Friday, July 29, 2005


Roster Space

This is my breakdown of the current players on the roster with respect to next season. Hopefully I got most of them right.

May Not Return - FA/Marginal:
Pitchers: Dreifort, Weaver, Erickson, Wunsch, Carrara
Catcher: Bako, Rose
IF: Valentin, Saenz, Edwards
OF: Ross
Total: 11, although Saenz or Wunsch may be retained.

Under Team's Control:
SPs: Penny, Lowe, O. Perez, Houlton
RPs: Gagne, Brazoban, Schmoll, Alvarez, Sanchez, Dessens maybe (mutual option 06)
Catcher: Phillips
IF: 1B Choi, 2B Kent, SS Izturis, 3B Robles, UT A. Perez
OF: Drew, Bradley, Werth, Repko, Ledee
Total: 21.
Remaining 4 Spots: 1 SP, 1 reliever, 1 backup catcher, 1 corner infielder to replace Saenz

The top high school prospects from Logan White's first draft in 02 (Loney, Miller, Broxton) have to be protected to the 40 man roster this offseason or risk losing them via the Rule 5 draft. Andy LaRoche, who was drafted as a 19 year old out of a community college in the 03 draft, also has to be protected. Wunderkind Joel Guzman was first signed in 2001. Hong-Chih Kuo, first signed in 1999, is striking out everyone by throwing 95+ again.

(Caveat: I am no expert on the farm system. Get a shovelful of salt ready...)

That's 6 likely additions to the 40 man roster. Also worthy of consideration is Mike Megrew, a 02 draftee who was looking good until TJ surgery this past offseason. Chin-Lung Hu has a good glove and was signed in 03 just after his 19th birthday. Who knows, maybe Brandon Weeden, drafted in 02 by the Yankees, will make the Kevin Brown trade even more lopsided by suddenly improving. There are plenty of other prospects, as the system is deep.

The prospects on the current 40 man roster are as follows.

Pitchers: Jackson, Ketchner, Hanrahan, Osoria, Thompson
Catcher: Martin, Navarro
IF: Young, Aybar
OF: None
Total: 9, but make that 8 as Thompson just had TJ surgery.

Add the aforementioned 6 probable newbies to the protected list and the mumber swells to 14. Granted, some of the prospects could conceivably jump to the 25 man roster next year, as there are 4 roles open: a starting pitcher, a reliever, a backup catcher, and a corner infielder. The extra starting pitcher spot could be filled in-house if Jackson or Billingsley step up. The bullpen might take care of itself if the flamethrowers such as Broxton or Kuo can hold their own. Navarro might take the extra catcher spot. Nothing's guaranteed, though. Not every hole will be filled by the minor leaguers.

(Edit: It looks as if Navarro will be called up today.)

(Edit 2: Jonathan Broxton also has been called up today. Thanks to 6-4-2 for the news. Let the roster-shuffling begin!)

The ETA for most of the blue chip prospects is supposedly 2007; incubating the younglings another year in the minors wil inconvenience roster flexibility. It's a tight fit for the 15 or so protected prospects on the roster next year. Add the 21 major leaguers to the prospects, and the 40 man roster is bursting at the seams. Someone probably needs to be bumped to make room. (Hanrahan? Osoria? Aybar?)

Last December, 6 Dodger prospects were plucked by other teams via the Rule 5 draft. One of them looks like a find. (That kid Carvajal taken by the Rockies would have been nice, eh DePo? ) It's likely that vultures will once again roam this December. It's the same story repeated every year - will someone claim Thurston? Chen? Prokopec? Clemente? It wouldn't be a bad idea to trade some of the prospects for long-term roster flexibility AND short term talent. If you can't protect 'em, trade 'em.

(Edit 3: Commenter #3 has listed Pilkington, Stults, Totten, Figueroa, Ojeda, B. Perez, A. Castillo, Juarez, Nixon, and A. Gonzalez as the second-tier prospects not mentioned who are eligible for the Rule 5 draft this winter. Thanks for the comprehensive list!)

LA's biggest depth in prospects is pitchers and middle infielders. For example, there was also a rumor of Edwin Jackson and A. Perez for Adam Dunn a few days ago. That's probably too little in talent to acquire Dunn, but the basic idea seems about right. I also have a nagging suspicion that the Dodgers offered 2 or 3 second tier prospects for Joe Randa but were outbid by the Padres, who wanted better production from 3B AND didn't want LA to improve.

