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November 1, 2010

GM for a Day

Los Angeles Dodgers

by Christina Kahrl

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The Dodgers' dilemma is one of timing. Their 2011 roster is already stocked with one big-ticket holdover in shortstop Rafael Furcal, and there are a number of retention-related concerns. Is Hiroki Kuroda a pitcher they want to re-commit to at top-market pricing, or do they want to shop around? But as far as the big picture, whether later next season or in 2012, they should be looking forward to the arrivals of top up-the-middle prospects like shortstop Dee Gordon and center fielder Trayvon Robinson.

Happily, even with the latest permutation of budget restructuring setting the Dodgers back $15-16 million in 2011 as it did in 2010, Ned Colletti has already commented that the Dodgers are going to be able to expand their budget a bit. During my day in his place, I'll take that as a comment on the McCourts' court combat becoming less of a distraction—this winter's activities ought not to be crippled as much as last year's so obviously were. But even that happy news gets tempered with the relentless pressure of arbitration-related inflation if they want to keep the players they control contractually, and there's a full fist's worth of expensive cases coming up: catcher Russell Martin, first baseman James Loney, middle infielder Ryan Theriot, starting pitcher Chad Billingsley, and fragile power lefty reliever Hong-Chih Kuo.

First, let's go for the unlikely big-ticket options, so let's start by getting in on Cliff Lee. Don't just accept “big-market ballclub” as a compliment, own that label and bid on the pitcher you want to get this offseason. Sure, the Yankees will nuke my offer, but bid them up on the off chance that we here in Dodgertown win; if and when you don't (once I'm kicked out of the office), thank me later if I've sucked a whole bunch of Yankee dollars out of the market and potentially saved you boys and girls in blue some subsequent free-market expenses.

Next, let's keep shooting for the moon, and go to the Brewers and find out what it's going to take to get Prince Fielder's last season under contract. Recognize that it's just one year you're getting, however, because as with any Scott Boras client, this “special talent” is going to explore the market. So, start off by offering Loney and a pitching prospect, and toss in Ivan DeJesus Jr. or Jaime Pedroza in case Doug Melvin comes to notice that this Rickie-Weeks-at-second-base thing still isn't going so well. It probably won't work—the Brewers might have their own delusions of relevance, let alone grandeur, to entertain—but it's worth the cell minutes to find out if there's something doable there.

So, having thrown open Logan White's horn of plenty in the pursuit of the one whale you might want to harpoon, and in face of the likelihood that Melvin laughed off my offer, you can ratchet down expectations and try trading Loney and Theriot to the Orioles for Luke Scott. Scott will be another arbitration case, so this isn't about saving money, but about making sure you're not putzing around with Xavier Paul or Garret Anderson or Scott Podsednik or the like in left field in 2011. This might seem a strange move for the Orioles, but they need a shortstop and the market's fairly thin there, and they're without a real first baseman—maybe Loney resembles one in their eyes, and if he's a marketable player in Baltimore, there's no harm in also getting the benefit of putting his bat in somebody else's lineup.

Operating on the assumption that the Fielder initiative falters but taking for granted that I've successfully enticed Andy MacPhail into the fall-back swap to add Scott, there's the need to go out and get a first baseman. Here, the market is generous, so take advantage of the fact you're a team in a place some people want to play for. Since we've got Scott as well as Andre Ethier for lefty power, how about pursuing some lineup balance by seeing if Paul Konerko is the guy who'd like a chance with his original organization. Offer a two-year, $20 million deal, and see if he exploits the league change to good effect.

So, if we dealt Theriot, what does that leave us at second base? As you've probably noticed, this chain of events means we still have DeJesus, and since we also have Jamey Carroll under contract, we're probably covered in terms of playable options. Maybe we do something interesting as far as bringing in a low-cost lefty-batting alternative. See if Akinori Iwamura will take a non-roster invite, and make a good impression in camp.

