A.J. Ellis & Ronald Belisario Avoid Arbitration

It should probably say a lot about how badly we want news right now that this is a tweet we’ve actually been waiting for:

Ellis made slightly more than the $1.7m Matt Swartz of MLBTR had projected for him, and though that’s still far less than he’d get as a true free agent, $2m is still a pretty big raise from the $490k he got last year. Honestly, I wouldn’t have minded seeing him get a two year deal, but this is fine. Belisario wasn’t included in the projections and should probably just be happy he’s getting paid in American money and not in cigarettes or whatever passes for currency at the county prison.

With the salaries set, we can turn Ellis & Belisario from blue to green on the payroll sheet. By my count, I have them at $229.79m in 2013 contracts; including all outlays — dead money, minimum salaries, posting fee, etc — that’s $271.49m. It’s a fun time.

2012 Dodgers in Review #50: RP Ronald Belisario

2.54 ERA 3.09 FIP 71.0 IP 8.75 K/9 3.68 BB/9 0.9 fWAR A-

2012 in brief: After missing all of 2011 and the first month of 2012, actually managed to stay on the roster all year without getting in to further trouble. Oh, and he was a pretty effective reliever while doing it, too.

2013 status: Eligible for arbitration for the first time as a “Super Two” and should be mainstay of bullpen if he can manage to stay out of trouble again.

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I’m really not sure if it can be overstated how little we expected from Ronald Belisario after a bizarre 2011 in which he missed the entire season. But Belisario sorted out his issues and actually made it to Arizona weeks ahead of camp — frankly, I’m not sure why he ever leaves at this point — and when it came out that he’d be suspended for the first 25 games of the season, I actually thought it was a good thing, since it’d give the Dodgers time to sort out a crowded bullpen and see what Belisario could offer.

When he returned in early May, we weren’t sure what he would be, but we knew he’d at least not be Mike MacDougal:

I have no idea what kind of Ronald Belisario we’re going to see now that he’s been reinstated from the suspended list. The out-of-nowhere 2009 sensation? The 2010 disappointment who wasn’t great but wasn’t really as bad as people remember? The total flakewad who missed 2011 entirely? But I do know this: simply because he’s here and he exists, we no longer have to suffer the wrath of Mike MacDougal, DFA’d by the Dodgers today to make room.

Belisario made his debut in Chicago on May 5 and picked up right where he left off, not allowing a run in any of his first nine outings. In June, he pitched 12 innings and allowed just four hits and a single run,  and though the 1.53 ERA he took into the All-Star break was fantastic, it wasn’t entirely without some concern:

Ronald Belisario (A+)

I mean, A for still being in the country. A for not being in prison. A for still being alive, probably. A for not being injured. A-plus for not only being on the team, but for being an invaluable member of the bullpen. I’m both terrified by his .176 BABIP and fascinated that his bowling ball heater results in such poor contact that it’s the third lowest figure in baseball. Good to have you back, you big weirdo.

That fall back to earth came quickly, because July was nothing short of a disaster for Belisario; of the 20 earned runs he allowed all season, 11 came in July alone — despite it being the month with the fewest games. (Oddly, his 4.25 K/BB in July was the best mark of his entire season.) In a stretch of 11 innings between July 8-31, he allowed 17 baserunners and saw his ERA rocket from 0.95 to 3.20, poor enough that when Randy Choate was added, I was openly floating the idea of a DL stint for Belisario just to give him a breather.

That didn’t happen, of course, and Belisario rebounded nicely down the stretch, putting up a 36/13 K/BB in 31.2 innings after August 1. On the whole, Belisario’s 2012 was the best of his three major league seasons, and while he can still never be counted on — especially after reportedly getting kicked off his winter league team — if he’s available, he’s a cheap and effective setup man who provides real value.

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Next up! Get out your bunting shoes, it’s Don Mattingly!

Just In Case You Needed A Reminder Not To Believe Everything You Read This Time of Year

Jon Heyman, CBS Sports:

Nick Swisher may be dreamin’ of L.A. but it’s not happening.

Swisher might have to readjust his sights and think about Cleveland. The Dodgers aren’t trading Andre Ethier to make room for him.

Danny Knobler, also of CBS Sports:

But sources familiar with the discussions say the Dodgers have at least talked about the idea of trading Andre Ethier and signing Bourn to replace him. Bourn would play center field, with Matt Kemp moving to right field.

So there’s that. Two national writers from the same outlet, one saying that there’s almost no chance that an Ethier trade could happen, the other saying that it’s being discussed. Who’s right? Who’s wrong? The answer, as always: 99% of what you read this time of year in the media is untrue is one way or another.