Just a hunch.

Friday, July 22, 2005


The Entire NL West Should Wave White Flags

Before winning the last 2 games, LA was 8.5 games behind 1st place San Diego and 8.5 games infront of last place Colorado. Talk about mediocrity. If it weren't for the non-strike call on Phillips' checked swing, the team would have lost six straight right after the All-Star Break.

Yet LA is still in the race, thanks to the ineptitude of the other teams. San Diego just got swept by the Mets, getting embarrassed yesterday despite having Peavy on the mound. Kudos to Kaz Ishii for pitching as if his former team is still paying for some of his contract. Come to think of it... never mind.

The Dodgers are somehow 6.5 games out of 1st place despite continually shooting themselves in the foot.

The annual rumor mill before the non-waiver trading deadline is now in full gear. It seems as if A. J. Burnett and Adam Dunn will be joining every contending team. Dunn's name has often been linked with LA. He's a scary slugger, but the steep cost in terms of young talent (Billingsley, LaRoche, more?) might not be worthwhile in the long run. Especially if Dunn doesn't sign a reasonable contract to cover some of his free agency years.

Besides, the reinforcements are on their way as Bradley and Valentin are both undergoing rehab assignments. Bradley's the largest piece of the puzzle that's been missing during the extended slide. His presense may mean about a 1/2 a run per game better than a scrub replacement player like Chen. The team has truly missed Bradley's bat in the #3 spot.

As for Valentin, at the very least he lengthens the lineup. The problem is getting him at-bats after his extended absense, as Robles has so far exceeded expectations (albeit not very high) in filling 3B. The year-long search for a 3rd baseman since Beltre's departure has netted an excess of temporary fill-ins, each one somehow imperfect. Somebody out of Valentin/Perez/Robles/Saenz/Edwards is trade bait. Beware, Neifi Perez and Cristian Guzman!

The list of prized minor leaguers who must be protected on the 40 man roster from the Rule 5 draft this winter is long, as LaRoche, Loney, Miller, Broxton, and others now must join that list. No one out of this prized group is "untouchable", but it's difficult to imagine trading the blue chippers for a player whose skill level is only marginally better than the incumbent, when fully healthy.

The following is a summary of what I consider the current roster's strengths and weaknesses.

Curent excess:
The wealth of middle infielders masquerading as 3B
Some payroll space for 2005 and beyond
Pitching prospects

Temporary needs:
A rental power bat in the corner outfield

Needs beyond 2005:
A real 3B
1B or a platoonmate for Choi

Weaver, Valentin, and Saenz are veterans whose contracts expire this year and are thus expendable as long as their roles, especially Weaver's, are assumed by someone else. Newbies such as Robles or Antonio Perez might be worth more to other teams looking for a young and cheap everyday player. Then there are the older prospects such as Hanrahan who could lose their spots on the 40 man roster as younger prospects grab the spotlight.

Only a few of these names carry much trade value, so the players obtained in return might be mere stopgaps to fill the temporary holes in the roster. Such a trade is what I would call a "horizontal" trade; deal away from your strength to address a weakness without burning up the farm system.

In a way, the LoDuca trade last year was a horizontal trade. Neither team dumped blue chip prospects in order to improve the major league roster. Instead, both teams addressed weaknesses by trading from depth. Mota was expendable as LA was bullpen-rich, and Penny was likewise expendable as FLA was SP-rich. Florida needed a catcher and a future closer, and LA needed an ace and a ... catcher when Charles Johnson declined to waive his no-trade clause without an extension. Anyway, major prospects were not sacrificed for short term gain.

So I would not be surprised if DePodesta pulls off a similar trade or two while preserving the farm system. He'll have to be creative again - a 3 way trade netting a struggling 3B like Lowell at a much discounted price would not surprise me.

Thursday, July 14, 2005


Rambling Thoughts, Part III

I can't remember the last time I cared so little about a series against SF. It's been quite a few seasons since both teams were this far out of the playoff race this early.

Meanwhile, the division-leading Padres have Nevin and Loretta coming back "within a week." They'll be at almost full strength minus Eaton; the 7 1/2 game lead over the Dodgers is looking insurmountable.