Which brings up the question of what to do with Iwamura's countryman in the Dodgers rotation. I'm already assuming the bid on Lee failed—it's a worthwhile use of my time, but a longshot. So, now it's time to turn to whether we should re-sign Kuroda. As nice as Kuroda's three-year spin has been, it's hard to really say he needs to be paid $15 million per annum, where his just-expired deal crested. Add in the fact that, among regular starting pitchers last season, his .539 SNWP doesn't rate all that favorably next to Carl Pavano's .550, and you don't want to use his 2010 pricing as your starting point. After all, the Nedster just re-signed Ted Lilly for less per annum over three years, and he tied with Pavano in SNWP. So, see if Kuroda would like to stay put while taking something around or below Lilly's compensation, and let him walk if that's considered low-balling.

While you're at it, don't settle for John Ely and the like for the fifth slot in the rotation. Instead, see if you like how Brandon Webb's rehab is coming along, and if there's enough there, give him a deal built around the potentially expensive, worthwhile risk that innings and starts will equal bigger paydays. If he doesn't bite, see if Jeremy Bonderman will. If Kuroda doesn't take your money, go for both Webb and Bonderman, and perhaps Aaron Harang as well.

Finally, I'm only GM for a Day, which keeps me from really being in a position to deal with the one issue that I think everyone associated with the organization has to worry about: How will Don Mattingly handle Matt Kemp? Not to put too fine a point on it, but questions over Kemp's motivation existed before Joe Torre got here, and they have outlasted the future Hall of Fame skipper. Whether the borrowed Yankee legacy of Torre's portable heir apparent adds anything extra in the dugout is already going to be an important consideration, but heading into their next camp and larger than any single question involving Mattingly's acumen as a skipper is going to be how he handles his responsibility to manage his players. If questions over Kemp's effort continue to simmer as a subject as much as they did on Torre's watch, you can count on its ongoing capacity to distract from the task at hand—an eminently winnable National League West.

So, to recap, we'll make plays for Fielder and Lee, gun for Scott, Konerko, and re-signing Kuroda, add a fragile veteran or two to round out the rotation, and see if Donnie Baseball is good with inter-office communications before the subject becomes a problem. Happily, I'm only here for the day, so I don't have to sort out what to do about the expensive arbitration cases, particularly Martin, though I'll leave behind a Post-It offering the advice of going for some brinksmanship before offering him an eleventh-hour multi-year deal for something around last year's rate of compensation, say three years and $14 or $15 million?

Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Christina's other articles. You can contact Christina by clicking here

Related Content:  A's,  Hiroki Kuroda

9 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Domenik Hixon

Boy, yknow who'd look good at catcher next year? Carlos Santana.

Loathe though I am to disagree with Christina, certain of the above moves seem pretty shortsighted to me. Pavano? Kuroda on a likely downslope? Konerko the same?

They should offer on Lee, but won't get him. That said, I'd concur with loading up on short-term, heavy incentive offers to Webb, Bonderman, and Kevin Millwood to fill out the rotation and take some of the burden off Billingsley and Kershaw. A rotation of Kershaw-Billingsley-Lilly-Webb-MillwoodorBondermanorHarang, with Ely and the like prepared to fill in as injury/need requires, isn't half bad. Dodgers Stadium also tends to be a sovereign specific for aging pitchers looking to put together One More Year for One More Contract, so I think such offers would be smiled upon.

The one move I do support is moving Loney and Theriot, with the addition of a mid-line pitching prospect, for Fielder. The Dodger offense was woefully short on thump last year, and Fielder would certainly provide the thumperacity you'd look for, while also not locking you in to a long term deal (fat doesn't age well, and I'd love to steal A-Gone after 2011).

As to the outfield, I have no issue with some Frankenbeast of Jay Gibbons/Bill Hall/Brad Hawpe/Jose Guillen (also on one year, incentive laden deals) keeping left field warm for Trayvon Robinson's ultimate appearance. Assuming that is done, invite every second baseman in organized baseball to take a shot at 2nd, but only if DeJesus can't handle the job. I'd also see if Kansas City or Anaheim (to Hades with that silly other name) are willing to punt on Gordon or Wood yet, and give them a shot to unseat Blake (thereby turning him into the supersub he should be) or at least provide a cushion if he gets old faster than he has been. Having that flexibility also means you can load up on the bullpen arms, which you'll need with this starting rotation.

The above moves give the roster flexibility, allow for the addition of payroll via trade during the season, and doesn't lock LA into any long term deals, so that they can lust after A-Gone, Weeks, Aaron Hill, etc., and extend Broxton/Kemp/Ethier/Billingsley/Kershaw to long term deals.

