Unless something dramatic occurs at the McCourt divorce trial, it's very safe to say that Frank McCourt will maintain control of the Los Angeles Dodgers heading into 2011. Even if Jamie finds herself on the winning end of Judge Scott Gordon's decision, it's quite possible that the appeals process could take up to several years, which would leave Frank in control indefinitely.
With Frank as chairman, the budget structure is likely to be similar to what the Dodgers utilized this year. It could be slightly less if Frank intends to make some type of an effort to reverse the overwhelming debt that he and his wife have brought onto the club over the past five years.
In the offseason, General Manager Ned Colletti will be faced with a number of very difficult decisions. Outside of the number of players who are eligible for arbitration, it's conceivable that Colletti may be willing to deal several players to address numerous needs if the team does indeed have any shot at improving.
The trade market this winter may be difficult for Los Angeles, as a handful of Dodgers players may have seen their trade values drop as a result of poor performances in 2010. Colletti will be the chief orchestrator of putting together the squad for next year, and it will be no easy task considering the free-agent market is about the slimmest it's been in recent past. If there's no value in potential trades, the free-agent market could be the best option to improve, but payroll dollars will need to be freed up first to make any big market acquisitions possible.
In order to create the dollars to spend, the Dodgers will need to say farewell to at least a few players, whether it be by non-tendering a player, trading a player, or losing in arbitration.
The following slides show seven players Los Angeles may decide to move before the beginning of next year, and explain why these particular moves would be beneficial for the Dodgers moving forward.
In 2009, opposing hitters couldn't even touch George Sherrill. After being acquired from the Baltimore Orioles just before the trade deadline, Sherrill appeared in 30 games for the Dodgers while posting a very effective 0.65 ERA.
This year was a completely different story, however. In 64 games and just 35 innings of work, Sherrill is 2-2 with a whopping 6.88 ERA. His WHIP is 1.981, and he's surrendered 28 earned runs and 46 hits.
Sherrill certainly had the opportunity throughout the course of the year to redeem himself, but whatever the problem was with his pitching, he was never able to return to his form of old. He was even placed on waivers at midseason, but no other teams around the Majors had any interest in absorbing a hefty salary for a struggling reliever.
Sherrill made $4.5 million in 2010, and it's tough to digest that he was paid more money than key contributors such as Matt Kemp, James Loney, Chad Billingsley, and Clayton Kershaw.
The lefty will certainly be non-tendered after this season, and the $4.5 million is a nice start in freeing up cash in an effort to rebuild.
Although Reed Johnson missed most of July with a back injury, he played his role well as a utility outfielder for the Dodgers in 2010, albeit not overly spectacular.
Johnson appeared in 90 games for Los Angeles this season, and batted .263 with two home runs and 14 RBI. He also added 23 runs, 10 doubles, and two triples in 194 official at-bats.
Johnson was never really known to have a strong arm, but his ability to cover all three outfield spots was invaluable for the Dodgers as several outfielders had stints on the disabled list over the course of the season.
Despite his versatility, his $800,000 contract may be overpriced for a team looking to rebuild and show a fresh look. Los Angeles has several outfielders on the farm, most specifically Xavier Paul and Trayvon Robinson, who could play similar roles yet cost the Dodgers about half of what Johnson was paid.
Since being acquired before the 2010 trade deadline from the Kansas City Royals, Scott Podsednik performed admirably despite missing almost the entire last month of the season with a foot injury.
Podsednik earned $1,650,000 this year, and it's likely the Dodgers will not choose to honor his team option for 2011.
Without Podsednik, Los Angeles will certainly lose speed on the basepaths, yet with outfielder/first baseman Jay Gibbons almost guaranteed a deal, and Trent Oeltjen waiting in the wings at Albuquerque, the Dodgers would save about $650,000 by letting Podsednik walk.
Los Angeles will need to sacrifice speed and defense in several positions in order to generate some much-needed power on offense.
Hiroki Kuroda has yet to express his intentions for 2011, but he has indicated that he may have some interest in returning to his native Japan to close out his career. He has also stated that he would consider staying in Major League Baseball; however, if he does stay, he would like to compete for a club with the potential for a championship.
Kuroda earned more than $15.4 million in 2010, but at 35 years of age, he probably won't earn anywhere close to that figure if he decides to stay in the Majors.
He still has the stuff to be an effective second or third starter anywhere in the League. His 11-13 record and 3.39 ERA was indicative of the Dodgers' inert offense. Kuroda, along with several other Los Angeles starters, fell victim to a very sluggish offense, which had a negative effect on all the pitchers' statistics.
