Archive

Posts Tagged ‘mlb winter meetings’

What Black Magic Can the Dodgers’ Hot Stove Conjure Up?

November 7, 2016 Leave a comment

gettyimages-484499393

The World Series is over; the clocks have changed and now baseball diehards get to await the Hot Stove league. It used to be my favorite time of the year but under Andrew Friedman, Farhan Zaidi and the rest, it’s less than thrilling if you are looking forward to your Dodgers making a big splash. The new normal seems to be to remain content with getting to the playoffs, not really making a push. Mark Walter confirmed this recently with his comments about ten years of getting to the playoffs being more prudent than making a big push for a go year. Sigh.

Fans of this group of executives crow that hey, even with a record amount of disabled list visits, the combined geniuses of the Dodgers front office made 2016 a pretty successful season. Of course, no thought goes into the obvious – the injuries were all inevitable since the front office invested in risky, often injured players, mostly pitchers. Whatever magic that happened in 2016, one must remember that it was indeed magic. To assume, for instance, that a team can be constructed of suspect innings in the rotation and that the pen can compensate once more, is foolish. It’s not a repeatable formula to have relievers and minor league journeymen fill in the innings left by management constructing a rotation of question marks.

We shall see, I suppose, what cards Friedman and Zaidi play. And if, more importantly, the Diamondbacks, with a new general manager and new manager, and Giants, in search of bullpen help, decide to make an effort in 2017. The division is weak and winnable. I’m sure Friedman and Zaidi, and the Dodgers ownership group, understands this. Of course, it’s possible that the two other teams who usually are in the thick of things, will make an effort in the coming season. If so, will whatever Friedman and Zaidi do this winter be enough? And what will they do? What can they do? Well, let’s consider a few things.

I would say the most obvious way to improve the rotation is by adding Zack Greinke via a big trade with Arizona, or someone similar in another deal. But, given the fact Friedman and Zaidi allowed Greinke to leave, would they even feel it necessary to go this route? After all, when Greinke left, they made no effort to add anyone of that talent level and only moved on to Scott Kazmir and Kenta Maeda once most every other option was off the table. But assuming rumors are true and Friedman and Zaidi would like Greinke back, or some other solid ace-type pitcher, that would certainly be the easiest way to add quality behind Clayton Kershaw, who has now shown besides being vulnerable in Oct play, is not super human and can end up on the disabled list. Again, repeating the magic that occurred once Kershaw hit the injured list, seems a poor strategy.

Assuming Friedman and Zaidi stick to their guns, however, and don’t believe Greinke is worth the investment, or even that another pitcher of that cost (think bottom line, we are talking about owners who are a large investment firm, after all), then what? Well, it would mean more of the same. The same being a rotation that likely looks identical to 2016’s – Kershaw, Kazmir, Maeda, and probably youngsters Julio Urias and Jose De Leon. The thought here, of course, everyone remains healthy and that Urias and De Leon make like the Braves young arms of the 80s and become top tier hurlers in no time at all. Seems like a stretch to me. One, that the kids can take on the additional innings workload so quickly and develop that fast vs. big league hitting, and two, that the walking wounded all stay healthy.

The word “depth” has been bandied around a lot by Friedman cultists. It’s to imply in its use that Friedman is a sorcerer, like Dr. Strange, and he has an ability to make the lower reaches of his 25-man roster that much more special than those of the other 29 teams in league. In other words, everything he touches turns to gold. It’s to assume that every other general manager has no concept of backups, on the major league roster or in the minors. It’s ridiculous and in reality, means not acquiring talent and relying on plans B, C and D.

Friedman devotees will point, as Mark Walter seemed to recently, that you just need to get to the playoffs and then “depth” and the dark arts take over and through luck and prayer you are as apt to win as a “better” team. Well, there have been cases where wild card teams have won, but I’d say most teams that have are fundamentally good teams and it’s not an accident they did well. I’d also say, as this year’s post season attests, that the Chicago Cubs were picked by Vegas and others to win the World Series in 2016. They had the most wins and they won, even when down 3 games to 1. Was it luck? No, it was an incredibly talented roster put together and masterfully played by Theo Epstein, who had done it before – in Boston, and a very solid manager in Joe Maddon. Luck? Perhaps a smidge, but while Friedman and Zaidi loaded up on players like Brandon McCarthy, Brent Anderson Chris Hatcher, Kike Hernandez, Kazmir, etc., Theo loaded up with Jon Lester, Ben Zobrist, Aroldis Chapman, etc. Luck didn’t have anything to do with it – understanding which players are great and collecting as many as possible, did.

