10 Trades, Free Agents the Los Angeles Dodgers Can Add to Retool for 2013
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As if the Los Angeles Dodgers needed more motivation to come back strong in 2013 after their 2012 campaign ended in disappointment, they just got to watch their most hated rivals win the World Series for the second time in three years.
The Dodgers were going to be busy bees this offseason. But after being subjected to yet another Giants victory in the Fall Classic, one wonders if LA will be even more willing to add significant pieces to their team this winter than they otherwise would have been. There could be plenty of noise coming from Chavez Ravine over these next few months.
The big question for the moment is which players are on Ned Colletti's radar. Which free agents and potential trade targets is he looking to get fitted for Dodger blue?
The Dodgers don't have a ton of holes to fill after going all-out on the trade market in July and August, but here's a look at some players who would be good gets for the team this offseason.
Note: Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
Trade: Wilson Betemit, Baltimore Orioles
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Among the role players the Dodgers have coming off the books is veteran outfielder Bobby Abreu, who performed reasonably well as a pinch-hitter and spot starter upon joining the Dodgers after he was cut by the Angels.
Assuming the Dodgers let Abreu walk, they'll find themselves in need of a solid left-handed bat to bring off the bench. Ideally, their new lefty hitter will also be capable of playing both corner outfield spots and a couple positions on the infield as well.
That list of requirements certainly narrows down the list of possibilities, but one guy the Dodgers should definitely be looking at is Wilson Betemit.
As Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com recently pointed out, Betemit is basically a man without a role in Baltimore now that the Orioles have Manny Machado penciled in as their starter at the hot corner. Betemit is pushed even further down the depth chart by Robert Andino and Ryan Flaherty, who are both better fielders than Betemit.
It's in Baltimore's interest to find a taker for Betemit, who has one guaranteed year left on his contract. And given the circumstances, Dan Duquette will most likely take what he can get for him.
Betemit is precisely what the Dodgers are looking for. He's a lefty hitter who can play both corner outfield spots, and can also step in and play either first base or third base in a pinch. He's a terrible fielder, but he'd be a good guy to have in emergency situations all the same.
The one thing Betemit can't do is play center field. If the Dodgers would rather bolster their depth behind Matt Kemp, there's another trade target they could consider.
Trade: Franklin Gutierrez, Seattle Mariners
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Earlier this week, Ned Colletti hinted that he's a little concerned about the club's center field depth chart at the moment.
"We've got to keep our versatility and have somebody that can play center field. Tony Gwynn is still part of the organization and a candidate," said Colletti, via MLB.com.
One presumes Colletti is worried about his center field depth chart because of Matt Kemp's health. Kemp fought through injuries for much of the 2012 season, and he and the Dodgers found out after the season that the shoulder injury that hampered him down the stretch was much more serious than anybody anticipated.
Gwynn would be a decent choice to back up Kemp if the Dodgers aren't looking to spend anymore money than they have to on their center field depth chart. If their recent track record is any indication, however, the Dodgers could be moved to make a deal for somebody with a bigger name and a stronger track record.
To that end, a guy like Franklin Gutierrez comes springing to mind.
Gutierrez is one of the game's very best defensive center fielders when he's healthy. The problem is that he's had a very hard time staying healthy over the last few years, as injuries have limited him to 132 games played since the start of the 2011 season.
Gutierrez's inability to hold up physically is a sign that he's probably better off being a part-time player at this stage of his career. Complicating matters in Seattle is the fact that the Mariners have a couple good young outfielders that they'll have a hard time getting on the field as long as Gutierrez is in town.
The Mariners would probably jump at a chance to unload Gutierrez's $7 million salary for the 2013 season, and that's the kind of money that's chump change for the Dodgers. They could agree to pick up most of or all of that money while sending very little to Seattle in return.
If they do that, they'll have a Gold Glove center fielder to bring off the bench. Not bad.
Free Agent: Reed Johnson
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You have to admit, the notion of the Dodgers making a deal for a player like Franklin Gutierrez is intriguing.
...But even I realize it's not the most realistic scenario. If the Dodgers are going to make a move for an outfielder this winter, it's going to be for a guy who's accustomed to a backup role and who can play all three outfield positions.
There are plenty of these types floating around out there every offseason. This season, one free agent who fits the bill is Reed Johnson.
Johnson has carved out a nice little niche for himself as a fourth outfielder over the years, and the Dodgers know this as well as anyone. Johnson was with the Dodgers during the 2010 season, in which he hit .262 while logging time in left, center and right field.
