Should the Dodgers Be Looking For A Lefty Bullpen Arm?

Ponder this: it’s the first week of January, yet there may not be a single pitching spot up for grabs when camp starts in roughly six weeks. While the offensive side may see mild competition at backup catcher and the possible addition of a low-cost righty outfielder (and as I have been for months, I’m still on board the Lastings Milledge train), the pitching staff seems to be entirely set, barring any unexpected trades.

The rotation is obvious, as Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda, Ted Lilly, and Jon Garland will head up one of the more solid starting groups in the game. Then, assuming the Dodgers carry seven relievers – as they almost always do – it seems pretty obvious that the seven are going to be Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo, Kenley Jansen, Vicente Padilla, Matt Guerrier, Ronald Belisario, & Blake Hawksworth. You can quibble about Belisario and Hawksworth, I suppose, but each are out of options and I doubt either is exposed to waivers, particularly with Belisario reportedly throwing well in winter ball. Behind them, there’s familiar names like Travis Schlichting, Jon Link, and Ramon Troncoso in the mix as well, ready to start at ABQ and come up when depth is needed. It’s a solid group.

Yet the question must be asked: should the Dodgers try to ensure that there’s another lefty in the bullpen alongside Kuo? If so, who?

Kuo may be the only southpaw in that group, but he’s of course hardly your typical lefty reliever. He may well end up with part of the closer’s job again, and since he’s dominant against all batters there’s no need to restrict him to just lefties anyway. Now, you don’t have to have a second lefty, but since Kuo generally doesn’t pitch on back-to-back days and may be held back for the 9th inning anyway, there’s a real risk that the team would almost never have a real situational lefty available for big spots in the 7th and 8th innings.

Unless you’ve really got your heart set on Dana Eveland, the only viable internal candidate is Scott Elbert, who has begun to make the transition from starter to reliever. Elbert was impressive in the AFL, his power stuff (10.4 K/9 in the minors) would play well in the bullpen, and I’d love to see the longtime prospect finally break through. Elbert comes with obvious risk, of course; not only was there the well-known leave of absence that cost him much of last season, but until he harnesses his control (5.0 BB/9 in the minors) relying on him in late-inning situations may be dicey. Considering that he didn’t pitch in the minors last year after June, starting him off back at ABQ may not be the worst idea in the world.

If you’re willing to look outside the organization, there’s several veteran options who may come at a reasonable cost – and no, I’m not talking about Brian Fuentes, who is overrated and reportedly wants a three-year deal. There’s a few familiar names out there, including several former Dodgers. Let’s take a look at who’s out there with their 2011 ages, 2010 K/BB stats, and 2010 performance against lefties…

Will Ohman, 33 (9.2 K/9, 4.2 BB/9, .636 OPS vs. LHB)
Ohman’s 2009 in Dodger blue was nothing less than an injury-filled disaster, as he pitched just 12.1 terrible innings before being non-tendered. Yet Ohman had several successful seasons before that and bounced back with Baltimore and Florida last year, starting his year with 25 straight games without being charged with a run. Though his walk rate was certainly higher than you’d like, he’s still getting lefty hitters out; his 2010 OPS is nearly identical to his career mark of .646.

Joe Beimel, 34 (4.2 K/9, 3.0 BB/9, .653 OPS vs LHB)
Beimel was something of a fan favorite in LA during his three seasons as a Dodger (2006-08), and was vocal in his preference to stay with the team. He had to wait until March of 2009 to sign with Washington, and made it only until July before being traded to Colorado, where he’s been ever since. Though he was successful against lefties in 2010, it was significantly lower than his career mark of .720, and the declining K rate is a concern.

Dennys Reyes, 34 (5.9 K/9, 5.0 BB/9, .862 OPS vs LHB)
Yep, that’s the same Dennys Reyes who was signed as an amateur by the Dodgers in 1993 and pitched in 25 MLB games before being included in the horrendous “Paul Konerko for Jeff Shaw” debacle of 1998. Though the loss of Konerko is obviously the most egregious, Reyes has made a career for himself as well, pitching in over 600 games for 9 teams since leaving LA. Reyes very nearly signed a $1.1m deal with the Phillies last month before it fell through, so we know what his price range is. That awful line against LHB last year may be an aberration, since he’s been very good against them over his career (.669), yet it’s not promising, and he fell apart in the second half last year after a good start.

