MLB Trade Rumors: How MLB Running LA Dodgers Will Affect Them at the Deadline
Citing concerns over team finances (amid information released during the McCourt family divorce trial proceedings), Major League Baseball and its Commissioner, Bud Selig, have assumed operational control over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
To do so, Selig invoked a special (and seemingly limitless) clause from the MLB agreement which allows him to perform any action deemed in the best interest of the game of baseball.
Dodgers owner Frank McCourt has already claimed that he'll sue over losing control of his team.
Certainly there are legal and ethical issues to be debated here, but thats's a topic for another day. For now, Major League Baseball is running the Dodgers.
MLB has previously assumed control of the Montreal Expos and the Texas Rangers in recent years. They felt forced to step in here before any more damage could be done to one of their marquee organizations.
Eventually, MLB will probably have to find new owners for the team. But with that situation still in flux, they only needed to appoint a financial monitor for the time being.
To fill that role, Selig has turned to former Texas Rangers Preisdent Tom Schieffer.
Schieffer will serve as a delegator and financial advisor. Current general manager Ned Colletti will continue to make personnel decisions, though he'll be under stricter budgetary constraints.
With that in mind let's take a look at moves the Dodgers can make, and even some they can't, whilst under the watchful eye of Schieffer and Major League Baseball.
Sell High on Short Term Pieces
By virtue of playing in the National League West, the Los Angeles Dodgers play out of one of the tougher divisions in baseball.
The San Francisco Giants are the defending champions, the Colorado Rockies look like one of the best teams in baseball early on, and the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Diego Padres are both youthful and improving competitors.
With an average age of 29.8 years, the Dodgers are the oldest team in their division. They're the fifth oldest in baseball.
The good news, however, is that their three core players are younger.
Clayton Kershaw is 23, and Chad Billingsley and Matt Kemp are 26.
The Dodgers have the pieces in place to be a good team in the future. RIght now, they have a strange roster that is probably incapable of winning a championship.
As a result, they should look to move the older players who still have value.
The first name on the list should be Hiroki Kuroda, the 36-year-old Japanese starter who is working on a one-year, $12 million deal.
Kuroda will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. With incredible command (career 3.24:1 strikeout to walk ratio), Kuroda might still have a few good seasons left in his arm.
At that age, I wouldn't bet on it. And neither should the Dodgers.
Commit to the Youth Movement Up the Middle
Surely the Dodgers are by now tired of wondering whether Rafael Furcal will ever be able to stay off the disabled list.
Furcal is 34-years-old and his $13 million contract comes off the books at the end of the season. He is the highest paid player on the Dodgers, and will almost certainly not be back next season.
In his stead, the team has called up former top prospect Ivan DeJesus Jr. The Puerto Rican middle infielder turned 24 on May 1st.
In his 13 game cup of coffee with the big club, Dejesus Jr. has hit just .185 (5 for 27). With subpar power and speed, Dejesus projects as a .290 type hitter with about 5 homers and 15 steals.
Ivan shows decent plate discipline, however, and could reach base at about a .360 clip. He's a decent defender as well, and should be about league average at shortstop.
Dejsus Jr. should be a very serviceable NL shortstop.
His middle infield partner will likely be current Dodgers top prospect Dee Gordon.
Although Gordon is a shortstop in the minors, concerns about hist throwing and instincts may lead the Dodgers to shift him to second base.
There are no questions about Gordon's bat or legs, however. He owns a career .297/.352/.383 triple slash line over 345 minor league contests. He also swiped 73 bags at High A in 2009, and 53 at Double-A in 2010.
We should see Gordon team with Dejesus Jr. by the end of the year. Dee will probably get the first crack at shortstop, but I expect the Dodgers to flip it before long.
Time to Trade Loney?
Having displaced James Loney as the Dodgers starting first baseman, Jerry Sands is on track towards becoming a Dodgertown icon.
In 2009, Sands first tore up the Single-A Midwest League to the tune of a .333/.432/.646 line. In just 69 games and 243 at-bats, Sands hit 16 doubles and 18 home runs.
The next year, the Dodgers skipped Sands to Double-A, over High-A Rancho Cucamonga and the offensive inflated environment of the California League.