It’s too early to predict what will happen in the Hot Stove this winter but I will say it would take a lot of good baseball work to improve the Dodgers more than hoping Ned Colletti and Logan White’s farm fills in the gaps. Last winter’s shopping season, which went largely ignored by Friedman and Zaidi, was so important because this winter the cupboard is bare. I believe the best free-agent pitcher available is Jeremy Hellickson, if that tells you something. I know Moneyball fans turn their noses up at anything that resembles the old way of doing things, but there’s a reason why most teams look to the winter meetings as the time to fill needs. It’s how business is done.

Say Friedman and Zaidi realize they better add reliable innings behind Kershaw, and they might. The cost will be more than dollars; it will be in the prize prospects so many baseball fans covet. Personally, I have no problem dealing young players, if it makes sense and if it fills needs for a chance to win now. After all, while the Dodgers have spent almost 3 decades doing it in a less than aggressive fashion, winning is what it’s all about. It’s why the Cubs and Indians both dealt huge chips in their farm system for a chance to play in this year’s World Series. It’s almost once in a lifetime – in fact, for the Cubs fans, it was once in several lifetimes. Do you think Theo regrets trading for Chapman? The Indians for Andrew Miller?

It would be curious to me to see Friedman and Zaidi, however, deal blue chips for pitching when said pitching was available this time last year for cash. I know, I know – the Sabermetrics lovers will say, but it costs a draft pick! Who cares? The way Friedman drafts, it’s inconsequential anyway. And what draft pick will undoubtedly become as good as an ace the team could have signed? It’s a one in a thousand shot (I didn’t use a Moneyball calculator, I just used that figure for dramatic effect, so don’t have an aneurysm trying to fathom that).

I would say, without knowing the war room plans of Friedman, Zaidi, the genius of Gabe Kapler and Josh Byrnes, etc. that more than likely the 2017 team will more or less resemble the 2016 bunch, except with more emphasis on Ned’s kids and less pixie dust. As I said, to bank on magic to be as plentiful next year as it was this, probably isn’t the best plan in the world. But, we shall see, we shall see. Fire up the Hot Stove, it will be a trade heavy winter as the shopping isn’t there. Let’s see what Friedman and his merry men can conjure up.

GASP!!! Daring to Question the Genius of Andrew Friedman

December 14, 2014 1 comment

Capture

The smoke has cleared. Its business as usual in MLB now and football is getting most of the headlines. Unless you’re PED cheat Melky Cabrera, then you’re still being rewarded for augmenting mediocre baseball skills into another plump payday.

The Dodgers whirlwind of moves at the winter meetings is done and fans wonder what happened and what will happen next. I made a mistake by posting about some of this on twitter because morons rule social media and immediately attack anyone’s opinion not their own. I had the audacity to question the moves Andrew Friedman and his geniuses made, as who can really say all the moves actually made the team better. I have Dodgers fans friends who are in agreement, and have even gotten on me for being so open-minded to what the data dorks in the Dodgers front office did. The reason I defend the principle of what was done is because it was basically what I had suggested. Where I offer criticism is in how it was carried out. Which players were acquired in the barrage of moves. Sometimes, it’s quite possible deals are made for deals sake. They don’t all work out, even if you have “big brains” making the moves. Looking at all the deals and what the Dodgers look like now, I think it’s quite reasonable to ask questions.

My opinion has always been the Dodgers were a weak team, not tough, not fundamentally sound, not good defensively and needed more balance. Just like a fantasy team, you want a spread of your talent. The Dodgers always relied too much on their “big bats” and for a pitching-oriented team, neglected defense. For well over a year I have cried to anyone who might listen how the mix was bad, chemistry was awful, coaches and the front office enabled the lazy, bad behavior and adjusting for more balance and defense would improve the product on the field. No, I was told, you’re a hater, you don’t know anything. The pundits everyone love on twitter and in sports columns know more. Sabermetrics proves how good bad players are. Well, I like some data, but I understand baseball is played by actual people and not calculators. Certain things like on-base percentage are important, but a lot of the other stats exist mostly to appease those who masturbate alone in their parents’ basements. The internet is all about feeling smarter than everyone else, and bullying those who don’t agree with you. I can dish it out, so I don’t care, but it doesn’t make for quality conversation (a lost art) when nerds and sycophants bully and attack your opinion – in your own little corner of the internet.

