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Uribe, Leaders, Star F’rs and Sawdust Head Donnie

December 15, 2013 Comments off

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A boring winter meetings for the Dodgers and their fans.

Yesterday it was nice to see Juan Uribe resigned for 2 more years. It was a wise move for him, as Florida would have been a death sentence, and smart for the Dodgers since third base league wide is sparse and the options were downright hideous. Fans love Uribe, but there are still some holdout dummies who point to his first two poor seasons in LA. Obviously if looking at Uribe’s entire body of work, that is valid commentary, but my opinion is why go there? Uribe stepped up and filled a void the Dodgers had after the debacle Luis Cruz experiment (Cruz fans – a career AAAA player isn’t suddenly going to become a star). Odd though – even after Uribe proved to be the best option for third defensively and offensively, and showed he was resurrected in a contract year perhaps due to Big Mac’s input – Donnie still tweaked and overthought his lineup and ensured Uribe oftentimes was on the bench. And all those times asking him to bunt! What a dumb fuck.

I am happy Uribe is back and while 2 years like last year may not be in the cards, it really doesn’t matter. If Uribe struggles, the real plan is for uber prospect Corey Seager to save the Dodgers anyway, so Uribe is just a bridge to that utopia, however long it is. If we get 1 solid year out of Uribe, it will be worthwhile. If we get serviceable hitting and the standard great defense at the hot corner, the Dodgers and the fans win. Most likely Seager will push the questions mid-season or by the end of the year, so there’s a good chance Uribe will spend year 2 coming off the bench, helping all around the infield, or be dealt. His 2 year/$15M contract is hardly an obstacle nowadays. In other words, if you’re a Uribe hater, your life must be so charmed that this is your biggest concern. Juan Uribe is a solid citizen, a leader in the clubhouse and a solid fit for this Dodgers team. Imagine if Michael Young were the everyday third baseman! Eek!

I am also happy, of course, Brian Wilson came back. It’s smart for the Dodgers and smart for Wilson. It also shows Wilson’s loyalty and belief the Dodgers will certainly be in the post-season mix. He could have went elsewhere and been guaranteed a closer’s spot, but opted for occasional closes for a hometown winner. I like what Wilson brings to the field, as well as to the clubhouse. His bad boy attitude may be a cartoon, but it’s the swagger the team needs more of. In my estimation too many Dodgers are worried about how they look in the mirror and who they can bang. Wilson looks ridiculous with the dyed beard, but he’s got the right amount of “asshole” the team needs. Besides, unlike dickhead Dodgers of the past, he’s not an asshole. He’s just bizarre. Bizarre with ability like his is ok with me.

I feel I should take a sabbatical because twitter is abuzz with Kobe and the NFL, both not very interesting to me. Baseball is right around the corner, and I only stick with it because I’m a junkie and also because this Dodgers team is an incomplete puzzle. There is a bench to fill out, leaders to find, bullpen arms to add, outfield question marks, and perhaps a stud Japanese starting pitcher to add. The off-season is my fun time. I enjoy the putting together/figuring out aspect more, sometimes, than the games themselves. It’s like Alfred Hitchcock (who I look like, btw), who said preparing his movies were more fun than shooting them. That’s when all the strategy occurred. Once the season begins, I get frustrated at Donnie’s stupidity, Kemp’s nonperformance, Kemp fans’ need to blow their hero, and Kasten doing odd things like picking up shitty pitchers and insisting on using them through the pennant race even though more capable kids are waiting idly by.

I wonder where the leaders will come from; surely Kasten and Ned will add some. Perhaps Michael Young comes back in that role, or some other has beens. I like the geezers being around, but not too many and not at the expense of starts for more reliable players. With Donnie, who comes from the Joe Torre school, if you have someone who used to be a name around, you need to disregard the fact they’re done and play them anyway. See why I get frustrated?

While I don’t think losing some of the names we’ve lost is bad – most weren’t that good anymore anyway – I do question what remains. I see very talented players with issues; injuries and otherwise. I wonder how this mix will gel and who will become that leader the team needs? I don’t see Hanley being that guy, or prima donnas like Kemp or Puig. Ethier is too quiet, Crawford too horny for reality stars, Guerrero too fresh and untried. AJ and A-Gone, perhaps Uribe, are the closest things the team has to leaders. Smart players who know how to play the game right. I think the bench has to replenish with a few others – hopefully below the age of 60.

