It's that time again. As soon as the last out of the World Series was made, the proverbial burners were turned on under the proverbial hot stove. And with a plethora of relief pitchers and some big names like Robinson Cano testing the market, it should be a doozy of an offseason.
The Dodgers have already been linked to two huge names in starting pitching, and could look to upgrade the bullpen or move one of their four starting outfielders. But with a hungry front office, piles of money, and a deep enough farm system to make a move, the Dodgers could be wheeling and dealing like crazy this winter.
Specifically, if the Dodgers can't bring Juan Uribe back at the hot corner, they will need a third baseman to fill the void until Corey Seager is ready for the big leagues, and could use a little pop off the bench.
Before any of that, there's the business of tending to the 12 free agents who donned a Dodgers jersey in 2013. Most will walk, but the Dodgers might want to look at bringing back a couple key components, like utility infielder Nick Punto.
Inside, we'll discuss 10 realistic moves the Dodgers can make in the offseason to strengthen a team already favored to win the 2014 World Series.
When the Dodgers signed Juan Uribe to a (still absurd...) three-year, $21 million deal before the 2011 season, I was the last fan expecting to want him back. Though the first two seasons were a train wreck, Uribe earned himself another short deal after a much-improved 2013 campaign.
Let's be rational here, though. Uribe would be filling a spot that Corey Seager is expected to claim for a very long time by 2015. Uribe also still has a lifetime .299 on-base percentage and isn't getting any younger.
Unless the Dodgers find a suitable trade partner or an improvement in free agency, Uribe is likely the best option to man third base for the next season or two. Hopefully it isn't at such an expensive clip this time around. Two years and $12 million would be fair in my best estimation.
As linked in the opening slide, rumors have already started swirling about the Dodgers acquiring Price from the Rays. Dealing with the brilliant Tampa Bay front office isn't ideal, especially when Dodgers G.M. Ned Colletti has made his fair share of awful moves.
That being said, the Dodgers do have the prospects to entice the Rays into making the move. The farm system overall is thin, but the Dodgers have five or six very promising top prospects that they could build a package with for Price.
Adding Price to an already stellar rotation would be an embarrassment of riches, but it could cost the Dodgers quite a bit of minor league talent. Though mortgaging the future is a risky proposition, the Dodgers could move a three-player combination of Joc Pederson, Zach Lee, Julio Urias, Chris Withrow, or Seager for Price and fashion themselves a ridiculous rotation for the foreseeable future.
If you haven't heard of the 25-year-old Japanese pitching phenom yet, you will. The Dodgers will be battling teams like the Yankees and Giants for the services of a pitcher who went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA this year in the Japan Pacific League, according to Baseball-Reference.com.
Adding the righty hurler would be an absolute coup for the Dodgers. They've been historically successful in scouting international talent (Hyun-Jin Ryu and Yasiel Puig last year, anyone?), and seem to really like Tanaka. At worst, he would be a number four for the Dodgers and if he doesn't pan out as expected, they would still have a solid top of the rotation with Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Ryu.
This is where the deep pockets of ownership comes into play. No matter who is bidding against the Dodgers, Tanaka will end up in L.A. if they truly want him badly enough. The market should be heavy for him, but the Dodgers have the means to lock him up.
Let me start this slide with a disclaimer: Personally, I'd prefer the Dodgers keep all four outfielders (Ethier, Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford, and Puig), since three have extensive injury history. Also, Ethier has plenty left in the tank on both sides of the ball.
But after a solid 2013, the stock may never be higher on Ethier. Though the Dodgers would have to pay almost all of his salary in a hypothetical trade, they could land a third baseman, good prospect, or another starting pitcher in return.
Take, for example, the Rays. They likely have zero interest in an aging outfielder who can't hit lefties, but just roll with me here. If the Dodgers could land a Ben Zobrist or David Price from the Rays in return for paying Ethier's salary and a couple prospects, it could improve their team extensively.
Here's another guy I never expected to see in a Dodgers uniform, let alone on a list of players I want re-signed. Former enemy Brian Wilson was absolutely lights-out down the stretch and in the postseason for the Dodgers, and has earned himself a nice little paycheck this winter.
The biggest problem with the Dodgers re-signing him is that he will not close in Los Angeles, barring injury to Kenley Jansen. If Wilson wants to close again, he will likely look elsewhere for employment in 2014, and I doubt the list of suitors will be short after what he did in 2013.