Like I said the other day, I think an Ethier trade is unlikely, but it’s far from non-zero, and there’s a compelling argument to be made to deal him for upgrades elsewhere — no, you’re not getting a star or stud prospect for him with that contract, but even a slick-fielding shortstop that could doubly improve the defense by moving Hanley Ramirez back to third, even if it hurts the offense, could be a start — and then move to sign Bourn or Swisher or trade for Mike Morse. I’m not saying I would do it, because the free agents would sign a pick and because I think Ethier just needs to be used more effectively, but there’s a case to be made.

Either way, we haven’t heard the last of this, and we won’t until all of the other outfielders are spoken for — no matter what the national writers say.

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Oh, and then there’s this, presented without comment…

I… ah… wow.

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and this:

Reliever Ronald Belisario, on his best behavior with the Dodgers last season, has not fared as well back home in Venezuela this off-season.

His Winter League team in Margarita said Belisario would not play for the rest of the season because of disciplinary reasons.

Please, Ronald not this again. At the very least, not something that would further motivate Ned Colletti to overpay for Chris Perez or Joel Hanrahan or Bobby Parnell.

I Don’t Know What Ronald Belisario Is, But He’s Not Mike MacDougal

I have no idea what kind of Ronald Belisario we’re going to see now that he’s been reinstated from the suspended list. The out-of-nowhere 2009 sensation? The 2010 disappointment who wasn’t great but wasn’t really as bad as people remember? The total flakewad who missed 2011 entirely? But I do know this: simply because he’s here and he exists, we no longer have to suffer the wrath of Mike MacDougal, DFA’d by the Dodgers today to make room.

I have to admit, even though this was clearly the right move – you just can’t send down Josh Lindblom after how good he’s been this year, and MacDougal has shown no ability to get anyone out – I’m still pretty surprised that this actually happened. MacDougal was signed to a guaranteed deal over the winter, and in a bullpen with one NRI (Jamey Wright) and a few guys with options remaining, the fact that the Dodgers chose to eat MacDougal’s deal rather than ship off Lindblom or gin up a phantom DL stint is encouraging. Hey, maybe Stan Kasten’s new fan email box is paying off already!

MacDougal, of course, probably was never worth that guaranteed deal in the first place, since his 2.05 ERA last year was one of the more misleading stat lines I can remember in some time. But hey, maybe some team desperate for bullpen help will actually take on his deal or give up some Low-A space filler for him. And if not, I’m sure he’ll be quite comfortable in Albuquerque. Either way, kudos to Ned Colletti (or whomever may have made this call) for doing the right thing.

As for Belisario, well, I’m very interested to see what he is. There’s a non-zero chance that he could potentially be a useful piece of the puzzle if he can find himself again, and the reports on his stuff have been encouraging. That said, the rehab results weren’t great (1 K, 2 BB, 8 hits allowed in 4.2 innings) and with Matt Guerrier on the mend, Blake Hawksworth looming after that, and intriguing minor league types like Shawn Tolleson, Scott Rice, and Josh Wall out there as well, Belisario is probably going to need to show his worth quickly. But hey, it’s win/win, because even if he’s terrible and gets cut, all it cost you was the services of Mike MacDougal. So there’s no downside here.

By the way, still no official word on Bobby Abreu, and now that Belisario has taken MacDougal’s 40-man spot, there remains one open spot for the veteran outfielder.

Happy Trails, Ramon Troncoso

Has it really been a full month since there’s been a roster move of any importance? We finally have another one today, although it’s not entirely unexpected:

Transactions: #Dodgers designate RHP Ramon Troncoso for assignment and reinstate RHP Ronald Belisario from the Restricted List

Troncoso was out of options and was unlikely to make the team, even with Blake Hawksworth not being ready to start the season; allowing eight hits in five spring innings didn’t exactly do much to improve his case, anyway. Originally signed in 2002, Troncoso made his big-league debut in the second game of 2008, inducing an inning-ending double play after Derek Lowe and Joe Beimel had run into trouble against the Giants. The high point of his career came in 2009, when he got into 73 games with a 2.72 ERA, but then fell apart in 2010 after early overuse and was downright awful last year, allowing a whopping 38 hits in 22.2 MLB innings. Though it’s popular (and fun!) to blame Joe Torre for Troncoso’s collapse, it was pretty easy to make the argument that he was never as good as 2009 made him seem anyway.

Though Troncoso wasn’t going to make the team regardless, this does add just a bit more clarity into the battle for the final bullpen spot, where Jamey Wright & John Grabow have to be seen as frontrunners, with Josh Lindblom, Fernando Nieve, Scott Rice, and Angel Guzman all still holding out hope. If Troncoso makes it through waivers, we may yet see him remain with the organization in what should be a wide-open Triple-A bullpen.

As for Belisario, well, we all know he’s suspended for the first 25 games of the season, and that suspension can’t take place unless he’s added to the 40-man roster. As far as I know this move didn’t have to happen until the season starts, but there’s also no sense in holding Troncoso back from finding work elsewhere if you’re absolutely sure he’s not going to make the club. So long, Ramon. We’ll always have that time you drove in the only run of your career on a bases-loaded walk.