Dodgers Come to Terms With Adam Kennedy

As we learned yesterday, the Dodgers were close to an agreement with Adam Kennedy, and now we know the details: once he passes his physical, he’ll be signed to a one-year deal worth $800k.

Frankly, I was terrified that he’d be getting a guaranteed contract into the millions, so this is a bit more palatable, given that 800k is barely above the veteran minimum. That means it’s a relatively low-cost investment that hardly ranks above a non-roster invite, and one that should hopefully make it easy to part ways with him if and when he proves to be cooked - though it still doesn’t answer the question of why he rates a guaranteed contract in the first place. You’d think that a decent-glove, dead-fish-bat utility infielder could be had for nothing more than a plane ticket to camp – see Aaron Miles, 2011 – but then again, creamy veteran goodness like this isn’t easy to find. (Disclaimer: it is extremely easy to find.)

As the wonderfully-named “The Dude Abides” noted in the comments yesterday, if you’re going to get a lefty-swinging infield bat who can sort of play a few positions, Wilson Betemit would have been a far better choice. No, he’s not Kennedy’s equal with the glove, but the Mark Ellis / Juan Uribe infield is full of solid defenders who may not be able to hit. Add Betemit for his offense, carry Justin Sellers for his defense, and call it a day.

Anyway, once this is finalized, it all but finishes off the offseason shopping on offense, leaving us with a presumed Opening Day crew of…

C A.J. Ellis
C Matt Treanor
1B James Loney
2B Mark Ellis
SS Dee Gordon
3B Juan Uribe
IF Adam Kennedy
IF Justin Sellers*
LF Juan Rivera
CF Matt Kemp
RF Andre Ethier
OF Jerry Sands*
OF Tony Gwynn**

Sellers & Sands are marked because they’re young players who aren’t totally guaranteed to break camp with the club, and Gwynn hasn’t officially been tendered a contract yet, though most assume it’s a given that he will be.

Report: Dodgers Close to Signing Adam Kennedy For Some Reason

In my drafts folder right now, there’s about 1200 words of a 75% written post that was going to go up tomorrow, discussing how the Dodger offensive roster is largely set except for a backup infielder, either to supplant Justin Sellers or to join him. According to Tony Jackson, it looks like I might not have the luxury of finishing that post:

The Los Angeles Dodgers are close to an agreement with free-agent infielder Adam Kennedy, according to multiple sources. Length and terms of the deal weren’t immediately available.

Kennedy, who can play first, second and third, satisfies the Dodgers’ need for a utility infielder and leaves just one major item on their offseason shopping list, that being a starting pitcher to replace Hiroki Kuroda.

Kennedy’s been on four squads in the last five years and five in the last six, mainly earning notice due to Seattle’s shocking willingness to let him hit 3rd or 4th (33 starts in those two spots in 2011) and his arrest for drunk driving shortly after signing. Still, that hasn’t stopped the Dodgers from apparently trying to bringing him in to fill the Aaron Miles Memorial “I’m Short, I’m White, I’m Gritty, and Darn It, People Like Me!” spot on the roster which is apparently mandated in the new CBA. He was once a plus-fielding second baseman with a bit of pop for some very good mid-decade Angels teams, though he’s now become a defensively average-at-best utility man with a bat that totally bottomed out in 2011, putting up a wOBA that ranked as his second-worst thanks to career-worst BB/9 and K/9 rates. Of the 203 players who got at least 400 plate appearances last season, only six had lower marks than Kennedy.

At 36, off years of mediocrity save for a surprisingly okay 2009, it’s unlikely he’s suddenly going to turn that around; if you’re going to add a player who can’t hit, he might as well be able to play shortstop, which Kennedy cannot, disappointing on a team with Gordon’s frailty and a second baseman who can’t slide over as Jamey Carroll once did. I also like this note from Jackson’s piece, pointing out one of Kennedy’s many shortcomings:

Kennedy, who will turn 36 in January, also gives the Dodgers a left-handed bat off the bench, although he has a career .223 average as a pinch hitter.

Is he better than Sellers? He might not be better than Peter Sellers, and Peter Sellers died 30 years ago. Kennedy is maybe worth a non-roster invite, maybe. But he’s a veteran, so on this squad, that’ll get him locked up to a guaranteed deal. Hey, maybe even multiple years! I suppose if I had to sum this move up in three words, it’d have to be “Colletti gonna Colletti”.

Happy Birthday, Vin

You know, a year ago at this time, we spent November 29 and 30 talking about Juan Uribe‘s new contract, checking into reported interest in Johnny Damon & Jason Varitek, realizing that Jon Garland‘s “durability” might not have been what it seemed, and celebrating that Ryan Theriot was headed out for Blake Hawksworth.

