I Guess I Can Only Help One James At a Time

As none of you saw because you were at work, Chad Billingsley was great again, Jonathan Broxton blew it in the 9th (no one freak, it happens), and Russell Martin and Matt Kemp came up with big RBI doubles in the 10th for a big 5-3 win to take the series over the Phillies.

However, it wouldn’t be a Dodger day without another pitching roster move…

milton.jpgFrom SI.com:

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -Eric Milton is heading back to the big leagues after a nearly two-year absence.

The Los Angeles Dodgers purchased the contract of the veteran left-hander from Triple-A Albuquerque after their 5-3, 10-inning win over the Phillies on Thursday.

Milton will start Saturday against the Florida Marlins in place of Jeff Weaver. The Dodgers optioned right-hander James McDonald (1-1, 6.75 ERA) to their Pacific Coast League club.

First things first, listen closely because you don’t hear this too often around here: I’m perfectly okay with the old-and-busted veteran taking the place of a top young prospect. No way around it; McDonald’s been completely awful so far, mainly due to walking 16 in just 18.2 innings. So, let him go back to the minors and work himself out, because it’s clearly not working out for him in the bigs right now.

Yes, I was really high on him entering the season, and yes, I’m disappointed in how he’s performed. But I’m hardly giving up on him just yet – remember, we’ve been completely spoiled with how the other young guys like Martin, Loney, Billingsley, and the like all burst onto the scene with little difficulty. Despite what we’ve seen, it doesn’t always happen like that! So enjoy Albuquerque, James, and remember: if you don’t think that throwing strikes is important, just know that it’s the difference between a life in New Mexico and a life in Dodger Stadium.

No offense to the people in New Mexico, but that’s a pretty big incentive to me.

As far as having Milton bump Jeff Weaver out of the rotation… well, I thought Weaver had done an admirable job, allowing 4 earned runs total over 2 five-inning starts. Really, can you ask for any more than that from him? It’s not great, but not enough to lose his spot. That said, Milton’s been pretty good in AAA (2.83 ERA, 1.00 WHIP) so it’s not really a big enough deal to get all worked up about. Oddly enough, this now gives the Dodgers four left-handers in the rotation. It wasn’t all that long ago that we were watching a three- or four-year streak of never having a lefty start.

Besides, I’d like to think that regardless of whether it’s Milton or Weaver, they’re just holding the spot that Hiroki Kuroda is going to reclaim in the next few weeks… but there’s no way that Joe Torre’s going to stick with MSTI fave Eric Stults over a formerly famous veteran, right?

Stay Thirsty, My Friends

Hey, after a fun streak of 20 games in 21 days, including the longest homestand of the year, we’ve got a day off today. So take a breather, enjoy a baseball-free day, catch up on all that DVR’d pornography, and get ready to watch the boys head east to finally play some real competition in the defending champion Phillies, plus the completely nose-diving Marlins (6-14 in their last 20 games). With that in mind, let’s touch on a few outstanding topics…

* So long, Eric Milton?

Still trying to find out the details here, but from Baseball America‘s minor league transaction section:

Los Angeles Dodgers
RHP Miguel Ramirez, LHP Eric Milton, C Andrick Villalobos, 1B Chris Gibson

This is pretty surprising – Milton was holding AAA batters to a .641 OPS and had a 3.00 ERA, and it seemed almost like a given that he was going to get a shot with LA sooner or later. I believe his contract had an out if he wasn’t up with the big club by a certain date – have to check on that – but I’m kind of surprised that the Dodgers would just let him go instead of bringing him up over Brent Leach or Guillermo Mota.

* Hey, you may not like Ned Colletti, but it could be worse… much worse.

Via Dodger Thoughts, the Detroit News has a piece on the development of former Dodger prospect Edwin Jackson. It’s a nice read, and it’s good to see a former Blue phenom achieving success, but try to read this sentence without having your brain try to push its way out of your skull:

And in the waning days of August 2003, after Jacksonville’s season had ended and as Jackson packed for a trip to see family in Detroit, Bill Bavasi, then the Dodgers’ general manager, phoned a 19-year-old pitcher to tell him the short-handed Dodgers wanted him to start, the next weekend, at Colorado.

