Winter Meetings Day Four: Rule 5, MacDougal, & Court Battles (Updated)

Update, 9:39am PT:

After what seems like weeks, we finally have confirmation that the Aaron Harang signing is official. Dylan Hernandez reports that he’ll make $3m in 2012 and $7m in 2013; there’s a $2m buyout of a 2014 vesting option. That’s right: next year, you can look forward to paying Aaron Harang seven million dollars. As Eric Stephen sadly notes, the club is now lined up to pay Harang, Chris Capuano, Ted Lilly, Matt Guerrier, Juan Uribe, Mark Ellis, & Jerry Hairston $47.25 million in 2013. Unbelievable.

Update, 8:50am PT:

We now know the second player coming from Baltimore, outfielder Tyler Henson. He turns 24 in a week and in parts of five seasons on the farm, his line is .263/.322/.387; last year, his first at Triple-A, was less than that, at .247/.313/.321 and three homers in 498 plate appearances. LiK. Martin, he appears to be a toolsy player (was recruited to play football out of college) who has shown little indication of ever translating that to performance. Again, though, it’s Dana Eveland, so this is free talent.

Update, 8:17am PT:

Coming back from Baltimore for Eveland is LHP Jarret Martin and a player to be named later. Martin’s 22, was an 18th-round pick in 2009, and has had a rough go of it in two seasons in the low minors, walking 5.9/9. The results haven’t been there, but the reports are somewhat promising.

John Sickels, Minor League Ball, March 2011:

SLEEPER ALERT!! Martin was selected in the 18th round in 2009, from Bakersfield Junior College. He has a sinking fastball in the low 90s that helped him post a 2.03 GO/AO last year in the Appy League. He also has a promising curveball, and the combination of the two pitches throttled left-handed hitters to a .188 mark for Bluefield. His K/IP and H/IP ratios were quite good, but he also walked too many guys, elevating his ERA. I am intrigued with this one; if Martin can sharpen his command even slightly, he could break out in 2011. Grade C, but a sleeper.
ADDITIONAL COMMENT: Good size and some arm strength here, plus I like the combination of strikeouts and ground balls. As stated, he needs to get the walks down, but any progress in that department could take him a long way. Sources who follow the Orioles closely are quite intrigued with him.

Orioles Nation, October 2010:

Martin, 21, has undoubtedly good stuff, striking out 68 batters in 59.2 innings while holding them to a .204 batting average. He attacks hitters with a low 90′s fastball with some sink and run, which is backed up by two above-average secondaries in a curveball and changeup.

When you look at his stats, the only thing that jumps out in a bad way are the walks. Martin needs to find a more consistent release point in order to throw more strikes. His stuff is so dominating that he was able to find success despite the control problems (6.9 BB/9).

I don’t expect Martin to ever amount to anything, but it hardly matters. A fringy prospect and a player to be named for Dana F’ing Eveland, who was likely to be non-tendered next week anyway? Hell yes, I’ll take that.

Update, 7:51am PT:

Jon Morosi reporting Baltimore has acquired Dana Eveland from the Dodgers. No word yet on what’s coming in return – not much, surely – but the simple entertainment in the fact that the O’s would give up absolutely anything for Eveland is value enough.

Original post:

It’s been a fun week, yet as the Winter Meetings come to an end today, I have to say I’m relieved. Sure, all the rumors make this an incredibly interesting time of year, and I certainly can’t complain about the extra site traffic, yet the entire thing can be exhausting. Still, there’s a few items on the table for today to get us started, and I’ll update as needed.

* In a little less than an hour (10am ET / 7am PT) the Rule 5 draft will begin. The Dodgers aren’t expected to make any selections, though it’ll be interesting to see if they lose anyone, like Cole St. Clair, Kyle Russell, or Gorman Erickson.

* Once again, we don’t have to worry about Logan White leaving for another team; the Astros have hired former Cardinals exec Jeff Luhnow as their new general manager.