The team is confusing to me. I’m not sure, for example, what the lineup could look like. As someone on twitter pointed out, does it matter? Donnie will never field the right lineup anyhow, and if he does, it will change the next day. I imagine he will go back to putting Puig up at top, or Crawford, because it’s the simple-minded thing to do. Both hitters are not ideal for the leadoff spot and can benefit the team more batting lower, with their homeruns and RBI counting greater than in the one spot.

I proposed – given this current mix, which could still change – something like: AJ, Uribe, Crawford, Hanley, A-Gone, Puig, Pederson, Guerrero. My reasoning is AJ gets on base and since this team has no prototypical leadoff hitter, at least you have a smart and patient hitter who gets on base a lot out there for the RBI guys to drive in. Uribe is versatile and can move AJ along and then you have the meat of the order in lefty/righty synchronicity. I put Joc Pederson in there because in my opinion he needs to be playing centerfield. Of course if healthy and around, Kemp is the centerfielder, but this is where I differ from those who want to massage his ass; it seems very unlikely Kemp can stay healthy to be an issue. When he falters, inevitably Pederson gets the call. Kemp, if ever healthy again, should be at a corner spot anyway to save his fragile body. Ethier? He’ll be there if Kemp is not ready and if not dealt. While he fielded CF last year, Andre Ethier as the everyday CF is not a great idea in my opinion. Not fast enough.

If Ethier is dealt Pederson is still there for when Kemp drops. Also, Van Slyke is around, and I imagine some other outfielder will join the bench. Ethier is a curious piece because do you deal him to deal him and potentially clear up some of the OF logjam that could exist? Or do you keep him knowing Kemp likely will be unhealthy? And if you deal Ethier, what do you get for him? Obviously it only makes sense if you get something back better than Andre Ethier. Since third base is now fixed, where is the need? A good reliever? A few good prospects? Oh, so perplexing.

Anyway, that’s it for now. I just wanted to get some words out. The winter can be long and dull without occasional baseball chatter. I hope you enjoyed and if so, share with friends and/or comment. Speaking into a void is pointless. Any good therapist would tell you as much. Aloha.

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Categories: Uncategorized

The Winter Meetings Eve Gut Check Edition of Dodger Therapy

December 9, 2013 Comments off

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We’re on the eve of the Winter Meetings – it’s every bit as exciting as waiting for Santa Claus to drop down the chimney.

Ned Colletti commented yesterday on things going on in Dodgerland. Juan Uribe has been offered many deals, apparently not the 3 year windfall he’s hoping for (fool me once…); JP Howell is being talked to for a return to blue (Dodgers need a lefty and he’s a great one); outfielders may or may not be traded; the Orioles like Andre Ethier; the Red Sox, Mariners, Rangers and others like Matt Kemp; the wealthy in MLB await Masahiro Tanaka to land and I would guess whatever we expect to happen this week could take back seat to what we don’t. Bring on the Winter Meetings, in all their glory!

I have had fun lately on twitter where folks get mad when I even bring up how I have NO problem whatsoever with the Dodgers trading ANYONE if it means a better team for us this year and more, beyond. I have mentioned it before, but I am loyal (as Tommy Lasorda is fond of saying) to the name on the front of the jersey and less to the name on the back. I like Matt Kemp, I like Clayton Kershaw, I like Andre Ethier, I like Carl Crawford, I like Hanley Ramirez, but I wouldn’t be upset at all if any are dealt to improve the fortunes of the Dodgers.