I don’t know if the reporter (Lynn Henning) incorrectly named the Dodgers GM (it was Dan Evans) or Bavasi’s position (in charge of player development) but really, it doesn’t matter – the words “Bill Bavasi” and “Dodgers general manager” should never, ever, ever, be in the same sentence.

* You can see his charisma from space. He’s a lover, not a fighter, but he’s also a fighter, so don’t get any ideas.

I’m a little late on this – both FireNedCollettiNow and SonsOfSteveGarvey have the story, complete with pictures, but the fact is that this whole “Casey Blake offended Brian Wilson” story is too ridiculous not to mention. (If you’ve missed it, basically Wilson does this goofy “X” symbol with his hands after each save, which Blake mocked in the dugout after yesterday’s game-tying extra inning home run, and now Wilson is offended because the symbol partially represents his faith and his late father.) As Kensai says, if Blake was knowingly mocking Wilson’s faith and family, then yeah – that’s not cool. But it sure seems as though Blake didn’t know that at all, and was just goofing on a stupid hand motion, which is unquestionably funny.

Besides, Wilson seems like a bit of a wingnut, even to some of his teammates:

I asked him about teammates dropping the X, including Omar Vizquel who does it every time. (Omar doesn’t know what it means. “I just like him because he’s crazy,” Vizquel said.)

Brian, maybe you should get over it. Oh, and it’s nice that you made the All-Star team and got 41 saves and all last year, but a 95 ERA+ and a 1.444 WHIP isn’t much to get worked up about. (Admittedly, he’s been much better this year.)

* Either fielding stats are still completely wonky, or we really do watch every game through blue-colored glasses. Or both.

I’ve always considered Andre Ethier to be a pretty decent right fielder, though I think in my heart I knew he was never as good as I thought he was. At second base, Orlando Hudson has looked great, though with a similar disclaimer in that it’s not all that hard to follow four years of Jeff Kent and look good. But man, does FanGraphs and their UZR rankings disagree with us…

The White Sox, Dodgers, Nationals, and Red Sox make up the bottom of the league. I’m just as surprised as you to see the Red Sox ranking low. So far Jason Bay (-8.2, the lowest in the majors amongst qualified players), Julio Lugo (-2.4), Mike Lowell (-2.3), and J.D. Drew (-2.2) are killing them. The team leader is Kevin Youkilis at 1.4 runs. As for the Dodgers, Orlando Hudson and Andre Ethier are sinking them. You hate to make assumptions based on these small of sample sizes for defense, but if it holds up over the long haul then it’s time to proclaim Hudson’s run as an excellent defender over.

The comments to their post are littered with suggestions that small sample size warnings apply even moreso to defensive ratings than offensive, but still: a big surprise to see that about Hudson.

Buster Olney, you’re too smart to be parroting the mainstream media line like this.

The absence of Ramirez has been acutely felt by the Dodgers, who are 1-3 since the outfielder was suspended.

Fact: the first of those losses was due to a total disaster by the bullpen, not because the offense “only” put up nine runs. The ’pen doesn’t implode like that, and you’re not complaining about the team being 2-2. Besides, as much as I hate to admit it… 

Credit where credit is due: Juan Pierre’s been outstanding.

Obviously, a .991 OPS isn’t going to stick for Juan. Nor is .891, .791, or .691, which he hasn’t even reached since 2006. But for as much as I bag on him around here, it’s only fair to give him credit when he’s doing well, and 9-16 with 2 walks and 0 K’s in the 4 games since Manny went down is pretty impressive. No, there’s no prayer of him keeping anything like this up, but you can’t point at left field in the post-Manny era as being an enormous black hole. Yet.

It’s the Guillermo Mota lightning round:

1) Why does no one care that Mota also got a 50-game ban for steroids? Hey, Bill Plaschke and Kurt Streeter: if you two jokers want to get up on your accusatory high horses about how the fans of Los Angeles are idiots because no one seems to be as upset as you two about Manny’s steroid test, maybe one of you could have ever once mentioned that the Dodgers currently employ one of the few players to go down for 50 games previously. So tell me, Bill, why aren’t you calling for Mota to be banned from baseball for life like you are for Manny? Is it because no one cares about Mota and writing about him won’t sell as many headlines for your dying industry? Nah, I’m sure it couldn’t be that. 

2) Why is Mota still on this team?