He continued his strong play with a .270/.360/529 split over 68 games at Great Lakes. After being promoted to Double-A, Sands hit an additional 17 home runs, giving him 35 for the year.
This was a big jump, but Sands proved over 259 at-bats that his power is legitimate.
However, half a seasoning of Double-A ball is not seasoning enough. Sands still struck out 66 times and the league's pitchers haven't even had time of their own to figure him out yet.
There is a lot of underdog in Jerry Sands. He was a 25th round pick out of Catawba College in Salisbury, North Carolina.
25th round picks shouldn't post a .960 OPS over 915 at-bats, no matter the level.
Having struck out in nearly 30 percent of his MLB at-bats so far, this might take time. But Sands should come around eventually because his skills are legitimate.
Don Mattingly has found a place for Sands in his everyday lineup. If he can start hitting, James Loney will become expendable.
The Dodgers should deal him while he's still relevant, to maximize value.
Find a Third Baseman of the Future
Not too long ago, third base was one of the deepest positions in terms of talent.
With Evan Longoria, Alex Rodriguez, David Wright, and Kevin Youkilis at the top of the third base food chain, the cream of the crop has seperated itself from the rest of the pack.
The drop-off after the top group at the position is drastic.
Juan Uribe, Jamie Carroll, and Aaron Miles are splitting time at the position this season. Uribe will get the majority of at-bats, as he is the best player and his 3-year, $21 million deal runs through 2013.
The Dodgers best potential third baseman in the minors is 22-year old Jake Lemmerman out of Duke.
He's still at least two years away, however, and the club could use more organiational depth at the position.
One for the future should be taken in the draft. Another could be acquired via trade.
Go into "Hold" Mode on Any Valuable Commodity
File this one under the "stuff MLB may not let us do" list.
In all likelihood, Major League Baseball will eventually have to find new owners for the Dodgers.
That's probably why they took over the team now; to ensure that the franchise could be at maximal financial value when the time for bidding comes.
It's entirely possible that MLB may put a hold on any move that Ned Colletti tries to make involving a major player.
The Dodgers are in a precarious situation with Andre Ethier. He is currently making $9.5 million and is scheduled to go through arbitration one more time after this year.
After 2012, Ethier will become an unrestricted free agent. He's made it clear that he wants an extension soon from the Dodgers.
But the team may not want to make a long term commitment to a now 30 year old player. Ethier is also usually a quick starter, and it would be ideal to trade him soon after his current 28 game hitting streak expires.
MLB might not be willing to let the Dodgers part with one of their bigger names, however.
Even though the time might be right to trade someone like Andre Ethier, Colletti may not be allowed to.
Use Those Expiring Contracts on a Big Free Agent
That's about how much money the Dodgers should have coming off the books this season if they don't renew free agent contracts or pick up options.
The potential departee list includes Rafael Furcal, Hiroki Kuroda, Jon Broxton, Jon Garland, Rod Barajas, Jamey Carroll, Vicente Padilla, Lance Cormier, Dioner Navorro, Marcus Thames, Aaron Miles, Mike MacDougal, and Jay Gibbons.
A few of those players will probably be re-signed or traded. Broxton for the former, Kuroda and Padilla the latter.
But a big chunk of that payroll will be cut. And prospects will be added to replace the traded veterans.
If Jerry Sands can't hack it this year, I expect the Dodgers to be big players in the Prince Fielder lottery.
Or, Save That Money to Re-Sign Key Players
We're probably not too far off from the Dodgers having to offer Clayton Kershaw a five-year, $30 million deal to keep him happy.
Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, and Ricky Romero have all signed that exact extension in recent years.
Andre Ethier will be a free agent after 2012 and will be looking for a long-term contract.
It's probably not in the Dodgers best interest to pay a player for his production after he's already done it, however.
Instead they should save up for 26-year-old Matt Kemp, who will be a free agent after the 2012 season.
Kemp is a unique player capable of putting up a few 30-30 seasons.
He's going to command a large extension, and should get some major offers if he hits free agency as likely the best player in his class.
The Dodgers don't have to spend all their money in one place. Better to save it for the homegrown talent, and to use it when a bargain comes along.