This winter has been passing by at the same rate as a snail. Am I right? I mean the Dodgers have been doing a lot of positioning, but not a whole lot of signings or movement. I can relate this to a chess player moving all of his pieces into position, and striking when the time is right. That’s kind of what the Dodgers are doing right now.
They have been building their front office. As expected this off-season has seen a huge hiring blitz, as the new ownership’s front office continues to take shape. Remember since this is the Guggenheim’s first off-season, its expected for them to bring in their own people. We also learned several long time Dodger executives and front office personnel were promoted yesterday. I think as of now, the Dodger front office should be just about set.
So with the winter meetings around the corner, what have the Dodgers done, besides building up their front office, and executive team? Not much as of yet. They’ve resigned closer Brandon League. They signed a bunch of non-roster guys who appear to be the usual spring training/minor league fodder. They’ve won the bid on South Korean pitching phenom Hyun-Jin Ryu, and continue to be considered as the favorites to sign angry birdman Zack Greinke.
The question is, what will the Dodgers do next? I’m hoping the next move involves pitching, as it almost always certainly does. Pitching is the name of the game correct? The Dodgers did the majority of their shopping last summer with all of those big trades. As it stands now, seven of the eight starting positions are filled, and it looks like Luis Cruz should be the Dodgers starting third baseman. And now with League resigned, the Dodgers have a 1-2-3 punch in the backend of their bullpen that could be considered one of the best in Baseball. (League, Kenley Jansen, Ronald Belisario). Remember guys like Scott Elbert, and Shawn Tolleson should return, Jamey Wright, and Randy Choate are available to be brought back, and Matt Guerrier is still under contract. The bullpen is going to be crowded this spring. So it would appear that the areas the Dodgers need to be focusing on are obviously the rotation, and the bench.
Here is the interesting part of this. The Dodgers actually had one of the best pitching staffs in Baseball in 2012. Yes it’s true. Their 3.34 staff ERA was tied for second in all of Baseball, only behind Tampa Bay. The rotation doesn’t need to be fixed, it needs to be UPGRADED. That’s important to remember. While I like Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang, and Ted Lilly, and they are solid pitchers in their own right, but they’re probably not going to get us to the world Series. If we’re going to compete with the World Series Champion bastards, Cardinals, Nationals, and Reds, we’re going to need three top notch starting pitchers.
Here’s the problem, all three of the guys I mentioned above are all under contract. Lilly, Harang, and Cappy are all in the final years of their respective contracts. Both Cappy and Harang have option years. Billingsley is in the second year of his 33 million dollar contract. I think what the Dodgers are going to have to do is trade one or two of their starting pitchers. Obviously you would probably want to trade the weakest link, I think that would be Harang, but maybe a package of Harang, and Lilly could attract some half decent prospects. Since the starting lineup is set, and we’re likely to upgrade the rotation via free agency, trading Harang and or Cappy, or Lilly should be to receive some prospects to replenish a thin farm system. The thing is, moving Cappy, and or Harang, will be easier than moving Lilly. Harang, and Cappy have more team friendly contracts, and Lilly is still due 12 million dollars. If he isn’t 100% healthy he could pitch out of the bullpen as a long man. The thing is the bullpen is already going to be crowded as it is, and there might not be room for Lilly.
Of course much of what the Dodgers do will depend on whether Bills elbow is healthy or not. The team has said they expect him to avoid Tommy John surgery, but who knows what will happen until he takes the mound. Does anybody expect Lilly to be healthy for a full season? His rustiness will only get worse as he ages. Dustin Nosler of Feelinkindablue agrees with me that at least one pitcher is going to be traded, but disagrees as to who has the best chance of being moved. We both do agree that Lilly is the least likely to be moved, or the hardest, however you want to look at it. Dustin points out that Lilly is also owed 1.5 million dollars for a signing bonus, and his no-trade clause was only for the first two years of his contract. I still think he’s going to be difficult to move. Age 35 starting pitchers owed 12 million dollars with a history of rustiness generally are, but I digress. Lilly is still a solid pitcher when healthy, and could receive a decent return.
I disagree that the Dodgers would move Josh Beckett. No, he’s not going anywhere. And he shouldn’t be. Beckett pitched pretty well last year with the Dodgers after coming over from the Red Sox in the blockbuster trade. Beckett still can put up pretty good strikeout to walk numbers, but seems to run out of gas by the sixth or seventh inning. He doesn’t throw as hard as he had in years past, but his talent is still there. I saw the movement on his pitches last season, and let me tell you, Beckett still has it.
Dustin sees Cappy as the most likely to be moved. My money is on Harang. Cappy is the better pitcher, and probably has the more team friendlier contract. If you compare the two contracts, Cappy is owed six million for next season, and has a six million dollar mutual option with a one million dollar buyout. Harang’s contract owed him seven million dollars for next season, and his option can vest if he reaches a certain amount of innings over the coarse of the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Harang’s buyout is for two million dollars. I would rather keep Cappy over Harang, but I guess it wouldn’t matter as much if the Dodgers ink Ryu and Birdman.
The most immediate way to improve the Dodger starting rotation would of course he to sign Angry Birdman Greinke. According to Jim Bowden of ESPN, [blackbirdpie url="https://twitter.com/JimBowdenESPNxm/status/273546361440460802"]
the Dodgers are the front runners to sign Birdman. The Dodger’s competition to sign him is with the Angels, and the Texas Rangers. Although reports are that the Angels are desperate to sign him. It looks like their could be a bidding war between Art Moreno and the GBM. Who do you think will win? All I know is that Birdman must be sitting back and smiling as he sings that Money….money…money love that money…Bomp….Bomp….Bomp Ba bomp bomp ba bomp bomp bomp song in his head. Industry sources, and insiders expect Birdman to demand a contract of six years and around 150 million dollars or more. Enough money to keep Greinke in bird seed for the rest of time. Sources have said the Dodgers have already begun talking to Greinke, so let’s keep our fingers crossed. Let’s also not forget that the Dodgers need to sign Ryu. They have until December 10 to sign him, or they are returned their 25.7 million dollar bid, and Ryu goes back to the posting system. I think they’ll get him signed.
The Dodgers also need to upgrade their weak bench. But that’s a post for another day. Stacie has already been covering that topic. I guess I’m just impatient for the hot stove to get going already. The quicker the hot stove starts for the Dodgers, the sooner spring training starts and the regular season. Regardless, the Dodgers need to sign Ryu, and Birdman Greinke, improve the bench, and figure out what they’re going to do with all of the starting pitchers they have under contract. Clayton Kershaw, and Beckett obviously aren’t going anywhere. The variable is Chad Billingsley’s elbow. Will he be healthy? Otherwise the Dodgers have three starters under contract for 2013, and need to trade two of the three. Ted Lilly, Aaron Harang, anf Chris Capuano. Take your pick of the three.
So where do the Dodgers go from here? The fast approaching winter meetings should shed some more light, but here is a rundown of the moves the Dodgers should be making soon.
1. Sign Birdman.
2. Sign Ryu
3. Trade Harang, and Lilly, or Harang and Cappy for prospects.
4. Sign a bench bat that can play the outfield, preferably like a Scott Hairston.
5. Find a right handed hitting backup first baseman. Scott Van Slyke anybody?
I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for all of this to get underway.