Let’s go back to my thoughts from when Mota was signed:

Let’s look at this fun “Gee, You Think Steroids Helped?” timeline:

2006, April-August: 6.21 ERA, 1.699 WHIP for Cleveland. Mota, your stats… woof.
2006, August 11: DFA’d by Cleveland.
2006, August 20: Acquired by the Mets.
2006, August-Septmber: 1.00 ERA, 0.833 WHIP for the Mets.
2006, November 1: MLB announces a positive test from “sometime” during the 2006 season and hands down a suspension.

Gee. You think steroids helped?

At the moment, I don’t care whether Mota is hopped up on steroids, PCP, or Yoo-Hoo, because whatever he’s doing, it just isn’t working. After giving up 6 hits and 3 runs in just 2 innings to blow yesterday’s game in extra innings, his ERA now stands at 7.42 and he’s given up multiple runs in 5 of his 14 appearances. He’s 35, and his WHIP is 2.175. I don’t care about his contract – it’s over. Really, if the team ever gets down below 13 pitchers, he ought to be the man to go. Will he be? I doubt it. 

We’re coming to get you, Chan Ho!

Hey, remember when we said it was a big mistake for Chan Ho Park to leave the only team with which he’s found success to go to a hitter’s park in Philadelphia? Well, predictably, Park is 0-1 with a 6.67 ERA with the Phillies and is on the verge of being dropped from the rotation. So I’m hoping that the big offense of the Dodgers can help him with just that. Good series, though – after Clayton Kershaw vs. Park on Tuesday, you’ve got two old lefties in Randy Wolf and Jamie Moyer on Wednesday, and then a fantastic matchup of Chad Billingsley vs. Cole Hamels on Thursday afternoon.

Should be fun.

Free James McDonald! And, Save Delwyn Young!

So! I go away for the weekend and…

* Shawn Estes gets cut. Finally! Of all of the old and busted veterans brought in to compete for the #5 role, he was by far the least effective, so the only surprise here is that it took this long. Oh, sure, there’s still the question of whether he chooses to go to Albuquerque or take his release, but does that really matter? I particularly like the way Ken Gurnick framed Estes’ delusions vs. reality in the dodgers.com story:

“It’s disappointing and a little shocking, to be honest. I still feel I’ve got a lot left in the tank, I’ve got the stuff to get big league hitters out and still feel I can be a starter.”

Estes pitched two scoreless innings Saturday, then couldn’t get out of a third inning, allowing a pair of runs. He has an 8.44 ERA in five Major League exhibition games, allowing 19 hits in 10 2/3 innings and a .380 opponents batting average.

 Well, Shawn, you’re right. What could the club possibly have been thinking?

mcdonaldspring.jpg* James McDonald is the man! I’ve been hoping that McDonald would win this competition for some time (see: here and here) but I never really thought he’d have a prayer. But after blowing away Cleveland yesterday, facing the minimum nine batters over three innings, he’s squarely put himself in the mix – and if you believe Tony Jackson, McDonald’s actually in the lead. I’ve always felt the reason that they didn’t want McDonald winning the spot is that the team preferred to not have 3/5 of its starting rotation being under 25, though of course I would love that. Besides, as I mentioned previously, McDonald’s not that young – just a few months younger than Billingsley. He’s been the Dodger Minor League Pitcher of the Year in each of the last two seasons, and considering that the 5th starter spot comes up only four times in April, isn’t that the perfect time to get him going? Let’s go James!

* Eric Milton implodes! After Jason Schmidt was officially scratched from the competition because there’s not enough time to get his stamina up, I’d figured that Milton was the front-runner thanks to his mediocre spring. Yes, “mediocre” – that’s what qualified for winning this thing. Until…

Milton also allowed one earned run over three innings, but it looked a lot worse — as he actually allowed eight runs, though seven were unearned due to a pair of errors, one of them his. He gave up six hits, including one home run and two doubles. It was his second consecutive shaky outing, and the third such performance in his past four appearances.

“You know, in that inning, we didn’t play very well behind him,” Torre said. “But he got hit pretty hard.”

Well, thanks for playing Eric. We have some lovely parting gifts for you at the door. 

* Josh Lindblom is awesome! Are we sensing a trend here? Something along the lines of “old, busted dudes need to step aside so that young, talented players can contribute”? Oh sure, I’m specifically just talking about McDonald & Lindblom vs. Estes & Milton right now, but how many times have we been over this through the years? Just the thought of “Luis Gonzalez vs. Andre Ethier” makes my blood run cold.