A pre-emptive trade before the non-waiver trade deadline looks more and more likely for the Dodgers. DePodesta might want to take note from former boss Beane, who netted a veteran reliever and a young SP without giving up prime prospects through 2 trades within the past few days.

Valentin has started taking BP recently. His eventual return makes Antonio Perez and his hands of stone tradeable, as AP has value (youth, good bat) and is replaceable from within. Perez's skills might be more valuable to another team looking for a leadoff hitter. (Mets? Indians?) Maybe Perez and some second-tier prospects will net a decent 3B who is not a rental.

LA's sweep by the Astros last weekend might have had an unintended effect besides the W-L record. It looks as if the Astros have climbed back into playoff contention, and now might be a serious bidder for Adam Dunn.

It's possible that Houston is willing to take a gamble like last year's Beltran trade. Houston's window of oppportunity with Clemens is ending soon, and Oswalt becomes a FA after 2006. Houston needs a power bat in either the outfield or 1B. Dunn is also a Texas native who might be relatively easy for Houston to sign beyond 2006. Dunn makes perfect sense for Houston.

I expect every contending team with a need at either 1B or corner outfield to sniff around for a bat like Dunn's. If the bidding gets too rich, DePodesta hopefully will acquire cheaper upgrades elsewhere.

I watched the repeat broadcast of the HR derby at midnight Monday to catch Choi's 5 HRs. I saw every one of Abreu's 24 HRs. I saw every one of Bay's hopeless grounders to 3B. The repeat broadcast then completely skipped Choi. What a travesty.

Anyway, this HR Derby prank letter given by Torii Hunter to Brad Radke is hilarous. The Twins' clubhouse must be a loose one - it helps to be a winning ball club, I suppose.

I wish someone in the Dodgers organization gave Erickson the same prank letter.

Over the weekend, Odalis Perez went off on a public tirade after feeling singled out while defending Antonio Perez during a players' meeting. Surprise, surprise. I wonder whether OP will change his tune after AP boots a few groundballs behind him.

Friday, July 08, 2005


Surprise Giveaway!

Breaking news!

For the upcoming homestand, the Dodgers have announced a new giveaway, jointly sponsored by Centinela Hospital and the other Milton Bradley. All kids 14 and under will receive the commemorative 2005 Dodgers edition of the classic board game "Operation".

In addition, the first child to match each injury with a Dodger player or coach will get an autographed MRI signed by Dr. Jobe.

Monday, July 04, 2005


Buy, Sell, Or Hold?

Just as the starting rotation was looking complete with the return of Odalis Perez...

The outfield, once the strength of the team, is now a weakness as Drew has joined Bradley on the DL. Those two standouts had a combined VORP run rate of .804 per game. The actual run differential is probably almost a full run per game as the replacement quartet of Grabowski, Ross, Chen and Edwards are nowhere near as good defensively. What a huge loss.

(My post over a month ago on the Giants' looking for an OF with a power lefty bat can now be applied to the Dodgers. Lawton, Huff, Dunn...)

In the minors, Hong-Chih Kuo, the lefty with the 95+ MPH fastball when healthy, hurt his arm again. Given his extensive injury history in the form of 2 TJ surgeries, his career could be over.

And finally, first time All-Star Izturis has limped on to the DL with the hamstring problem that won't go away.

In exchange for the return of the #3 SP, the baseball gods have taken away the #3 hitter and the Gold Glove shortstop. It's like digging out of an avalance only to fall into a crevasse. There are now glaring holes in the outfield along with the season-long hole at 3B. After 2 strong years, the bullpen is shaky with the loss of Gagne. Last year's unexpected playoff berth looks more and more like a convergence of luck and health.

As the team is 5 games under .500, the season could be over with another disaster like the last road trip. Still, LA is only 5.5 games out of 1st place. Every contending team has flaws, injuries, or both. The NL West is turning into a race of cripples crawling to the finish.

So what's going to happen from here on out?

1) Dump payroll now and rebuild for next year.

This is out of the question. The 51s are not who I want to see when I fork over $10 for the privilege of being stuck an hour in the parking lot after a game. Rebuilding is for the penny pinchers in Cincinnati, not a large market team like the Dodgers.

2) Make immediate trades to fill holes.

This is possible, but would probably be minor transactions, and not whoppers like Oswalt or Dunn. The trades that might be worthwhile in this sense are with teams similarly in playoff limbo AND have roster strengths that match up with the Dodgers' weaknesses. For example, a trade involving Aaron Boone and a reliever for Saenz could be a fit for both CLE and LA.