I look at the moves and completely understand WHY they were made. I’d argue with even my friends that the idea was good, the execution flawed. I get that Saberidiots don’t like speed and think its value is meaningless. They must hate when Kevin Kennedy talks endlessly how Dee Gordon is a very good player, how his speed in 2014 made a difference. Not only as a top of the order threat and MLB leading base stealer, but what it means to the game within the game, and how his legs affected defenses, pitchers and the #2 hitters’ at bats hitting behind him. His haters will say his on-base percentage was poor, his defense not good, his second half bad, etc. I would say if you imagined going into 2014 that Dee would hit around .300 most of the season, lead the game in steals and play a solid second base, you’d be ecstatic. But again, speed doesn’t matter. Heck, Theo Epstein hated it too – well, until he picked up Dave Roberts for nothing from Moneyball-minded pal Paul DePodesta and Roberts stole arguably the most important base in baseball history, sending the flat on their backs Boston Red Sox to an unbelievable World Series title.

Going into the off-season, I had no issue with the new high IQ front office dealing anyone. I hoped they wouldn’t move our most intriguing prospects, but anyone else, including Dee, would be ok with me. My reasoning was – and management must have thought the same – no one should be spared since the mix was bad and the team proved not to be very good as they couldn’t win with these players. Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, the list goes on. Big names, big paydays, but all together, they proved two years in a row they couldn’t win when it mattered. I think it had to do with egos, fundamentals and heart. Whether we thought as much for the same reasons or not, Friedman and team agreed that the group the fans fell in love with in the post-McCourt era, wasn’t a very good team and something had to be done. So, they went to work.

Many of the deals seemed to be providing depth, something missing that hurt the Dodgers the past few years. While big names were all over the diamond, the backup situation, due to the trade with Boston, a lull in player development, injuries, etc., left the call up potential a huge issue. The Dodgers, unlike years past, could not call down to AAA and bring up that about-ready stud arm to step into the rotation. And during or because of this, clearly Stan Kasten lost confidence in the farm all around, as even while bleeding out over the past two years, help rarely came up from the minors. The pen was the pen was the pen. Kid arms, even those with a track record of success, like Paco Rodriquez, were not to be trusted. When the Dodgers expensive outfield had turmoil and defensive woes, uber prospect Joc Pederson was left to toil in second-rate towns. Friedman and team started gathering guys that could provide additional depth, while they planned bigger things for the past week in San Diego.

I understand that what has been accumulated is not the opening day lineup, and that likely different bodies will be added, and some others moved out, you can start to see the forest for the trees and figure out who most likely will be in place come April. Again, I don’t question the motivation for making moves, or even the rationale for why specific deals were made, but I do think they went a bit crazy with so many moves, so fast, possibly to impress and make a statement to the industry. Much like Paul DePodesta making over the Dan Evans Dodgers in his image, young executives tend to like to piss on every fire hydrant they can to show a) who’s in charge, and b) how much smarter they are than the previous regime. Time will tell how smart Friedman and his math geeks are, but we know what happened when DePodesta (no Jonah Hill), slash and burned a perfectly good Evans roster. Antonio Perez anyone? Jason Grabowski?

A question I have with what happened is not only did the Dodgers take on arguably the wrong players, but they’re paying them and the previous players too. Paying Dee Gordon and Dan Haren to pay Howie Kendrick, who’s also a walk free-agent. Paying San Diego $32M to have Matt Kemp possibly haunt the blue, while only getting PED cheat catcher Yasmani Grandal and two prospects?

Kemp is the big one people want to talk about. Kemp is a beloved, sexy hunk that women and men all want to bed. The fact is, whether he used performance enhancing drugs or not at some point (the league is dirty, sorry, you have to at least ask if top players touched the stuff), he hasn’t been as great an all-around player has his reputation suggests. In 2011, he was very, very, very good. Before that he was young, inexperienced, made many mistakes, upset coaches, and after, a lot of the same, including trade demands and tantrums when things didn’t go his way.

I am not a Matt Kemp fan, and mostly never was, but that said, I wouldn’t want to deal him within the division, unless the haul was a good one. Given the few options on the market for big bats, Kemp’s once cumbersome contract suddenly looked very palatable. The rumors started to increase on where Kemp might go, and San Diego began taking on legs. As I said, I wouldn’t want Kemp in San Diego, not so much because I believe he’s a monster, but because Dodger fans’ Murphy’s Law states it is a foregone conclusion that Kemp will be highly motivated to punish the Dodgers to show them they made a mistake. Given 18 games vs. the division rival, that’s 18 times out of 162 game schedule Kemp could cause damage. That said, it’s also as likely Kemp would disappear in San Diego, the big park, the injuries coming up again, continued lack of motivation, etc. It was a risk though, and unless the return was something like Kemp (no cash) for Andrew Cashner or Ian Kennedy + Grandal, I wouldn’t even consider it.

