I Guess I’ve Got No Choice

Sweet merciful crap! The rumors! My god, the rumors. You know, usually I look forward to this time of year so much, because what’s more fun than the Hot Stove League? Wondering what big name will don the Dodger blue for the first time, trying to figure out how all the puzzle pieces will fit together for the next year. It’s wonderful.

Until the 400th time you hear some two-bit reporter come up with a non-sourced rumor that only benefits his hometown team and somehow gains legs, that is. I’ve heard some people complain that the Dodgers have somehow been dragging their feet in not making any moves yet, but I just don’t see it. We all know that the big-time free agents always wait as long as possible before signing, and other than that the only moves have really been the Giants signing Jeremy Affeldt and the Marlins making a few salary dumps.

Anyway, things have really been coming to a head the last few days, despite the fact that we all know nothing is going to happen until at least the December 1 arbitration deadline and likely not until the December 8 winter meetings, so I figure it’s time to check into some of these.

* Good god, Jack Wilson again? Via MLBtraderumors, FOXsports.com’s Ken Rosenthal is reporting that the Dodgers are interested in trading for Pirates SS Jack Wilson, but that the price (Chin-Lung Hu, Delwyn Young, and a third player) was deemed too high. This isn’t the first time we’ve heard Wilson rumors floating around, and at least this is a little more palatable than when we’d heard Matt Kemp was involved over the summer. But come on, three players for Jack Wilson? He’s known to be a good defender and a below-average bat. Which sounds like, oh, I don’t know… Chin-Lung Hu? I don’t think that Hu’s going to get a shot to be the Opening Day shortstop, but if we’re going to have a good field/no hit guy there, I think I’d rather the guy who’s not getting paid $7.25 million in 2009, is especially atrocious in Dodger Stadium (.558 OPS), and is costing several young players to acquire. At least Hu’s got some upside. PASS.

* Wait, Andy Pettitte? Also from Ken Rosenthal, Andy Pettitte has apparently spoken with Joe Torre about a reunion in Los Angeles. If true, this is a tough call. On one hand, he’ll be 37 next year, is coming off the worst year of his career (plus a 5.35 ERA in the second half) and after having made $16 million in each of the last three years, is unlikely to want to take much of a pay cut. On the other hand… actually, I don’t think there is another hand. I wouldn’t mind giving him a shot at a more reasonable price, but if he wants $16 million or anything close to it? I’d rather have Eric Stults. Somehow I feel Torre would disagree with me. PASS.

* Okay, Ken, I see you, you can stop making a scene. Clearly just trying to get my attention, Rosenthal seems to have the Dodgers in on just about everyone, so let’s finish with him right here. He’s also suggesting that the Dodgers A) should sign Trevor Hoffman and B) could be interested in acquiring Mike Lowell. Though I disagree that Jonathan Broxton needs to be “protected” or somehow can’t be trusted, I’m not against signing Hoffman at the right price. He might be 41, but he still bested his career WHIP last year. If the price is right? Why not. As for Lowell, he’s 35, injured, and owed $25 million. Just because he’s old, busted, expensive and a Red Sox doesn’t mean that he has to end up with the Dodgers. Oh… right. Of course it does. OKAY and PASS.

* I agree with T.J. Simers?! I hate it when this happens, but at least this time it’s just joining together to acknowledge that Bill Plaschke is awful.

I GO away and Plaschke immediately makes the case again not to bring back Manny Ramirez, while suggesting the Dodgers trade for Jake Peavy, Adrian Beltre and “count on the kids.”

Sounds like I’m not the only one in need of some time off.

* Come on Giants! I know the “Edgar Renteria signs with Giants” rumors were proven false (so far), but a man can still have a rooting interest. What could be better than your hated rival, supposedly in a rebuilding stage, committing $18 million and a draft pick to sign an over-the-hill shortstop? Renteria to the Giants! Feel the holiday spirit – if you believe in it hard enough, it can happen!

* And those other guys? Right, CC, Manny, and Furcal. Look, I think we all know the deal with these three. CC’s got an enormous offer on the table from the Yankees, but hasn’t accepted it yet. Manny got an expensive but short-term offer from the Dodgers, which was quickly rejected while Scott Boras tries to get someone to literally sign their souls over to him. Furcal… well, don’t keep your hopes up. By the time you read this, he might have signed with the Giants or A’s, but more likely he’s not going anywhere for a few weeks. Unfortunately, it does seem that where he does end up, it won’t be in Los Angeles – not when he’s (apparently) receiving four year offers. After all the injuries we watched him suffer through in his three year deal, don’t expect the Dodgers to beat that this time.

