Los Angeles Dodgers' Biggest Winners and Losers of the Offseason So Far
With 2013 officially in the past and a new baseball season less than 90 days away, the Los Angeles Dodgers have spent the offseason fine-tuning their roster rather than overhauling it. As the old saying goes, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
The Dodgers were far from broke last season, coming within two wins of their first World Series appearance in 25 years while boasting the highest payroll in baseball history: $216 million. Although Los Angeles hasn't made any huge splashes this winter, general manager Ned Colletti has worked to plug various holes and bolster a roster that already proved its competence under Don Mattingly in 2013.
While several key additions have the Boys in Blue primed for another deep run in 2014, not everything has come up roses for the team since the end of last season. Let's take a look at the biggest winners and losers of the Los Angeles Dodgers' offseason so far.
Juan Uribe: Winner
In the final year of his three-year contract, Juan Uribe finally showed up for the Dodgers in 2013. The third baseman batted .278 with 50 runs batted in. His 12 home runs were twice as many as he hit in the first two years of his contract combined.
Besides holding down the hot corner to the tune of a .983 fielding percentage, he played an integral role in the clubhouse, taking rookie Yasiel Puig under his wing and helping him acclimate to the big leagues.
The Dodgers realized the value Uribe brought to the team both on and off the field and re-signed him this winter for $15 million over two years, according to Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times. Keeping Uribe was essential, considering the Dodgers lost several other chemistry guys to free agency this offseason. Although Uribe will turn 35 just before the season starts, he was the Dodgers' main target in a very thin third baseman market and they nabbed him.
Yasiel Puig: Loser
The Dodgers still can't seem to reign in their "wild horse," as legendary announcer Vin Scully has so aptly dubbed him. After an embarrassing end to the season, in which he struck out 10 times in 22 at-bats against the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series and committed three defensive errors in the deciding Game 6, Puig was arrested last month for driving 40 miles per hour over the speed limit in Florida.
This was the second time Puig was arrested and charged with reckless driving since defecting from Cuba and signing with the Dodgers, per the Los Angeles Times' Kevin Baxter. Los Angeles relished Puig's youthful exuberance and aggressive style of play as it helped turn the Dodgers' season around, but the continual problem has been harnessing this behavior and keeping it on the base paths or in the outfield. With his latest arrest, it's clear that the 23-year-old needs to slow down, because he still has some growing up to do.
The Bullpen: Winner
The Dodgers' single biggest upgrade this offseason has been the bullpen. Bringing back Brian Wilson and signing Chris Perez gives Los Angeles two former All-Star closers to set up current door-slammer Kenley Jansen. Although Wilson only pitched 13 innings for the team in 2013 (after making a full recovery from Tommy John surgery), the Dodgers liked enough of what they saw to give him and his majestic beard a $10 million deal for the upcoming season.
Chris Perez will be more of a reclamation project after a disappointing 2013 led to his release from Cleveland, but the righty should still be considered an upgrade over Ronald Belisario, who signed with the Chicago White Sox.
The re-signing of lefty specialist J.P. Howell did not receive as much publicity as the Wilson or Perez deals but was equally as important. Howell had a tremendous campaign for the Dodgers in 2013, compiling a 2.03 ERA over 62 innings. Colletti did well to bring back Howell after the team's other main lefty out of the pen, Paco Rodriguez, struggled mightily down the stretch of last season.
Another winner for the Dodgers was Jamey Wright. His one-year deal, first reported by the Los Angeles Times' Dylan Hernandez, means that the 39-year-old veteran will head into spring training with a guaranteed contract for the first time in nine years. Wright pitched for Los Angeles in 2012 after making the team as a non-roster invitee in spring training. He took the same path last season in Tampa Bay, where he amassed a respectable 3.09 ERA over 70 innings. Wright will likely be the Dodgers' long reliever out of the bullpen.
Matt Kemp: Loser
When Matt Kemp put up MVP-type numbers in 2011 and signed an eight-year, $160 million contract the following winter, he became fully entrenched as the Dodgers' franchise player. Back then, nobody could have imagined that just two years later Kemp would be on the trade block. It was just two years ago, but it seems so much longer than that and here we are.
Just last month, there were rumors that the Dodgers were making Kemp available during the winter meetings with the list of potential suitors including the Boston Red Sox and Seattle Mariners, according to Jon Morosi of Fox Sports. Although Kemp's agent Dave Stewart and Dodgers' general manager Ned Colletti have both insisted the team has no plans to move Kemp, the possibility remains, especially considering Los Angeles has four outfielders for three spots in Kemp, Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford and Yasiel Puig.
Since that career year in 2011, Kemp has suffered multiple injuries to his hamstring, shoulder and ankle, many of which have required surgery. This week, Colletti told Austin Laymance of MLB.com that the powerful center fielder should be fully recovered and ready to go for spring training, but Dodgers fans aren't holding their breath.
Dan Haren: Winner
The Dodgers signed veteran starting pitcher Dan Haren to a one-year contract worth $10 million in the hope that the right-hander can stabilize the back end of the starting rotation, according to the Los Angeles Times' Dylan Hernandez.
While $10 million may seem like a steep price for a pitcher who hasn't turned in an ERA under 4.30 in two years, the deep-pocketed Dodgers don't have much to lose in this deal.
With fellow starters Chad Billingsley and Josh Beckett scheduled to return from injuries this season, there will immediately be competition that could spur Haren to find the form that made him a 16-game winner in 2011 with the Los Angeles Angels.
Haren, 33, went 10-14 last season for Washington, but put together a solid 3.29 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in his final 87 innings pitched after coming back from midseason shoulder inflammation. The signing is a low-risk, high-reward move for the Dodgers, who already have Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu heading up the front end of the rotation.
The Bench: Loser
If the season started today, the Dodgers' bench would feature Scott Van Slyke, Tim Federowicz, Dee Gordon, Justin Sellers and whichever highly paid outfielder doesn't get to start in the unlikely event that Kemp, Ethier, Crawford and Puig are simultaneously healthy. Even with this potential to have a former All-Star coming off the bench, it's hard to imagine that player being happy with his role on the team.
What's more, the departure of utility players Nick Punto and Skip Schumaker means that the Dodgers' bench as currently constructed will lack the versatility and experience of last year's reserve corps. Van Slyke is the best bench option, but as an outfielder on this National League team it will be difficult for manager Don Mattingly to find at-bats for him.
Until Gordon and Sellers prove they can consistently hit at the big league level, the Dodgers will be better served to go after versatile, proven contributors with World Series experience like Stephen Drew or Michael Young.
Note: All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference unless otherwise noted.