LA Dodgers: Top 5 Offseason Targets
Even with one of the most hectic seasons in recent memory, the Los Angeles Dodgers found away to finish 82-79 and earn third place in the National League West.
The season ended on a good note for Dodger fans as the team finished with a 17-9 record in September. Los Angeles rejoiced on the news that the McCourt divorce was finally settled and Frank received full control of the Dodgers and the right to make a media deal and bring income into the club just in time for free agency.
It still remains to be seen if Bud Selig will allow McCourt to make a media deal knowing that $130 million of it will go right into Jamie's pocket, but the $1.6 billion should still be enough to make the Boys in Blue big time players in the free-agent market.
But how should the Dodger's put their new-found wealth to work?
Here are a few ideas...
5. Wilson Betemit
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Mattingly's "Mighty Mites," Jamey Carroll and Aaron Miles are both free agents this offseason. While neither Carroll nor Miles would be the first player to come to mind when one thinks about a player who would need to be replaced, the roles they played for Los Angeles were valuable.
Carroll and Miles could both play any position in the infield on any given day. Dodgers GM Ned Colletti would do well to make a run at them both, but in the event that he cannot resign one of them, Betemit would be the guy to grab.
In his career, Betemit has played every position on the diamond except for center field and catcher. After hitting .290 in 2010, he backed it up with a more impressive .285 in 2011 playing for the Royals and Tigers.
Betemit spent time as a Dodger early in his career and was a fan favorite for his hustle plays and willingness to fill a utility role. He would be welcomed back by Dodger fans, would come at a cheep price and fit perfectly.
4. Josh Willingham
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The Dodger's were forced to use a flurry of outfielders during the 2011 season.
While Matt Kemp was perpetually manning center and Andre Ethier was a regular in right before his injury, Don Mattingly was forced to use five different players in left field.
Marcus Thames and Juan Rivera both have expiring contracts and while Colletti will likely talk to Rivera's agent, I think he is likely to go after a player like the Oakland Athletics' Josh Willingham.
Willingham is continually one of the most underrated players in baseball. Every offseason, he is low-balled in free agency and every season he produces in big ways for his club.
While he is not a liability defensively, he is not a Gold Glover either. But his bat makes up for it. He averages a home run every 20.5 at-bats, something the Dodgers had lacked until Kemp's breakout season this year.
What makes him an even better target?
His biggest asset is his reasonable asking price. In 2011, Willingham earned $6 million and before that, he never earned more than $4.6 million, a reasonable price to pay for a good middle-of-the-order bat.
3. Hiroki Kuroda
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Why fix what isn't broken?
The Dodgers had one of the best pitching staffs in the National League in 2011, posting a 3.54 ERA as a team. With numbers like that coming out of the pitchers, the offense should be Colletti's real worry.
But Kuroda's contract is set to expire and he has made it clear that he plans to test the market. However, if Colletti can coax Kuroda back to his role in L.A., the Dodgers will retain what was already a fantastic bullpen.
In 2011, Kuroda posted a 3.07 ERA with 13 wins and 161 strikeouts. His ERA was good enough for second among Dodger starters, behind only the unreal Clayton Kershaw.
Colletti might have to fork over a bit more money than he would like, but Kuroda is a big need.
2. Prince Fielder
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Surprise! You all thought Fielder would be on top of the list didn't you?
Well if this was written at the beginning of the season, or even the All-Star Break, he would be No. 1. But James Loney's second half emergence gives the Dodgers the ability to wait and see with Fielder.
Fielder is an unbelievable hitter and a middle-of-the-road fielder. In his career, he averages a home run per 15 at-bats and averages 106 RBI a season. He's the real deal and deserves a monster contract.
The Dodgers could use that power bat in the lineup, however many problems emerge with Fielder. The large sum of money he will demand should worry Colletti, who knows he will need that money in the future with Clayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp both emerging as elite players in baseball.
Also, his immense stature hurts his fielding range and as he ages later in his contract, he is unlikely to be able to play in the field and with no DH in the National League as of now, Los Angeles, or any team in the Senior Circuit, could find itself with a huge bat that is too much of a defensive liability to play in the field.
This move would excite Dodger fans the way they needed to be all season in 2011 and it is hard to argue against chasing a superstar like Fielder, but Colletti needs to be careful.
1. Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw
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Ned Colletti is going to need all the money he can get if he wants to lock up Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw. They are both elite at their positions and Dodger fans would be absolutely outraged if either one of them left in the near future.
Matt Kemp emerged as the outfielder everybody who follows baseball closely knew he could be. After scrutiny in 2010 about his inability to focus on baseball, Kemp turned everything around, hitting .324 with 39 home runs, 126 RBI and 40 stolen bases.
His defense made fans "ooh" and "aah" throughout the season. Matt Kemp is the Dodgers' every day player of the future.
Clayton Kershaw is ready to demand a fat contract as well. He is only 23 years old, throws left-handed, and boasted a 2.28 ERA with 248 strikeouts and 21 wins in 2011. The Dodgers need to buy out his arbitration years and never run the risk of him walking for more money.
Kemp and Kershaw are two of the best players in baseball. If the Dodgers do not make any moves other than locking them up for life this offseason, it will still be a good offseason.