* Despite all the fun we had trying to figure out who the bat was that Ned Colletti may have been interested in, Dylan Hernandez reports that the deal is dead. I can’t confirm this, but Tony Jackson was reportedly on ESPN Radio guessing that the target may have been Jed Lowrie or Emilio Bonifacio. I’ve long liked Lowrie, though I’m not sure how yet another infielder would have fit. Doesn’t matter now, I guess.

* Confirming our worst fears, Jackson also reports that the Dodgers are still extremely interested in Mike MacDougal. You all know my feelings on this by now – though if anyone else brings up his shiny 2.05 ERA as an indicator of any skill again I’m going to scream – and I don’t mind him returning… on a minor-league deal. It’s the two-year deal he’ll probably receive that’ll push me over the edge.

* Wow:

Dodgers first baseman James Loney was arrested last month in Los Angeles after crashing his Maserati into three cars and spitting at an officer, but was not charged with a crime, according to a police report obtained by TMZ.com.

A spokesman said the club was aware of the incident and was looking into it. A representative for Loney could not be reached.

Loney, 27, was arrested Nov. 14 after hitting a Toyota, Mercedes and Mini around 6 p.m. PT. When officers arrived on the scene of the accident, according to the report, Loney was handcuffed and taken to a hospital for breathalyzer and blood tests, which were negative for drugs and alcohol.

However, during the tests and according to the report, Loney was uncooperative and became “aggressive,” spitting the mouthpiece at an officer. He was placed in arm and leg restraints and given an injection by hospital staff to calm him. The Los Angeles city attorney will decide if Loney will be charged in the incident.

That certainly doesn’t sound good, though I’m sure there’s a whole lot more to the story. I doubt it’ll change the near-certainty that he gets tendered on Monday.

* Finally, with all of the player movement this week, we’ve really been neglecting the most important story of all, the continued legal battle between Frank McCourt and FOX. Thanks to the tireless reporting of Bill Shaikin, we’ve learned that McCourt must have an agreement to sell the team by April 30 (good news), that he could still retain rights to the parking lots around the stadium (bad news) and that the hearings which continue today in a Delaware courtroom about re-opening TV rights appear to be headed heavily against FOX and for McCourt (worse news). Much more on this as the dust settles.

MSTI’s 2011 in Review: Starting Pitchers, Part 2

Chad Billingsley (C-)
4.21 ERA, 3.83 FIP, 7.3 K/9, 4.0 BB/9

Billingsley just never makes it easy on us, does he? When he signed a new contract just before Opening Day that ties him to the Dodgers through 2014, most of us roundly applauded it as being a reasonable deal for both sides which give the Dodgers some degree of stability in their starting rotation. Through the first half of the season,that seemed to be working out well for all involved, as Billingsley threw out mostly consistent starts with a few outstanding ones (11 Ks over 8 scoreless against St. Louis in April, for example), though the medicore Dodger offense meant he was rarely repaid with victories, picking up just two in his first ten starts. That meant I was dropping lines like this on a consistent basis:

(Obligatory: 11 K’s, 8 shutout innings, and no win. This is why he’s going to end up 13-11 and people are going to say he was just okay this year.)

Billingsley began June with a bit of a rough patch, failing to go more than five innings in any of his first three starts, allowing four, six, and seven earned runs, though he still got a W in the first one because he homered, doubled, and walked. He turned it around by allowing just four earned runs over his next four outings – just about the time A.J. Ellis started catching more of his starts, though I’m loathe to put too much credit there – and by the time our midseason reviews rolled around, we were relatively happy with him:

Chad Billingsley (B) (8-7, 3.87 ERA, 3.41 FIP)
Over at Baseball Prospectus this morning, Geoff Young of DuckSnorts offers the opinion that Billingsley “should be a star, but isn’t”. And that’s true. 26-year-old Billingsley is walking more and striking out less than 23-year-old Billingsley did in 2008. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, because he’s still a very valuable asset and the extension he signed over the winter was welcomed, but he’s also not going to be a Kershaw-level star like we’d once hoped he would be. Again, that’s not to get on Billingsley, it’s just seemingly who he’s going to be – a durable #2 or 3 type who will be consistently inconsistent (3 starts this year of at least 8 IP and 1 ER or less, 3 starts allowing 5 ER or more). That’s not a star, but it is a quality pitcher we should be happy to have.

