The Dodgers stacked up a lot of expensive talent this past July and August. It made their team look ten-times better on paper, but they didn't start playing well until a couple weeks remained, and they were just too far out in the Wild Card.
With players like Hanley Ramirez, Josh Beckett and Adrian Gonzalez on board for at least a couple more years, there is some fat around the edges that will need to be trimmed this offseason.
I'm actually a big fan of Shane Victorino, despite his lack of success in Dodger Blue. And though Brandon League can be a heart attack in the closer's role, I think he needs to be kept on as well. So with those two out of the equation, who are the five players the Dodgers must replace this offseason, via trade, benching or demotion?
Let's start with the obvious candidate.
Blanton has had some good years, and he even put together a couple decent starts in crunch time for the Dodgers in 2012. But he was mostly bad, a little good and a lot frustrating for this Dodgers fanbase. He's a free agent anyway, but I'm afraid the front office might try to bring him back based on his general reputation.
The rotation is looking pretty set with Clayton Kershaw, Beckett and Chad Billingsley (health pending) for 2013. Then there's Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang, both signed for one more season. Ted Lilly might be back, though I doubt it. Either way, there is no room for another journeyman, back-of-the-rotation starter like Blanton.
Dodgers Nation would definitely like to see him gone, especially if they are going to pursue pitchers like Zach Greinke, James Shields and Kyle Lohse in the winter. At this point, the Dodgers would be selling Blanton for scrap metal, so my best bet is they trade for prospects or outright release him.
The fact that Don Mattingly and Ned Colletti were so stubborn for so long on keeping the $21 million, overweight, overrated, unhealthy Juan Uribe on this roster is beyond frustrating. Don't even get me started on the bewildering contract offer in the first place (the guy had a .298 career on-base percentage when we signed him!).
But Uribe literally serves no purpose now, as the Dodgers have the left side of the infield taken care of with Ramirez and Luis Cruz, not to mention the potential return of Dee Gordon. Sure, they could keep him on and pay him hundreds of thousands of dollars per pinch-hit appearance, but he is not good at that job either.
I'd rather the Dodgers keep a guy like Juan Rivera or a younger player like Elian Herrera in that featured pinch-hitting role. I'd prefer to see Uribe just released from the team, but if they can score even a Single-A prospect for him, it'd be worth pursuing a trade.
I have nothing against the big fella, but we added Randy Choate and League to the bullpen, have a couple young guys who proved themselves in 2012, and there is no way the Dodgers should pick up his $2.5 million option for 2013.
You have to expect Matt Guerrier to come back stronger in 2013, and that more than makes up for the potential absence of Coffey out of the bullpen. I just can't imagine the Dodgers needing a mediocre right-handed reliever with guys like Kenley Jansen, Shawn Tolleson and Ronald Belisario already in the fold.
Coffey is getting on in age and had too many injury problems this season to justify bringing him back. The Dodgers should decline the option and let him explore free agency, because it would be a big waste of money to take on that risk for 2013.
This is a tricky one.
Even if the Dodgers wanted to get rid of Lilly...can they? He was signed before the 2011 season for three years and $33 million. He has one season left on that contract, but he's had trouble staying healthy. He missed all of the 2012 season with injuries.
Luckily for Los Angeles, the no-trade clause only counted for 2011-2012. If there are any teams willing to take the health risk, the Dodgers might be looking for suitors to swap Lilly for prospects and for eating most of the remaining contract.
There is no room in the rotation for Lilly; his stuff has declined with age, and that would make two over-the-hill players rotting on the bench for way too much money (Uribe). If all else fails, the Dodgers need to take the hit and just get rid of Lilly so a more deserving player gets a shot.
I love Jerry Hairston, Jr. and what he did for the Dodgers in 2012. But he's getting on in age a little bit, was hurt for a large majority of last season and can't be counted on for consistent production. I'm not saying that a guy like Tony Gwynn, Jr. can be counted on, but at least he can swipe bags.
Hairston, Jr. played an amazing third base for the Dodgers and came up with clutch hit after clutch hit, but the team is just overloaded with role players who can do his job for the same price or less—and stay healthy while doing it.
With Nick Punto, Gwynn, Jr. and even guys like Gordon and Justin Sellers in the mix for more than half off what Hairston is making, I don't see a reason to bring him back in 2013. I wish "JHJ," as I began affectionately calling him this year, would just retire so the Dodgers could add him to the coaching staff.