I have heard the nerds and cyber bullies stroking themselves lately to Grandal and his pitch framing (13th overall, which doesn’t sound so great if this is the main criteria you’re banking on). This is a term that’s come up in the new math but was never mentioned until Friedman and pals sprinkled it out there. I know enough about Grandal in that he’s a PED cheat. As we know, once a cheat, always a cheat. It’s quite possible he’ll go clean, but a lot of players cheat due to the financial implications and continue to do the same and hope they don’t get caught. Mostly, I have not been a big Grandal guy because he’s not a very good catcher, for an offensive-minded one (.225 avg last year, .327 OBP). I like the idea of power spread around the diamond, not locked up in a few players, but I much preferred the Miguel Montero mentions than Grandal. To me, if a catcher is serviceable and can pop 15-20 homers, that alleviates the need for pouting, flirting millionaire outfielders who are more style than substance. I’m not sure Grandal is good, but he’s got to be better than what we got last year out of the catcher position. I can accept Grandal, assuming he stops juicing and doesn’t fail drug tests, but the other part of the deal – two prospects and a massive check? I’m not thrilled. And again, I am not a Kemp fan and in part am relieved he’s gone. He wanted to go, he’s gone. It frees up a spot, possibly, for Pederson, and improves the team by adding a young player who’s healthier, hungrier, a better defender and has offensive upside himself. So I guess any Kemp deal always had the make-believe caveat that you “got Joc in the deal too”. But still – you couldn’t get more for Matt Kemp? What does that say about Friedman and company? And Kemp? Either Kemp just isn’t viewed as valuable as LA’s fawning fans would have you believe, or he was so toxic Friedman and company had to get him out of here. Probably some combination of the two. Still, not a great haul, so for Moneyball-lovers who say I don’t know what I’m talking about, you’re wrong. I do. I just would have gotten something better, especially if I was going to eat that much money. Bad trade, but not for the reason Kemp’s supporters would have you believe.

I don’t want to devote that much time to the other deals, but in summary – an old Jimmy Rollins for a team that’s not a World Series contender seems odd. Again, he’s old. He’s a much better defender, even at 36, than Hanley, but why did Kasten bring in two Cubans as Hanley insurance if neither could field the position once Hanley was gone? And why do you want a 36 year old Rollins when you’re sort of in rebuild mode? No interest in trying for Elvis Andrus?

Now you have a middle of the infield, hell, three-quarters of the infield, that is clearly short-term and just Corey Seager on the horizon to replace any of the three. Then what? Re-up with Howie Kendrick? Maybe. Kendrick is a good player for sure, but he wasn’t an All-Star last year, costs 4 times more than Dee and costs basically $20M plus this season – his $9.5M, Dee’s $2.5M and Haren’s $10M. And as I said, he’s a walk free-agent with no guarantee he’d stick around. Hard to say the middle infield situation was handled properly, or saved any money. I keep hearing how Friedman and team are saving money for the Dodgers, but I keep seeing them write checks to have guys play elsewhere, and take on big salary themselves. Brandon McCarthy? I hear how great he is because he “finally got it” in New York in the second half, but 4 years for a guy no one would have given 4 years to? With past injuries? $48M to man the bottom of the rotation where Haren was doing it for $10M? Am I missing something, is McCarthy so valuable? I never thought so. Serviceable, but not sure why he was a must-have item for 4 years (post-4 ERA lifetime with a losing record… yes, I know things like pitching wins are overrated to the smarties out there). Again, I was told how dead wrong I am here – the Moneyball fans know better.

In the end, I know more will be done – it better be. Right now the team lost two massive egos in Kemp and Hanley but still have man-child Puig, who finally needs to stop dancing and get serious about baseball. He was picked the cover boy of a video game but still sucked in the All-Star homerun contest and in Oct, and when it mattered most, was a bust in Oct and benched. Perhaps without fellow party boys Kemp and Hanley, Puig will not have the support group he did previously and maybe Donnie, not a good manager by any stretch, can wrestle his team back from the inmates. Puig needs to become the player he’s supposed to be and provide protection for A-Gone. He needs to stop acting silly, stop having mental gaffs and perform. 16 homers is not acceptable for a yoked out power hitter of such “potential.”