That would be a nice deadly combination to have back in L.A. next season, but it might be a long-shot. Luckily, if Wilson decides money outweighs a chance to close, he could very well be rocking the Dodger blue again. With a weakened 'pen, the Dodgers may very well reach deep to overpay for Wilson.
Let me define "troubled" here. What I mean is simply a starting pitcher who used to be great and has either succumbed to control problems, age, injury, or a combination of all three. With pitching coach Rick Honeycutt's incredible history of turning such pitchers into their former selves, it seems worth a flier just in case Chad Billingsley or Josh Beckett can't stay healthy again.
There are a few free agents that specifically piqued my interest. Josh Johnson, who struggled mightily in Toronto this year after a couple rough, injury-riddled seasons in Miami is available. As is former Cy Young winner Roy Halladay, whose age and inning load seemed to finally have caught up to him with Philadelphia.
Perhaps the most enticing option is Dan Haren, who was one of the best pitchers in baseball before a long, rough stint with the Washington Nationals. If anyone can turn one of these projects into gold, it's Honeycutt. And if that happened, the Dodgers would have an absolutely stacked rotation.
I wouldn't be surprised at all to see the Dodgers take a chance like this -- they have the money to spend, seem to have a penchant for struggling former stars (see: Volquez, Edinson and Marmol, Carlos), and have learned from 2013 that you can never have enough starting pitching.
I love Jerry Hairston, Jr. and have a lot of respect for what Michael Young can still bring to the field, but I'm hoping both move on this winter. Hairston, Jr. can still play a decent utility role and be a solid veteran presence for a rebuilding team, and Young should move back to the American League and see if he can sign on to a playoff contender for a last chance at a World Series ring.
But with the plethora of backup infielder options in L.A., the two they should hang on to are Nick Punto and Skip Schumaker. Both former Cardinals can still play valuable roles for the Dodgers. Schumaker can play almost every infield position and all three outfield positions, and Punto is a spark off the bench on both sides of the ball.
Each guy is an eternal backup, so there's no worry about losing them to the desire to start elsewhere. I'd be shocked if bringing both guys back on one or two-year deals cost the Dodgers more than $8 million per year combined.
One area the Dodgers definitely need to improve on is their bench depth. Scott Van Slyke, though a crowd favorite, is likely spending a large portion of his 2014 season in Triple-A Albuquerque again. He's never been a consistent contributor in the big leagues, and there is no room for him in a crowded Dodgers outfield anyway.
Two of the many options out there this winter are Lance Berkman and Eric Chavez. I'm completely open to other free agent bats, but these two struck me as particularly interesting. Berkman is a switch hitter with power (which the Dodgers desperately need off the bench), who should be confined to a pinch-hitting role at this point in his career.
Chavez is getting up there in years too, but the six-time Gold Glove winner can still play a nifty third base. And last year, he hit .281 with nine homers and 44 RBI in 80 games for the Diamondbacks. If the Dodgers needed a stop-gap at third, they could do a lot worse than Chavez.
The Dodgers are likely going to lose Marmol, Volquez, and Chris Capuano to free agency. They might lose Wilson and J.P. Howell, though they should absolutely bring the latter back if they can. With a potential need for relievers, it would be nice to see them go after a couple big free agent arms.
Luckily, the 2014 class of free agent relief pitchers is exceptionally deep. One of the many names that popped out at me was Grant Balfour, the big, Australian righty who has closed for the A's over the last few years. Balfour has electric stuff and would slot in nicely in the 7th or 8th inning for the Dodgers.
In a worst-case scenario if Jansen struggled or got hurt, the Dodgers would then be able to turn to a guy with plenty of experience as a closer to fill the gap (assuming Wilson wasn't back). Other names available include Joaquin Benoit, Scott Downs, and Joel Hanrahan.
The Dodgers messed up royally a couple years ago when they let Kuroda walk and sign with the Yankees, and they know it. In four great years with the Dodgers, Kuroda had a 3.45 ERA. With the Yankees, he lowered that to a 3.31 in two seasons.
Even though Kuroda will be 39 in February and, like every offseason, will consider going back home to Japan, he still has plenty of juice left in the tank. The Dodgers could and should offer him a one or two-year deal at $12-14 million to anchor the back of the rotation.
If they can swing a move for fellow Japanese pitcher Tanaka or Rays star David Price, the one-through-five in that situation would be borderline unbeatable. Not only would bringing Kuroda back to L.A. make business and baseball sense, but the fans would love seeing one of their mainstays return to action.