The free-agent market in terms of starting pitching is light heading into next year, but with over $15 million freed up in payroll, it does offer the Dodgers some breathing room to try to make several constructive improvements.
Many believe that being overused the past four years has led to Russell Martin's deterioration. During his benchmark season in 2007, Martin hit .293 with 19 home runs and 87 RBI, and earned a Silver Slugger award as well as a trip to the All-Star Game.
He hasn't been remotely close to those numbers since. Before injuring his hip this year, Martin appeared in 97 games for the Dodgers and batted .248 with five HRs and 26 RBI. In a full year in 2009, he posted a .250 average with seven home runs and 53 runs batted in while playing in 143 games.
Martin earned just over $5 million in 2010, and is eligible for arbitration this winter. More than likely, he'll be looking for an increase in salary; yet with Rod Barajas and A.J. Ellis more than capable to handle the catching duties for about $3 million less combined, the Dodgers may decide to non-tender Martin to free additional cash and address the power department on offense.
Jonathan Broxton still has one more year remaining on his contract, which is valued at $7 million in 2011. The only way the Dodgers will be able to productively move Broxton is via trade, and the market for relievers at the winter meetings will be at a premium.
After an excellent first half and earning the save at the 2010 All-Star Game, Broxton completely fell apart during the second stanza of the season.
Over the course of this year, Broxton had seven blown saves; his ERA of 4.04 is almost 1.5 runs per game higher than what he finished with in 2009.
Still, all hope is not lost for Broxton. Many relievers who proceeded to have very successful careers often found themselves going through similar streaks of ineffectiveness. Broxton's velocity alone suggests that his potential is still there, and it's speculated that if he can be united with a pitching coach who can repair his slider and other mechanics, he could possibly return to being one of the top closers in the game.
If the Dodgers decide to shop Broxton, one possible destination could be the Atlanta Braves. The Braves will be shopping hard for a reliever due to the retirement of closer Billy Wagner, and a return to his home state of Georgia just may be the thing that sparks Broxton's performance.
As the years continue to creep by, folks around Dodgertown continue to hope that James Loney finds his power stroke.
His glove is among the best in the League, and his RBI production is adequate, but he just can't seem to hit the ball out of the park on a consistent basis. Loney's OPS is only .729, which is absolutely dreadful for a first baseman. In comparison, Dodgers' shortstop Rafael Furcal has an OPS of .828, and Furcal has about average power for an infielder.
So far in 2010, Loney is batting a substandard .269, which is 12 points lower than any average he posted during his five-year career.
It's tough to estimate Loney's value in terms of a contract. In 2010, he made $3.1 million, yet it seems just before the trade deadline every season, Ned Colletti's phone is ringing off the hook with inquiries about Loney.
Scouts around the League speculate that with a capable batting coach, Loney should be able to hit for power with the hitting mechanics that he does demonstrate on occasion.
Loney is eligible for arbitration this winter, and even if he is signed to a deal, the figure that he and the Dodgers agree upon should be interesting. Still, if Los Angeles decides to move him, it's guessed that the Dodgers should be able to net a solid starting pitcher in return.
Although the Dodgers would sacrifice defense, the void at first could be filled by Jay Gibbons, Casey Blake, and Russ Mitchell, while top prospect Jerry Sands waits to explode onto the scene.
Second baseman Ryan Theriot is earning $2.6 million this year, with an option heading into 2011, and could free up cash. However, outside of Chin-lung Hu and Jamey Carroll, there's really nobody else in the Dodger organization ready for the show at second base.
Relief pitcher Ramon Troncoso may be considered being non-tendered. Troncoso is earning $416,000 this season, and it's tough to imagine that any other team would be interested in a trade. Jeff Weaver, who is making $800,000 this season, may also fall into the same criteria.
Vicente Padilla may be an easy signing right around the $5 million range, and if he can stay healthy, has the potential for a solid season.
Both the Dodgers and starter Ted Lilly have expressed interest in maintaining ties, although negotiations may be difficult to arrive at an agreeable figure within the Dodgers' budget. Lilly earned $10 million in 2010.
It's also conceivable that Ned Colletti may consider moving Matt Kemp or Andre Ethier, but if Los Angeles has any desire to remain somewhat competitive, some type of core will need to remain in place.
Dodger fans can also look forward to Colletti rounding out the roster with a handful of veterans who may be past their productive years and who can be signed at reasonably low prices.