But in his first start after the break, he allowed five runs in San Francisco. He bounced back by striking out 10 Nationals in next start, yet he bottomed out by not striking out a single hitter on August 10 against Philadelphia as the Dodgers blew a huge lead to lose, 9-8:

As for the bad news, let’s start at the top: Chad Billingsley never had it today. You’ll almost certainly read stories about how Billingsley “can’t pitch with a lead”, but that’s BS: he threw 30 pitches while struggling through the first inning, before the Dodgers even came to the plate. This is the fourth time in Billingsley’s career that he’s failed to strike out a single batter, and the first time this year, but it continues a disturbing trend: he’s struck out just six over his last three starts, after whiffing 10 Nationals on July 24.

While seven runs should always, always be enough for a starting pitcher, it’s also not like Billingsley got a whole lot of support from his defense. In the top of the fourth, he had two outs and Michael Martinez up; Martinez grounded to first, where it went off of Loney’s glove and putting Martinez on second. Worley, the next batter, singled home Martinez for the third Philly run. Should Billingsley have been able to retire the opposing pitcher? Absolutely he should have, but he’s also out of the inning if Loney fields the ball.

The same situation happened in the fifth, as with one out and two on, Billingsley got Hunter Pence to hit a soft grounder to Casey Blake at third – the kind of ball that turns into an inning-ending double play 99 times out of 100. The ball kicked off of Blake’s glove into the outfield, and rather than getting out of the inning without any damage, Billingsley saw a run score on the error and then another when Kuo got Ryan Howard to ground out. None of this absolves Billingsley; nor should it be forgotten.

His seasonal inconsistency wasn’t limited to various starts, however; he would show it even within games, such as in his next time out on August 16:

All that being said, let’s not ignore the performance from Chad Billingsley, who got off to a rough start by allowing five baserunners in the first two innings (one, granted, on a Juan Rivera error), generally throwing a lot of pitches, and looking for all the world like he wouldn’t last beyond 3.2 innings. He then turned it around to retire nine in a row in the third, fourth, and fifth innings, ending up allowing just one run over seven innings. Coming off last week’s “99 pitches, no strikeouts, and unable to hold a 6-0 lead in 4.1 innings” disaster against the Phillies, being able to come back from an uneven start to keep the club in the game against a tough opponent was a pretty nice accomplishment.

And then again in his next start, on August 21:

Of course, all this focus on Loney obscures the bizarre day Chad Billingsley put forth in picking up his tenth loss of the season. With the bullpen in shambles, Billingsley absolutely, positively had to put up innings, something which has traditionally been tough for him in Colorado. When he allowed a Mark Ellis single and a Carlos Gonzalez homer within the first three batters of the game, you could almost hear the wheels turning to get Loney out to the bullpen. But Billingsley got Troy Tulowitzki and Jason Giambi to end the first, and then faced just one batter over the minimum through the next five innings. In fact, Billingsley went 7.2 innings, and allowed just one hit after the first frame; unfortunately, it was a Seth Smith homer to right, following a walk to Giambi, in the 7th inning. The non-Loney Dodgers managed just four hits against the corpse of Kevin Millwood, and that’s how Chad Billingsley allowed just three hits while going into the 8th inning in Colorado, yet still came away with the loss.

And that’s how it went. Billingsley managed to end the season by not allowing more than three earned runs in four of his final five starts, which is good, but never managed to look good doing it. With his velocity down and his strikeout rate heading in the wrong direction, many of us wondered if he was injured – he claimed it was “mechanical issues” – and even Don Mattingly called him out to continue to improve following the season.