1. Furcal (ss)
2. DeJesus(2b)
3. Kemp (cf)
4. Fielder (1b)
5. Ethier (rf)
6.Gibbons/Hawpe (lf)
7.Blake (3b)
8. Martin (c)

1. Kershaw
2. Billingsley
3. Lilly
4. Webb
5. Bonderman

RP. Monasterios
RP. Ely
RP. Beliasrio
RP. Troncoso
RP. Kuo
RP. Jansen
CL. Broxton

Nov 01, 2010 08:49 AM
rating: -2

Did Christina actually suggest going after Pavano, or was she just using him as a point of comparison to Kuroda?

Nov 01, 2010 21:11 PM
rating: 0
Domenik Hixon

That may have been a misread on my part. As an addendum, I would probably non-tender Martin and let AJ Ellis and whatever cheap caddy LA can pick up handle the gig. An interesting pursuit could be Victor Martinez, if you think he can catch for a couple of additional years, but you'd have to assume he's got two years at catcher, at most, and then will have to move to first base. Is a four year, 45mm contract reasonable for him? One would think that would obviate a charge at Fielder, however.

Nov 02, 2010 07:26 AM
rating: 0
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff

Yeah, I merely brought the man's name into the conversation. I think that might be one of the more interesting/difficult exercises of the offseason: playing the match game with Carl Pavano.

Nov 02, 2010 09:25 AM

If Loney contract numbers weren't starting to look so inflated against his actual production, perhaps this type of package for Fielder could work, but I'm guessing the Brewers could do better. I also can't imagine they would have one iota of interest in the likes of Theriot.

Failing Cliff Lee, I'd place a call to Dayton Moore and see if something could be worked out for Zack Greinke.

Nov 01, 2010 09:06 AM
rating: 0

Luke Scott is a great option as the third outfielder. The Dodgers won't move Ethier but, if they did, it would be a wise move. Cody Ross wouldn't be a bad idea either.

I think the Dodgers should offer Kuroda arbitration because he has been a good investment thus far and another year would be a safe investment.

1.Furcal ss
2. Kemp cf
3. Ethier lf
4. Fielder 1b
5. Scott rf
6. Martin c
7. Blake/Betemit 3b
8. Iwamura/Carroll 2b

Let's go tell Ned our ideas!

Nov 01, 2010 11:52 AM
rating: 0

I wouldn't totally write off Vicente Padilla. If healthy (big if...but not as big as Webb), he has much more of an upside than Millwood or Ely, and I think the odds are long on Pavano repeating his 2010, both health and performance-wise.
Tough decision on Martin...his downhill slide was awful even before the hip injury. Did A.J. Ellis suddenly learn how to hit in September at the age of 29? It woill be nice having someone (Barajas) as a back-up who has a drop of punch, after two years of Ausmus.
Also, while projecting starting lineups is nice, the Dodgers have got to give some thought to the bench, for a change. Reserves such as Garret Anderson, Scott Podsednik, Reed Johnson, Ron Belliard and Brad Ausmus is weak even by deadball-era standards, not to mention the long-ball heroics of Jamie Carroll and Ryan Theriot.
I also don't agree with giving Broxton a long-term deal. Short of the Mariano Rivera and Hoffman level, closers are extremely over-rated and easily replaceable. If the Phils could get to the World Series with Brad Lidge in 2009, it's ludicrous to give big money to this position of inflated importance. If Broxton can be used to help acquire a second baseman or an outfielder with some thump (yes, Luke Scott would be great), then show him the door.
Finally, I would rather spend big bucks on Adam Dunn rather than Cliff Lee. The Dodger problem last year was offense, and Kershaw and Billingsley seem like they are on a path to be able to match up with anybody's aces.

Nov 01, 2010 12:42 PM
rating: 1

In agreement with all that you print ...except, let Martin walk. Coming off serious injury that will affect catching ability plus offense has headed south for last couple years......

Nov 01, 2010 16:55 PM
rating: 0
BP staff member Christina Kahrl
BP staff

I wrestled with that proposition and the wisdom of it, but decided the demand/supply issue at the position was enough to suggest seeing if he'd bite on the security of something multi-year.

Nov 02, 2010 09:27 AM
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