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March 1, 2013

Rumor Roundup

A Pain in the Arm

by Daniel Rathman

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The Dodgers have a lot of money, a lot of big names, and—according to PECOTA—the best playoff odds in the National League. What the Dodgers don’t have, though, is a lot of power on the bench, an Achilles heel that leaves them especially vulnerable to injuries to their key position players. Today’s Roundup begins at Camelback Ranch, where that concern might soon come to the fore.

Carl Crawford dealing with soreness in surgically repaired elbow
Less than three weeks ago, Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti told MLB.com’s Barry Bloom that there was “no reason to believe” that his starting left fielder would be out of the lineup on Opening Day. Crawford, who did not appear for the Dodgers after coming over from the Red Sox in the August mega-trade, is now more than six months removed from the Tommy John surgery that ended his stint in Boston and had been working through a throwing program to rebuild strength in his left arm.

Wednesday’s news, however, may put a dent into those plans. Crawford and manager Don Mattingly told reporters, including MLB.com beat writer Ken Gurnick, that the 31-year-old is dealing with tightness in his left forearm, which arose earlier this week, possibly as a result of Crawford’s desire to accelerate his recovery timetable. Both the player and the manager stopped short of calling the flare-up a “setback,” but now that the calendar has flipped into March, Crawford can’t afford much of a detour if he hopes to suit up and take the field on April 1.

Meanwhile, after witnessing the pitfalls of poor outfield depth last season—when Matt Kemp appeared in only 106 games and left field was a revolving door—Colletti and Mattingly must be quivering a bit at the thought of dipping down into their existing pool.

Bobby Abreu, Juan Rivera, and Shane Victorino, a veteran trio that provided little in the way of thump last year, are all gone, and most of the remaining options are equally uninspiring. Elian Herrera, who appeared in 67 games in 2012, batted just .251/.340/.332, and Tony Gwynn Jr. did not log a single home run in 277 plate appearances. Jerry Hairston Jr. could be useful in a platoon arrangement, as Jonah Birenbaum pointed out on Monday, perhaps with fellow utility man Skip Schumaker, but the two are essentially mirror images of each other: solid reserves whose bats play best at up-the-middle positions, and who lack the dynamic speed that fuels Crawford’s 2.5-WARP projection.

So, where might the Dodgers turn if Crawford, Ethier, or Kemp is forced onto the disabled list in 2013? Unless Colletti flips one of his surplus starting pitchers, such as Chris Capuano or Aaron Harang, for a quality bench piece, the player to watch is Alex Castellanos, who on Tuesday earned a spot in Jason Martinez’s Minor League Update.

A 26-year-old with a .294/.365/.509 triple-slash line over 2,088 minor-league plate appearances, Castellanos was not challenged by Double-A pitching in 2011 (1.009 OPS) or Triple-A hurlers in 2012 (1.010 OPS), and he has already smacked two home runs in Cactus League play. He is ready for an extended opportunity at The Show, but must somehow unseat Hairston, Nick Punto, Schumaker, or Juan Uribe in order to garner it. The task would be easier if Uribe were not due a $7 million outlay this year, but if injury questions continue to cloud the Dodgers’ starting outfielders, Colletti may be forced to bite the bullet and give Castellanos a chance.

Colletti would face a similar challenge in hypothetical trade talks for a more proven reserve outfielder, because any newcomer would also need to wade through the aforementioned glut. Since the Crawford news only crept onto the radar yesterday, there have not yet been any rumors about possible targets. This is a situation worth monitoring over the coming week, as we learn more about the state of Crawford’s elbow, the Dodgers’ comfort level with their current bench, and Castellanos’ odds of being with the club on Opening Day.

Indians, Yankees remain disinterested in Kyle Lohse
Remember when FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal let slip, in the sixth paragraph of a feature on Zack Greinke, that Lohse was “almost certain to sign with a team soon”? Well, that article was published on February 14, and the passing of a fortnight would seem to stretch the definition of “soon.”

And yet, with only a month left until Opening Day, we are no closer to learning where Lohse might be headed than we were on Valentine’s Day, when Greinke mused about the 34-year-old right-hander’s fate. Lohse’s agent, Scott Boras—who was able to save Rafael Soriano and Michael Bourn from qualifying-offer purgatory—has worked the phones in hopes of persuading trusty owners to open their checkbooks, but so far, those overtures have gone nowhere.

According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, the Yankees, who might be without Phil Hughes to start the season, rebuffed a call from Boras, perhaps partly because Lohse would cost general manager Brian Cashman his first-round draft pick. Cashman was previously unwilling to negotiate a return for Soriano, and his steadfast refusal was thought to be driven by a desire to obtain a sandwich-round selection for the compensated free agent. The Indians, meanwhile, could do without another draft pick, since they have already surrendered two for Bourn and Nick Swisher, but the Tribe is over budget and unable to squeeze a third high-value free agent into its 2013 payroll.

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman believes that the Brewers are the best fit for Lohse, a sentiment with which Ryan Braun and Corey Hart agreed. Whether Boras can woo owner Mark Attanasio and general manager Doug Melvin into a deal, though, remains to be seen.

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

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