A few things worth noting – or restating, as I’ve said some of this prior…

Matt Kemp is a wonderfully gifted player, capable, as he showed in 2011 (now going on 3 years ago), of carrying a team on his brawny back. Unfortunately, he’s been riddled with injuries – let us count them – destroyed shoulder, badly fractured ankle, shredded hamstrings and multiple surgeries and repairs on all. Matt Kemp COULD be the guy he was in 2011, but then, most said after resting the end of 2012 he would do that in 2013. In 2013 he was as injured as always, old injuries and new, and due to the shoulder problem, couldn’t swing the bat. Due to this, he was exposed and a veritable strikeout machine. Donnie Mattingly is so dense that regardless of player health and more, reality – he pencils these famed sluggers into his lineup card no matter what. So while those dreamy eyed fans who recall Kemp going 4 for 5 before stupidly not sliding at home plate and injuring his ankle, I recall the truth that he was a detriment to the lineup most of the games he played – especially prior to hitting the DL for a long stretch early in the season.

Now – can Kemp become Kemp again? Will he suddenly get healthy, swing painlessly and remain healthy long enough to make a difference? Recall – without Matt Kemp the Dodgers could very well have gone to the World Series had the Cardinals’ Joe Kelly not “accidentally” plunked Hanley Ramirez in the ribs his first at bat of the NLCS. What does that mean? It means that while Matt Kemp is a “difference maker” – he did not make a difference in 2013. Could he in 2014? Perhaps. Or not.

No one knows for sure if Matt Kemp will ever be the guy he was again. I would doubt he can steal bases like he did before, and that was a nice perk of his game. I also doubt the ability to patrol CF like he once did. The Dodgers would play him there, but is that best for his overall health? Would playing LF, say, be more beneficial to him staying healthy and therefore actually playing more games down the road?

The problem with Matt Kemp that fans who swoon over his beautiful eyes and now lean frame (hmmm) don’t get is that since the Dodgers new owners have come in, all they’ve seen of Kemp is disaster. He hasn’t done anything since running into that wall in Denver. Whether fair or not, if you were the Dodgers owners and saw this very expensive, very unproductive player sitting there since you came into town, what would you do? They get that Matt Kemp was the runner up to PED cheat Ryan Braun in 2011’s NL MVP polling, but they also know more about his health than you or I do. And while they might believe things will have to get better for Kemp, they also have a business to run and probably don’t want as many injury question marks littering the roster as they did in 2013. Not to mention that their #1 prospect happens to play OF, and CF in particular.

I have no idea what will happen with Matt Kemp. I suspect he will remain in blue because it’s generally not good to sell low on a player, even if it means dumping that albatross of a contract that used to look so good (long term deals almost NEVER work out for the team or the fans – think about that the next time you want Clayton Kershaw signed for 10-15 years). I also question whether another team would risk anything decent in trade, and then pay a big chunk of Kemp’s contract for a guy that might not even be able to pass a physical at this point. So, lovers of Kemp’s fashionable clothing and sexy facial hair, you may get to hang onto the dream boat, and if so, I side with you and hope he rebounds into at least a serviceable star player. I don’t hope that for the reasons you do, I suspect. I hope that because I am a Dodgers fan first and foremost and if Kemp is in blue and healthy, it helps the Dodgers win baseball games and makes my summer more enjoyable.

Now what about Andre Ethier, he of the dreamy dark eyes and wild mussed hair? When women (and men!) aren’t swooning over Kemp’s tight pants, they’re fanning themselves over Ethier. Ethier’s contract was maligned in the past but much easier to move than Kemp’s. Ethier hurt himself last season too, but in general is far healthier and 1000x more likely to be in the lineup come Opening Day than Kemp. Also, while his numbers mysteriously took a dip too in 2013 (hmmm), he added to his resume by playing a pedestrian CF in Kemp’s absence. Those who think Ethier is now a CF are off base; but in a pinch he can play the position.

The Dodgers outfield is a puzzle that is impossible to solve. I can guess many ways it plays out and it would all be just that. I don’t think Stan Kasten himself knows the answer. 4 very talented players, all with question marks. 3 of the 4, the most highly paid, of course, all with major injury questions. The healthy one, the young and relatively inexpensive one, is a 23 year old work in progress who was brilliant and frustrating. Is he Roberto Clemente II or the guy who used to be said to be that – Raul Mondesi? Hey, at least he’s healthy, young, and could easily improve. The other 3…?