Ron Mahay, 40 (6.6 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, .520 OPS vs LHB)
How old is Ron Mahay? He tried to make it as an outfielder in the Boston system in the early 90s, briefly appearing as a replacement player in 1995, before converting to pitching and getting back to the bigs several years later. Despite his age, Mahay was death on lefties in 2010. That’s not a rate he’s managed for his entire career, but he’s still sub-.700 against them over 14 seasons, and he did strike out three times as many as he walked last year.

Randy Flores, 35 (5.8 K/9, 4.4 BB/9, .888 OPS vs LHB)
Yep, .888. I almost didn’t include him, but figured I might as well just to be complete, and it is at least down to .780 for his career. Still, Flores doesn’t seem like the right kind of fit here.

So does anyone here interest you? Reyes and Flores are non-starters for me, and though Beimel was fun to have around, his performance has been decent at best. I’ve always been a big Ohman fan – yes, I’ll admit that part of that is because he’s perhaps the funniest guy in the league – though I wonder if his poor 2009 experience has soured the relationship on both sides. That leaves Mahay, who signed just a minor-league deal last season and was excellent.

Of course, if you do sign any of these guys to a major league contract, then one of the current seven has to go. Perhaps that’s the long-rumored trade of Broxton for an expensive left fielder. (Unlikely.) Or perhaps they want Jansen to gain more experience in the minors. (Very unlikely.) Maybe “being traded for Ryan Theriot” isn’t enough to guarantee Hawksworth a spot. (Possible.) Or maybe Belisario takes a wrong turn on the way to Arizona and somehow ends up in Siberia. (Even odds.)

So your choices are:

1) Go with just one lefty in the bullpen.
2) Add Elbert, find a way to dump someone else.
3) Add one of the free agents, find a way to dump someone else.

Me? If it’s cheap – less than $1m, or even better a minor-league deal – I’d try to get Mahay and see if Hawksworth slips through waivers. If not, then let Elbert and Hawksworth battle it out in camp.

*****

I, for one, will be so happy when Adrian Beltre finally signs somewhere so Dodger fans can stop hoping that he’s coming back. Beltre’s a fine player, but he’s not a superstar, and he wants superstar money. Not that signing him for 3B and pushing Blake to LF wouldn’t be fun and all, but the Dodgers have to be at or near their payroll limit, and I just can’t see how fitting Beltre in would work – especially when you don’t know if you’re getting awesome Beltre (2004, 2010), or average-to-slightly-above Beltre (most other years).

******

I should have mentioned this the other day when I noted that Ivan DeJesus didn’t make John Sickels’ top 20 Dodger prospect list, and that I didn’t align with people who are hoping that he’d claim the 2B job in camp, thus pushing Juan Uribe to 3B and Blake to LF. The Dodgers recently announced the roster for their offseason development camp, which starts later this week in LA and features some of the brightest prospects in the system, like Jerry Sands, Dee Gordon, Trayvon Robinson, Rubby de la Rosa, and Chris Withrow. Seven attendees of last year’s camp saw big league time in 2010 – Carlos Monasterios, John Ely, Jon Link, Travis Schlichting, Kenley Jansen, A.J. Ellis and Russell Mitchell.

Ken Gurnick describes it as…

This will be the fourth year of the developmental minicamp, which is designed to take the best and brightest of the farm system, accelerate their Major League arrival and aid acclimation to what they will encounter when they get there.

Yet DeJesus wasn’t invited. Nor was he given a token call-up last September, like Mitchell and several others were. It’s not that I don’t like DeJesus - far from it – it’s just that all the signs seem to be pointing in the wrong direction for him, and that he won’t be the second baseman in 2011. We’ll learn more about how he’s percieved when Kevin Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus prospect expert, publishes his Dodger system review on Tuesday.

Dodgers of the Decade: Left-Handed Reliever

Kevin Brown, eh? In what was by far the most hotly-contested race (until we get to closer, I imagine) Brown wins the righty starter role narrowly over Derek Lowe, 42% to 35%. Brown’s also the only player so far to not win at least half the votes, so clearly fans were split on this one. Lots of good arguments in that thread. So let’s put him on the team…

Dodgers of the Decade team:
C: Russell Martin (68%)
1B: James Loney (62%)
2B: Jeff Kent (88%)
3B: Adrian Beltre (80%)
SS: Rafael Furcal (87%)
LF: Gary Sheffield (62%)
CF: Matt Kemp (94%)
RF: Shawn Green (79%)
LH starter: Clayton Kershaw (56%)
RH starter: Kevin Brown (42%)

…and move on to the bullpen. Only three lefty relievers fit our standards, and this should be interesting, I think. Tom Martin’s got no chance, but do you go with Joe Beimel, a fan favorite who put up the best numbers? Or Hong-Chih Kuo, who was definitely more dominating when he was available?

