Hey, remember when the Dodgers were just being cheap? Uh, yeah, about that. After initially signing three free agent starting pitchers, last week’s $21m commitment to Juan Uribe and $3.25m deal with Rod Barajas have surprisingly put the Dodgers among the big spenders of the offseason so far. We haven’t liked every deal, but credit where credit is due – as each starting pitcher falls off the board and as the market quickly skyrockets (I’m looking at you, Jayson Werth), moving quickly to re-up Hiroki Kuroda, Ted Lilly, & Jon Garland is looking smarter by the day (sure, I wasn’t thrilled with Lilly’s deal, but I’m not arguing that he won’t be an asset in 2011).
Yet despite all of the spending, they still have holes to fill. So it’s a fair question to ask: what’s left?
Well, before we can get to that, let’s try to figure out what’s been spent. In my 2011 plan, I gauged that the team had $60m in hard money already spoken for this year. That’s $43m in guaranteed contracts to Rafael Furcal, Casey Blake, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, Jonathan Broxton, and Jamey Carroll, and $17m in dead money owed to ghosts of Dodgers past like Juan Pierre, Manny Ramirez, and Andruw Jones.
The Dodgers have now added approximately $28m in 2011 salary in signing Kuroda ($8m), Lilly ($7.5m), Garland ($3.5m), Uribe ($5m), Barajas ($3.25m) and Jay Gibbons ($0.650m). Garland’s also got $3.5m in 2011 incentives, which he can max out by hitting 190 IP. I usually wouldn’t include incentives, but since 190 IP is a mark he’s made for the last nine years, I’m going to include it here, and that makes $31.5m for 2011. (Trying to save the “but they could have had Adam Dunn for less than that!” comments for now). That’s $91.5m spoken for without even considering arbitration cases and filling out the roster with 0-3 players.
As we know, Chad Billingsley, Hong-Chih Kuo, and James Loney were tendered contracts and all are headed to arbitration unless they reach contract agreements first. You can expect the three of them to make about $12.5m unless they strike longer deals.
That puts the club at about $104m before considering 0-3 players making at or near the minimum like Clayton Kershaw, Ronald Belisario, A.J. Ellis, and Kenley Jansen. Let’s say that about $3m will go to the collection of guys like that, and so the rough estimate here is that the 2011 payroll is at around $107m today.
$107m is far above where any of us thought the team would go this year, and that’s a nice surprise. But that’s a team with a subpar catcher, a hole in left field, and underperforming incumbents at first and third base. It’s a team that is absolutely dependent on their bullpen returnees to look more like 2009 and less like 2010, and it’s a team that has several young players who still need longterm deals. Now that’s a team which is probably better than last year (less Ryan Theriot, less Garret Anderson, more Kenley Jansen and less George Sherrill, less #5 starter confusion, hoped-for improvements from Kemp and Kershaw), but not one which you can honestly say is among the favorites to win it all.
Since the signings we’ve seen are obviously “win-now” moves, the question is, what’s left above $107m in the coffers to fill in the blanks? One would think, “not much”. Yet Colletti hasn’t given up on Russell Martin, may yet bring back Vicente Padilla, and was rumored to be in on relievers Jesse Crain and Matt Guerrier. On top of that, they’re going to need to sign at least one righty outfielder (preferably two), and decide if they can really live at the infield corners without upgrading from Casey Blake and James Loney.
All of that costs money, and I just cannot imagine the Dodgers can extend themselves much further than $107m, especially if Padilla and/or Martin do get a few million to come back. That means that you shouldn’t be expecting Adrian Beltre to come in to play 3B, you probably shouldn’t be expecting a big-money addition in the bullpen (which I find to be a positive development), and sadly, you probably won’t see a long-term deal for Clayton Kershaw this winter, given that they can ride out one more year of him at the minimum salary before arbitration.
I think all you might be likely to see is one cheap veteran outfielder brought in for the LF mix, unless they surprise us all with a Loney deal. As I’ve said before, I’d love for that to be a right-handed lefty masher like Matt Diaz, Lastings Milledge, or Jeff Francoeur (or even two of them, given that neither Gibbons nor Ethier can hit lefties), but I’m mostly terrified that it’s going to be an over-the-hill lefty like Johnny Damon or Scott Podsednik, which would not only be a poor fit for the team’s needs, but which would then almost certainly be the end of Xavier Paul‘s Dodger career.
Now, I’ll admit that we’ve been surprised more than once by the Dodgers this offseason, and it could certainly happen again. It just seems as though the bulk of their shopping is done, and I just can’t see them going above $110m at the absolute most. Is that going to be enough to win? We’ll have to see. Let me hear it – what other moves do you think they could still make?
Update: Well, here’s a possibility. Ken Gurnick reports…
The Dodgers have expressed interest in Matt Diaz, the outfielder non-tendered by the Braves last week. Diaz hit .250 with seven homers and 31 RBIs in 2010, but missed two months with an infected thumb. He would give the Dodgers a right-handed hitting complement to lefty Jay Gibbons for a platoon in left field. Diaz received $2.55 million from the Braves this year. He has an .806 career OPS.
Another non-tender, pitcher Jeremy Accardo from Toronto, also has hit the Dodgers’ radar. The right-hander has battled through three seasons of injuries, but in 2007 had 30 saves for the Blue Jays.
If you’ve been reading me at all over the last few days, you know that going after Diaz is a huge YES from me. Accardo I’m less sure on, but if it’s on a minor-league contract with a spring training invite, then sure, what’s the harm.
Update #2: Steve Henson is reporting that “sources” claim that the payroll will be $95m this year. Obviously, that’s not possible unless he’s not counting the $17m in deferred payments, so the more realistic number is $112m – if true.