I would not deal Ethier only because he’s easier to move than Kemp. As Ned Colletti alluded to, and I already knew, the FA crop of OFs next winter isn’t great. That said, if we moved one, we could always trade for a veteran plug, a kid, or fill the slot from within. I personally wouldn’t mind seeing Joc Pederson get his chance or Scott Van Slyke – providing he isn’t standing at attention in an important championship game like a mental patient – showcasing his revitalized pop. In other words, if we moved one or both of Kemp and Ethier, we could figure it out somehow in-season or next winter. I’m not that worried.

I think ANY trade needs to be made for the right reasons, however. The Dodgers have a lot of money, so a salary dump isn’t necessary. If we could get something key in return, whether it’s major league talent we need at other positions – third, second, pitching, bench – or more prospects (farm needs as much help as possible, especially position player depth), fine by me. I would just caution management not to move someone that could come back to make us look bad (obviously Kemp more an issue here than decent but hardly spectacular Ethier) if it didn’t help the Dodgers.

In other words, make your deals this week; just make sure the blue improves.

I will end this pre Winter Meetings mini edition with another statement on Clayton Kershaw. Fans HATE when I say this…

I love Kershaw and except for not being able to win the big game (a big except), is very much like Dodgers God, Sandy Koufax. Kershaw is brilliant, and likeable and good. He’s a Dodger, clearly. Just as Orel Hershiser was. Something about devoutly Christian pitchers in blue and white, I guess.

That said, something is amiss with Kershaw. I could be off here (wouldn’t surprise me), but it seems the cat and mouse game with Kershaw and the Dodgers should be looked at as entering a critical stage. The Dodgers CANNOT afford to go into the season with Kershaw unsigned beyond 2014. If Kershaw wants to see what’s out there and leaves, the Dodgers will be screwed. I know that what could happen is the season begins and the Dodgers continue to talk extension with Kershaw and his representatives, but that’s a distraction the player and the team do not need. The time to talk money and years is now.

If Kershaw is frightened by the length and obscene amount of money the Dodgers apparently have offered him, I don’t blame him. But… counter with what you DO want. Is it 3 years? 5 years? Tell Stan Kasten, Ned Colletti and team what it is that will make you happen, Clayton. If it’s what I’d offer – 5 years at $30M (that’s $150M for those who don’t know how to multiply) – fine. That would make Kershaw a FA again at 30, still in his prime, and ripe to sign a massive payday (if he’s of the mindset that $30M a year for he and his wife isn’t massive enough). That would be a great deal for Kershaw, and a better deal for the Dodgers than the 10-15 year rumored deals we’ve heard of.

Kershaw is a pitching machine, but he also has a lot of mileage on that left arm. To assume for one second that he wouldn’t be hurt after signing a 10-15 year deal – or a 5 year pact – is ridiculous. Pitchers break down all the time – ask Stephen Strasburg or Chad Billingsley – so a fat 5 year contract for huge money should make Kershaw very happy. Besides… why would he want to leave the Dodgers, the only team he’s ever played for, when things are finally sunny? They just brought back Orel Hershiser, Nomar Garciaparra, and threw in some hottie from MLB Network to boot (Alanna Rizzo). If Kershaw wants to get off the train at this point I seriously question his mind and his heart. Brian Wilson knew it was too good a situation to leave; so should Kershaw.

If Kershaw cannot put into words what he wants – I’d ask him very slowly, frequently, and even let him point to pictures if it made it easier – then the Dodgers have no choice but to shop their prize left-hander. The team simply has to be as good as it can be – now and down the line – and if Kershaw does not feel comfortable here, and won’t sign before his 2014 season turns him into a pumpkin, Stan Kasten should make phone calls.

Now while you’re snarling and sobbing and cursing my existence, imagine the bevy of blue chips Clayton Kershaw could fetch. Unlike Matt Kemp, there are no current injury concerns lingering. No massive contract to consider. Stan Kasten could go to any team, point to their 40 man roster and start selecting whomever he wished. That’s what Kershaw could do.

I’d prefer they sign him to that extension and such talk can end, but those are the facts. He needs to sign an extension, and it should happen before the season begins, ideally.

