So Long, Russell Martin

It came down to the wire, but the Dodgers have decided not to tender Russell Martin a contract for 2011 and risk paying him an increase on his $5.05m 2010 salary. While I thought they may have been attempting to negotiate a more palatable contract, SI’s Jon Heyman reported that the club also spent time trying to trade him.

This doesn’t necessarily spell the end of Martin in Dodger blue, of course. They can still attempt to sign him, and my guess is that that they will try (Ned Colletti confirmed this after the decision was made), particularly since the already poor catching market has largely dried up now that John Buck‘s in Florida, Yorvit Torrealba‘s in Texas and A.J. Pierzynski stayed in Chicago. (Fine, fine, and Jason Varitek returned to Boston.) But there’s sure to be interest in Martin’s services, so there’s a real risk that he’s playing elsewhere next year.

Really, I wasn’t going to be able to argue this decision either way. If they’ve decided that risking $6m to a declining catcher coming off a serious hip injury isn’t a wise choice, that makes total sense. On the other hand, the catching market is so poor – really, is anyone excited about Rod Barajas and Miguel Olivo? – that locking up a young catcher with above-average on-base skills is a more than defensible decision as well. Earlier this offseason, I’d been leaning towards letting him go, though as the market proved to be more expensive than we’d thought and as low-OBP Juan Uribe was signed, I’d been waffling on that in recent days. If Martin is replaced by someone like Olivo or Barajas, this could be a team with a serious OBP problem. On the other hand, maybe there’s a happy ending and they can re-sign him at a lower price later this winter. Either way, it’ll be an interesting story that’s far from over. (Update: Dylan Hernandez reports the team is “close”  to re-signing Barajas. You could do worse for a backup, so okay – but you couldn’t do much worse for a starter. That still doesn’t preclude Martin’s return.)

As expected, Chad Billingsley, Hong-Chih Kuo, and James Loney were tendered contracts, and George Sherrill (and Trent Oeltjen, who I completely forgot was involved in this) was not.

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But wait! There’s more! There’s unconfirmed reports saying that Vicente Padilla signed tonight to return for 2011. I’ll have more to say on that if it ends up being official in the morning, but Ken Gurnick explains how it’d work, since the club already has five starters:

Padilla could serve multiple purposes for the Dodgers. Colletti has talked about adding a veteran swingman capable of pitching multiple innings of relief with the durability to slide into the starting rotation if needed.

Padilla could do that, and his stuff is still nasty enough (especially against left-handed hitters) to close games. The Dodgers have All-Star Jonathan Broxton for that role, but there is concern over his late-season fade. There’s Hong-Chih Kuo, but his injury history is well documented. Kenley Jansen made a spectacular debut, but he remains unproven as a pitcher.

So the 33-year-old Padilla could be a staff utility man.

On the surface, that sounds great. How could you ever have too much pitching? There’s no question that Padilla has talent, and if pitching in shorter bursts helps preserve his health, that could be very useful. The two questions here are, #1) is he really okay with doing that, and #2) how much can you spend on pitching before you realize that the lousy offense is what sunk you last year?

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Not that I really expected that Loney was ever in danger of being non-tendered, but any thought of that probably went away when Adam Dunn agreed to a $56m contract with the White Sox today. I was actually pretty happy to see that, because he both waived his “no-DH” stance and was offered far more money than anyone expected. The Dodgers weren’t going to offer him $60m, nor would I have expected them to, so it’s not like watching him sign for $33m with an NL team while the Dodgers spent money on Juan Uribe.

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  1. [...] the Russell Martin situation would play out, and as we all know he ended up getting non-tendered. I made my feelings on that choice clear yesterday; basically, since he’s not even running yet it’s hard to bash the team for not wanting [...]