As of today the rotation still has some question marks, especially since Greinke can opt out and Kershaw can’t win in Oct. The pen has a great closer, but I’d argue question marks everyplace else. A good baseball team needs a very good bullpen. The Dodgers pen has been spotty for several years and that’s a huge reason they don’t win. Friedman and pals need to continue to fortify it – as they have, admittedly – but figure 9th inning on back. Right now, the games haven’t been shortened in such a way the Dodgers can reasonably expect anything different than 2013 and 2014’s results. But, there’s still time.

All of this is a work in progress. I get changes needed to be made – I have been calling for them for quite a while. I just am not sure the personnel acquired is the right group, and more, if the Dodgers actually won any deal Friedman has made. I’d argue his best deal was Dee for Kendrick, as it turned out, even though I could argue why a 26 year old lead-off presence under team control trumps an older, more expensive free-agent to be. The second deal that might be ok is the Tampa one for Joel Peralta and serviceable lefty Adam Liberatore for hard throwing former PED cheat Jose Dominguez and Greg Harris. Liberatore may be the steal of the deal, as it turns out. The other moves – flashy, headline grabbing, but I’m not sold they were quality hauls for the pieces moved away.

It’s not even Christmas, things will change. It’s possible addition by subtraction will turn the Dodgers around. Still, I see logjams and an unspectacular manager and coaching staff. I still see a big payroll and question marks now and next winter. As a Dodgers fan, I don’t know what to make of what’s happening. It smells a lot like the shitburger DePodesta served up. I don’t want to buy a Marlins hat, a Cubs hat, or even a Mariners or White Sox hat, but the old ticker can’t take much more of this. And it sure as hell is fed up with elder children hiding out in basements, typing venom on their iPads about how stupid fans are for not seeing the genius in every bowel movement Friedman and Farhan Zaidi take. Agree to disagree, but I have a right to my opinion.

Who are the Dodgers? We’ll Find Out Soon Enough

December 4, 2014 Leave a comment

LOS ANGELES ANGELS OF ANAHEIM VS LOS ANGELES DODGERS

The winter meetings begin in San Diego next week.

Forget Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Forget people lined up outside Walmart to trample one another over cheap TVs they don’t need. Forget the endless commercialism of Christmas. Forget the colorized version (loaded with commercials) of It’s a Wonderful Life. The real holiday experience for fans of MLB is the winter meetings. And this year, with a slew of new suits in the Dodgers front office, what is the plan?

So far the Dodgers have tinkered around the edges, re-signing guys you’d expect them to, and some you didn’t care about either way. There have been flimsy rumors of Matt Kemp moving, Cole Hamels coming, and now Jon Lester apparently being courted. All a prelude to next week. The winter meetings, and the time following it, should reveal what this expensive Dodgers front office is about and what the plan for the team is moving forward. Up until now, it’s still very vague.

Let’s look at some of the situations that have been talked about, and theories on what the Dodgers could do…

The outfield quagmire

The Dodgers of course created a surplus of expensive outfielders and bought time for kids to develop and now have a lot of pricey, seemingly less than motivated guys around with options perhaps being close to ready. Whether it’s more playing time for Scott Van Slyke, Joc Pederson getting his chance in center, Chris Heisey (?) factoring in or even replacing SVS, who gets traded, there are options. And that’s not even taking into account prospect Scott Schebler, who has hammered the ball for a few minor league seasons and did the same in this winter’s AFL.

The much talked about trade of Andre Ethier is one obvious way to free up outfield real estate. Ethier is centerfield depth and doesn’t complain, but since collecting his lotto-like new contract windfall, he seems less than interested in baseball. I’m not going to hypothesize on what happened to his game, but it’s pretty evident something drove him off the radar. So moving him would mean a small loss in terms of centerfield coverage, but mostly paying a majority of his contract – something the Dodgers may not want to do. Ethier, unlike Kemp, Yasiel Puig or even Carl Crawford, is an easy enough guy to stash on the bench. He can play all three positions, pinch hit and doesn’t mind not playing – more or less. He has value for this reason. If someone got hurt, you can plug the former All-Star in and not worry too much. That does have some merit. Not to mention, he could always bounce back. Unlikely, but not beyond comprehension.

Kemp is the guy linked to Baltimore, Seattle and San Diego because in a thin free-agent market for bats, his recently “horrible contract” suddenly isn’t so horrible. When Russell Martin gets $80M, taking a chance on Kemp seems worth $90M+. Would the Dodgers deal Kemp, having rightfully let Hanley Ramirez walk? I guess they need to ask – is Kemp, like perhaps Hanley was, part of the malaise that festered around Chavez Ravine the past few seasons? Is Kemp too Hollywood? Who would drive in runs if Kemp were gone, especially from the right side? Are the Dodgers close enough to really being a World Series team that Kemp’s loss would be a huge mistake?