Well, that’s all for now. I hope some excitement occurs over the next 3 days and we have fun things to talk about in Dodgerland. The Steelers have let me down, the Bruins season is mostly done, so all I have is the LA Kings until counting down for pitchers and catchers to report, and getting ready for some college baseball to bridge the gap till opening day.

I hope I have eloquently stated my case for the popular players many of you adore. I am not a bad guy. I am like you, I hope – a Dodgers fan. I have seen the fruits of victory and the Botox’d bankruptcy of bitter defeat. I am proud to be a Dodgers fan again and am very excited about the possibilities of what 2014, 2015 and beyond can bring. Perhaps even that elusive World Series trophy we haven’t glimpsed in a quarter of a century.

Categories: Uncategorized

You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs

December 4, 2013 Comments off

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The winter meetings start next week – i.e. one of my favorite times of the baseball year.

I am a strange breed of fan that isn’t a Saber geek but has always been fascinated by being an armchair GM. I use hunches and too many years of thinking these things through over statistics. In all honesty this system has done me very well over the years. Too many times have I been right on things teams need to do, and trades or signings teams needs to explore. It has helped me in fantasy baseball leagues as well.

I have written how this winter’s Dodgers puzzle is a curious one because the team can go in many directions, or few. There are questions all over the field and difficult to budge salaries attached to many of them. It is a fun time.

I am not against any player being moved – save, as I mentioned last entry, probably Corey Seager. Everyone else is free game, pretty much. I think the team was acquired with so many problems, a quick patch job administered and surprising success occurred where it probably shouldn’t have. Of course a lot of this was luck, which fans may not understand or want to admit, as record winning streaks like the Dodgers had late June on don’t happen frequently. In between all that winning was an abysmal April, May, early June, and a sad September. What is this current Dodgers team really capable of? Who can say? Whatever the case, I am betting Stan Kasten and his team isn’t married to this bunch of players as many fans are. So… I wouldn’t be surprised if popular players are sent packing. Below I will discuss a few star players and areas where movement may occur. Again, nothing would surprise me.

Clayton Kershaw:

Fans get upset when I tweet Kershaw could be dealt, or should be. They are blinded by love of the man and loyalty, both good things. But in reality, the Dodgers are over a barrel should Kershaw really want to test the free-agent waters, which every voice on MLB Radio Network will tell you “Is his right.”

Kershaw is a beast. He’s a young Sandy Kershaw wrapped up in Christian goodness. He’s improved immensely from the time he’s come up and seems destined for a Hall of Fame career. That said, I’ve been slammed a bit for suggesting he could be dealt. Also for saying he hasn’t proven he can win the big game like proven aces of yore can and have. The casual fan is cussing me out right now, which is ok – I’m right. Read this next sentence carefully; it’s ok to move your lips as you read:

I would make every effort to re-sign Clayton Kershaw, offering him whatever deal he chose – long or short-term.

Get it? I would love to keep Kershaw for any length of time that made sense to both parties. Personally, while the Guggenheim Group uses Monopoly money, I still do not like signing pitchers to really long-term deals. I just don’t think long-term deals ever work out for the team or the fans, but always do for the player. I like Kershaw, but I like the Dodgers more. Long after Kershaw is retired, I’ll be a fan. Long after his arm falls off, I’ll be a fan. I would prefer the Dodgers signed him for no more than 5 years, but if they want to sign him for the rumored 10 or 15, hey, go ahead. It’s a dumb move for the Dodgers and the fans, and ultimately will come back to haunt the team (A-Rod, Pujols, etc.) but if Guggenheim has the money and wants to keep the kid that much, do what you have to do.

Problem… it seems Kershaw does NOT want to sign with the Dodgers “for life.” In fact, perhaps he doesn’t want to sign with the Dodgers at all. Or maybe he does but is curious what the free market bears. Remember, it’s “his right.”

Here’s where logic kicks in and I seem to lose many of his devoted fans. If – I repeat if – Kershaw cannot say what terms would make him happy to sign with the Dodgers THIS WINTER or certainly THIS SEASON – I would deal him. I would do this because it’s the most intelligent thing to do. The Dodgers could get a lot back for Kershaw. They could save perhaps $300M and they could stock up the farm with blue chips and the big league club with young talent. They could use the wealth of prospects and saved money to get whatever pitcher/s they want to replace Kershaw (no small feat, but anyone is replaceable).