3) Stand pat until the non-waiver trading deadline and decide accordingly.

The non-waiver trading deadline is still almost 4 weeks away, so at this point the trade market is still in its infancy, as many teams, including LA, are unsure whether they will be buyers or sellers. Until then, A major trade is unlikely as one side would have to overwhelm another, as in "lift the offer". The rumors of Dunn and, more recently, Lawton are premature at this point, unless DePodesta goes in full panic mode, which is unlikely.

LA has the rumored payroll space and the prospects to trade. If the team manages to cling on to playoff contention, I expect DePodesta to fire off at least one trade at the end of July. I don't expect a whopper like Dunn, who is great but would cost half the farm system. A couple of short-term acquisitions like Randa and Lawton might do as there should be plenty of firepower returning from the DL.

Until the Dodgers acquire some help, here's hoping that Werth and Choi go on a tear, Izturis heals quickly, Odalis is 100%, and Kent doesn't get hurt. (Knock on wood...) If LA can somehow stay in the playoff hunt, the return of Bradley and others would mean a huge boost late in the season. Until then, I am at least resigned to the Ja(y)sons at the bottom of the lineup as being better than Green, Werth, Cora, and Ross last year.

If the team can't break even the next 20 or so games against teams with a combined 44% winning percentage, this year is beyond help. Let the vultures roam above the carrion for now. Nothing is over in the worst division in baseball. Right now would be a very good time not to suck.

Saturday, July 02, 2005


Hee Seop From The Block

Today's broadcast mentioned that Choi likes to sing karaoke, especially songs by Jennifer Lopez. I'm trying to imagine a 6'5", 240lb Korean dude belching out fluff songs such as "Love Don't Cost A Thing". It's not a pretty image.

Speaking of Choi...

MLB has announced that 8 players from different countries will compete in the Home Run Derby "to celebrate the inaugural World Baseball Classic", which is scheduled for March, 2006. According to the article, 16 countries are expected to compete in those series. They are: Australia, Canada, China, Chinese Taipei, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Italy, Netherlands, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Panama, Puerto Rico, South Africa, United States, and Venezuela. Here are the the HR leaders for some of the countries, as of yesterday.

US - D. Lee (24), Texeira (22), Ensberg (21), etc.
Dominican Republic - Pujols (21), Soriano (20), Tejada (19), etc.
Venezuela - Abreu (17), Cabrera (16), Mora (14), etc.
Puerto Rico - Delgado (15), F. Lopez (13)
Canada - Bay (15)
Mexico - Cantu (12)
Japan - Matsui (11)

Those countries are probably shoo-ins for the Derby. That leaves 3 countries vying for 1 spot, in my opinion.

Netherlands, sort of - A. Jones (25)
Panama - C. Lee (22)
Korea - Choi (13)

It looks as if Choi will be squeezed out.

Lowe did a fairly spot-on imitation of Erickson today, serving up 4 HRs in 3 innings. Those HRs don't worry me, as Lowe's track record strongly suggests that was an aberration. I'm more concerned about Lowe's tendency to often blow up after a fielding mistake. According to the Hardball Times as of 7/1/05, Lowe has a ERA/RA difference of 1.15, which is the fourth highest among 109 "qualified" MLB pitchers.

Last year, Lowe's ERA/RA difference was 1.38, which was the highest among 70 AL pitchers with at least 100 innings. The 04 BoSox had a bad defense most of the year, especially in the infield. Combine that with an extreme groundball pitcher and BOOM! Disaster. Hopefully it's nothing more than freak luck that Lowe is once again one of the worst; otherwise, this might imply the Dodgers' infield D has been nearly as shoddy.

Edit Before Taking Off 'Til Tueday, Probably:

I can't knock Mike Edwards for a lack of hustle, but that diving attempt on a flare in the 4th inning... Mike, if you dive for the ball, you usually want to be in the same area code. And Duaner, remember the 3rd to 1st pickoff move last week when you caught the runner taking off, but you didn't throw to 1B? Add to that today's balk on the same move... STOP USING THAT PICKOFF MOVE.

Edit 2: Hey, Edwards!

1) Once again, stop diving at balls when there is no chance of catching it.
2) Know the score. When down 5-0, don't turn a double into an out at third, no matter the out count.

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