Johnson is a native of Southern California, having grown up in Riverside. If the Dodgers come calling, one assumes he wouldn't mind going home again for a second go-around.
If the Dodgers would prefer somebody with a little more upside, there's somebody else out there that may not mind coming to Los Angeles.
Free Agent: Scott Hairston
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One of the most unsung heroes on the 2012 Dodgers was Jerry Hairston, Jr. He hit .273 with a .729 OPS while filling in at third base, second base, shortstop, left field and first base.
Sounds about right for a member of the Hairston clan. If every team could have a Hairston, the world would be much better off.
Even with Jerry Hairston set to return in 2013, the Dodgers could stand to add another versatile player. They're going to need somebody who can play all three outfield spots, and it would be great if whoever they picked up for that job could be used elsewhere as well.
How about another Hairston?
Scott Hairston had the best year of his career in 2012, hitting .263 with an .803 OPS and 20 homers for the New York Mets while logging time at all three outfield spots.
The word from MLB.com is that Hairston is looking to land an expanded role in 2013, possibly as an everyday player.
The Dodgers can't offer Hairston a role as an everyday player in 2013, but they will be able to offer him plenty of action off the bench, a chance to play on a winning team and a chance to play alongside his older brother.
If that's not enough, LA may be able to further sway Hairston by matching and maybe even surpassing whatever offers he's getting from other clubs.
If so, they'll have themselves a very good fourth outfielder with a very good bat. As a bonus, they'll be getting a guy who has the experience to spell Mark Ellis at second base on occasion.
He would be too perfect.
Free Agent: Joel Peralta
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The Dodgers had one of the top bullpens in baseball in 2012, as their relievers combined to post a 3.23 ERA that tied them for seventh in MLB.
The bullpen could look a little different in 2013. The Dodgers have a number of free agents they'll be looking to retain, among them being right-handers Brandon League and Jamey Wright.
Colletti has said that he wants to bring back both League and Wright, but he shouldn't offer either one of them any more money than he has to. Quality righty relievers are a dime a dozen, and there will be plenty available on the open market if Colletti is forced into going shopping for one.
One guy who strikes me as a perfect fit for the Dodgers is Joel Peralta, who would look pretty good in a setup role in front of Kenley Jansen.
Peralta was arguably the top setup man in the game this season, as he recorded an MLB-high 37 holds while working the late innings ahead of Rays closer Fernando Rodney. While he was at it, he posted a characteristically high 4.94 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Yet Peralta is likely to be overlooked on this year's free agent market. It doesn't help that he's a little on the older side, as he'll be 37 by the time Opening Day rolls around next year. He'll also be sharing the market with relievers like former Dodger Jonathan Broxton, Jose Valverde, Mike Adams, Koji Uehara and Francisco Rodriguez.
The Dodgers could get Peralta for their bullpen at a bargain price. If they do, he'd surely be a steal.
Free Agent: Jeremy Affeldt
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The Dodgers were very much in need of a left-handed reliever at the trade deadline, and they got one when they convinced the Miami Marlins to include lefty specialist Randy Choate in the Hanley Ramirez trade.
Choate's numbers with the Dodgers weren't all that spectacular, but he's a guy they should be interested in retaining this offseason because of his track record against lefty hitters. Lefties managed just a .461 OPS against Choate in 2012, and they own a mere .563 OPS against him throughout his career.
If the Dodgers would rather have a lefty reliever with a little more versatility than Choate, they could always let him go and focus on somebody else this offseason.
Namely, Jeremy Affeldt.
Affeldt may be the most versatile lefty reliever in all of baseball. He can get both righties and lefties out. He can close. He can set up. He can go multiple innings. For all we know, he probably even makes a mean cheesecake.
It's admittedly a little tough to imagine Affeldt leaving San Francisco at this juncture. He's been with the Giants for four years now, and their partnership has been a darn good one.
But the opportunity to earn more money is something that no big leaguer can pass up, especially middle relievers who aren't rolling in the Benjamins like Affeldt. If the Dodgers offered him enough money, he could pack up and head south.
Signing Affeldt would allow the Dodgers to kill two birds with one stone. They'd be bringing on a very good lefty reliever, and they'd also be stealing one of their rival's most underrated weapons.
Trade: James Shields, Tampa Bay Rays
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Everyone knows the Dodgers need a starting pitcher, and everyone is expecting them to go after one or more in this year's free-agent market.