This year, we’re all but settled in for the winter with the realization that the budget is largely tapped, that there’s unlikely to be much movement at the winter meetings, and that until there’s progress on the ownership front, all we can do is warily keep an eye on the interminable court proceedings, though today’s Dodgers/FOX hearing was postponed until December 7.

My, how times have changed. Still, we have a few items of interest to attend to…

* Today is Vin Scully’s 84th birthday, which allows me the opportunity to post the same picture I’ve been using for about four years. We say each year that every season we still have with Vin is a gift, and never was that more true than in 2011, arguably the worst season in the franchise’s history. The fact that we’ll have him for at least one more year, and that he’ll outlast Frank McCourt, is an honor we should all be grateful for.

* As expected, Jonathan Broxton moved on to greener pastures today, though I can’t say I predicted him signing with the Royals. He’ll set up for Joakim Soria and join a Kansas City pen that could be fearful, considering they already had an enviable talent of young relievers like Greg Holland, Blake Wood, Louis Coleman, and Tim Collins, enabling them to move Aaron Crow to the rotation. If he’s healthy, it’s a great deal for the Royals, though of course if he does succeed all you’ll hear from the usual suspects will be ”well of course, there’s no pressure in Kansas City in the 8th inning.” Uh huh.

* You’ll notice I’ve added a tracker to the right sidebar collecting all of the minor-league invites the Dodgers hand out this offseason, and the newest addition is shortstop Luis Cruz, who will be 28 in March and has seen time in 56 MLB games across parts of three seasons from 2008-10 with Milwaukee and Pittsburgh. He spent most of 2011 with Texas’ Triple-A club, though he did spend a month back in Mexico. With a .293 OBP in parts of 11 minor-league seasons, he’s organizational filler and little more, though he could see a decent amount of Triple-A playing time if Justin Sellers does indeed make the big club.

* Hey, it could be worse: San Francisco extended GM Brian Sabean’s contract through 2013 with a club option for 2014. That’ll give him plenty of time to give Nate McLouth a four-year deal after the Braves are done with him.

* Finally, do you care about hockey? Particularly college hockey? No, of course you don’t. Nor should you. That said, I did attend a game between my alma mater Boston U & Cornell over the weekend at a sold-out Madison Square Garden, and what you’ll see in the clip below was too fun not to share. Fortunately for the Terriers, this got waved off because the ref lost sight of the puck and whistled the play dead. 


We Always Knew James Loney Would Be Back in 2012

This is a few days old, but I wasn’t able to get to it until now due to the holiday weekend. GM Ned Colletti spoke to MLB Network Radio’s Mel Antonen on Friday, and Antonen dropped this juicy tidbit via Twitter:

#Dodgers GM Ned Colletti says on MLB Network Radio that James Loney will be at 1B for LA next season. Says 20-25 HRs possible.

Short of actually saying a contract has been offered and signed, this is the clearest confirmation we’ve heard yet that Loney will in fact be tendered a contract for 2012, his final year of team control. That should come as absolutely no surprise to anybody, of course; we’ve known for weeks that the 2012 budget is largely tapped out – Hiroki Kuroda‘s return may depend more on finances than whether he wants to come back or not – and there’s absolutely not room to bring in a Prince Fielder to play first base. (Here’s where we grumble that the combined 2012 outlay to mediocre vets Juan Rivera, Mark Ellis, and Juan Uribe would come close to covering the first year of Fielder, but that’s neither here nor there at this point.)

Technically, it’s not a strict choice of “Fielder or Loney”, because you could argue for bringing in a Carlos Pena or Michael Cuddyer type free agent, or trying to cobble something together between Rivera, Jerry Sands, and/or Scott Van Slyke, but let’s not pretend the Dodgers were ever going to do that – nor, I could argue, should they have. Pena and Cuddyer each come with their own flaws and are each likely to get multiple years at relatively large salaries (guessing 2/$16m for Pena and 3/$33m for Cuddyer); south of that you’re left with unappealing options like Derrek Lee and Lyle Overbay. The internal options haven’t proven they can hit enough to handle an outfield spot, much less the traditionally powerful first base spot.

Of course, Loney hasn’t proven that either, his last two months aside, and that’s why pal Marc Normandin is a bit incredulous about this over at SBN’s Baseball Nation:

Whether Colletti is on target or not with his positive outlook is another matter. We are talking about fewer than 200 plate appearances, after all, and a whole lot can happen in a stretch like that. Plenty of players succeed like mad for short stretches of a month or two, only to never be that productive again. Then again, there are others. Take this .257/.339/.606 September 2009 from a certain Toronto Blue Jay, for one. (Hint: It’s Jose Bautista.) Cases like Bautista, who was a career .386 slugger prior to that month, are a rarity, but with the right changes made to a hitter’s approach, wholesale changes are possible. They are just unlikely, is all.

