.P. Howell – all of whom will be essential for the Dodgers success in 2014.

It is generally assumed that there are always an abundance of free agent utility bench players each off-season, most of whom are veteran MLB players nearing the end of their careers; and while this may be true, the best of them have already been scooped up by other teams – guys like Skip Schumaker, Nick Punto and Mark Ellis. But as it seems to happen every off-season, there are always a few hidden golden nuggets out there that always seem to play a huge role for successful teams. They are often referred to as the ‘glue guys’ – the guys that hold a team together when the regulars are injured or are struggling, or just need a break. And though the Dodgers’ minor league system is lacking significantly in MLB-ready position players, there are always a few guys in the minors (usually at the Triple-A level) who could conceivably be brought up in a utility bench role, should push come to shove once the minor league rosters are set. Guys who have filled this role in the past have included Luis Cruz, Elian Herrera, Justin Sellers and Dee Gordon – to name only a few.

Regardless of where they come from, look for Colletti to be extremely busy over the next few weeks either signing utility bench players to a guaranteed one-year contract (or perhaps even a two-year contract) and/or signing guys to minor league contracts with invitations to spring training to compete for one (or more) of these essential utility bench player vacancies.

All of this said, it is reassuring to know that the heart of the Dodgers regular line-up is already set – something that hasn’t happened before Christmas in many years.

Thank you Santa!


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7 Responses to “And then there were none”

  1. Bluenose Dodger says:

    I’ve already made two suggestions: Justin Turner and Wilson Betemit.

    Betemit’s health status (knee) might be an issue. Should be ready to go in 2014 though.

    Brian Roberts and Eric Chavez not very versatile. Cesar Izturis is and has a very good glove but doesn’t hit very well.

    • Ron Cervenka says:

      Cesar Izturis, huh? Well there goes that blog article. (jk)

      I like the idea of bringing Izturis back (and I’ll probably run the blog article on him anyway). He is only 33 years old and has always had a GREAT glove. Granted, he has no pop, but he did hit a career-high .288 with the Dodgers in 2004.

      Several years ago I was really high on the Dodgers signing Eric Chavez, but he is now 36 years old and on the way down, as is Brian Roberts who has spent more time on the DL than in the Orioles line-up – although when he is healthy he is very good, with a career triple slash of .278/.349/.412 in 13 MLB seasons.

      Colletti would be well advised to give these three a look (especially Izturis and Roberts), as they are all free agents and wouldn’t cost the Dodgers any prospects.

  2. bigbluebird says:

    The one that hurt getting away was Nick Punto. He can play 3B, SS, 2B well and he really came through when the Dodgers were playing so poorly early in the year. He could have offered some stability this year with Guerrero coming up and an insurance policy on Ramirez being healthy. I think he was also a great (non-sabermetric) clubhouse influence. While Ellis is a better second baseman defensively than Punto he doesn’t play another position. Schumaker also only plays second and is just a moderately decent defensive outfielder. With 4 outfielders, he was expendable as well.

    It is definitely ironic that the Dodgers were chock full of utility guys last year and now they are all gone. However in the big scheme of things if that is the biggest problem the Dodgers have right now, we are doing real well. I am sure a utility guy will be purchased with some spare change from the big money sacks Guggenheim has stored away. Although the bullpen still appears to have some holes, here’s hoping they come to an agreement with JP Howell and a couple more like him and the Dodgers will be looking great.

  3. OldBrooklynFan says:

    Yes I agree the Dodgers have had some truly outstanding utilty players over the last few years and I hope that this trend will continue. What puzzles me is that very few are ever re-signed.

  4. MFGRREP says:

    Looks like it’s time for Gordon and Sellers to step it up this spring !!

    • Ron Cervenka says:

      Very true. Sellers has always been very good defensively, Dee? – not so much.

      I also believe that Van Slyke will make the ODR as a utility OF/IF – this in spite of Mattingly’s questionable decision not to use him as a pinch hitter in the postseason – not even once (but by God Michael Young did –  photo icon_rolleyes.gif )

  5. Bluenose Dodger says:

    Brian Roberts signed by the Yankees.

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