Anyway, Lindblom is the new “it” guy in camp, taking advantage of his surprise promotion to big league camp by putting down six of seven hitters in each of his two appearances. He’s only 21, with just 34 pro IP under his belt, and a year ago he was the closer at Purdue, so he’s not going to win the 5th starter competition – though his name is in the conversation. Honestly, he’s been a Dodger for such a short time and in such low levels that he’s one of those guys you just don’t know all that much about. Check out his prospect profile over at FNCN for more info, but know this: I’ll take a talented 21-year-old over a has-been/never-was 35-year-old eight days a week, and “veteran goodness” be damned. Talent > experience. Don’t believe me? Now paging the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays, please step to the white courtesy phone.

* Juan Pierre toys with my emotions! Well, more accurately, Joe Cowley of the Chicago-Sun Times, who Twittered:

We’re hearing Juan Pierre could be South Side bound. Not the most reliable source, however.

First of all, can we all agree that Twitter sucks? It’s completely stupid, and the fact that some people are calling it a “Google killer” is absolutely mind-blowing. Second of all, is there a way to link to a specific post on it? If not, it makes blogging harder. (Well, that was quick. Amanda chimes in with the answer about 30 seconds after I posted this. Thanks!) Anyway, of course Cowley soon rescinded that statement, because who in their right mind would want to trade for Juan Pierre? I never expected it to be true, but even the thought of it got my heart racing.

If the White Sox were into it, I’d trade them the 1959 World Series as long as they took Pierre too. 

* Hang on to Delwyn Young! I tried to start a “Save Delwyn Young!” campaign last week, and Delwyn’s plight appears to be in the public eye, because now Jon @ DodgerThoughts has picked up on both Tony Jackson and Ken Gurnick commenting on it:

Manny Ramirez will need regular backup in the outfield this season, either to protect a) him from injury or b) the Dodgers from late-inning fielding mishaps. Nevertheless, Tony Jackson of the Daily News and Ken Gurnick of MLB.com suggest the Dodgers might carry only four pure outfielders on opening day, because Doug Mientkiewicz and Casey Blake could also serve as backup outfielders. 

That makes Jackson think out-of-options Delwyn Young might be a casualty as a result, even though Young continues to have a solid enough Spring Training that should have done nothing to dissuade the team that he could be of value as a pinch-hitter.

I can’t even comprehend how much of a mistake this would be. While I could go on and on about how the team should keep only eleven pitchers, that ship has long since sailed, so we’ll skip that. The team is going to have five bench players, three of whom are Brad Ausmus, Mark Loretta, and Pierre. That’s set in stone: got it. Plus one more infielder who can play shortstop, so that’s Blake DeWitt, Chin-Lung Hu, or Juan Castro. Which means your choice for that last man may come right down to these three contenders:

1) A switch-hitting 27-year-old who’s done nothing but tear up the minors. (Young)

2) A lefty-swinging 35-year-old first baseman who’s not without his uses, but is somewhat redundant on a team that already has a lefty-swinging first baseman – and don’t give me this “is a backup outfielder” business, because 13 career games over 11 seasons isn’t that convincing. (Eyechart)

3) A 37-year-old middle infielder, and it doesn’t really matter what handedness he is because he hits like he has no hands at all. His career offensive numbers are atrocious, and while I don’t mind the idea of a good defender at those spots, guys like that aren’t exactly difficult to come by. And no, I don’t care that he’s hitting .475 this spring. That doesn’t undo 14 seasons of a 56 OPS+. (Castro) 


The Battle For The Fifth Starter

(sidenote: I currently have the top three most recommended stories on the MVN home page. Thanks to everyone who clicks “recommend” at the bottom! I love that.)

With Manny finally back in the fold, the Dodger lineup is as set as it’s been in years. There’s no platoon situations here, there’s no wondering about which corpsey old outfielder is going to take playing time away from a gifted youngster, there’s no merry-go-round at the infield corners mainly involved with trying to keep Nomar healthy. Really, the only questions still outstanding involving the position players are 1) will Juan Pierre still be here on Opening Day? and 2) who gets the second backup IF slot behind Mark Loretta? (My prediction as of today: “yes” and “Juan Castro”. I know.)

sm1082cripplefightpostefk7.jpgMeanwhile, on the mound, there’s a cast of thousands trying out for the fifth starter role – and it’s quite the entertaining group. Yes, there’s a stats chart down there over to the right, and yes, I know how meaningless spring stats can be, particularly in such small sample sizes. Well, guess what? It’s still there, just because it’s part of the discussion. Assign your own value to them. 