Yet as unsatisfying as it all seemed, Billingsley’s 3.83 FIP ranked comfortably alongside names like Jon Lester, Derek Holland, Ryan Dempster, Shaun Marcum, and Hiroki Kuroda. I don’t know if Billingsley will ever be more than he is – if he can’t curb the declining whiff rate, he might even be less – yet nor was this season the disaster that many will think.

Billingsley remains a conundrum, consistently inconsistent.

 Rubby De La Rosa (A-)
3.71 ERA, 3.87 FIP, 8.9 K/9, 4.6 BB/9

Remember, while Rubby De La Rosa was the 2010 Dodger minor league pitcher of the year, he also had all of 8 AA games under his belt entering the season, so needless to say, we weren’t expecting a whole lot from him. But de la Rosa got off to such a good start in Chattanooga (52/19 K/BB in 40 innings) that he started to seem like a viable option as the injuries mounted in Los Angeles, to the point that we actually wondered why Scott Elbert got the call over him in May.

At the time, Ned Colletti claimed that RDLR would be the next man up if a starter was needed, but that he was not likely to be recalled to work out of the bullpen. Less than two weeks later, RDLR was indeed called up to join the relievers, reminding us once again that the public comments of any GM (not just Colletti) are never to be trusted. RDLR’s debut, May 24 in Houston, was notable because it featured Javy Guerra‘s first save and Jerry Sands‘ first grand slam. But let’s not forget how we felt about RDLR that night, when asking who had the best evening:

Rubby De La Rosa, who not only was recalled to make his major league debut, but held a one run lead in the 8th by blowing away the heart of the Houston order in Hunter Pence, Carlos Lee, and Brett Wallace?

RDLR made his first three appearances out of the bullpen, allowing just four of the 18 batters he faced to reach base, before being asked to join the rotation with a start in Philadelphia on June 7, which just so happened to also be the debut of Dee Gordon. As you might remember, we were excited:

Tonight in Philadelphia, Rubby De La Rosa will make his first MLB start. (As Joe Block notes, it’ll be just his 24th professional start since arriving in America.) Dee Gordon will likely make his first start at shortstop, though that’s not confirmed yet. (Update: now confirmed. He’s leading off, and Jerry Sands is in there too.)It’s a momentous day for both, and I’m trying to remember the last time we’ve looked forward to a Dodger game with such high anticipation. Ignoring Opening Day or other special events, when was the last otherwise nondescript regular season Dodger game that drew such interest? I suppose we have to mention Clayton Kershaw‘s debut in 2008 – “Like Christmas in May“, as I referred to it at the time. There’s also Manny Ramirez‘ Dodger debut later that year, or his return from suspension in May 2009. Other than that, though? Seeing Gordon and de la Rosa appear at the same time has to rank pretty high. This is all totally unscientific, of course, so tell me where this ranks for you.

His starting debut wasn’t the smoothest thing in the world, since he walked five of the first eleven Phillies and missed the plate with 11 of his first 19 pitches, but with some good luck and good defense he managed to make it through five innings allowing just one earned run. He continued that pattern of wildness over his first four starts, striking out 22 in 20.2 innings, yet also walking 15 and allowing 14 earned runs.

On June 29, something seemed to click, and sure, that “something” may very well have been the atrocious Minnesota offense:

The first batter Rubby De La Rosa faced in the bottom of the first inning of today’s matinee in Minnesota, Ben Revere, hit a triple to the right-center gap. The next batter, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, grounded out to score Revere and put the Twins up 1-0… and that was it. In what was unquestionably the most effective outing of his young career, de la Rosa pitched 6 2/3 shutout innings following Nishioka’s out (7 innings total), scattering just six hits over the day. Most impressively, de la Rosa issued just two free passes. It was both the first time in his career that he went more than six innings or walked less than three, and he did it against an American League lineup. (Yes, I know, the Twins are one of the worst offensive teams in the AL, but still.) Even better, he improved as the game went on. After escaping from danger in the second after allowing three men to reach, he set down 16 of the 20 remaining Twins he saw – one of which was an intentional walk to Revere.

