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Dodgers' Offseason Plans for Their Important Free Agents

Nick Ostiller@@NickOstillerContributor IIOctober 21, 2014

Sep 9, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez reacts against the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Dodgers made the biggest headlines that an eliminated team could during the postseason when they announced the hiring of Andrew Friedman to be the new president of baseball operations.

Friedman, whom the Dodgers pried away from the Tampa Bay Rays, announced that manager Don Mattingly will be back for another season at the helm. But the 37-year-old baseball guru still has some major decisions to make—namely hiring a general manager.

Whomever Friedman selects will then have to figure out what to do with the Dodgers' important free agents. Every starting and backup outfielder for Los Angeles is signed through next season, which leaves the starting rotation, bullpen and infield as the areas for free-agent deliberation.

Starting Rotation

Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu will all be back next season. As for fourth starter Dan Haren, it's basically up to him if he wants to return.

Haren dramatically qualified for a $10 million player option for 2015 after achieving 180 innings pitched during the final week of the regular season. At 34 years old, the right-hander hasn't decided if he will exercise that option.

Haren, who finished with a 13-11 record and a 4.02 ERA, will likely walk away from the game if he chooses to pass on the $10 million.

Chad Billingsley hasn't pitched in nearly two full seasons.
Chad Billingsley hasn't pitched in nearly two full seasons.USA TODAY Sports

Another starting pitcher the Dodgers must deal with this offseason is one who has pitched a total of 12 innings over the past two seasons. Chad Billingsley underwent Tommy John surgery in April 2013 and had his comeback derailed last spring by a torn flexor tendon in the same right elbow.

The 30-year-old just sat through the final year of his three-year, $35 million contract extension that included a $14 million player option for 2015.

Rather than pay Billingsley that money, the Dodgers will likely exercise a $3 million buyout that will make him an unrestricted free agent.

Left-hander Paul Maholm doesn't seem to figure into the Dodgers' plans for next season. A spot starter who had his season cut short in August when he tore his ACL covering first base, Maholm is now an unrestricted free agent. 

He was 1-5 with a 4.84 ERA in eight starts and 22 relief appearances for Los Angeles in 2014.

Midseason acquisitions Roberto Hernandez and Kevin Correia left little to be desired and will likely be headed elsewhere as unrestricted free agents. 

Bullpen

The Dodgers' much-maligned bullpen will more or less look the same in 2015.

Closer Kenley Jansen, lefty specialist J.P. Howell and Brandon League will be back with guaranteed contracts next season. They were the few bright spots in an otherwise black hole of inconsistent relief pitching for Los Angeles.

Earlier in October, Chris Cotillo of SB Nation delivered a Brian Wilson update:

Chris Cotillo @ChrisCotillo

Sources: Brian Wilson has informed #Dodgers that he will exercise his player option for 2015.

Instead of becoming a free agent after his disastrous 2014 campaign, the right-handed Wilson exercised the $8.5 million player option for next season and will receive more money than he deserves or that he would have gotten had he become an unrestricted free agent.

The plan to use Wilson as the primary eighth-inning man quickly devolved, and he ended the season with a 4.66 ERA.

The same cannot be said for free agent Chris Perez, another individual disappointment last season for the Dodgers. The right-hander finished with a 4.27 ERA in 49 games and was left off the postseason roster. It is doubtful the Dodgers will re-sign him.

It's also unlikely that the Dodgers bring back 39-year-old Jamey Wright. The veteran right-hander compiled an equally mediocre 4.35 ERA and may have trouble finding a suitor for what would be his 19th MLB season next year.

Infield

The biggest question facing the Dodgers this offseason is centered around shortstop Hanley Ramirez, who became an unrestricted free agent two weeks ago.

Hanley Ramirez may have played his last game in Dodger blue.
Hanley Ramirez may have played his last game in Dodger blue.Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press/Associated Press

Ramirez is widely considered a liability in the field, and Mattingly often removed him for a defensive replacement late in games.

While most of Ramirez's value has always rested with his bat, the Dodgers were probably looking for more than what he produced at the plate this past season.

His 13 home runs were the fewest of his career when playing more than 100 games. Ramirez missed 34 games in 2014 with nagging injuries and always seemed to be nursing some kind of minor ailment, even when he was on the field.

Los Angeles can choose to extend Ramirez a qualifying offer, as MLB.com's Ken Gurnick explains:

The Dodgers must decide if they want Ramirez back, and if they will extend to him a qualifying one-year offer of $15.3 million by the fifth day after the World Series. That would assure the Dodgers of a compensation Draft pick if Ramirez rejects the offer and signs elsewhere, but it also gives Ramirez the choice of accepting the offer and committing him to the Dodgers for one year.

The Dodgers can't move Ramirez to third base or first base with Juan Uribe and Adrian Gonzalez signed through 2015 and 2018, respectively. Realistically, Ramirez has probably played his last game with the Dodgers.

After all, Los Angeles signed Cuban defectors Alex Guerrero and Erisbel Arruebarrena to lucrative contracts within the calendar year. Both are natural shortstops who have little experience playing anywhere else. And on a team like the Dodgers, there's no room for them to play anywhere else.

Chances are the Dodgers let Ramirez walk, and that he signs with an American League team that can offer him a corner infield position or designated hitter slot.

In May, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported that Ramirez would be seeking a new contract worth upward of $100 million.

Even the ultra-rich Dodgers are wary of making that kind of investment on a player who might be on the wrong side of 30, but there is that deep-pocketed team in the AL East that's in the market for a new shortstop.

All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise linked/noted.

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