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.