Of course, he still collected a loss, as the Dodger offense was shut out. RDLR then walked just one Met on July 4, followed that up with six one-hit scoreless innings against San Diego on July 9, and then didn’t walk a single Giant on July 19. In the midst of that stretch, we started wondering about how many innings the Dodgers should let the young starter collect; two weeks later, we’d learn it didn’t matter.

On July 31, the Dodgers played a day game against Arizona, a game that few paid attention to as it came in the midst of the trading deadline craziness and the fallout of the Trayvon Robinson / Tim Federowicz deal. De la Rosa left after four innings, complaining of elbow tightness. We immediately thought the worst, and a few days later it was confirmed that he’d need Tommy John surgery and would likely miss most or all of 2012. At the time, we looked into whether this could have been avoided, and concluded that it probably couldn’t have been.

A few weeks ago, I looked at how far the club would let de la Rosa go, considering he was nearing his career high for innings pitched. At 100.2 combined this year, he didn’t even match 2010′s 110.1, though there’s evidence that MLB innings are more stressful than MiLB frames. Either way, I find it hard to blame the Dodgers for their handling of the young pitcher. He threw 100 pitches or more just three times, and only once did he go above 113; even on Sunday, he was still hitting the upper 90s and got six of the twelve outs he  managed via strikeouts. Though we probably will never know for sure, the injury likely happened during de la Rosa’s tough outing on Sunday, and there wasn’t really anything that anyone could have done about it. Young pitchers get hurt, unfortunately. It happens.

The silver lining, if there is one, is that Tommy John surgery is nearly routine at this point, with an overwhelming success rate. Just to cherry-pick two recent examples from Washington, Jordan Zimmermann had his procedure in early August of 2009, returned to the bigs in late August of 2010, and has been one of the club’s best starters this year; Stephen Strasburg went under the knife in late August of 2010, and has reportedly been hitting 95 in bullpen sessions with a small chance that he sees MLB time in September. Nothing is guaranteed, but it’s in no way the death of a career like it was for decades, or even the risky procedure it was up until the last 10 years or so.

Remember, the Dodgers hadn’t yet started their second-half rebound yet and had just lost Kenley Jansen to his cardiac concerns, so this seemed like an unnecessary kick in the pants from the baseball gods. While it’s likely that RDLR returns intact, his loss opens up another hole in the 2012 rotation.

Dana Eveland (B)
3.03 ERA, 3.19 FIP, 4.85 K/9, 1.89 BB/9

As I probably said one too many times in September, “Dana Eveland… doing Dana Eveland things.” You remember how we felt when he was signed to a minor-league deal last November, right?

Eveland’s not, you know, good. His fastball doesn’t top 90 often, and if he was that valuable he wouldn’t have ended up on 19 different teams before his age-27 year. Still, it’s a no-risk deal, and the Dodgers have had good success with guys like Chan Ho Park, Jeff Weaver, and Aaron Sele in the past on signings like that. For the low, low price of almost nothing, they’ve managed to bring in a guy who’s entering his prime, has seen action in 95 major league games, and does a good job of keeping the ball in the park (0.65 HR/9) and on the ground (50%). More than likely, he’s ticketed for depth in AAA rather than the rotation, but it’s depth worth having, and a deal worth making.

And that’s exactly what happened. After hurting himself on the first day of big league camp, Eveland had a decent enough year in AAA, getting named to the PCL All-Star team and eventually getting called up when rosters expanded to start the September 1 rainout makeup in Pittsburgh. With de la Rosa injured, John Ely ineffective in ABQ, and Nathan Eovaldi at his innings limit, Eveland stuck around to make five starts of varying quality in September, the first four coming against the offensive powerhouses of San Francisco and Pittsburgh. When I say “varying quality”, I mean it, since the first two were excellent (1 ER over 15 IP), the next two were brutal (9 ER in 9 IP), and his final was solid (5.2 shutout innings in Arizona).

