It has been over a year since we last had our Aflac correspondent check in with TrueBlueLA. For some of his past interviews you can check out the Duck Talk Section where we ask the questions we want to ask and try to see through the cliche responses we normally get. For those of you new to Duck Talk, this is a complete fabrication based on interviews within my troubled mind.
Aflac Duck: The 2009 Winter Meetings have been completed and Dodger GM Ned Colletti has dropped by to discuss the team.
AFLAC DUCK: Welcome Ned, it has been over a year since we last talked to you. First off congratulations on another excellent season. Same result but this time you had a lot to do with the fact the Dodgers were playing in the NLCS. Let us go over the successes of 2009. Before the season started you brought in Orlando Hudson, Brad Ausmus, Mark Loretta, Randy Wolf, Ronaldo Belisario, Mota, and Weaver. Each of these played a vital role in the 2009 season, some more then others. Besides those external free agents you managed to sign Manny, Blake, and Furcal to return to the positions they played in 2008. Then to top off that excellent pre-season acquisition list you also brought in Sherrill, Belliard, Padilla, and Garland to bolster the team during the pennant run. Everything you touched turned to gold. We were even calling you Goldfinger Ned for a while. Given your contract status It must have been very satisfying to see so many moves prove fruitful?
Ned: Yes, it was very satisfying, but since we lost in the NLCS all that success still means we have more work to do in 2010.
AFLAC DUCK: You recently signed an extension for five years so I'm sure the success of 2009 led to that extension. Did you ever feel you would not be the Dodgers GM in 2010?
Ned: It was nip and tuck. Now that I am GM I sure wish I had Santana, Bell, Watt ,and Abreu back but I needed to win today not tomorrow.
AFLAC DUCK: Of all the veterans who helped the team win in 2009 only Blake, Furcal and Manny are signed. Let's get right to the crux of the 2010 winter season. The Dodgers had several arbitration eligible free agents. Wolf, Hudson, Belliard were the key ones. Each had a unique argument for offering them arbitration yet the Dodgers did not offer any of them arbitration. WTF was the response of even the most ignorant fans. What was the reasoning behind this?
Ned: Contrary to popular belief it was strictly a "baseball decision" and not a financial one.
AFLAC DUCK: Can you be clearer on what that means?
Ned: I'll try to explain in words that even a duck can understand. Regarding Wolf, we simply didn't feel we could take the chance he'd accept (wink) and have to pay one of the great stories of 2009 more than 10 Million. (wink wink)
AFLACK DUCK: That sounds like a financial decision not a baseball one. A baseball decision would be that you don't think Randy Wolf belongs in your rotation. Given how all of baseball would love the ability to pay a top pitcher for only one year this does not smack of a baseball decision. Is your eye okay?
AFLAC DUCK: What about Hudson? You knew he would not want to return to the Dodgers after he was benched in Sept and the playoffs? Were you really concerned he'd accept arbitration?
Ned: Yes, it is not like we had a verbal agreement with his handlers not to offer arbitration if he signed with us back in March (Ned Winks) you know what I mean (Ned winks again). We just felt that as a baseball decision (wink) it was best if we let Orlando become a free agent.
AFLAC DUCK: Am I spitting? Cause if am, then I'm embarrassed that I'm going all Daffy on you. Let me clean your eye out. (cleans eye with duck feathers causing Ned to cough). What about Belliard?
Ned: We had our eye on another 2nd baseman and we recently just signed him. You know he was voted the Best Good Guy in the Indian clubhouse in 2009. You can't put a price on a good clubhouse guy.
AFLAC DUCK: How can you say that with a straight face? You're the guy who signed Padilla, extended Jeff Kent, and signed Shea Hillenbrand.
Ned: They were good clubhouse guys in a different way.
AFLAC DUCK: Last year during the winter season we were talking about big names, now the Dodgers are holding press conferences announcing the signings of Jamey Carroll. Is this our future?
AFLAC DUCK: Speaking of Carroll right after the winter meetings ended you made a few statements that made it seem like the Dodgers were going to wait out this free agent class and try to get some bargains like you did last year. Then a week later you sign Carroll to a two year, four million dollar deal. What changed?
Ned: Are you kidding, he's bleeping Jamey Carroll and Billy Beane was in on him hot and heavy so we had to cut bait and make a decision. The Dodgers are thrilled to have the Kendall version of a part time 2nd baseman who can't play SS on the roster. Dodger fans just have no idea how important it is to have these 35 year old hanger onners on the team. Look at what Loretta did in the playoffs? You think Abreu would have gotten that hit?
