Ned Colletti Once Again Risks Los Angeles Dodgers on a Hope and a Prayer

Ross Zelen@@RZelenCorrespondent IIDecember 21, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 01:  Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti looks on prior to the start of the game against the San Francisco Giants at Dodger Stadium on April 1, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

If you were general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, how would you break the news to MVP runner-up Matt Kemp and Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw that, instead of bringing in an All-Star slugger like Prince Fielder or dominant ace like C.J. Wilson, you decided to sign about 10 mediocre players to mid-level contracts?

The money spent on guys like Juan Rivera, Chris Capuano, Mark Ellis, Adam Kennedy, Matt Treanor and Jerry Hairston Jr. could have been used more wisely, even just to re-sign consistent and reliable starter Hiroki Kuroda. 

Instead, Ned Colletti is thinking that a rotation that includes Aaron Harang, Ted Lilly and Chris Capuano will be able to carry a team that looked so promising at the end of 2011.

Lilly, coming off one of his better seasons, still went only 12-14 with a 3.97 ERA. His ceiling for improvement is low due to the fact that he is such a finesse pitcher.

Most of the time during the 2011 season, fans referred to Lilly as the fourth or fifth starter, often behind youngsters like Nathan Eovaldi or Rubby De La Rosa. Now Colletti expects him to be the number three pitcher.

Good luck trying to get both Kershaw and Chad Billingsley to buy into that one.

Expect both Kershaw and Billingsley to feel added pressure, which can not end in anything positive, since they already shouldered the brunt of the load last year.  

By signing Aaron Harang to fill Hiroki Kuroda’s spot, the Dodgers are already at a major disadvantage.

Harang’s health issues are baggage that Kuroda did not bring to the clubhouse, and even though it would have taken a sizable amount to keep Kuroda in Los Angeles, the Japanese pitcher was one of the longest-tenured and most respected clubhouse men. 

Colletti also signed Chris Capuano, once a viable option as a fourth or fifth starter, to a two-year, $10 million contract.

Capuano has had Tommy John surgery twice and most recently missed the entire 2008 season. In his last two seasons, he is a combined 15-16 with a 4.35 ERA. His 2011 statistics with the New York Mets are quite consistent, as he posted solid numbers over each month.

But overall, Capuano's 2011 was mediocre at best, with only a shutout and a handful of stellar starts.

Colletti is hoping Capuano and Harang can duplicate the success that Dodger starters have had, even though they have never actually provided the services that Colletti seems to expect. 

Harang’s contract was for two years and $12 million; Capuano’s for two years and $10 million.

For $22 million, I think Hiroki Kuroda could have been brought back .

Throw in some of the ridiculous money given to journeymen Adam Kennedy and Jerry Hairston Jr., and the Dodgers could have kept Kuroda in Los Angeles for two more years.

The bulk of people signed by Colletti is a head-scratcher, as the Dodgers have numerous young prospects looking to burst onto the scene. 

Why go with mediocre over unproven youngsters?

Nathan Eovaldi looked promising and now has to battle with Harang and Capuano for a spot in the rotation. Eovaldi and Rubby De La Rosa, who will return from Tommy John Surgery at the end of 2012, would fill out a rotation with Ted Lilly. Stephen Fife came over in the Travyon Robinson deal and could earn a spot, as could Michael Antonini, who is a little old to be a pitching prospect but has had success at the Double-A level.

Josh Lindblom was stellar out of the bullpen and has the background of being a starter and a closer, and Blake Hawksworth’s versatility might have warranted a valid shot at a starter’s role as well.

Throw in John Ely’s presence and potential to recreate some of the magic he possessed in 2009, and that is the makings for a nice back-end to a rotation.

The total price for those young arms: zero dollars. That is a grand total savings of $22 million over the next two years.   

The Dodgers also decided to non-tender—basically release—Hong-Chih Kuo.

Poor Kuo has had endless trouble in his career, and I am not angered at the fact that he was let go. He proved last season time and time again that he is not capable of getting people out.

No matter how glorious his 2010 numbers were, he was just a shell of a man standing on the mound all alone last summer. It was sad to see, especially as so many fans grew to love the tenacious and resilient Taiwanese pitcher, who overcame four major surgeries to find success for himself and his team. 

The problem now is that Colletti has signed John Grabow to replace him.

Grabow, a journeyman lefty whose best season was in 2008 with the Pittsburgh Pirates, had a 4.76 ERA last season with the Chicago Cubs.

This is not much of an improvement.

The Dodgers have an extremely young bullpen, with closer Javy Guerra, set-up man Kenley Jansen and their sole lefty reliever, Scott Elbert.

Mike MacDougal is currently still on the market, and although Matt Guerrier is the bullpen veteran and horse, even he had troubles last season.

Whereas Colletti should have been focusing on acquiring a veteran arm to be a force out of the bullpen in case Guerra were to suffer a sophomore slump or Jansen were to deal with more health issues, he was frivolously spending on mediocre starters.

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim signed Latroy Hawkins to a one-year, $3 million contract. Hawkins had a 2.42 ERA in about 50 relief innings last season for the Milwaukee Brewers and could have brought even more stability to a good bullpen.

A 17-year veteran, Hawkins has ample experience and is widely respected as a mentor to young arms.

Instead of Hawkins' mentoring Guerra and Jansen, he will be a guiding force for the Angels’ Jordan Walden as L.A. of Anaheim looks to take a step back towards championships while the Dodgers look stuck in neutral. 

This offseason has been dismal for the Dodgers, and as a fan and critic who was so optimistic at the end of the 2011 season, my outlook has been utterly deflated.

The offense would have been good even with the silly signings of older players, and the rotation would have come together and worked itself out without the millions being spent on bringing in pitchers who have seen better days.

Now, the youngsters will have to supplant the veterans in order to earn some chances to prove themselves, and when they do, it will just expose another failure of Colletti: spending money he says he doesn’t have on players that are fine ballplayers, but not the ones that bring home division titles and world championships.

This is Los Angeles. We’ve waited long enough to taste glory.

Bring on a new owner, bring on a new GM and bring on the youth. 


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