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

Well, That Didn’t Take Long

You’d think after a long season (two weeks longer than usual) management, writers, and fans would want to take a bit of a breather. Maybe not that long, not with the offseason looming, but you’d think more than say, 30 hours after the final pitch, right? Hell no! Let’s jump on board the rumor train, and yeah, I got a lot of these links from MLBtraderumors

* Hey, let’s trade for Jake Peavy!
Uh, let’s put this under “wildly unlikely”. Hey, don’t get me wrong, Peavy’s one of the five best starting pitchers in the game, and putting him at the top of the Dodgers rotation would be marvelous. But there’s a lot of problems with this. First of all, the only reason that the Dodgers are involved in these rumors is that Peavy named them as one of the few teams he’d waive his no-trade clause for, which doesn’t automatically mean there’s interest on the other side. More importantly, the return to the Padres would be immense. Think about the kind of names being tossed around last offseason for Johan Santana and Erik Bedard, and then double it. Unlike those guys, Peavy is signed to a relatively reasonable deal that keeps him under team control until 2013 – plus the Padres would certainly ask for more from LA than anyone else if they’re going to have to face him a couple of times a year in the division until then. Just look at this quote from that ESPN article:

San Diego, too, is said to be willing to deal with the rival Dodgers, who could conceivably have some excellent young players to dangle, like outfielder Matt Kemp and pitchers Clayton Kershaw and James McDonald.

That’s not necessarily what the deal would be, but you’d better believe it’d take at least one of those guys, if not two. The article states that the Padres are “seeking at least two young pitchers in return, along with someone who can become the team’s everyday center fielder sometime in the immediate to near future.” You really think that Scott Elbert, Ramon Troncoso, and Xavier Paul are going to get that done? No thanks. I really can’t see this deal going down, and if it does, any joy I’d get over adding Peavy is likely to be overwhelmed by what was going back to San Diego.

* Manny wants a lot of money!
Shocker. Talk about an unbelievably hard contract to nail down. We’ve got the Sabernomics blog saying Manny should get 6 years, $128 million. In the article linked above, Bill Shaikin says that Manny “has suggested that he might seek a contract of five or six years, and isn’t interested in a pay cut from his current $20 million a year”, while in the same article former Dodgers GM Fred Claire “said the Dodgers should offer Ramirez $20 million per year for three years.” I tend to think that Claire is the closest of the three, but he undershoots it. I really can’t see any team giving Manny five or six years – not with his character issues, not with his declining defense, not with his age, and not with one of the top big market teams (Boston) obviously not in play. I do agree that Manny won’t take a paycut from the $20m/year options he had, so my best guess? 3 years, $70 million, perhaps with an option on the 4th year.

* Why does everyone think pitching is this team’s problem?
I’ve said this on many occasions, so I won’t want to repeat myself. But here we have Joe Torre saying that pitching is a top priority this offseason, and Dylan Hernandez saying “the Dodgers will be forced to target a top-of-the-rotation arm if they can’t re-sign Lowe.” I’m not saying I wouldn’t like a top pitcher, who wouldn’t? It’s just that the free agent arms like CC Sabathia are going to be insanely expensive – and how many times did we show this year that the pitching was fine and the offense was holding it back?

* Juan Pierre wants out!
Well, of course he does, and I can’t even come down hard on him for it. We might not think he’s any good, and we certainly don’t want him being a starting Dodgers outfielder, but I can’t blame a guy for wanting to be somewhere where he’ll get a chance to play. I no longer think he’ll be impossible to move, because there’s now only 3 years and $28 million left on his deal. It’s reasonable for some team that needs speed and ignores OBP, especially considering LA will have to eat a little of it. But there really can’t be any movement on this until the Manny saga is dealt with. Knowing whether you have three starting OF (no, Andruw Jones doesn’t count) makes a big impact on how badly you need to get rid of JP. Top destinations: White Sox and Reds.

* Andruw Jones wants out?!
From the same article as the Pierre one above…

Teammates say Jones wants no part of a return to Los Angeles, where he was a target of angry fans for his poor performance.

