This is the time of the year when it’s fun to do the “this is what I would do” exercise and, this year, I will make the attempt. I don’t consider myself to be an expert of any kind but I am a fan with a few ideas. A lot of my suggestions are tempered to fit reality (i.e. Andre Ethier will remain in right for some ungodly reason) but, if I seem too far off-base, I will try to explain my rationale.
There are a lot of holes in the field while the pitching staff is nearly set. Keeping Ted Lilly and Hiroki Kuroda around while having Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley on hand, developing themselves, should give any fan of the Dodgers hope for the coming year, As it went with the Giants: if they can find a way to score runs, they could do some damage. Without further adieu, here is..the plan!
Don’t spend a thing on the bullpen: Forget the
and the Jason Frasor’s of the world because the Dodgers aren’t missing a closer. The Dodgers have enough talent in house for them to have a full bullpen. If they find themselves lacking a Ronald Belisario (for the third time), try Josh Lindblom for Chrissakes! Jonathan Broxton will be the closer because he has to be. Hong-Chih Kuo and Kenley Jansen are some high-leverage guys and there are many more familiar names and role-players that can comprise a major-league bullpen. Chan-Ho Parks
Money spent on a bullpen is wasted money. See the Octavio Dotel acquisition. That was subtraction by addition.
Do everything to get Adam Dunn: He will probably prove to be expensive but he could be a valuable left-fielder and an even better first baseman. Dave Cameron of Fangraphs crowdsourced Dunn’s value at $12 to 12.4 million/year and a 3 year contract is the probable amount of years. Utlimately, I would want Dunn to be a first baseman but, with James Loney around, Dunn would have to play left until the middle of the season, where a desperate team could take a chance at him and the Dodgers could get more out of him then than they would now. Get him, get him, get him and try to work it out.
Now, I can go two different directions. Let’s assume for now that the Dodgers didn’t get him because I don’t think anymore talk about the 1st base and left field positions will be fruitful. Either way, the Dodgers have what they do. I would bet that the Dodgers don’t get him and that is the assumption we will make. Ok, I will continue.
Get Jose Lopez if he becomes available: He had a bad year but he is great at 2B and 3B on defense. I would think that putting him back at second while giving him at least 40 starts at third is the way to go. In a pinch, he can even play first. That
clubhouse wasn’t good for anyone last year and a change of sce while remaining on the West Coast could be what Lopez needs to get back to hitting 40 doubles and 20 home runs. I wouldn’t expect magic but he is 27 and he isn’t far removed from success. Seattle
If Lopez is aboard, you also have Carroll and Blake on hand, which may make for a good and supplementary blend for the infield. If Lopez is not available, Orlando Hudson might be an option again. I am also thinking Nick Punto would be a last-ditch option. That would make Jamey Carroll more of a factor. That isn’t ideal but he wasn’t the problem last year, was he?
Out Of Left Field: If Dunn is not a Dodger, left field may not be the strongest position but a mix of Blake, Gibbons and Paul might be what you have. The only alternatives I have to Dunn are players the Dodgers can’t trade for. I want Luke Scott to be a Dodger and I think they should try to get him but I don’t see it happening. If Blake is playing left too much, the Dodgers could try to get Wilson Betemit, who could platoon with Blake or Lopez. I had poo-pooed the notion of getting him again but it wasn't as long ago as you think when he was let go by the Dodgers and he did well last year with the Royals. I wouldn't play him every day but he also provides some positional flexinility and, hey, it's not like the Dodgers didn't just do the Royals a favor by trading for Podsednik.
Bail on Russell Martin: Man, I really liked him as a Dodger but his time has come. He is expensive and in decline despite his value in the field. I don’t have a great alternative but A.J Ellis combined with Rod Barajas or Catcher X might just be the way a team has to go. It was a real luxury to not have to punt the catcher’s spot in the lineup as an NL team but retreads are all the Dodgers have. I would try for AJ Pierzynski, Yorvit Torrealba then Matt Treanor. As a concurrent White Sox fan, I know what I am getting into with AJ and I would be alright with him being a Dodger.
Back To The Rotation: I think every MLB team needs to have seven starters at their disposal at the start of the season. With the Dodgers, they have the big 4 as well as John Ely and Carlos Monasterios. Ely could be the Dodgers 5th starter but they could find a veteran arm with about the same potential for cheap to fill in.
The 5th starter has way too much importance placed on the position. The 5th starter is a slot, not an actual pitcher. It can change several times throughout the season. There will be some arms waiting in the wings in the late part of the winter in 2011 and the Dodgers can find one or invite a couple to training camp. The free agent list isn’t encouraging but I think Rodrigo Lopez or Jeremy Bonderman may do well in Dodger Stadium. In addition, the Dodgers can dredge up a washed-up pitcher (not named Ortiz) and make him well again and the rotation should be covered.
The resulting moves materialize as such:
Furcal, ss; Kemp, cf; Dunn, lf; Ethier, rf; Lopez, 2b; Blake, 3b; Loney, 1b; AJ Piers, c
What I project:
Psych! I don’t know what Ned will do.
Furcal,ss; Kemp cf; Burrell lf; Ethier, rf; Blake 3b; Loney 1b; Theriot, 2b; Barajas/Ellis c
Doom and gloom:
Podsednik, lf; Theriot, 2b; Furcal ss; Ethier rf; Blake 3b; Kemp cf; Loney, 1b; Ellis/Barajas c
Bottom line, the Dodgers have pitching but they are going to have to score runs. The Dodgers will have to rely on making a few free agent gambles and they will have a low margin for error but the team isn’t hopeless. They are getting the change of pace they need in the manager role and hopefully that induces success and confidence for Matt Kemp and provides a better clubhouse atmosphere than last year.
The team has some holes to patch but as long as they are properly corrected and the team is managed properly, the team will have a chance to be back in the NL West race.