According to a Tweet by Ken Gurnick and an official press release from the team, Ronnie Belliard is coming back on a one-year deal for $825,000, and I am, to put it lightly, confused.
In a vacuum, the deal is fine. Belliard’s useful-ish, he hit well as a Dodger last year, and he can (sort of) play more than one infield position. Any deal that’s worth less than a million dollar is negligible in my book, so on its own merits, fine by me.
Except… isn’t this exactly what Jamey Carroll was for? You know, a mediocre veteran who can play some 2nd and 3rd as needed? Because Belliard can’t play shortstop any more than Carroll can, and it was that “lack of a shortstop” issue that led to Nick Green getting a spring training invite.
So if this isn’t to fill that backup shortstop hole (since Belliard can’t do it) and it isn’t to be the 2B/3B backup bat off the bench (since that’s ostensibly what Carroll’s here for), what the hell is Belliard’s role? Please don’t tell me he’s the Opening Day 2B, not until Blake DeWitt is given a chance to fail, and not with guys like Felipe Lopez and Orlando Cabrera still out there with rapidly falling contract demands.
Even if the public face is that DeWitt is still the first choice, I don’t see how it makes sense from a roster standpoint. With Joe Torre’s well-known ways of burning through a bullpen, and with a starting rotation that’s hardly full of innings eaters, I don’t see any way the Dodgers don’t start the year with 12 pitchers. That leaves room for 4 backup players, 2 of which have to be a backup catcher and backup outfielder. If you’re carrying both Belliard and Carroll behind DeWitt, where is the room for your backup shortstop? (Okay, my math is faulty here. Jon helpfully points out that it’s 5 backups. The Dodgers spent much of last year with 13 pitchers, which left 4 backups, and that’s what I still had on my mind. Still, wouldn’t surprise me to see that happen again too.)
Again, the deal itself – $875k for a moderately useful player – seems harmless enough. Its what it says about the rest of the roster that worries me.