Ned Colletti and the Los Angeles Dodgers Muddle through Winter Meetings

Leroy Watson Jr.Senior Writer IDecember 18, 2009

As a longtime fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers, color me unimpressed with their Hot Stove League activity thus far.


First of all, I really wasn’t all that thrilled that Ned Colletti had his contract extended as General Manager.


He arrived with a rich pipeline of premium talent already stocked and pretty much ready for primetime. All he had to do was have the good sense not to rape and pillage the minor league system, and he was pretty much guaranteed success for years to come.


Anything that has his personal fingerprints on it—Jason Schmidt, Manny Ramirez, Juan Pierre, Andruw Jones, et al—pretty much backfired.


Now, there are very few trading chips left on the farm (though many of the jewels of the system, in all fairness, made their way to L.A.), and the Dodgers remain a fatally flawed team in desperate need of one or two major pieces (ace starter and a veteran big bat) from the Promised Land.


After all, face it, Los Angeles was a rotation ace away from taking charge against the Phils in the NLCS. Philadelphia had one, Los Angeles did not, and the NL East champion made the World Series as a direct result.


Clayton Kershaw’s Game One implosion in the fifth inning shouldn’t have surprised any real observer of baseball, and the subsequent reluctance to start the young southpaw in Game Five led to Vicente Padilla’s failure in the clinching game of the series.


The fact that Chad Billingsley was only used for long relief in Game Three tells the world that Joe Torre is not even ready to trust the lad to start in a big series, much less anchor a staff. At the tender age of 25, he could still rebound and be an impact starter, but an ace?


As Montresor said to Fortunato about the alleged cask of Amontillado, “I have my doubts.”


The Dodgers let a second opportunity to play “Let’s Make a Deal,” with playoff hero Cliff Lee sitting behind door No. 1 slip through their fingers. Call me crazy (I’ve been called far worse), but I really believe Colletti could have put together a package equal to or better than the three prospects Philly ended up with.


I know, I know—maybe Philadelphia wouldn’t want to trade Lee to an NL contender.


But the exact same thing applies to Roy Halladay. The package the Phils put together was attractive, but the Dodgers had enough horses left on the farm to equal or surpass it.


Speaking of the aforementioned Pierre, Colletti received a tepid package of borderline suspects (yes, I know which word I used) from the Chicago White Sox in return.


Given Juan’s age, liabilities, and salary, I can understand why he didn’t yield a king’s ransom, but I still find myself underwhelmed by the package.


John Ely, 23, pitched in AA last year with decent results. His won-lost record (14-2) was absolutely stellar, but his career-low strikeouts per nine (7.2) is not promising. The 2.82 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, and 140 hits in 156.1 innings pitched are good (not great) figures.


Ely was typically forecast as a back-end-of-the-rotation sort by scouts. Don’t the Dodgers have enough of those types already?


The other player the Dodgers picked up was Jon Link, a closer with AAA Charlotte in 2009 who suffered from a severe case of the “Law of Diminishing Returns” after his promotion to the highest minor league level.


After a stellar year at AA in 2008 (highlighted by 35 saves), he struggled to only 13 saves with a 3.99 ERA, 1.456 WHIP, 8.8 hits per nine innings, and 4.3 walks per nine.


The kid is 25 years old, so his upside is limited, to say the least.


Those numbers scream “minor league filler” to me. Here’s hoping that the rumors are false, and the players to be named turn out to be a pair of different players.


With the preeminent available hurlers off the market, the Dodgers are said to be interested in Aaron Harang. Forgive me for being non-plussed.


Manny Ramirez exercised his option for 2010, unfortunately. He clearly has not been the same since the 50-game suspension, and he hits like a 37-year-old man whose bat speed is diminishing, not a $20,000,000 centerpiece for the offense.


With Jason Bay and Matt Holliday on the free agent market, the name “Los Angeles Dodgers” is being uttered way too infrequently for my taste.


Signing Jamey Carroll, a free agent infielder, away from the Cleveland Indians was so-so, given the uncertainty at second base this offseason. It certainly wasn’t the kind of move to point to with pride and say, “That was the best move the team made after the playoffs.”


In fact, it’s downright scary to have to say that.


The team’s young core—Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, Clayton Kershaw, James Loney, and closer Jonathan Broxton, along with a host of arms in the bullpen—can only be expected to improve so much.


Ethier (sixth) and Kemp (10th) were both legitimate MVP candidates in 2009, Broxton was one of the game’s steadiest closers, and Loney was a monster away from home.


Not much room left for significant growth there.


I was hoping that Ned Colletti would make a big stir at the winter meetings. Perhaps he wasn’t allowed to. The Dodgers did commit to paying some of Pierre’s contract; still, moving him cleared up some $9 million in salary per season for two years.


The Dodgers, though, aren’t exactly cash poor with or without Juan Pierre. Colletti has been told that there are no plans to slash the budget, despite rumors to the contrary.


The team is young, talented, but obviously flawed. What Joe Torre needs—an ace and a big bat—is in short supply.


It’s not often that an organization coming off consecutive trips to the National League Championship Series should feel a sense of urgency, perhaps even panic, but forgive Dodger fans for believing that this is one of those times.