I guess with Kemp it depends on what you can get in return, and how important the money owed to him is. I would also say, if his personality is a detriment, would he and Hanley not being around to enable young Puig be beneficial to the team? It’s easy to argue the Dodgers keep not advancing in October because of their lack of toughness and professionalism when it matters. Maybe losing some of the party boys, even those who rebounded to drive in a bunch of runs, isn’t such an awful thing. And, if the Dodgers look at the current team as if not a rebuild, a transitional team, would it be so bad to free up an outfield spot for someone else? Lastly, if the front office decides they want Pederson in center, that moves Puig back to right, which forces Kemp to left, where he went ape shit last season. Do the Dodgers want that distraction again?

I think probably they will listen to offers and go with the best deal/s they can make. If someone wants Crawford, they can have Crawford. If someone gives a good return for Kemp, they can have him, etc. I believe ideally the outfield quagmire is a good problem as they can turn a surplus into things they need – prospects, pitching, a young catcher, etc. Not to mention freeing up space for Pederson, SVS, Schebler eventually, etc. Having too much of something, even though it’s highly paid, isn’t the worst problem in the world.

It would be refreshing if Andrew Friedman and team explained to us what their vision is, but more than likely we will have to figure that out on our own as we see moves unfold. I’d look at this mess – $240M and counting – as a rebuildable mass that can be shaped any of a number of ways. I believe very soon – now – the Dodgers need to start trusting their top prospects, injecting youth and energy into the mix and moving out fat cats who didn’t help the Dodgers win many meaningful games anyway. Other teams play their top prospects, contenders too. I don’t know why it’s always said by pundits and fans that this kid or that can’t be trusted. It seems to work everywhere else. Since the light has been cast (some) on PEDs, baseball has become a young person’s game. More than ever young pitchers and hitters are rushed into action and largely perform at a high level. To assume Pederson or Corey Seager couldn’t do the same is silly. They could have growing pains and stumble through their first season as even the great Mike Trout did, or they could be serviceable or more right out of the gate. The Dodgers could go safe and play their superstars until their deals end, and even trade their kids, but I think it would be a massive mistake. The current configuration has been embarrassed in Oct twice in a row. The worst the kids do is fail. The millionaires did that too.

Who’s on short?

There has been a lot of talk of who plays short now that Hanley has been sent to Boston. I find it funny that so many were livid when I said the past year or two that Hanley should be dealt for a boatload of prospects, yet the Dodgers clearly did not want him around in LA. Brittle health, poor defense, questionable attitude, money. Why would the Dodgers have wanted Hanley back? In fact, it’s the reason Stan Kasten and crew snapped up every Cuban they could – having options if Hanley left. Now, he’s gone, but oddly two of the Cubans – Alex Guerrero and Erisbel Arruebarrena – are not even mentioned as options at short. There has been talk second baseman Darwin Barney can play short, or that the Dodgers might trade for Alexei Ramirez, or could pick up weed smoking, PED cheat Everth Cabrera, non-tendered yesterday by the Padres, but not one comment about the two Cubans brought in for the infield mix – at reasonably high prices.

I wonder why the Dodgers signed Guerrero, who was obviously Dee Gordon insurance but pretty much was signed based on a YouTube video. He was by all reports a shortstop learning to play second, but now with short opened, he’s not a consideration. Strange, since he can apparently hit and perhaps put up numbers as good as someone like Alexei Ramirez. Then there’s Arruebarrena, whose bat was always questioned but the scouting reports on his defense were such that he was signed as a certain option to at least field the position with the elite of the game. He hit decently in the minors and didn’t do much to terrify us in his big league auditions, yet he’s also not a consideration. I’d like to know who ok’d the two – maybe Kasten, or Ned, or even Logan White. As Kasten was running the show, I find it curious he agreed to pay these two a decent chunk of change and now they’re not even noted as possibilities – Darwin Barney is ahead of both on the depth chart.

If you keep the two, what are their roles? Minor league depth? Trade bait? They’re essentially prospects, but not the regular kind who make per diem money. Both make decent change, therefore you can’t as easily trade them, especially without much to go on and an obvious lack of interest in either from the front office.

To me the answer is simple – play Seager. Seager is an exceptional talent and arguably the best hitting prospect the Dodgers have had since Mike Piazza or Paul Konerko. He’s 20 and has just gotten his feet wet at AA, but he’s a man among boys and in the AFL, played very well among the game’s top prospects. As I said earlier, is this team really that close to the World Series that Seager cannot even be mentioned? What’s the worst that would happen if the team played Seager at short to open the season? He struggles? A) He’s so special a prospect that even if he did struggle, as he did moving from A to AA, he can adapt, B) if it’s that ugly, you fall back on Darwin Barney, Arruebarrena, Guerrero, move Juan Uribe back to short and play Guerrero at third, etc. i.e. it’s not the end of the world.