The Old & Busted

Jason Schmidt. The clear favorite if only due to his past success and enormous contract, Schmidt has somehow made it this far without having to undergo more surgery. At this point, you’d think he’d be more bionic than “The Six Million Dollar Man”… and about eight times as expensive. Ugh. (Note to self: insert cool 70s “bowaghaghagh” sound effect into video of Schmidt throwing fastballs.)

Anyway, the early reports on Schmidt in side sessions and “B” games had him looking relatively decent, if not a little wild, and reporting soreness, but more along the lines of “I haven’t pitched in two years and I’m an old man” rather than “my arm is held together with duct tape and chewing gum”.

Schmidt finally made his debut in an “A” game on Monday against Texas, and breezed through the first inning, allowing just a single on twelve pitches. The second inning was a little rougher, allowing a three-run homer to Taylor Teagarden, but considering it was his first real outing in twenty-one months, we’ll take it – plus, he did strike out two in that frame. 

In addition, Tony Jackson adds that…

Joe Torre admitted after the game that the fifth starter’s job is Schmidt’s to lose, and that if he continues to show that he is healthy and that he can be effective the rest of the spring, he’ll be the guy. 

Odds: 2-1, if he’s still in one piece by April.

Shawn Estes. I think ESPN’s Keith Law sums this up well enough:

Guillermo Mota and Shawn Estes: I don’t even see why these guys are in Dodgers camp, let alone on the roster (as Mota is), for a team favored to win its division. James McDonald should be the fifth starter over Estes (sitting around 85 mph Saturday), and guys like Ramon Troncoso and Scott Elbert should be considered for the ‘pen ahead of Mota.

Not that I really have a problem with throwing some non-roster invites to some guys to see what sticks at no risk whatsoever, but I couldn’t agree more. Estes only has 49 innings over the last three seasons, and don’t be fooled by his 15-8 record for the 2004 Rockies; he wasn’t
 very good that season (5.84 ERA) and hasn’t been league average since 2001. Hell, even that spring09pitchingstats.jpgyear he was only league average on the nose (same goes for the year before) and in fact, has only had one season in his entire career in which he’s been above average: his big 19-5 debut for the 1997 Giants.

Plus, so far this spring? 6 earned runs and 10 hits allowed in 5.1 innings, for a 10.13 ERA. Bad spring + lousy history + 85 mph = enjoy that bus ride home, Shawn. Odds: Vegas would be taking this one off the board.

Eric Milton. Like Estes, Milton is a lefty who hasn’t pitched much in the bigs over the last few years and was never all that good when he was healthy. Unlike Estes, Milton’s been pretty decent so far in camp. He followed Schmidt against Texas on Monday, allowing just two hits over three scoreless innings. For the spring, he’s allowed just three runs over 8.2 innings with a nice 7/2 K/BB ratio. I still expect Schmidt to get the role, but if not, might we see Milton stick as a long reliever? Odds: 10-1.

Claudio Vargas. I had a whole section on Claudio Vargas written out, mostly about how unlike Milton, Estes, and Weaver, he was given a major-league contract rather than just a spring training invite. But all that’s out the window after Monday, because Claudio Vargas has committed the unthinkable: he allowed a home run to our favorite fat sack of crap, Andruw Jones. That alone should disqualify him – and if it doesn’t, the three other homers he’s allowed in just 8.1 innings so far ought to. Odds: Andruw Jones’ weight times a hundred-to-1

Jeff Weaver. Yes, he’s in camp fighting for a bullpen role, officially. He still fits in this section, though, because unlike everyone we’ve discussed so far, he’s actually had success as a Dodger. And yes, that includes Jason Schmidt. Weaver hasn’t pitched much so far, but he’s been relatively effective in starting off with three scoreless innings. I actually hold out a bit more hope for him than I do for some of these other guys, because unlike those who haven’t been good in ten years, Weaver was effective as recently as 2005. Oh, sure – he’s been brutal since, bottoming out with an ERA over 5 in AAA last year, but he at least has a decent reason for his struggles: he’s been lazy:

The Los Angeles Times’ Dylan Hernandez reports Los Angeles Dodgers P Jeff Weaver admitted he didn’t work as hard as he should have after winning the World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2006. ‘Sometimes you start taking things for granted and think that your natural ability is going to make you successful,’ Weaver said. ‘This winter, I worked my tail off.’

