Dodgers head into offseason with questions, raised expectations

Kirby Lee-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

A glimpse into the Dodgers' plans heading into the offseason.

Aside from the Dodgers injury news already covered, here are notes from Thursday's end of season interviews at Dodger Stadium with manager Don Mattingly, general manager Ned Colletti, and CEO Stan Kasten.

Expect changes on the coaching staff, even if minor. Colletti, who has reportedly agreed to an extension, has already said Mattingly would be back in 2013. But judging by his very vocal meeting in the coaches room in San Diego on Sept. 25, which could be heard in Mattingly's office and in the clubhouse, not everything is hunky dory in Dodger land. Colletti and Mattingly both said the coaching staff was a part of Thursday meetings.

"We started with meetings today. It's something we're talking about," Mattingly said. "Every year somebody changes. Very seldom do you see the staff stay totally status quo. It's something we'll talk about."

Though Mattingly and Colletti will return next season, the expectations will be higher.

"When I got here, what I expected out of this team was a .500 team because that's what it was last year. I was impressed and heartened by the play in April and May, when I felt like they were overachieving," Kasten said. "Then when some of the injuries caught up with us in June and July we saw how that team was playing. It seemed to me that that was the team that was closer to the real kind of team we were, and I don't think that team would have gotten to 161. That's why I was glad to do what we did when Ned started seeing these opportunities.

"As we looked to build this in the way that we talked about, we looked forward to the offseason, we didn't see a way we could get a Hanley Ramirez, an Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford," said Kasten. "So what was most important was being opportunistic and taking advantage when they presented themselves, not waiting for when we thought it was convenient and seeing what was available.

"I'm glad that we did it. I wish we would have gone farther than 161, and frankly my expectations from now on will be to go farther than 161. But we know the job is not done yet, and we need to do more."

The trade with the Red Sox was formally completed on Thursday, with Rubby De La Rosa and Jerry Sands named, later, to join Allen Webster, Ivan De Jesus, and soon-to-be free agent James Loney in Boston. Even with the Dodgers absorbing over $260 million in salary in the trade, Kasten didn't see the cost as exorbitant.

"We retained a lot of what we really wanted to retain, and we thought the price was reasonable for what we were getting, in proven major leaguers, proven All-Stars, proven gold glove players. We thought the price was something we were happy to do," Kasten said. "We try to be responsible. Everything we've done is economically is supported by the market size and business forces at play."

Colletti said that going into the offseason, Luis Cruz was the starting third baseman, which means Hanley Ramirez is the shortstop. All of which could change with a transaction or two.

"At this point in time we'll lean toward shortstop (for Ramirez), but we have to be open minded., Colletti said. "I think he has a chance to be a little bit better than he was (defensively)."

Dee Gordon, who hit .228 with a .280 on-base percentage this season and had three plate appearances in September, is the odd man out for now. He will play winter ball with the Licey Tigers in the Dominican Republic. Colletti also said Ramirez is considering playing winter ball as well.

Speaking of odd men out, I asked if Juan Uribe, who will be paid $8 million next year, has a spot on the 2013 team.

"We'll have to see," Colletti said. "Yesterday in the team meeting, Donny singled out one player, Juan Uribe, for being as good a teammate as he's seen."

Uribe had plenty of time to be a good teammate, as he had one plate appearance in the final 34 games and didn't use his glove after Aug. 24. Though he did catch a ceremonial first pitch during the final homestand.

Tony Gwynn Jr. is also under contract for 2013, for a non-guaranteed $1.15 million. But he isn't on the 40-man roster. Colletti said that Gwynn will be considered for next season's roster, but it doesn't sound like there is a rush to add him back to the roster any time soon.

"He's still in the mix. He's under contract. He played well for us, he's got great versatility defensively," Colletti said. "He's somebody we have in the organization, and hopefully he'll have a chance to help the club."

Gwynn could be claimed in the Rule 5 draft, or he could declare free agency if he so chooses.

Colletti said the club would look to sign a veteran back-up catcher, but likely to a minor league deal, to compete in spring training with Tim Federowicz for the job.

"I think Tim had a real good year. From where he was a year ago to what he became this year; again, you have to compete for the time and compete for the place in February," Colletti said. "But we have much more confidence in him than we did a year ago."

Cuban outfielder Yasiel Puig will head to the Arizona Fall League, and Colletti didn't rule out Puig to be on the major league roster in 2013.

"He has great, plus-plus tools. Power, speed, arm. He still needs some work around the game, inside the game," Colletti said. "It's too early to say (whether he will factor in the big leagues in 2013). He's going to play in the (Arizona) Fall League; that will be another indicator for us. You could be standing with your back to the cage, and when he hits you'll know he's hitting."

The Dodgers have three bullpen free agents in Brandon League, Jamey Wright, and Randy Choate, and Colletti expressed an interest in bringing them all back, especially League, who closed games in September.

"We would like to keep together as many (from the bullpen) as possible," said Colletti.

Wright has signed a minor league deal with a non-roster invitation to spring training for seven straight seasons. Might that streak be broken this offseason with a major league deal?

"It's a question for not just me, but other people," Colletti said. "We're open minded."

Ronald Belisario was a huge part of the Dodgers bullpen this year, and was not only durable but reliable and punctual, showing up to spring training on time for the first time in four years in the organization. Belisario missed all of 2011 while dealing with visa issues in Venezuela stemming from a positive cocaine test, but he rebounded with a 2.54 ERA and 69 strikeouts in 71 innings, and he appeared in a team-high 68 games.

"We expect Ronald to be there on the first day of camp. Ronald has told me to expect him there. There are signs that he has (turned a corner)," Colletti said. "He's had a great year, and we've had no known mishaps."

The Dodgers have three club options, all of which are likely to be declined: Juan Rivera ($4 million or $500,000 buyout), Matt Treanor ($950,000 or $150,000 buyout), and Todd Coffey ($2.5 million or $350,000 buyout). Coffey is coming off Tommy John surgery and likely won't return until next July or August. The decisions on all three options don't have to be made until within a few days after the World Series.

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