It’s been a slow week or so for the Dodgers and most every other team in baseball because of the holiday break, since so many executives are out of the office and off with their families. That’s going to change after the new year, perhaps significantly. Even though from all the noise it seems like the Dodgers may have completely remade their roster, all they’ve actually done is re-sign Brandon League and import Zack Greinke, Hyun-jin Ryu, & Skip Schumaker.
Those four moves probably represent the bulk of the offseason spending in dollar figures, but there’s enough left to do that the winter is arguably less than half over when it comes to transactions. It’s easy to see five or six more moves coming in the next few weeks. Let’s go down the list:
We’ve been talking about this for so long that it’s barely even worth going back over again at this point. There’s a 100% chance that at least one is moved, and probably a 90% chance that both go. I’m sure the Dodgers would be happy to be rid of Ted Lilly too, but his age, contract, & injury history probably make him untradeable. With reasonable contracts and decent 2012s in their pockets, both Capuano & Harang have some amount of value, and one or the other is included in just about every Andre Ethier trade rumor I hear, both publicly and privately. No, I don’t know where they’ll end up. But it’ll be somewhere that’s not Los Angeles, clearly.
3) Add a veteran reliever.
This is another thing we’ve been hearing about for a while, and I know it’s unpopular with many because the Dodgers do have a good core of young arms and already spent big on League. Still, it’s clear that the team has interest in upgrading and so no one should be surprised when they make at least one more move here.
That might be a lefty reliever, which I’m fine with even though Scott Elbert & Paco Rodriguez have their share of fans. That said, between the two of them they have fewer than 100 career innings, and Elbert is coming off elbow surgery. It’s hardly the worst thing in the world to build up some depth there, and I have no problem with the incredibly raw Rodriguez starting his year in the minors. Earlier in the winter we heard about Matt Thornton as being a possibility; now I’m starting to hear a bit more from multiple places about potential Dodger interest in free agent lefty J.P. Howell, a California native who is married to a USC grad and who has been with Tampa since 2006.
It could be a righty too, since we know the Dodgers were in on Joel Hanrahan before he was traded to Boston. One other name on the Dodger radar to either be excited for or terrified about, depending on your outlook: Rafael Soriano, who has been a very effective reliever for a long time, but who won’t come cheaply and who would require the loss of a first round pick.
4) Reduce the glut of redundant bench players.
Jerry Hairston & Schumaker are obviously going to be on the roster, and between them they can cover every non-catcher position except for first base. I suppose I’m stretching a bit to say that Hairston can really play shortstop, but with Luis Cruz & Dee Gordon both options if anything happens to Hanley Ramirez, it doesn’t really matter.
That makes both Nick Punto & Juan Uribe somewhat obsolete, because neither brings skills that aren’t already covered on the roster. (Other than diving head-first, but I’m guessing Schumaker would probably do in a pinch.) We heard a few weeks ago that the team was attempting to trade both, and I believe that’s still the case — one or both should be gone in the near future. Punto will probably manage to bring back at least a little something; Uribe’s probably just going to have to be jettisoned.
5) Add a backup first baseman and 6) a righty outfielder.
These could easily be the same player, but then again, perhaps not. Right now the roster doesn’t have a single player who can cover first base, and while Adrian Gonzalez is durable and plays every day, you can’t assume that he’s never going to get banged up or ever get ejected. While we’d all like to see Mike Morse come in to be a righty power option who can play LF / RF / 1B, that’s not going to happen unless Adam LaRoche returns to Washington first. Otherwise, this is going to have to be filled via trade, because the only righty free agents remaining who can play first base are Carlos Lee, who won’t come to Los Angeles, and Juan Rivera, who won’t be invited back.
The options there are just beyond sparse, and they’re tough to look at; one under-the-radar name I’ll throw out — completely my own speculation — is soon-to-be 30-year-old righty Steve Pearce, who bounced from Minnesota to the Yankees to the Orioles to the Astros back to the Yankees and then back again to the Orioles all in 2012 alone. To say that he’s dispensable is an understatement, but in parts of six big-league seasons he does have a pretty sizable platoon split, and he can play a little bit of outfield too.
In the outfield, well, frankly, I’m just terrified Ned Colletti is going to find a way to talk himself into Delmon Young.
That’s potentially six moves right there — more if both Punto & Uribe go, and if Colletti does bring in a veteran catcher to battle Tim Federowicz in camp — and that doesn’t even address the Ethier rumors that just won’t go away. I’ll say this: they’re real, and while I think it’s more likely than not that Ethier remains with the Dodgers, we can’t be sure until Michael Bourn lands somewhere else.
Stay tuned. January should be fun.