Left-Handed Reliever

Joe Beimel (216 games, 2006-08)
Dodger stats: 11-4, 3.04 ERA, 144 ERA+, .684 OPS against
WAR: 3.6

Tom Martin (127 games, 2003-04)
Dodger stats: 1-3, 3.74 ERA, 108 ERA+, .704 OPS against
WAR: 2.0

Hong-Chih Kuo (122 games, 2005-09)
Dodger stats: 9-13, 3.77 ERA, 113 ERA+, .656 OPS against
WAR: 2.6

Top three seasons
2.3 WAR Kuo, 2008
1.5 WAR Beimel, 2008
1.3 WAR Beimel, 2006

Fun fact about Tom Martin; even though he appeared in 127 games over those two seasons, he notched only 79.1 innings.

Steady and reliable, or excellent but inconsistent? Vote now!

[polldaddy poll=2454422]

Screw It, Why Stop Now

If the signing of Orlando Hudson signals anything, it’s this: Ned Colletti is in complete win-now mode. Why else would you give up a first round draft choice for a player who might only be here for one season? While I continue to be disappointed with the signing for all the reasons I discussed previously, I do realize that this might actually make the Dodgers a better team in 2009 – and that’s clearly Colletti’s only goal here, with the possibility of his job being on the line if this season doesn’t go well.

So with that pesky “first round draft pick” out of the way, why not go for broke? With so many teams completely out of money, the Dodgers might as well be the Yankees of the late winter signing season. Unfortunately, there’s no one out there who’d improve the team’s biggest weakness right now – the starting rotation – so let’s improve what we can.


juan_cruz-215x300.jpgLet’s start by signing Juan Cruz.
 His Type A status is scaring away teams who don’t want to give up a first round pick for a reliever, but the Dodgers no longer have that problem. While it would mean giving yet another pick to the Diamondbacks, surrendering a second rounder somewhere in the 50s is much more palatable than the 17th pick, and it would take away one of our main competition’s top relievers.

Cruz has been dominant the last two years, putting up ERA+ scores of 152 and 176 in a setup role and racking up huge strikeout numbers (158 in 112.2 IP). He does walk more than you’d like (about one every other inning), but it’s not easy to find a guy who can miss bats like that. FanGraphs has him as adding 1.2-1.3 wins next year, which may not sound like much, but is pretty impressive considering he’s merely a relief pitcher.

It’s well-known Colletti is still looking for a reliever; Cruz is clearly the best one out there. Now that we no longer have to worry about giving up a first round pick for him, why not go get him?

(Yes, I know of the reports that Cruz is closing in on a sign-and-trade deal with Minnesota. It hasn’t happened yet at the time of this writing, so there’s still time to act.)


joebeimel.jpgThen bring back Joe Beimel
. Yes, I know his mediocre peripherals don’t exactly support his ERA – he doesn’t strike out a lot of people, and his WHIP is merely average. So when there were reports earlier in the off-season that he was looking for three year deals, I was happy to say goodbye. But the market for lefty relievers has bottomed out so hard that the only confirmed offer I can find for him is a minor league proposal from the Rangers. Look, Beimel isn’t as great as his ERA makes him look, but he’s still been very reliable in LA, pitching in 83 and 71 games the last two seasons while only allowing one long ball. If he’s going to come as cheaply as it sounds, why not toss out a one year, one million dollar offer to bring him back? 

How tasty would a foursome of Hong-Chih Kuo & Beimel from the left side and Cory Wade & Cruz from the right side be in front of Jonathan Broxton? Now that’s a bullpen, and we haven’t even considered Ramon Troncoso, James McDonald, or Scott Elbert. It’d also serve to further prove how foolish the Guillermo Mota signing was, but I’d take that bullpen any day.

Finally, bring back Manny. This is a little different situation, of course, because I do believe that the Dodgers have been completely thorough in their efforts to bring him back. Theoretically progress has been made, with Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reporting that:

On the phone and in newsprint, the Dodgers’ negotiations with Manny Ramirez are intensifying.

Colletti said he has spoken “much more” to Ramirez’s agent, Scott Boras, over the last seven days than in any previous one-week period since they opened talks in November.