Grasping at straws? Sure. The kind of story you hear at this time of the year constantly? Oh, hell yeah. Still, he’s given up just one run in four innings so far. We’ll see if it’s true. Odds: 200,000-1 as fifth starter, 20-1 as reliever.

The New Hotness

James McDonald. I know, Rick Honeycutt all but announced that McDonald would start off in the bullpen, just like Chad Billingsley. It doesn’t change my opinion that he’s the man I’d like to see in the role more than anyone else listed here, so I’m still including him for comparison’s sake. The thing to remember here is that, even though most casual fans have been hearing about Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw about ten times longer than they have McDonald, James is just three months younger than Billingsley and 3.5 years older than Kershaw. The point is, he’s not that young, and we all remember how impressive he was in his stint in the playoffs last year. He’s off to somewhat of a rough spring start, allowing 4 earned runs in 5.2 innings, but that 5/0 K/BB ratio is tasty. I don’t really mind starting off our young pitchers in the bullpen, but I also don’t think that making him the 5th starter is really unfair to his development, either. Odds: 100,000-1, despite probably being the best candidate.

Ramon Troncoso. Troncoso was always the longest of long shots, as he only started 6 of his 156 minor league games (none since his first pro year in 2005), and was basically the last man out of the bullpen in his rookie year in LA last season. However, we did start hearing reports that he was attempting to convert to starting in the winter leagues this year, and looked pretty decent in doing so. There was probably nothing he was going to be able to do to win this job anyway, but he’d have had to really stand out to even give himself a chance – and allowing three earned runs in his first three innings, while striking out just one against three walks isn’t really going to do it. Odds: Even longer than Shawn Estes, and Shawn Estes is horrible.

And Featuring Eric Stults as “Eric Stults”

Eric Stults. We’ve always been big fans of Stults around here – I mean, have we forgotten how thoroughly he dominated the 89-win White Sox in a shutout in June? The fact that he had a 122 ERA+ in his 38 innings last year? The mystery of Stults’ 2008 is one which we’ve yet to explain, because he was very good in four of his five starts before committing the apparently unforgiveable sin of giving up 3 earned runs in 3.2 innings with an 11 run lead in Colorado, after which he was never heard from again. You’d think that at 29, you’d want to see what you can wring out of him. For some reason, the team has never looked upon him as more than a 9th starter, and now that he’s started off his spring by allowing 6 earned runs in 4.1 innings, he doesn’t look to be changing that impression. Odds: 250-1

If My Calculations Are Correct… You’re About to See Some Serious S#*t

Update, 12pm PST: Well, that was quick. MLBTR is reporting that the Nationals have signed Adam Dunn to a two year deal. You may notice below that I wrote “the Dodgers are in big trouble if Adam Dunn signs elsewhere before Manny does.” Well, now this is happening. Boras has this team right where he wants it. It’s one thing to say “I’d rather sign Dunn for one quarter of the price”, and quite another to say “well, I’ll go with the barely major-league performance of Juan Pierre.” As I said over a week ago when Manny turned down the one year, $25m offer and I said it was time to move on:

What happens if Dunn and Abreu tire of waiting for Manny and each take the money they can right now? Then this team is stuck in one of two equally dreadful situations: having to pay Manny whatever he demands, or having to forgo Manny entirely and start Juan Pierre in left field.

Well, we’re now squarely in that apoctolyptic wasteland of a future. Hooray. Original post remains below. 

