Small Needs to Fill At the Winter Meetings

While the rest of the baseball world heads to the winter meetings and focuses on C.J. Wilson, Jose Reyes, and Prince Fielder, everyone expects that the Dodgers are finished. Foolishly or not, they’ve spent their money on Juan Rivera, Mark Ellis, Matt Treanor, Adam Kennedy, and Chris Capuano, and with the payroll all but exhausted and Hiroki Kuroda looking elsewhere, public opinion is largely that Ned Colletti shouldn’t even spend his time going to Dallas because the Dodgers are done.

Still, it is the winter meetings, which means that rumors always fly – remember, last year I did basically a four-day live blog as the Dodgers were connected to tons of rumors and came away with Vicente Padilla and Tony Gwynn – and they do still have a few needs. Barring a completely unexpected trade, here’s the three items to keep an eye out for.

5th starter. With Capuano in the mix, the first four starters are set, and at the moment, Nathan Eovaldi is the 5th starter. Eovaldi showed promise in a few starts with the big club last year, but didn’t prove to me that he’s ready for a full-time gig without more seasoning. To be honest, I’m guessing that Colletti feels the same. Remember 2010, when the season started with a questionable fifth starter in Charlie Haeger behind a relatively solid front four? Haeger flamed out early and Vicente Padilla got hurt, and that’s how you ended up with 33 starts from John Ely, Carlos Monasterios, and Ramon Ortiz. Colletti recognized that misstep and attempted to overcompensate in 2011 by having six starters, bringing back Padilla and adding Jon Garland. It didn’t work out, since each got hurt (as did Rubby De La Rosa), but the intent was good, and I’m guessing that Colletti won’t want to start 2012 counting on the uncertain Eovaldi without much behind him. But who? Buster Olney suggests that Aaron Harang could still be in play, though I find it hard to see him fitting into the Dodger salary structure after declining his $5m mutual option with the Padres. This is where I’m thinking we’ll see the bulk of the rumors this week.

Backup infielder. Despite importing Kennedy, Colletti doesn’t appear to be satisfied with Justin Sellers to join him on the bench, as Tony Jackson notes:

Colletti also wants another utility player; veterans Jerry Hairston and Jack Wilson are high on the list, as is incumbent Aaron Miles.

Kennedy seems to satisfy the “veteran lefty who can’t hit or play shortstop” role that Miles had, so I doubt he’d really be in play. You never got to see the infield post I had ready to go just before Kennedy was signed, but you probably don’t need to in order to guess that I think Wilson is a completely useless piece. Hairston is more attractive than I’d initially thought, though that just might price him out of the Dodgers’ budget.

One final thing on Kennedy, and I swear I’ll drop it for a while after this: a quick timeline of his last two years.

Feb. 5, 2010: Coming off a decent 2009 with Oakland, signs a $1.25m guaranteed contract for 2010 with Washington.

2010: Hits just .249/.327/.327 for Washington, one of the worst years of his career.

Nov. 3, 2010: Nationals decline Kennedy’s $2m 2011 option.

Jan. 10, 2011: Mariners sign Kennedy to a minor-league deal with an invite to spring training; he makes the roster when the Mariners decide Dustin Ackley needs more seasoning.

Jan 27, 2011: Arrested in Newport Beach for suspicion of DUI.

2011: Hits .234/.277/.355 for Seattle, a wOBA 25 points lower than his underwhelming 2010.

Nov. 30, 2011: After not being able to find a guaranteed contract in 2011 and having a horrible season… receives a guaranteed deal from the Dodgers.

Nothing wrong with that scenario, right?

Veteran reliever. Colletti’s mentioned he’d like to add a veteran reliever, though as the Jackson piece notes, it’s not a top priority. While this immediately rings Matt Guerrier warning bells for most of us, I’m guessing it probably shouldn’t. There’s just not payroll for that kind of expenditure (one small benefit of the ownership mess, I suppose), and while my position against large contract for fungible bullpen arms is well-known, that doesn’t mean the bullpen has to be 100% young, homegrown players. If a well-traveled arm comes in on a low or non-guaranteed contract, that’s fine. This is probably the area least likely to get touched this week.

With Kennedy added, the 40-man roster is full, though that’s not really an issue. Trent Oeltjen, Jamie Hoffmann, and Ramon Troncoso could all be easily dropped, and Hong-Chih Kuo is an all-but-certain non-tender next week, with Dana Eveland likely to get non-tendered as well.

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  1. [...] me wonder yet again, what exactly is Adam Kennedy‘s role here? It’s not for his bat, as I detailed in this ridiculous timeline that I’m all to eager to break out yet again: Feb. 5, 2010: Coming off a decent 2009 with Oakland, signs a $1.25m guaranteed contract for 2010 [...]

  2. [...] Small Needs to Fill At the Winter Meetings « Mike Scioscia’s tragic …Small Needs to Fill At the Winter Meetings. December 4, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Posted in Adam Kennedy, Nathan Eovaldi | 31 Comments. While the rest of the … [...]

  3. [...] needless guaranteed contract before November was even over, and this review allows me to bust out that breakdown one last time: One final thing on Kennedy, and I swear I’ll drop it for a while after this: a [...]