“The conversations are more frequent and longer,” said Colletti, who wouldn’t say if the increased dialogue is a sign of progress. “Days are ticking off the calendar.”

Talking is a good sign, at least. I wouldn’t dare put a date on Manny’s return, but it’s still more likely than not he’s coming back. At some point. We hope. If you’re in your “go for it” year, then you simply cannot downgrade from Manny Ramirez to Juan Pierre in left field. That’s akin to trading out Jessica Alba for Cloris Leachman in a bikini contest.

In the meantime, at least the back-and-forth between Boras’ lunacy and Colletti’s frustration is pretty entertaining:

[Boras] pointed out that the Dodgers’ most important free-agent signings of the winter, Rafael Furcal and Casey Blake, were already on the club when it acquired Ramirez in a three-way trade involving the Boston Red Sox and Pittsburgh Pirates. The Dodgers were a game under .500 at the time.

But Colletti disagreed that the team would revert to its pre-Ramirez form if it failed to re-sign the All-Star outfielder.

“Pretty much the same team?” Colletti said. Colletti continued sarcastically, “Casey Blake was playing back then, right? Furcal played almost every day, right?”

Blake, who was acquired from the Cleveland Indians in a midseason trade, didn’t play his first game with the Dodgers until July 26. Furcal was sidelined from May 6 to Sept. 23 because of a bulging disk in his back that required surgery. 

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.

Needs More Free Agent Signings

From the official email:

LOS ANGELES – The National League West Division Champion Los Angeles Dodgers today have offered salary arbitration to outfielder Manny Ramirez, starting pitcher Derek Lowe, and infielder Casey Blake. General Manager Ned Colletti made the announcement. 
 
The three players have until 9:00 p.m. PST on December 7 to accept the offer and doing so would ensure their spot on the 2009 roster. As “Type A” free agents, if Ramirez and Lowe do not accept arbitration and choose to sign with another team, the Dodgers will receive two draft picks apiece from that club. Blake, a “Type B” free agent, would net the Dodgers a supplemental draft pick if he elects to sign elsewhere.
 
The Dodgers did not offer arbitration to the following free agents: Joe Beimel, Gary Bennett, Rafael Furcal, Nomar Garciaparra, Jason Johnson, Jeff Kent, Greg Maddux, Pablo Ozuna, Chan Ho Park, Brad Penny, and Mark Sweeney.

No-brainer decisions on Manny, Lowe, and Blake, for sure. Most of the guys who didn’t get offered aren’t really problematic either, and before you protest, Furcal doesn’t return any draft picks due to his being injured all year, and if the team really wanted Penny back, they’d have just picked up his option. (Which I still believe they should have). The one question I do have is on Joe Beimel. It’s rare that a non-closer reliever is able to pick up a multi-year contract, and all indications are that he’s going to pick up at least two years and possibly three from someone. That being the case, why not extend arbitration? The worst thing that could happen is that he accepts and you have to pay him a little more than you wanted, but it would only be for one year. Besides, we all know there was no way he was going to take it. Might as well take the free draft pick.

(I love that it was even theoretically possible that guys like Mark Sweeney and Pablo Ozuna could have been offered arbitration. What were they going to say? “No, no, we don’t need to have an independent arbiter! You really want to give me a job? I’ll take whatever you want! I’ll take the minimum! In pesos!”)

Seems like it’s time for a tour of the blogosphere…

* At Baseball Prospectus, Joe Sheehan pretends he’s the GM of the Dodgers. I assume this means he neglected to include the picture of himself with a mustache and cowboy boots. I won’t copy the whole article here, but let’s look at the takehome points…

Sign Derek Lowe for four years and $62 million. He’s the best fit for this team and this payroll, and there should be some value to Lowe in not having to relocate. If there’s not, ply him with additional money.

WeeksLove it. It’s unfortunate that Lowe’s already told just about everyone that he’s not interested in staying on the West Coast and sounds almost certain to end up back with the Red Sox, or at least another Eastern team.

Trade Xavier Paul and Victor Garate to the Brewers for Rickie Weeks; then make Weeks a center fielder. It’s a low bid, and honestly, I’m skeptical enough of DeJesus’ power and ability to play shortstop than I might deal him if that’s what it took to get Weeks.