Would a rotation of Greinke, Tanaka, Ryu, Haren, Billingsley/Fife/Beckett/whomever be enough to win? Or what if they added David Price to the mix – suddenly having prospects to trade as Kershaw netted them a bundle? What if they went to war with the rotation I noted and were players for a big starting pitcher in June or July? Or next winter?

In the end, keeping Kershaw should be a priority, but if he simply isn’t happy enough to sign, let him go to that mystery team where big money and many years of obligation frighten him less. If the Dodgers “lose” Kershaw, they also gain a lot of talent in exchange, freedom to go in many different directions and are not on the hook feasibly for 15 years. Anyone really think Kershaw, or any pitcher, can pitch 10-15 years without a serious injury?

The Dodgers will survive Kershaw’s decision just as they have survived every other great player’s leaving or retiring. I want Kershaw in blue, but more I want the Dodgers built to succeed for the most years possible. I still remember Kershaw’s Game 6 performance in St. Louis, so in my eyes, as a devoted fan of many, many seasons, I am not so loyal to him that I will tolerate much hijacking. It’s very simple – TELL Kasten what will make you happy, Clayton. If you can’t put it into words, it would be wise to look at what options are out there via trade. The Dodgers can’t wait till the end of the 2014 season and see you walk as a free-agent. That would not be good. I don’t think Kasten is that stupid. Something needs to happen, and happen reasonably soon.

The Outfield:

The Dodgers outfield is a Sudoku puzzle. On one hand, there are too many outfielders. On the other hand, too few. If everyone were healed magically, the outfield is crowded. But fans who follow the team and aren’t blinded by previous years’ statistics get that this isn’t the case at all. Yet, you will hear a lot of people talking about how “In 2011 Matt Kemp was the best player in the game” and equal ideas about Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier. Newsflash – this is a long time since 2011 and none of those 3 is what they were. Each has injury concerns, declining numbers and none are a guarantee to return to what they were. In fact, it’s more likely they won’t than the other way around.

I say this with again what I think is logic and common sense but my ideas are met with disdain, mostly from lookalike brunette fans who want to carry Kemp and/or Ethier’s spawn. Crawford is less loved and should try to audition for the new season of ‘Keeping Up with the Kardashians’ to rectify this.

Sorry, girls – and boys who secretly want to spoon with Kemp as well – but the facts are the facts. I won’t say Kemp was using PEDs in 2011 as that would be a lawsuit waiting to happen, but as we know many star players the past 20 years have suddenly become very good, and gotten very bad, and coupled those rises and falls with injuries. I have no idea what anyone in MLB has done, or will do, but I do know that Kemp went from being a very promising raw talent to a superstar to an often injured and somewhat unimportant component of the Dodgers recent success. Read into that what you may. For better or worse Kemp is more past potential as we stand on the cusp of 2014 than he is actual ability.

The last I heard Kemp has another shoulder surgery, another ankle surgery and we all know his hamstrings are like cotton candy. Can he rebound and become the Kemp of old, or even a very good major league player? I would assume so. Is this to be counted on for 2014? I wouldn’t be so optimistic as to say that. Last winter the fans were talking of Kemp’s comeback in 2013, and I predicted problems. All season long I said Kemp should be sent to the DL for the remainder of the season to recover and get ready for 2014 (look it up, I said it a lot – starting in March or April, if not sooner). Starry eyed fans drooled over Rihanna’s boy toy and said I was a “hater” and that I “needed therapy” for saying something so unpopular. Folks – saying something unpopular does not necessarily mean you wish this to be the case. Just like I noted about Kershaw above, the ideal situation of course would be for Kemp to be Kemp and for him to help power the Dodgers to their first World Series appearance since 1988. But reality is reality – at best Kemp is a question mark. 2011 was a very, very long time ago in baseball terms.

