Off Season Analysis: 2010 LA Dodgers

Los Angeles Dodgers:

2009 record: 95-67

General Manager: Ned Colletti (2010 mutual option)

Manager: Joe Torre

Organizational Philosophy: Lots of talk that GM Ned Colletti will resign during the off season, to the casual fan this may look like a major loss since the Dodgers have been the team to beat for the past two seasons in this division. The Ned Colletti era could still be seen as successful if the Dodgers win the world series but looking over his resume a lot of money has been spent on marginal talent while productive prospects have been shipped off with little in return. Colletti, it can be argued, is the perfect GM for Manager Joe Torre since both share a philosophy that doesn’t preach long term investment.

2010 Committments:

Starting Rotation:

Chad Billingsly ($475K; arb eligible)
Randy Wolf (free agent)
Clayton Kershaw ($400K)
Huroki Kuroda ($15M)
John Garland ($10M mutual option; $2.5M buyout if club declines, $1M buyout if player declines)
Vicente Padilla ($12M club option; $1.75M buyout)

Look at Chad Billingsly’s late struggles and Clayton Kershaw’s excessive inning load, could this be seen as precursors to problems next year? Randy Wolf put together a decent season of 200+ innings of work based on the 1 year contract he signed. Wolf will probably ask for a lot more (more in line of what he was asking last off season before he became a casualty of a dwindling economy). I don’t expect the Dodgers to offer Wolf a long term contract but it would be wise to offer him arbitration which would, unfortunately, put a wrinkle in the plans of any other team looking to sign the 33 year old Wolf due to a signing team having to forgo future draft picks. LHP Eric Milton pitched well before going down in July with back trouble. He signed a minor league contract last off season for $500K and looked like a bargain as an above-average fifth starter. The Dodgers may do well by inquiring on his services again this off season.

An interesting option is the possible availability of Marlin SP Josh Johnson this off season. Johnson isn’t eligible for free agency until after the 2011 season. What kind of package would the Marlins expect in return? Signing John Lackey could be an interesting option.

In the bullpen they have commitments to Jonathon Broxton ($1.8M; arb eligible), George Sherrill ($2.75M; arb eligible), Charlie Haeger (free agent), Ramon Troncoso ($400K), Ronald Belisario (free agent), Hong-Chih Kuo ($430K; arb eligible), and Scott Elbert ($400K).

This has been an incredibly young and efficient bullpen for the Dodgers both Broxton and Sherrill should see a pay raise during off season arb and the presence of quality lefties in Sherrill, Kuo and Elbert make Will Ohman a $200K buyout no-brainer this off season. Haeger and Belisario both signed one-year minor league contracts last off season. Retaining them would be beneficial. Trading Sherrill this off season to a team in need of bullpen help may be a wise move.

On the field:

C: Russ Martin ($3.9M; arb eligible)
1B: James Loney ($465K; arb eligible)
2B: Orlando Hudson (free agent)
2B: Ronnie Belliard (free agent)
SS: Rafeal Furcal ($9.5M)
3B: Casey Blake ($6M)
LF: Manny Ramirez ($20M player option)
CF: Matt Kemp ($467K; arb eligible)
RF: Andre Ethier ($3.1M; arb eligible)

In 2010 both Orlando Hudson and Ronnie Belliard go up for free agency leaving Tony Abreu ($400K) as the only committed Dodger 2B for 2010. Hudson is a Type A free agent and based on how the club handled him down the stretch I don’t see either side coming to terms in the off season; however, the Dodgers would be wise to offer him arb thus gaining a comp. pick in the next amateur draft.

C Brad Ausmus also files for free agency leaving AJ Ellis and Lucas May as the only committed backup catchers for next season (both are set to make the MLB minimum of $400K).

In the infield, Jim Thome is a DH player and his services as a Dodger was never seen as anything more than a part-time bat to counter James Loney’s perceived lack of power (Loney did finish strong in the power department during the month of September). Middle INF’s Blake DeWitt and Chin-Lung Hu are committed for $400K+. SS Rafeal Furcal and 3B Casey Blake are both signed until 2011 and 2012.

In the outfield Manny Ramirez will probably agree to his $20M option while Matt Kemp should be seeing a hefty pay raise during his first off season of arb. Fourth OFer Juan Pierre will see another year as one of the most overpaid players in baseball as he’s set to receive $10M while Jason Repko is set for his second arb hearing and shouldn’t see much more than what he was paid in ’09 ($550K).

On the field, the Dodgers have a good mix of youth and veteran experience going into 2010. They may make a move to shore up 2B, but they do have an option in 21 year old Ivan DeJesus Jr. (who lost the entire ’09 season to a broken leg) but given the Dodgers penchant to go older I wouldn’t be surprised if the Dodgers inquire about the availability of Dan Uggla or look to sign Placido Polanco or Felipe Lopez. If Ned Colletti has his way he could be tempted to overpay for Juan Uribe’s services. In 2009, Uribe swatted a decent line of .294/.336/.496 in 119 games for the rival Giants. Looking at the numbers, Uribe was extremely lucky this season with a .337 BABIP (which inflated his BA from the usual .230-.250 to .290) and a fluky HR/FB rate of 12.6%, coupled with an overall decrease in FB%, is sure to cause his HR numbers to come back down to earth next season. He may ask for a four year deal worth $40M, which would be a huge raise from the 1M he made in ’09; any team that offers him more than 3yrs/$10M is asking for trouble.

Next Season’s Forecast: Except for second base, the Dodgers are set offensively. The team may look to upgrade at 1B since Loney’s puny HR production has the Dodger brass grumbling but with no outstanding FA options available this off season the team may be forced to give Loney another year and hope OF prospect Andrew Lambo can make the jump and hold down 1B in the near future (his limited defense as an OFer makes him an automatic 1B candidate but his lack of power in AA in ’09 does cloud up the skies a bit).

Starting pitching is the one major need I see for the Dodgers this off season. SP Jason Schmidt and his horrible contract are set to finally come off the books this off season. Signing SP John Lackey this winter would seem like an obvious move and he would fit well as the Dodger #1 starter with Billingsly and Kershaw capably handling the #2 and #3 positions. Hiroki Kuroda should make a good #4 starter. Finding help in the back end of the rotation shouldn’t be too difficult and if SP James McDonald can scale back some of his BB’s he should fit fine in this rotation.

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