We'll get to those guys in a minute, but one thing nobody should rule out is the possibility of the Dodgers dealing for a starting pitcher rather than signing one this winter.
If the Dodgers do deal for a starter, it will likely be for someone with a big salary that his current team can't afford.
To this end, it's a good bet that Ned Colletti will have the Rays on speed dial. His target: James Shields.
According to Jon Heyman, the Dodgers made a play for Shields at the trade deadline. They may still be interested in him this winter because the $21 million in options Shields has for 2013 and 2014 would be easy money for them to take on and a ton of money for a team like the Rays to unload.
And if the Rays unload that money, they may be able to re-sign David Price to an extension rather than trade him away once the arbitration process makes him too expensive to hold onto. As such, the Dodgers could be doing the Rays a huge favor by removing Shields' options from their list of financial concerns.
Beyond the financial ramifications, the Dodgers would be getting a very good fit for their starting rotation if they were to acquire Shields. He's a lock for 200 innings every year, and his tendency to give up gopherballs would likely be curtailed by a move to Dodger Stadium.
If the Dodgers would prefer somebody younger and cheaper, they should have a certain Cleveland Indians right-hander on their radar.
Trade: Justin Masterson, Cleveland Indians
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No, not Ubaldo Jimenez. Justin Masterson would be a lot better for a variety of different reasons.
Before you ask, there's a good chance that Masterson will be available this winter even though the Indians just hired an old friend of his to manage the team in Terry Francona. The Indians badly need to rebuild, and Masterson could be their top trade chip.
Back in September, Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com wrote that the Indians were "certain" to entertain offers for Masterson, who is one of only a couple players the Indians could use to get good young prospects in a trade.
The Dodgers don't have many of those, but the young prospects they do have should be considered expendable so long as the Dodgers are in both "win now" and "spend to win now" modes.
In this case, a trade for Masterson would probably require the Dodgers to part with top pitching prospect Zach Lee. That's something they were highly averse to doing when they were shopping around for a starter at the trade deadline.
If there's a guy who's worth Lee, however, it's Masterson. He's young, he features tremendous stuff and he doesn't hit free agency until 2015.
He's also a perfect fit for the National League. He made this abundantly clear when he compiled a 0.90 ERA and a .489 opponents' OPS in four interleague starts in 2012.
If the Dodgers would rather forego the trade market and focus on free agents as a means of patching up their rotation, two guys should be at the top of their wish list.
Free Agent: Jake Peavy
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Assuming the White Sox follow through on that plan, Peavy will automatically become the second-best starting pitcher on a relatively thin free-agent market. He ended a string of injury-plagued seasons with a strong showing in 2012, and the Cy Young award he won with the Padres back in 2007 will surely help him maximize his value on the open market.
Heyman noted in his report that Peavy wouldn't mind a return to the West Coast, and he later wrote that it's not hard to imagine the Dodgers making a play for him.
I agree. Peavy would make for a nice No. 2 in LA's starting rotation behind Clayton Kershaw, and he'd be returning to a division that he knows well from his time with the Padres. He also owns a 3.08 ERA in 12 career starts at Dodger Stadium.
There's not a doubt in my mind that the Dodgers will make a run at Peavy this offseason...But only if a certain other starting pitcher signs elsewhere.
I think we all know who's at the top of Ned Colletti's wish list.
Free Agent: Zack Greinke
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Former AL Cy Young winner Zack Greinke is a free agent for the first time in his career, and everyone and their uncle is expecting him to make a killing this winter.
And for good reason. Greinke logged over 200 innings for the fourth time in the last five seasons between his time with the Brewers and Angels in 2012, posting a solid 3.48 ERA in the process. According to FanGraphs, Greinke is tied for third among all major league starting pitchers with a FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) of 2.93 since the 2009 season.
There's a train of thought out there that Greinke may be too expensive for the Dodgers after they took on $250 million in payroll in their blockbuster deal with the Boston Red Sox in August, but I think Jon Heyman said it best when he wrote that the Dodgers "are a threat to get anyone good" these days. This year, Greinke is as good as it gets on the pitching market.
The Dodgers will have to out-bid some heavy hitters in order to sign Greinke. The Angels will surely try to re-sign him, and Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com is of the mind that the Rangers and Nationals will be in the mix as well.
Greinke's price tag will surely skyrocket over time, but that may actually be a scenario that favors the Dodgers. If their recent activity is any indication, their pockets go deeper than any other club's, and they're not afraid to reach into them if they see a player they want.
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