So what do you do? Trade Kemp? Watch him hit homers and suddenly gets healthy in Boston or Texas? Well, probably not. I would trade Kemp in a second if we could get value back. I’d eat a portion of his mega contract if we could get Elvis Andrus say, or perhaps Profar. Or Kyle Seager. But realistically Kemp’s deal is so massive that it would take eating $50M of it, and that’s a lot even to the Guggenheim Group. If you make Kemp’s deal that much more affordable, you want more in return. Obviously the risk becomes if we pay for Kemp AND he rebounds elsewhere, and all we have to show for it are a few so-so kids or some mediocre big leaguer, we’re fucked. And no one is going to deal for Kemp right now, with more surgeries than production the past 2 plus years, without the Dodgers paying a lot. And could Kemp even pass a physical anyway? It all seems like a moot point.

Kemp’s value probably is more to the Dodgers right now than it is on the open market. That could change as the FA crop isn’t wonderful and next winter’s power options are thin as well. Maybe Kemp looks like a worthwhile gamble to some team looking to catch lightening in a bottle. Right now, I think the Dodgers need to hope Kemp gets healthy and mans an outfield slot, whether it’s CF or a corner. Personally, I think the fantasy of Kemp being a 40/40 man and playing a Gold Glove centerfield again is just that, a pipe dream. Kemp playing CF is what got him into this mess in the first place. Ideally Kemp moves to a corner spot, probably left, and lets healthier and younger Joc Pederson and Yasiel Puig take the other two slots. The team needs to get healthier and younger and more athletic in the outfield – and soon. While folks keep telling me “Joc isn’t ready”, he’s clearly arriving soon. My guess is as soon as Kemp lands back on the DL – i.e. opening day or sometime in April.

I think the Dodgers will deal with this situation just that way. Kemp will be the guy until he clearly isn’t the guy. At that point, whether it’s from Day One on or sometime later, Pederson will get his opportunity. Will he step in and do a great job? Probably not, most rookies don’t. But if he fields the position well, is reliable enough to start every day and perhaps offers some of that tantalizing power and speed he’s been known for, it’s not a bad option. It’s certainly more enticing to me than Skip Schumaker in center.

That leaves Crawford, Ethier and Puig.

Puig is going to be a fixture and we can only hope he matures and doesn’t become what he reminds me of today – Raul Mondesi. Puig’s talent is off the charts but if you know anything about me you know I like grinders and baseball IQ more than “tools.” If Puig can learn and improve, I think he’ll be a wonderful RF option for years to come and is the least of our OF question marks. I know how much people love Puig, so since I had the audacity to use logic in connection of Kershaw and Kemp, I will not say anything additional about Puig. I want you to like me. I really want you to like me (he says in a Sally Field-like way).

So we’re left with Crawford and Ethier. Crawford to me is easily the more explosive player and like Kemp, harder to move. Logically that means he stays and I can see an outfield mix of Crawford, Pederson and Puig once Kemp pulls up lame. That’s a pretty nice outfield, by the way. I hope Crawford, a year removed from his Tommy John surgery, manages to stay healthy and show us more of the Rays Crawford than the Red Sox or on again/off again Dodgers version. I really liked his post-season performance, so I’m strangely optimistic he’ll continue to improve.

So that means Ethier is the odd man out. Kemp is too pricey and too risky to trade, Crawford too pricey. Ethier enhanced his value by playing center – as good or bad (your judgment) as he did. His numbers have regressed but his added versatility and more palatable contract seem to suggest he’ll be the guy Kasten moves if not next week at the Winter Meetings, soon. Moving Ethier essentially clears up the “log jam” and adds either prospects to the system, a bullpen arm, a bottom of the rotation starter, bench parts, etc., etc. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

Ethier is a nice player. For a time, he was one of my favorite Dodgers. He really showed up last year and stepped in when Kemp disappointed. That said, he’s not the guy he was a few years ago and as he’s the most tradable, in the unfortunate situation of being expendable.

So if I had to guess right now, I’d say Kemp is the plan in CF until he proves incapable of doing it, and then Pederson is allowed a chance, with Crawford and Puig there too. Crawford, Pederson and Puig is my bet if you tune into a Nomar Garciaparra called Dodgers game (thank god no more Collins/Lyons) in May.

