Distractions abound surrounding the future of the Dodger’s organization, but the real focus should be on filling the holes in the lineup and building a team that can muscle past the NLCS next season.
And so, our attention shifts to the ballclub’s No. 2 priority behind pitching: second base.
Orlando Hudson’s days of wearing Dodger Blue appear to be over. A four-time Golden Glove winner, O-Dog was swapped out of the starting line-up for Ronnie Belliard and his “hot bat”. Hudson handled Joe Torre’s decision like a champ to the press during the season, although it clearly was a demoralizing blow for him. Before the Dodgers even fell off the road to the World Series, Hudson had his locker packed.
Offering him arbitration is still an option, although there seems to be an underlying mutual feeling between Dodgers management and Hudson that another year with the Dodgers is not in the cards. Hudson has indicated that he felt slighted by Torre not approaching him with his decision not to play Hudson. The Dodgers, on the other hand, may not want to offer Hudson arbitration on the off-chance that Hudson accepts, and the Dodgers are forced to shell out more to Hudson than they want to pay him, especially during this tenuous financial time for the Dodgers’ ballclub.
Given these circumstances, the Dodgers have three options:
A) Make current Dodgers Blake DeWitt and Ronnie Belliard (now a Type B free agent) duke it out during Spring Training for a spot in the starting line-up.
B) Choose from the free agent pool.
C) Make a trade, and pay in talent.
Option A: Keeping It in the Family
Blake DeWitt , at 24 years old, has the potential to be a real ballplayer. He’s got a solid defensive game, but his bat is weak. With a .204 batting average and a mediocre SLG, the Dodgers could do better, unless dramatic improvements are seen during Spring Training. On the plus side, he’s a cheap option, making $405,000 this year.
Ronnie Belliard proved to be a clutch player for the Dodgers this season, subbing in for Orlando Hudson like Juan Pierre did for Manny Ramirez when the Dodgers needed him the most. He lays claim to a respectable .277 BA, and has a proven ability to hit home runs—a trait the Dodgers rightly covet. Resigning Belliard could be a little dicey, though—at 34 years old, he may be in the market for a longer contract and more money than would make sense for the Dodgers to dole out.
Option B: The Free Agent Market
Felipe Lopez , of the Milwaukee Brewers: This 29-year-old second baseman is at the height of his career, coming off a good year with the Brewers. His batting average, at .310, is good, but he doesn’t have the HR power that the Dodgers could really use. The Brewers paid him $3.5 million last year.
Mark DeRosa , of the St. Louis Cardinals: DeRosa might be a good fit for the Dodgers. He slugged 23 HRs for the Cards last season, and historically produces very well in the postseason, during which the Dodgers tend to hit turbulence. The issue—his price-tag this year—$4,750,000.
Adam Kennedy , of the Oakland A’s: Kennedy would be a cheap option to fill the 2B spot on the roster. He’s coming off a solid season with the A’s, although at 33, he has probably hit his peak. $400,000 compensation from the A’s last season.
Placido Polanco , of the Detroit Tigers: There’s been a lot of talk about Polanco becoming a Dodger, but he’s a mediocre selection at best. He’d be expensive (Tigers paid him $4.6 million this year) and his numbers are no higher than those of Lopez or even Kennedy.
Juan Uribe , of the San Francisco Giants: All right, so the guy didn’t perform for the Giants during the first half of last season, but he still managed to hit 16 home runs, have a .495 SLG and demonstrate that his BA and OBP are on the rise, not declining. Uribe’s upbeat personality and age (only 30) make him all the more attractive as a second base option for the Boys in Blue. Worth every penny of the $1 million he was paid by the Giants last season.
Option C: The Swap
Dan Uggla , of the Florida Marlins: Word on the street is that the Marlins’ bankroll is running thin, and they are looking to unload some of their more expensive talent for some cheaper, younger players. Uggla is good, no doubt, with 31 HRs, a strong OPS, and 90 RBIs this season. But what is with Dan Uggla’s attitude? Why did he feel the need to have his agent preemptively declare that he wouldn’t play any other position than second base? Compare this approach to that of class-act Nomar Garciaparra’s reaction when asked to switch positions twice for the Dodgers. Uggla sucked up $5,350,000 last season.
Alberto Collaspo , of the Kansas City Royals: Of all the options open to the Dodgers, nabbing Collaspo would be the best bang for their buck. Twenty-six year-old Collaspo has a .300 BA, a .457 SLG and is has an OSP on the rise. He was paid $415,000 by the Royals last season, and has all the markings of a great baseball player. Rumor has it that the Royals want catcher AJ Ellis for Collaspo. Give him to them.