First of all, the fact that the first name I see when I type in “Weeks” into baseball-reference is “Charlie Manlove” makes the twelve-year-old in me laugh endlessly. I’m not so sure about this one on two fronts, though. First of all, I’d have to think that Paul and Garate aren’t nearly enough to get Weeks; second of all, I’m just not sure how much I’d want him. Let’s just say you can turn him into a center fielder, which is of course questionable at best. I know he’s only 26, but his 2008 line (.234/.342/.398) and the fact that he basically got benched for Ray Durham are hardly positives in my eyes. I wouldn’t mind taking him, but I just don’t see enough productivity with the bat to bother making him learn a new position. He seems like a younger Juan Pierre with a little more power and a little less speed, and don’t we already have Juan Pierre? Speaking of Ray Durham, though…

Sign Ray Durham for two years, $8 million. The extra year is designed to get this over with quickly, as the falloff from Durham to the next option is steep enough to want to avoid the question. If Durham is done, this is an easy contract to eat. Speaking of which…

This is not actually as terrible of an idea as I would have thought. Though I’d prefer DeWitt at 2B since his bat plays better there than at 3B, there’s a lot fewer options at the hot corner than the keystone. Besides, despite his age, Durham can still hit. With the exception of his dreadful 2007, he hasn’t had a below-average OPS since 1997. Not that it was unfair to wonder if 2007 was the beginning of the end, with how bad he was. But anyone who can bounce back with a .380 OBP as he did this year has to have something going for him. Yeah, his range at 2B isn’t great anymore – though it’s hard not to be an improvement over what we saw with Jeff Kent.

Release Andruw Jones. Ideally, you could get him to agree to a buyout, where he takes 60 cents on the dollar and gets to hit the market again, choosing that ahead of a season in which he bats 125 times as the Dodgers’ fifth outfielder. There’s no place for him on this roster. A year ago, I loved this signing; I was very, very wrong.

Yes, yes, a million times YES! I know and you know that this will never happen, so I’m not even going to look at logically. There’s just so much YES in this idea.

Sign Javier Valentin. He starts 30-35 games against good right-handed pitchers and is a very good pinch-hitter the rest of the time.

Not bad, though the first step before needing a good backup catcher to spell Russell Martin is making sure Joe Torre will actually use a backup catcher. Valentin’s a switch-hitter who’s been pretty decent against righties and pretty awful against lefties in his career, meaning he’ll never be a starter, but could be a pretty good backup for a guy like Turtle who’s never sitting against a lefty anyway. It makes sense, so it’ll never happen.

Re-sign Takashi Saito. Offer him a high-upside deal. It’s not likely there’s much guaranteed money available for him, and he’s one of those “good or unavailable” guys

I’m not entirely convinced that he’s not either A) going back to Japan or B) going to need surgery, because you don’t just tough out a torn elbow ligament. That said, he’s got very little bargaining leverage because of the injury and the fact that he’s not a free agent, so the price should be right. I’d say it’s worth the $3m or so it’d probably cost.

Offer arbitration to Ramirez. I can’t fathom him taking it, and almost no team uses draft picks as well as the Dodgers do.

Done and done. However, while the Dodgers might use their picks correctly, you almost wonder if the McCourts are afraid of having too many picks, because then they’d have to pay them – and isn’t there something monumenally wrong with that?

Loretta* Via MLBtraderumors, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick is reporting that at least four teams are interested in Astros infielder Mark Loretta, and the Dodgers are one of them. The Santa Monica native is 37 and is what he is – an veteran whose decent on-base skills and little power add up to a slightly below-average hitter (dig the career 99 OPS+ and 7 different years with OPS scores between 89 and 95). He can play all four infield spots, and in 2008 was a below-average 2B and an above-average 3B. Considering he only made $2.75 million last year, I don’t have a problem with the Dodger interest – depending on what that interest is. As a starter at 2B or 3B? Oh, hell no. But as a veteran backup who can fill a lot of spots in the infield with a decent bat, there’s certainly value in that, especially considering he’s a righty hitter and James Loney and Blake DeWitt (assuming DeWitt starts somewhere) are lefties. Continuing in that thought, Loretta crushes lefties (.903 OPS in 2008; .390 OBP career) while being markedly weaker against righties, so that really could work. The only thing is, it would almost certainly mean the end of Nomar in Blue, because they’d be filling almost exactly the same role.

* Via BlueNotes, ESPN has a list of the most notable Scott Boras signings. To no one’s surprise, most of these didn’t work out too well for the teams. On the other hand, didn’t we all see the deals for Park and Zito (and the size of A-Rod’s deal) being bad ideas from the very start?

- Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness msti-face.jpg