Loney isn’t about to be confused for Joey Bats anytime soon, but if there is some major change in his swing mechanics that helped him succeed where he previously failed, (and hey, there might be!) then maybe Colletti is on to something. Of course, that “if” is as huge as the difference between Loney and a productive first baseman has been in the past.

I can’t disagree with any of that, and if Loney is as bad as he was to start 2011 – remember, at the time we weren’t looking at him as a guaranteed non-tender as much as we were “is this guy even going to make it through the season?” – or even if he’s generally as mediocre as he’s been over the last three seasons, this is going to be $6m or so that does not help the Dodgers win. But if he’s anything like he was to finish out 2011, then getting production like that on a one-year deal at ~$6m is a steal, a far better value than anything you could pick up on the free agent market.

That “if” is about ten times bigger than Uribe, of course, because I don’t believe that after all this time and all this sustained mediocrity things would have just “clicked”. In Bautista’s case, his success can easily be attributed to a change in his swing mechanics, and while Normandin links to a Chad Moriyama post that says Loney made some changes as well, this is far from the first time we’ve heard that Loney has been tinkering with his swing.

Oh, and ignore Colletti’s comments about “20-25 homers”. They’re completely irrelevant, because of course he’s going to say positive things about the guy he’s about to take a big risk on. If Loney can retain at least some of the progress he showed in August and September of last year and provide a reliable glove at first to track down some of Dee Gordon‘s missles, he might just earn that $6m. If not? Well, other than swapping out Jamey Carroll & friends for the uncertainty of Mark Ellis, we’ve largely seen what this infield can do. Without improvement from Loney, it won’t be pretty.

Dodgers to Sign Wil Ledezma, And Here’s Why That Doesn’t Matter

According to Jon Paul Morosi via MLB Trade Rumors, the Dodgers are close to signing 30-year-old lefty reliever Wil Ledezma to a minor-league contract. This is relevant less because of anything Ledezma is likely to bring and more because it’s clear by the reaction I’m seeing on Twitter and message boards that it’s time for our annual clarification of how off-season minor-league contracts work, given that Ledezma is the Dodgers first such acquisition this winter.

I say that because Ledezma is exactly the kind of fungible veteran pitcher who picks up minor-league deals, like Mike MacDougal & others did last year. Ledezma has seen big-league time in parts of nine seasons for seven clubs, a notable achievement considering that he spent the first four-and-a-half years solely with Detroit. Three of those teams wouldn’t allow him to pitch more than five games for their club; in 2011, he was terrible in five games for the Jays while spending most of the season racking up strikeouts for Triple-A Las Vegas.

He’s not, you know, good, but he’s a lefty with big-league experience, so he’ll bounce around forever, and that’s sort of the point. Every year, every team hands out something like ten non-roster invites to Quad-A types who aren’t good enough to get guaranteed deals. Sometimes you’ll get mildly useful surprises like MacDougal or Dana Eveland, and sometimes you’ll get total disasters who don’t last long like Lance Cormier or Russ Ortiz; far more often you’ll never remember that the invite even happened, like Oscar Villareal, Gabe Kapler, Brian Giles, or Timo Perez, all of whom were in Dodger camp on minor-league deals in recent years.

Since the cost is almost always minimal and the commitment even less than that, there’s absolutely no risk to the team to bring these guys on. I note them here because this is a team-specific blog and I don’t like to let any news go uncommented on, but they’re generally unimportant and certainly not worth complaining that “Ned Colletti screwed up again”. So unless Eugenio Velez somehow comes back, there’s absolutely no need to start getting worked up about these kind of moves. Of course minor-league deals are going to be for players with massive flaws. If they didn’t have such blemishes, then they’d be able to get a guaranteed deal, right? Besides, Colletti makes enough questionable moves that we hardly need to drum up any more anguish just for the sake of it.

Still, I feel like I’ll need to link back to this each and every time a new minor-league deal is handed out.

Update: And here’s another one. Roberto Baly of Vin Scully is my Homeboy passes along an Australian report that indicates righty reliever Shane Lindsay, 27 in January, has also signed a minor-league deal with the Dodgers that includes an invite to spring training. He’s been kicking around the minors for seven years with three organizations, finally making his MLB debut with four games for the White Sox in 2011. Lindsay racks up big strikeout numbers (498 in 366.1 MiLB innings), but like so many other Quad-A types, pairs it with huge control issues (6.8 BB/9). He’ll enjoy Albuquerque.