It’s been roughly four weeks since it was announced that Frank McCourt must sell the Dodgers. In that time the Dodgers front office has been hard at work, dipping their feather pens in inkwells and thrusting them in the direction of any man in sliding shorts. (Is this an instance where one might use the term "pause"?) Mark Ellis and Matt Treanor were the first to grab hold of the thrusting pens and etch their respective John Hancocks.
It’s been estimated that the Dodgers have about $10 million left to spend on free agents, but even this figure is largely speculative. Regardless, I’m going to bump it up to $15 million because I’m a full-glass plus another half-full-glass kind of guy. It's more fun to speculate as an optimist, right?
The following is a reasonable, circa plausible batch of suggestions to a team that owes plenty of cash to middling and/or nonexistent talent. I will make no attempt to shed light on the bat-infested attic that is the Dodgers bank account, but I'm happy to tell them how to distribute its innards!
There's not a whole lot to say that you don't already know. It's simple. Prince Fielder coming to LA would transform their offense. This equation should clear up any doubts you may have:
from [8(anemic) + Matt Kemp] ------------------------------------------> [7(anemic) + Matt Kemp + Prince Fielder]
My remedial math skills tell me this would be a mammoth improvement.
There is a downside to signing a rotund first baseman, of course, but the idea of having two of the top three in the 2011 MVP voting is too good to pass up. Fielder would make them an immediate contender in the National League. Ask Brewer fans if they enjoyed having Fielder and Ryan Braun in the middle of their lineup.
Currently playing his position: James Loney
Lesser free-agent options: Carlos Pena, Derrek Lee
Hiroki Kuroda is more existential than literal at this point. There have been as many reports claiming that he will play in Japan as reports claiming he will re-sign with the Dodgers.
For Ned Colletti, the absolute value of this equation appears to be zero—as in there’s no reason to wait on Kuroda’s decision when moves must be made.
His back was a nagging issue in 2011, but reports suggest that he has put the back problems behind him (puns are still funny, no?).
Injuries are always a concern, but you’re gambling in an attempt to scoop up the 2010 version of Oswalt, the one that threw over 200 innings, struck out 193 and boasted an ERA of 2.76. A slightly lesser version of that would give the Dodgers a one-two punch that rivals anyone outside of Philadelphia.
While he’s unlikely to receive offers that match last year’s price tag, he is still a commodity. If the Dodgers could somehow lock him up for a year or two at $10 million per, the juice would seem to be worth the squeeze.
Currently playing his position: Chad Billingsley
Comparable free agents: C.J. Wilson, Mark Buehrle
You may have noticed a pretty significant drop-off in talent. At least I'm prefacing it in the titles.
I have a personal vendetta against Joel Pineiro, so it pains me to put him on this list. (Apparently, I’m not the only one.) Some time ago, during his tenure with the Twins, my cousin and I sat behind the visitor’s bullpen at what was then Comiskey Park. We spent the majority of the game asking him (and the rest of the pen) to throw us a ball. He denied us, taunted us and patronized us. It was humiliating.
Point is, Pineiro’s a solid rotation guy and will likely come cheaper than Oswalt. Plus, he wouldn’t have to burn much gas moving his stuff from Anaheim to LA. We’re not all about sports at Bleacher Report; we’re environmentally conscious too.
Currently playing his position: Chad Billingsley
Comparable free agents: Edwin Jackson, Aaron Harang, Brad Penny
I wasn't kidding. I'm legitimately suggesting the Dodgers sign Wilson Betemit.
It would be Wilson’s second foray into the Dodgers clubhouse should the front office take my advice. His first go-around wasn’t anything to write home about, but Mr. Betemit has grown since then. He’s changed for the better.
While his defense would charitably be described as atrocious, his bat veils these deficiencies. He’s come to the plate 674 times over the past two seasons, garnering status as a solid semi-regular, which is precisely how the Dodgers would use him. Over that time, he has a .372 OBP and a .462 SLG. That’s better than solid any way you slice it—and better than Juan Uribe in his Inception-iest dream.
The biggest hurdle for the Dodgers signing Betemit will be the price tag. After making $1 million in 2011, there’s a good chance a team will throw $3 million or $4 million at him this offseason. It’s also possible he'll be offered a regular job at third base or designated hitter.
