Playing Fact or Fiction with the Latest Dodgers Rumors
Careful, kids. When you play too close to the hot stove, you might get burned.
Ned Colletti has learned that the hard way over the years, making such mistakes as Ted Lilly, Brandon League, Matt Guerrier and Juan Uribe (no matter how you slice it, he was still vastly overpaid the last three years).
But with the deepest pockets in baseball, past failures haven't stopped the Dodgers General Manager from seemingly getting a mention in every offseason rumor thus far.
According to the Twitterverse, the Dodgers are unloading at least two of their four outfielders, re-signing Uribe, trading for David Price, signing Masahiro Tanaka, and somehow landing Elvis Andrus from Texas while holding on to every top prospect on the farm.
Yeah, and I look like Brad Pitt.
Here, we'll break down a few of the most realistic scenarios with the most trustworthy sources behind the rumors. Are they fact or fiction? Read on to find out.
Signing Dan Haren
Although ESPN LA's Mark Saxson isn't sure if this is a right fit, it seems to be a win-win for the Dodgers. Haren is from Southern California, his family still lives there, and he is one of those patented projects for pitching coach Rick Honeycutt.
If Haren can return to his dominant form (or even something close to it), the Dodgers get an absolute steal for the injury-riddled back of the rotation. And if his last 15 starts in 2013 (3.29 ERA, 84 K, 18 BB in 87.2 IP) are any indication, he might be closer than we think to extinguishing whatever problems have plagued him over the last few seasons.
The Dodgers can afford to take a chance on someone like Haren, who likely will command a smaller salary on a one or two-year deal, and therefore wouldn't be a financial burden if he doesn't pan out.
And if the 33-year-old does regain form? Well, then Chad Billingsley and Josh Beckett suddenly have competition for their rotation spots. Remember, the Dodgers rotation was stacked too full going into Spring Training in 2013. A trade and a few injuries later, and they could have really used another quality arm.
So is there anything to this rumor? If there is "mutual interest," that's a good starting point. And we've seen the Dodgers take chances on far riskier projects than Haren. My best guess is that the Dodgers will take a flier on Haren and see how he performs in the spring.
Signing Bronson Arroyo
According to MLBTradeRumors.com, the veteran righty has garnered interest from multiple teams, including the Dodgers. Arroyo has been a consistent middle-of-the-rotation guy for the majority of his career, so most teams would be happy to give him a short deal to provide depth.
That being said, I wouldn't be surprised if the Dodgers passed on Arroyo. He will come with a higher price tag and a lower ceiling than Haren and already has many more reported suitors. Chances are, one of the other teams (listed as the Giants, Phillies, Twins, Angels, and Orioles) will slightly overpay for his services.
The lesson here is that yours truly is very good at contradicting himself. Just last slide, I'm harping on the importance of depth in the rotation, especially after last season's rash of injuries hit the Dodgers. Now, I'm trying to pass on a guy who had an ERA over three-quarters of a run lower than Haren in 2013.
Well, Arroyo is 36 years old (three years older than Haren) and isn't getting any better. Even in a pitcher's park, the best I can expect out of him is an ERA hovering around 4.00. Haren has potential to be a guy back in the low 3.00's, if his mental and mechanical flaws are fixed.
It wouldn't surprise anyone to see the Dodgers go after both guys (or neither), but I'm inclined to believe that between the two, the Dodgers will pursue a deal with Haren rather than overpaying for his lesser colleague, Arroyo.
Trading Matt Kemp for Elvis Andrus
Even before the Rangers swung Ian Kinsler to Detroit for slugging first baseman Prince Fielder yesterday, they probably weren't going to trade a 25-year-old shortstop for a 29-year-old oft-injured outfielder, even if he is a premier player when healthy.
Maybe if there were prospects involved and some cash exchanged hands, a deal could have been made. But any chance of this is completely dead now that the Rangers have brought on Fielder and opened up second base for their top prospect, Jurickson Profar.
Trading Kemp is a disaster in the making for Ned Colletti, regardless of who the Dodgers get in return. After two injury-shortened seasons, Kemp's value has never been lower. For a guy capable of putting up a 40/40 season just three years ago, and who is about to enter his prime years as a hitter, Kemp should command a trade partner's entire farm system and then some.
Bailing on a five-tool player who has been a fan favorite for years in Los Angeles and is the only true center fielder on the roster seems extremely premature. If the flashes we saw between DL stints last season were any indication, Kemp very much has the potential to revert to his MVP form and play out the rest of his eight-year, $160 million deal in Los Angeles.