I will repeat, the Dodgers have to understand that they have these three uber prospects in Pederson, Seager and Julio Urias, and you can arguably add Schebler to the mix due to his impressive power and rapid advancement. Other teams play their kids and in my opinion, even with the top part of the Dodgers rotation, it’s no guarantee the team is prepared to advance any further than they have the past two seasons. Why not try Seager, Pederson and hell, perhaps Urias (soon)? With the backup possibilities mentioned, the experiment would either have a setback where you had to play someone after Seager faltered, or you’d see just how special Seager was. Anyone will experience growing pains when coming to the bigs; one could easily assume Seager is so great he could adjust and learn from the experience. Not to mention he’s still a shortstop, having not yet tried third regularly, and the opening is at short.

Super rotation?

The Dodgers are now talking about adding another good pitcher to make their possible super rotation 4 deep. Besides having 4 aces, the idea obviously is to create options should Zack Greinke take that opt-out after 2015, and if Hyun-Jin Ryu keeps getting hurt, as he did again in 2014. But would the Dodgers, with $240M in payroll, add more? Is it smart to add more when your team may not be ready to go all the way anyhow? Or perhaps you do add Jon Lester, Max Scherzer, Cole Hamels, James Shields, etc. because you know you will make a series of moves that will improve the questionable aspects of the team and the Dodgers will compete for the World Series next Oct.

Any way you look at it, it’s not a bad idea to have a crazy good rotation. Knowing your pitcher can win the game most every day takes the pressure off maybe your 20 year old shortstop, your rookie centerfielder, etc. Maybe you don’t need Hanley and Kemp to provide the “big bats” and drive in a lot of runs if your pitching staff is continually shutting down your opposition’s offense. With millionaire bats gone, but perhaps better chemistry, youth, energy, excitement and who knows, maybe even production (?), could be that a super rotation is the way to go.

I won’t speculate on who the Dodgers sign, but I will say the new geniuses have shown they obviously didn’t think much of Matt Magill and knew some long-man depth was needed as the call-up cupboard was bare, especially with Stephen Fife out all last year. Acquiring Juan Nicasio and Mike Bolsinger ensured some level of depth should Ryu or anyone else get hurt again (not to mention Joel Peralta and Adam Liberatore acquired from Tampa for the pen). Last year’s losses of Ryu, Josh Beckett and Dan Haren’s down cycle, caused quite a problem in the back of the rotation. Zach Lee picked a bad time to have growing pains.

I’d like to see the Dodgers add some pitching depth in the supposed outfielder trades. I recall better days when the Dodgers always went into spring training with top pitching prospects vying for a rotation spot, then being a short plane ride away in AAA when the need arose. It seems in recent years, the farm has focused on bats, which has some interesting qualities but is not “the Dodger way” and the pitching depth has been thin. Maybe some wheeling and dealing, along with Nicasio, Bolsinger, etc. creates a return to the organizational depth the team has lacked?

At any case, I don’t care how much the Dodgers spend, and I don’t know if the blue really “needs” more aces, but the value of a super rotation, coupled with depth, is a good thing. I just would prefer the arm is picked up via free-agency to trade. I don’t want to see Pederson, Seager, Urias or even Schebler moved to add another expensive pitcher to a team stuck in some form of neutral.

Final thoughts

I’ll end this saying while a nice sign of faith by Friedman and company opting to keep Donnie and his coaches, one has to wonder if this is the biggest blunder of the off-season? I have said I’m not sure this Dodgers team should even be entertaining Fall Classic aspirations, but it’s sort of a forgone conclusion you won’t be playing deep into Oct with a weak manager like Donnie at the helm. And that goes for his lackluster coaching staff.

Maybe the plan was to use this year to move pieces around and figure out more or less if this mix could perform with higher IQ (smirk) data boys in the front office. You know… they’re dumb, but our genius can get them to be less dumb. The worst that happens is the team proves to be slightly better, or worse, and ultimately Donnie and some coaches are fired. It beats (perhaps) eating all of Donnie’s new contract. If you have a mediocre to lazy employee, you first try to see if you can get them to improve. If not, you fire them.