AFLAC DUCK: Ah, speaking of Tony Abreu. I'd have to assume that in August the team must have figured out that they didn't want Hudson back in 2010. Given that Abreu was the next option for 2nd base in 2010 why would you trade a young team controlled middle infielder who played 2nd, SS, 3rd with a little punch for a few starts from Garland?
Ned: We had no choice, that is who the Diamondbacks wanted and we needed Garland?
AFLAC DUCK: He made six starts and zero starts in the playoffs. Did you really "need" Garland?
Ned: Absolutely, we didn't know Padilla was going to be successful when we signed him. With Kuroda's health in question, Billingsley not doing the job, Kershaw out, we were desperate for starting pitching. I'm going to miss Tony and I wish I had him right now but we were in a pennant race. This was the right move at the time.AFLAC DUCK: I guess the part some Dodger fans question is that just like in 2008 when you have made these deals, top prospects get moved and money comes back. As I asked you last year is it the right thing to do, to move prospects for salary relief when taking back a player? How long can a team who spends the least amount of money in signing international talent and domestic talent continue to trade the future without it taking a significant toll on the franchise?
Ned: Based on the numbers we have run we can continue to do this without it totally destroying the team until 2015.
AFLAC DUCK: How concerned are you with Russel Martins decline in 2009? Did you ever consider not offering him arbitration given that our arbitration expert feels he will eventually end up with 6 Million?
Ned: We are very concerned with Martins offensive decline. Six Million! Yikes, Kim told me 4 - 5 Million.
AFLAC DUCK: The Phillies have now beaten you twice in the NLCS. What can you do to get by them in 2010?
Ned: Pray that Utley gets hurt. Ha, just kidding. Hey we are this close to beating the Phillies. Losing Wolf, Hudson, Belliard has been partially offset with the trading of Pierre and adding Jamey Carroll. Ha Ha, got you again. No, this team still has a few bullets left to spend.
AFLAC DUCK: Probably blanks given the financial situation?
Ned: Hey it is not that dire. I just added 3 Million to the operating payroll by moving Pierre. Where is the kudos for that? Your duck friends said he was untradeable but not only did I trade him I got something back.
AFLAC DUCK: Dude you ate 13 Million dollars of a contract you instigated!!! How many deferred contracts will you be giving out this year?
Ned: As many as we can. We tried to lock up Kemp with a 5/50 deal but he wouldn't go for having 2 Million deferred for the next 25 years. Maybe Andre will go for it.
AFLAC DUCK: Is it going to feel strange to see Jayson Werth get the largest free agent contact next winter? How strange did it feel to see Jayson dismantle the Dodgers in the NLCS?
Ned: No Comment ( a tear cascades as Ned wanders what could have been)
AFLAC DUCK: Yeah, that was a low blow. Okay lets lighten it up. It could be argued that Kershaw/Billingsley are the best young 1/2 punch in baseball, should Dodger fans focus more on what Billingsley had done then what he hasn't done?
Ned: Damn straight, Chad had some tough moments in 2009 but many of his critics seem to forget how young he is. If he hadn't been so successful at such a young age I don't think they would be nearly as critical. They also forget that he was one of the best pitchers in baseball in the first half. That is why I'm leary of having so many young arms in the rotation from the beginning. They aren't used to throwing this many innings. I've head talk that some bloggers would like me to start Elbert and McDonald in the rotation in 2010 at the beginning of the year. That is crazy talk, simply crazy talk.
AFLAC DUCK: How many more vice presidents or assistants to the general manager will you be adding this year?
Ned: Better then giving raises, people love those VP titles.
AFLAC DUCK: Dodger fans are in dire need of good news, what olive branch can you reach out to them.
Ned: Plenty, this team still has the dynamite young core in Kershaw, Billingsley, Broxton, Kemp, Andre, Loney, and Martin that has gotten us to the last two NLCS. Manny is going to make everyone forget about 2009. We expect Furcal to bounce back now that he's more then a year removed from his back surgery. Fans need to stop worrying so much about the prospects I've traded and concentrate on the production of the veterans I traded the future for. Who would the fans want to watch Casey Blake or Carlos Santana? HOF Greg Maddux or Michael Watt? George Sherrill or Josh Bell? Garland or Abreu? You bloggers focus to much on the future when the normal fan only cares about the present. Sure, if I hadn't traded some of those guys too soon we probably could have traded for Cliff Lee and then we might have been in the World Series but that is hindsight. I did what I thought was best and in the end Frank thought it was best or he wouldn't have given me that extension. You know he says I'm the best move he ever made.
AFLAC DUCK: Okay Ned, thanks for the time. We will check back with you in April to see what the final roster looks like. Quack Quack.