Eveland’s not unfamiliar with getting off to good starts, of course, because his first three starts for the 2010 Blue Jays comprised 4 ER over 18.2 IP. He then followed that up with 28 ER over 26 IP in his next six starts, leading to him losing his job. But that’s really what you expect from a guy like Eveland, isn’t it? There’s a reason he’s bounced around on four teams in the last three seasons, unable to even stick with the Pirates, and that’s because he’s got flashes of talent sandwiched around a whole lot of just not being good enough, as reflected in his career marks of striking out too few (5.94 K/9) and walking too many (4.50 BB/9). You always need guys like that to come up and eat up a few starts every season, and that’s fine. But it’s not fine to start your season off with Eveland or someone like him in the rotation, because if he’s one of your five best options, you’re in big trouble when you inevitably need to use your 6th, 7th, and 8th best options.

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Next! Ted Lilly gave up a stolen base while you were reading this! Hiroki Kuroda loves the Dodgers to a disturbingly large extent! And John Ely looks for Ely-mania at the salad bar of the local Albuquerque Sizzler! It’s starting pitchers, part 3!

Matt Kemp Matt Kemps the Diamondbacks. Matt Kemp.

Matt Kemp‘s pursuit of the Triple Crown is all but over tonight, since Jose Reyes had three hits and Ryan Braun came off the bench to grab a hit, while Kemp went just 1-4 with two strikeouts, pushing his average down to .324.

That sounds like bad news, but the one hit… well, bask in the glory of Kemp’s 38th homer and fifth in the last eight games:

What a blast. I particularly like the guy in the dark gray shirt who nearly gets beaned by the missile from about 430 feet away. As ESPN/LA’s Tony Jackson noted:

Of Kemp’s now 38 HRs, that was one of the most majestic.

Other things happened tonight, of course, as the Dodgers guaranteed themselves a winning record by moving to 81-78 with two games left. On the offensive side of the ball in addition to Kemp, Jerry Sands extended his hitting streak to 14 games and James Loney hit his 30th (!) double of the season. On the mound, Dana Eveland was impressive in going 5 2/3 scoreless innings, aided by Josh Lindblom getting the final out of a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the sixth.  Nathan Eovaldi and Scott Elbert did their best to blow the game in the eighth with four walks, and Dee Gordon did his best to give it away with an error and a botched double play in the ninth, but come on. Matt Kemp. (Actually, back to that eighth inning for a moment; as if on cue, after I dedicated an entire post to praising him today, Don Mattingly chose to bring Mike MacDougal into a tight spot – bases loaded, one out – rather than Kenley Jansen, because of course he did. Jansen did pitch the night before, but only eleven pitches and was off the day before; MacDougal, rather predictably, allowed a run that was not charged to him by walking Geoff Blum.)

Kemp now has two more games to hit two more dingers and become the fifth player in history to have a 40/40 season – which, by the way, would all but guarantee him the MVP award – and the first since Alfonso Soriano did so for Washington in 2006. Mattingly said he’d consider hitting Kemp leadoff on Wednesday in an effort to get him an extra at-bat, though he also said he’d like to continue Joe Torre’s tradition of letting the players manage the final game. In that case, I propose letting him hit in every spot in the lineup, like Bugs Bunny. While Kemp has never seen rookie Jarrod Parker – obviously, since Tuesday is Parker’s MLB debut – he has hit three homers of off Wednesday’s starter, Joe Saunders.