Playing his position now: Juan Uribe
Comparable free agents: Edwin Encarnacion*
* Please, no.
Rick Ankiel: ruiner of analogous dream sequences since 2001.
"And down goes the talent! I don't think it's going to get up!"
It's unfortunate, but a fact, that barring unforeseen circumstances, the 2012 Dodgers starting lineup is all but set. It's logical to look for role players at this point given the fiscal situation.
Also, I'm still in the denial stage with the Juan Rivera signing. If we could avoid bringing that up in the comments section, I'd appreciate it.
Rick Ankiel would provide a much-needed power bat off the bench, and once June rolls on by and Juan Rivera's hitting in the .220s, he'll get some solid playing time. Ankiel also brings with him the ability to play all three outfield slots and a 95 mph fastball from anywhere on the field.
He made $1.5 million last year and is likely to sign a similar deal.
Currently playing his position: Trent Oeltjen*
Comparable free agents: Laynce Nix, David DeJesus
* I didn't want to write it any more than you wanted to read it.
Laynce Nix is a poor man's Ankiel on defense but a comfortable man's Ankiel on offense. He, too, is serviceable in all three outfield spots, and he can knock the ball out of the ballpark.
Over the last three years, Nix is averaging a little over one Win Above Replacement (WAR). With the NL West up for grabs just about every season, solid role players could prove to be the difference between the Dodgers being in contention and being in disarray come September.
Currently playing his position: Trent Oeltjen (still)
Comparable free agents: Rick Ankiel, David DeJesus
Mark Ellis signed a two-year contract with the Dodgers worth $8.75 million.
That sentence was poorly worded and radically underemphasized. Let me give it another go.
Thirty-four-year-old, .288 OBP-having, seven-home-run-hitting, slightly above-average defender Mark Ellis signed a two-year contract with the Dodgers worth $8.75 million. Couldn't Justin Sellers put up those numbers for the price of, oh, I don't know, on the house?! Or the league minimum.
Here's the kicker: There's a team option for 2014. Let me go ahead and make a preemptive executive decision on that bad boy—DECLINE.
People I'd rather to give $8.75 million to: Mark Grudzielanek, the Lopez twins from Major League: Back to the Minors, the director of Major League: Back to the Minors, Chad Fonville, Kelly Johnson, Wilton Guerrero, the Guerrero tortilla company and Bernie Madoff.
OCCUPY MARK ELLIS!!!
As Hong-Chih Kuo makes his bid to become the Octomom of elbow surgeries, the only southpaw in the Dodgers pen is Scott Elbert. Lopez has dominated lefties over the past two years (and for the majority of his career).
The biggest obstacle here is Lopez’s price tag. He made nearly $2.5 million last season and doesn’t figure to take a pay cut in 2012.
Currently playing his position: Scott Elbert
Comparable free agents: Darren Oliver*
* My feelings about Darren Oliver are eerily similar to Adam Sandler's feelings about the Pepperidge Farm guy in Big Daddy.
Three minutes is too long to spend thinking of a caption for a picture of Joel Peralta.
Regardless of your feelings on matchup, Tony La Russa ball, it pays to have a reliever who can get lefties out in the late innings. There’s no need to succumb to the lefty vs. lefty cult-like adage, though. Ask a left-handed hitter who he'd rather face: Ted Lilly or Mariano Rivera?
Joel Peralta is a cost-efficient right-handed reliever who gets lefties out. The 35-year-old has allowed a measly two home runs to left-handed foes since the start of 2010, and only 42 out of a possible 190 have even reached base. He’d be a nice complement to Scott Elbert, who wasn’t too shabby against lefties himself.
Currently playing his position: Javy Guerra, Scott Elbert, Matt Guerrier, Josh Lindblom
Comparable free agents: LaTroy Hawkins
That old adage: A sinker ball's worth a minor league contract.
Yes, I’m fully aware that Brandon Webb has pitched a total of four major league innings since 2008. Yes, I’m aware that the number is so low that English literary rule requires I spell it out.
Don’t bother waiting for my rebuttal—there isn’t one. However, if you can sign a former Cy Young winner to a minor league contract, are you really throwing that many chips into the pot? Low risk, medium to high reward.
Currently playing his position: Nate Eovaldi, Rubby De La Rosa, Dana Eveland, Stephen Fife