Closer:

I said last spring and early summer the Dodgers needed to sign Brian Wilson. This was a sore area for many as the bearded one is associated with the Hated Ones and also was considered another broken down Giant the blue would sign with much embarrassment to follow. As it turns out, I was happily right and the Wilson signing was not only inexpensive but a huge reason for the Dodgers success in 2013.

I also said that if Wilson were allowed to leave, to close elsewhere, it would mean the Dodgers would be back at square one and have to find someone like Wilson to slot into the 8th inning spot before Kenley Jansen closed. The problem there is the same as the problem was last season. If the Dodgers didn’t pick up Wilson for $1M and sign him this winter for whatever it takes to retain him, it means spending as much or more someplace else or trading our cherished prospects for a closer type elsewhere. This was the chatter this week when Jim Johnson’s name was mentioned in connection with the Dodgers.

I’m happy the Dodgers didn’t deal kids for Johnson because we need our kids and because Wilson is better than Johnson anyway. If we are going to pay someone a lot of money for the back of the pen, just pay the beard. We know what we have in Wilson, and he adds a swagger the softish Dodgers need more of. I was happy when Johnson went to the A’s and surprised the price in return was just Jemile Weeks, who like his brother, stinks. Somehow Beane was able to palm off Weeks for a top closer he’ll end up flipping mid-season for something better, whereas the Dodgers would likely have had to part with Pederson or prized pitching prospects.

Now today, since Joe Nathan signed in Detroit, and Johnson is in Oakland, the Dodgers are talking seriously with Wilson. Wilson likely will want to close, or at least close on days Kenley is not, and that’s ok with me. In fact – another point loyalists get mad at me about – is Wilson can close and Kenley can set up. It shouldn’t be written in stone that just because he ended the season as the closer, and did a good job in the role, that Kenley HAS to close. If you recall, he wasn’t the original choice for the role, and only became the closer when Brandon League failed so miserably.

I have no problem with Kenley closing, and if he does, good for him. But if Wilson beats him out, or due to more experience is awarded the job and Kenley has to set up, I say that’s all right too. Wilson is a proven big game closer and any configuration of he and Kenley means a strong back of the bullpen. That’s good for the Dodgers and good for the fans.

I want to read soon that Wilson inks with the blue. I think we need him and then need to keep JP Howell as well. Howell is a very good pitcher and deserving of a multi-year deal. Sign him and then figure out who replaces Ronald Hellisario, who was allowed to hit the FA market. Let someone else worry about that Creature from the Black Lagoon looking mother – I’ve had my fill watching his inconsistency. Remember, he was a big reason the Dodgers lost so many early games. To me he was always a Visa problem pain in the ass who was more like his old pal Ramon Troncoso than an effective big league set up man. I think the Dodgers will be just fine with Yimi Garcia, Jose Dominguez, Chris Withrow, and other kids. I’m very thankful the Hellisario era has come to an end.

The bullpen is the life’s blood of a big league team. I hope Kasten assembles a good one, saving us from the drama and June patch jobs he had to do in 2013.

I think that’s enough for now. I hit some hot button topics and ruffled some feathers. I’m excited by the Hot Stove season so far and think next week will be a lot of fun. I maintain that pretty much anyone but Corey Seager is open game imo if the Dodgers improve as a result of a trade or trades. The Dodgers to me are about Vin Scully, Blue Heaven on Earth, Nancy Bea’s organ music and the name on the front of the uniform. Fans need to get this was a cobbled together transitional team meant to show good will to long-suffering fans freed from an oppressive regime. It was meant to bring some fun back, some star power, and show the fans that the future would be bright. It was never meant to be “the team.” So sit back and enjoy the show. If some stars are moved, and others brought in, and kids you barely know, or don’t know at all, are given a shot, so be it.

We have been kicked around more or less – save for 1988’s miracle – since after the 1981 World Series win. There have been many downs, a few ups, and some horrible moments including bankruptcy, comas and Vin Scully trying to cash rubber checks. Things can only get better. 2013 gave us a glimpse of that. I’m hopeful 2014 and beyond will be simply wonderful.

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