I would guess Friedman and his gang don’t love Donnie but they want to see how everyone operates – with some tinkering by them – before lopping off heads. Besides, Guggenheim resources or no, they don’t want to buy everyone off. There are so many salaries you can, or want to, eat.

The winter meetings begin next week. It will be quite intriguing – more so than in recent years – to see what moves the Dodgers make. I am a realist, some would say a skeptic, but I don’t believe the Dodgers are ready to play in the World Series. Obviously there are good players around and great young kids on the immediate horizon. To me, 2015 is about seeing what the mix is, and perhaps we will see this week, that said mix is a lot better than the 2013-2014 editions. As a realist, I am remaining open-minded to that. As a skeptic, I say, “Show me.”

Will the Dodgers Front Office Log Jam Help Them Field a Better Team?

November 6, 2014 2 comments

Log-Jam

Stan Kasten
Andrew Friedman
Farhan Zaidi
Josh Byrnes
Gabe Kapler
Ned Colletti

Is it just me or is the new collection of executives the Dodgers are collecting puzzling? In many ways, this front office bloat is indicative of the bloat on the field. Have they ever heard the expression “too many cooks?”

It’s too early to say whether this gangbang of suits will lead to a tougher, more fundamentally sound Dodgers team, but it is comedic. It reminds me of the clusterfuck going on in Congress, or the needless levels of management in most top corporations nowadays. More millionaires, this time in boardrooms.

Its possible Kasten is assembling his brain trust and they will dismantle the soft, bubble dancing party boys parading around in blue, but as we’re not even near the winter meetings yet, who can say? I will stick a pin in this situation with merely a “WTF?!” for the time being.

The bottom line is if I don’t see this gaggle of “geniuses” completely revamp the roster, tossing out popular but suspect current Dodgers and replacing them with smarter, harder working and sound ballplayers, 2015 will be another debacle.

I want to see the roster broken up with the big names I’m frequent to call out sent packing. You know who they are. Pretty much half or more of the outfield, the shortstop and anyone else not focused on winning baseball games.

This week the Dodgers trumpeted Clayton Kershaw winning three player voted awards. Meantime, Madison Bumgarner was posing with the World Series trophy on Jimmy Fallon. Something has to be done.

Then the Dodgers announced Zack Greinke and Adrian Gonzalez won Gold Gloves. I’m all for it, but those are secondary tokens while the Giants make the rounds talking about their third title in five years.

I’m hoping that all these geniuses in the front office will look at each current player under a prism and ask “Can this guy help us win a World Series?” And “Is this guy mentally tough?” Or “Is this guy a hardnosed player both sides of the game?”

I’m of the belief (I have to be, there’s no other hope) that this committee of highly paid one percenters will evaluate, take notes and go into the winter meetings without sentimentality, dealing those that need to be dealt in order to make room for and acquire players better suited to the task.

Softness and enabling by the front office and on field manager and coaches made 2014’s ouster more humiliating that 2013’s. The guy with three player chosen awards was bitch slapped off the mound in his own park, and again in the enemy’s.

Having a “happy clubhouse” sounds nice, but the Dodgers need to remake themselves with more rules and less tolerance. If players want to wear their hats cocked and dance to pre-game musical acts and celebrate a la Lawrence Welk every time they score a run, they should do so in another town.

The Dodgers used to be one of baseball’s crown jewels. They were essentially the National League equivalent of the Yankees. But so many painful years have transpired since the Dodgers have won a title, and more years between that one and the one previous, the Dodgers are now just another team.

Sure they have a chance each year, and ok, they lead everyone in attendance. So what? The bottom line is the Dodgers rarely play smart baseball and it’s been some time since the farm really produced the Dodgers Way. It may be why Logan White was sent packing. Perhaps he left, or maybe the new guard of geniuses knew the players White got to LA weren’t the best and brightest.

This off-season will tell everything. If the roster is pretty much what it has been, save for a tweak here and there, the Dodgers will be in trouble. The fans, those who don’t want to blow the players, will be reaching for the Advil again.

The sickness is organization wide – from the top rungs through the apathetic coaching staff and to the players. The farm is questionable, though there’s reason to believe a few gems are ready or very close and perhaps they have more sack than those who came before them.

My gut is to be ill over Kasten needing Friedman and Friedman needing Zaidi and Byrnes and maybe Kapler (Kapler? For the front office?!), but things are do dire, I will see what happens. Perhaps it just takes all these executives to do what Dan Evans was capable of pretty much by himself, with an assist to Kim Ng.

Bring on the winter meetings – I will be watching very closely what the Dodgers do and decide if the 2015 season is worth following at all. Kasten, Friedman & Associates… you’re on the clock.