Woof. Things are finally heating up after weeks of Manny-gate. So far I’ve managed to avoid one thing I don’t really care about (A-Rod’s steroid “surprise”, because really, who’s so naive that this is a massive shock?) and one thing I really don’t care about (Joe Torre’s book, which isn’t nearly as bad as people are making it out to be),

* Bobby Abreu is off the board! Because that’s what Anaheim needs: more outfielders. Just kidding, mostly, because signing him for $5m guaranteed is a steal for an OBP-challenged club, but I could really care less about the Angels. This really does start putting some pressure on both the Dodgers and Manny Ramirez, because now that Abreu’s gone, the Dodgers are in big trouble if Adam Dunn signs elsewhere before Manny does. The last thing we need is Scott Boras being able to say “your viable alternatives are all gone. Now not only do I want $100 million over four years, I want you to bow before me and acknowledge me as your GOD.” Conversely, this should also put pressure on Boras to negotiate, because if Colletti is worried about precisely what I just laid out, he might hustle to talk to Dunn before it’s too late. It’s almost as though the pieces are falling into place, which leads me right into…

* Big splash! I don’t know who “Scott Bordow” is, nor have I ever heard of the East Valley Tribune, but (via MLBTR) he insists there’s something big going down soon

You might have noticed that I didn’t mention the Dodgers. That’s because Los Angeles could make a big splash in the next 72 hours.

Don’t be surprised if the Dodgers not only sign Manny Ramirez but Orlando Hudson as well.

Los Angeles needs an everyday second baseman, and Hudson is still out there, unable to land the rich multi-year deal he thought he would get when he became a free agent. The Dodgers likely could sign Hudson to a one-year deal worth between $5 million and $7 million.

His “72 hours” ends on Friday afternoon, but that’s a pretty hefty claim to make. While I’m hesitant to believe that a no-name newspaper from the Arizona desert has really gotten the drop on everyone else, the Abreu signing does seem like it could serve to grease the wheels to get Manny going one way or the other. And at this point, isn’t a resolution – any resolution - the most important issue?

As for Hudson, I have to say I just don’t understand. Sure, he’s a nice player, and it’s not even that the money would bother me that much. But is he worth not only blocking Blake DeWitt for a year but more importantly, costing the 17th overall pick in the draft for? Hudson’s injury-prone, anyway (only once topping more than 150 games in a season and missing much of 2008 with a broken wrist), and guys don’t usually get more durable at the age of 31. I suppose I would be okay with it if it meant that DeWitt was part of a package to obtain a top starter like Jake Peavy or Roy Halladay, but I really don’t think DeWitt has that much trade value to other teams. Let’s pass on Hudson.

On the other hand, his middle name is “Thrill”, which is pretty rad… Okay, commenter “J” points out that his middle name is in fact, “Thill” and not “Thrill”. How disappointing. Oh well, I didn’t want him in town anyway.

* Eric Milton, it’s time to play the Feud! I kid about these, because I have no problem with bringing in a ton of old-and-busted veterans at no risk in hopes that one will pan out, as it’s worked out so well for the Dodgers in recent years, but seriously, how many of these guys are we going to see? Milton signs a minor league deal to join Shawn Estes, Claudio Vargas, and Jeff Weaver in this year’s “pillowfight to the death”. Milton hasn’t even been league-average (100 ERA+) since, wait for it, 2001, though I admit that he’s been in the 90s a few times. So hell, why stop there? Who else was serviceable in the early 90s that can be resurrected and brought into camp to be cannon fodder? Russ Ortiz? Tomo Ohka? Sidney Ponson? Jon Lieber? We don’t discriminate! 

87toppsjoebeimel.jpg* Bring back Joe!
For a while, we thought old friend Joe Beimel was a certain lock to leave town, because you just don’t pay big money for middle relievers whose mediocre peripheral stats don’t really support his glowing ERA. But it hasn’t worked out for old Joe…

He’s a job seeker coming off three consistently efficient seasons as a Major League reliever, and left-handed at that. He wasn’t looking for Manny Ramirez money, but when the comparable Jeremy Affeldt signed a two-year, $8 million deal with the Giants in November, Beimel (who earned $2.045 million last year) figured he’d be fine.

He figured wrong. The free-agent market suddenly collapsed with the economy, especially at his position. He said he’s spoken with 16 teams, none making an offer worth accepting. Not even an offer in hindsight he’d accept.

Beimel actually heard from the Dodgers for the first time this week, so maybe there’s still a chance here – we know the Dodgers are still looking for another lefty, with Dennys Reyes on the list. Beimel’s no All-Star, but he’s been pretty reliable over three years in LA, so if the price is right, why not take a chance? The devil you know, as they say. Well, some people do. I would never say that.