Dana Eveland Ships Casey Blake to China


There’s so much news today that the fact that the Dodgers won 6-4 over Pittsburgh in today’s rare one-game stop almost seems like an afterthought. Okay, I suppose it wasn’t for Dana Eveland, who allowed just one run over eight innings in his first major-league appearance in over a year. (As rain clouds loomed before the game, threatening to rain out a rain out, I briefly pondered whether Eveland would lose his chance to be a Dodger at all this season.) Eveland wasn’t what you’d call dominating, striking out just three, but whenever you can avoid a single walk and keep the ball in the park against a lowly offense like Pittsburgh’s, you’re going to have a good shot at success. (And whenever you’re inserted into the ninth inning of a 6-1 game, Blake Hawksworth, it helps to not allow a hit and a dinger in your two batters.)

On the offensive side, the Dodgers essentially put the game away in the top of the first, as singles by Dee Gordon (in his first game back off the disabled list), Matt Kemp, & Andre Ethier, along with a sacrifice fly from Tony Gwynn, put them up 3-0 before the Pirates came to bat. James Loney, continuing his hot streak with two more hits, would add the fourth run when he came home on a Ryan Doumit passed ball in the seventh inning. That was followed by Dee Gordon doubling in two more in the eighth after Chris Resop somehow walked Eveland to load the bases, which I think is grounds for deportation. Along with Loney, A.J. Ellis, Gordon, and Kemp each had two hits; for Kemp, that came along with his 35th stolen base of the year as we watch to see if he can somehow get to 40/40 on the season, which may just be the only way he can grab that National League MVP award from a losing team.

Of course, the game wasn’t even close to being the biggest news of the day… and you know I’m talking about Casey Blake‘s decision to have neck surgery to resolve the pinched nerve which has plagued him for weeks. I suggested this was inevitable weeks ago, though that was mostly for roster purposes at the time; now, it’s a disappointing end to one of the more popular Dodgers we’ve seen in recent years. As I mentioned in the piece linked, Blake was by most measures one of the better third basemen in the club’s history, in addition to his reputation as an excellent person. The miniscule chance that the Dodgers were going to exercise his $6m option for 2012 is now all but officially zero, and it remains to be seen whether his baseball career will end alongside his Dodger career. He will be missed.

…and then there’s the news that set hearts aflutter, as Bill Shaikin of the LA Times reported that Frank McCourt had received a $1.2 billion – yes, with a b, and yes, you do need to read that in a Dr. Evil voice – for the team from a group headed by Bill Burke and Chinese investors.

It’s hard to ignore that dollar figure, since it completely destroys the previous record sale price of $845m for the Cubs several years ago, and since not even Frank McCourt could thumb his nose at that much money. It’s also hard to think there’s a snowball’s chance in hell of this happening:

The bid terms proposed by the Burke group call for an all-cash payment to buy the Dodgers, all real estate related to the team and the team’s media rights, according to the letter. Attorneys for McCourt have said he could try to keep Dodger Stadium and the surrounding parking lots even if he sold the team.

The bid would expire in 21 days, according to the letter, with the goal of closing a deal within 90 days, subject to the approvals of the bankruptcy court and Major League Baseball.

The letter did not specify who would finance the Burke bid, other than to say the money would come from “certain state-owned investment institutions of the People’s Republic of China” as well as unidentified American investors. Foreign investment is not necessarily an obstacle to MLB ownership; the Seattle Mariners’ ownership group includes a significant Japanese presence.

So let’s get this straight: a bid with a short timeframe, coming from “state-owned investment institutions” in China? Oh sure, nothing shady about that. (Shaikin added on Twitter that MLB is “skeptical” of the offer, with more detail to come.) Though the Shaikin column references Seattle and their Japanese ownership, that’s a little different, since the M’s are owned by the public company Nintendo, and not an unknown “state-owned” source. (That said, the wealth of Communism jokes to be made as applied to baseball would be endless.) Either way, foreign sports owners – not just coming into America, but also Americans owning teams elsewhere, such as in European soccer – never seem to work out well. Until we know more, this is a great example of not just rooting for any sale, we need to be rooting for the right sale.