Either way, the Rangers' infield is set for now. And the Dodgers' outfield won't be disassembled quite yet.
Re-Signing Brian Wilson and Juan Uribe
One has to believe both players would be welcome back, after they played key roles down the stretch and in the postseason for the Dodgers.
I'll put one thing to rest right off the bat here: Kenley Jansen is the Dodgers closer and will be for a long time. Fans should be all for the dominant Wilson to come back and set-up for Jansen, even if it means paying him at a closer's rate, but nobody is supplanting Jansen in the ninth inning.
The Dodgers have plenty of money to burn on a set-up man of Wilson's caliber, but health questions remain. What if Wilson only pitched so well because he was looking for one more big contract? What if his twice-surgically repaired right arm busts again?
There are plenty of question marks surrounding Wilson, and spending a large sum of money on him might be unwise.
On the other hand, Uribe is one of the better free agent third basemen available, but the Dodgers wasted a three-year deal on him already. Granted, that was a doomed move from the outset (who signs a guy with a career OBP under .300? Ned Colletti does!).
But Uribe played an inspired third base in 2013, narrowly missing a Gold Glove and posting his best offensive season as a Dodger by far. He became a favorite of the Dodger Stadium faithful and was the engine keeping the loose clubhouse running.
If Uribe's camp will go down to two years, the Dodgers should bring him back. With the thin market at third base, I'll bet the Dodgers work something out with Uribe.
As for Wilson? He'll probably walk. There are plenty of teams interested in a closer, and he's one of the best options out there.
Verdict: Uribe - FACT/Wilson - FICTION
Signing Masahiro Tanaka
There have been multiple conflicting reports on the level of interest the Dodgers have in Tanaka, but with their success in the international free agent pitching pool, I'd be shocked if anyone else landed the 25-year-old Japanese star.
Questions around the righty's health have surfaced after he threw over 170 pitches in 24 hours in the last two games of the Japanese playoffs earlier this fall. Apparently, his velocity was down and that alone had teams terrified of the long-term effects.
While all that is understandable, Tanaka had a marvelous season, going 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in Japan. If a new posting contract is struck between Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball before his free agent window closes, Tanaka will likely make as much or more than Yu Darvish did when he came to the U.S. before the 2012 season.
Darvish has been one of the best pitchers in baseball since coming over and cost the Rangers over $111 million in posting fees and contract negotiations. The Dodgers have money like that to spend and might only have competition in the pitching-hungry Yankees if the posting issue is resolved.
The Dodgers want Tanaka to join Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu to form a ridiculous rotation for 2014 and beyond, rather than settling for a free agent like Matt Garza, Ervin Santana, or Ubaldo Jimenez (especially for the players who were given qualifying offers and would cost their new team a first-round draft pick).
Nippon Professional Baseball knows striking a new deal means more money for them and more attention from American baseball fans if Tanaka pans out, so a bargain will be struck. From there, it's a tussle to see who will post the highest bid for the rights to negotiate a contract with Tanaka.
As we've learned over the last season and a half, even the mighty Yankees can't outmuscle the Dodgers when it comes to spending money. Consider Tanaka a Dodger for 2014.
Trading One of the Outfielders
Have we learned nothing from 2013? Unless we want Scott Van Slyke or a journeyman veteran patrolling one of the outfield positions for the majority of 2014, the Dodgers better hang tight with the four starting outfielders they already have.
Health has been a major concern for Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford recently, and Yasiel Puig's emergence last season means there are two spots for three guys. The issue here is that Kemp is the most injury-prone of all now, while Ethier and Crawford can't hit lefties. So what is a GM to do?
The well of young talent in Seattle runs very deep, but they've also shown interest in free agents like Jacoby Ellsbury and Grady Sizemore. Seattle has plenty of options and knows Kemp won't come cheap. Chances of a deal with them are low, unless they're willing to give up one of their young pitching prospects and a major league-ready player like Kyle Seager or Nick Franklin.
That's baseball-speak for "ain't gonna happen."
Crawford and Ethier would be easier to trade away, though they'd bring back a smaller return. Ethier, especially, put together a great all-around season and showed he could be versatile in a pinch, taking over for Kemp in center field for much of the second half.
Unless there is a team out there willing to overpay in exchange for a discounted version of Ethier or Crawford (assuming the Dodgers would have to pay most of any of these players' contracts in a trade), the Dodgers will start the season with four healthy (fingers crossed!), solid outfielders.
If there is any sort of promising offer that's too good to be passed up, the Dodgers could swing a move and narrow their outfield crop to three. But, again, chance are all four are staying put. For now, this rumor is hogwash.