Rod Barajas Is Going to Be a Dodger in 2012


You can mark that down right now, as we enjoy today’s 4-2 win over San Diego, which represents the eighth victory in nine games and finishes off the first winning month of the season at 16-11. As much as we might like to think that A.J. Ellis and Tim Federowicz might start next season as the backstop duo, it’s not likely to happen, nor should it: Federowicz has just 111 games of experience above A-ball. So while the out-of-options Ellis seems almost certain to be on the roster, the Dodgers are going to need another guy to pair with him. As Rod Barajas finishes off a smoking August (.357/.403/.750 with ten extra-base hits, including six homers) it seems more and more likely it’s going to be him, particularly with his professed love of playing in his hometown.

While we make fun of Barajas and his .293 OBP, I’m not entirely convinced that’s an awful thing. Don’t get me wrong; Barajas isn’t a great player, and I would love to have a better option than him. Just keep in mind how atrocious the state of the game is as far as offense from catchers is right now, because even lousy Rod Barajas is worth 1.2 WAR (in a rare situation where both WAR systems agree). The Dodgers have a .690 OPS from their catchers, which is pretty bad… except that 13 teams are even worse, and that’s even including the healthy dose of Dioner Navarro the Dodgers just suffered through. Sad as it sounds, a combination of Barajas and Ellis could possibly be average to slightly-above both at the plate and behind it.

That says a lot about the catching situation in the bigs, I think, but unless any of the guys on the 2012 free agent list thrill you (I joked recently that 41-year-olds Ivan Rodriguez and Jason Varitek are exactly the type of guys Ned Colletti would go after), it might be the best we can hope for.

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Eugenio Velez went hitless in two more at-bats; there is no reason for him to ever play again, ever. I’m serious about that, especially since Dee Gordon is back soon and rosters will be expanding. That said, thanks to Chad Moriyama and his smartly-named new site ChadMoriyama.com, we do have footage of the one thing Velez did hit today:

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MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports that the Braves were the team who won the claim on Jamey Carroll, but the Dodgers said “they will not trade him”. It’s hard to know what, if anything, was discussed as the return from Atlanta (not much, most likely), but this does seem short-sighted. I like Carroll as much as anyone, yet having him around for another month isn’t going to add much. Ideally, he’d have been moved for whatever return was available, with the middle infield being handled exclusively by youngsters Gordon, Justin Sellers, and Ivan DeJesus, and third base dealt with from a grab-bag of whomever can walk among Aaron Miles, Casey Blake, and Juan Uribe. (Russ Mitchell can fetch coffee, I guess.) Again, it’s not that they were going to get a top prospect or anything in return for Carroll, it’s just that something would seemingly have been better than nothing.

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To the surprise of absolutely no one with a pulse, Dana Eveland will be recalled to start for the Dodgers on Thursday in Pittsburgh. Eveland appeared in three games for the Pirates last season, allowing 20 baserunners in 9.2 innings, though he was named a PCL All-Star this season for the Isotopes. DeJesus is also expected to join the team for the game, with further call-ups happening in the days ahead. (Update: now it sounds like it might be Mitchell instead.)

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As we’ve done here, ESPN looks at Clayton Kershaw against Roy Halladay for the NL Cy Young, and essentially declares it a dead heat:

Glancing at the remaining schedules, each pitcher appears to be in line for five more starts (although, with rotation shuffling and double-headers, it’s impossible to know for sure). Kershaw may have an easier go of things. Assuming regular rest, three of his remaining starts will come against the two worst offenses in the league by runs per game, the Giants and Padres. Entering play Tuesday, Kershaw’s probable remaining opponents had hit a collective .242/.307/.372 (.679 OPS). Meanwhile, Halladay’s likely slate sits at .261/.326/.400 (.726 OPS). It includes the Mets, Brewers, and Cardinals, all well above-average offenses. Don’t be surprised if Kershaw emerges from the 2011 season with his first piece of hardware. Either way, the NL Cy Young vote figures to be hotly debated and narrowly decided.