Guess what, Andruw? We all want you out too. But what you’re forgetting is that you were so bad this year that it’s not even a case of “he’s owed how much?” – it’s a case of “should I even waste a roster spot?” I mean, you’re owed $18.1 million (update: according to Jay Jaffe in today’s Baseball Prospectus article, it’s actually $22.1m because it was backloaded. Great.) in 2009. Let’s just say that Frank McCourt would be willing to pick up $13 million of that to trade you (which, and this should go without saying, he would never ever do). After hitting .158 with 3 homers, you really think some team is going to spend $5.1 million on you when they could get any minor leaguer to far surpass that output for a tenth of the price? The Dodgers aren’t going to cut Jones, and it’s just not going to be possible to trade him. He’ll be back, unfortunately, in 2009.

* Greg Maddux, Padres player-coach?
This article says that San Diego has talked to Maddux about such a role, but Kevin Towers thinks Maddux will retire. Personally, if he’s willing, I’d rather see the Dodgers do this, especially with young guys like McDonald, Kershaw, and Billingsley around. He’s worth the money to just talk to them all season.

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

Screw It, Let’s Do It

I wonder exactly how long my “hacked cell phone as modem” net connection is going to last while driving through the cornfields of Wisconsin? I suppose we’ll see. Assuming this actually gets posted, I really wanted to check in on the Manny Ramirez rumors floating around. Yeah, this is going to be another bare-bones post with no pictures and few stats due to the awesome dial-up speeds, but here we go. SI.com’s Jon Heyman:

The Dodgers are one of a few teams showing interest in embattled superstar Manny Ramirez and are currently in discussions with the Red Sox, SI.com has learned.

Dodgers players likely to interest the Red Sox would include young outfielders Matt Kemp and perhaps Andre Ethier.

If you’re a regular MSTI reader, you know our usual stance on overpaid, declining veterans – a big fat NO. Especially when it costs us some good young players, right?

Well, guess what: MSTI is for acquiring Manny Ramirez. I know – I’m surprised too!

Basically, a deal for Manny is only going to get done if the acquiring team agrees to not pick up his options after this year, because Manny has 10/5 rights over any deal. While that might not be great for a team that would be hoping to have him for a few years, it DOES drive the price way down since he’s only a two month rental, and one who’s leaving on terrible terms.

With the terrible position Manny’s put the Sox in, I can’t imagine they have a whole lot of leverage in trade talks. But what to send back? Kemp is too much, and the Sox would never take Jones or Pierre. So I propose this – Ethier and a mid-level pitching prospect for Manny and the Sox eating most or all of his contract for the rest of the year. Yeah, I know – I love Ethier too, and it stinks to give up the next 3-4 years of him under team control for two months of Manny. But Manny is without question a game-changing bat, just the kind that could propel this team into the playoffs. So we put Manny in LF, JP/Jones can share CF (with JP back in LF on Manny’s days off) and Kemp in RF.

The Sox get to finally get rid of the Manny circus, and they get a young OF who can step into his LF spot immediately.

Having Manny in the middle of the lineup with Martin, Loney, Kemp, Kent, and Blake sounds pretty tasty to me. Yeah, this plan isn’t without his perils. Manny might not like the position of the laundry room in relation to the second urinal in the clubhouse and sulk, or whatever the hell sets him off. But think about it. We all know this team goes nowhere without a power bat, and thanks to “Manny being Manny”, he’s driven the price way down. Do you really think that Mark Teixiera could be acquired for anywhere near that? I think not.

And think about this – Manny’s starting his decline phase, he’s been hurt, he’s in the tough AL East, and he’s probably not really trying all that hard. This isn’t a typical Manny year. And you know what? His OPS+ of 144 and 20 homers still make him by FAR the best hitter on the 2008 Dodgers, and it’s not particularly close. Plus, you have to think that could even improve once he gets out of the AL (imagine Manny in Coors!) and gains a whole lot more motivation since he’d know he’s playing for his last big contract.

Don’t trade Kemp for him. Don’t trade LaRoche for him. But if you can do it with Ethier as the centerpiece? So long, Andre. Hello, playoffs.

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

Alright, What the Hell is Going On Here?

Tony Jackson, LA Daily news, July 7th:

the Daily News learned that sometime in the days leading up to that deal, Dodgers owner Frank McCourt nixed a trade that would have brought Sabathia to Los Angeles, along with Indians third baseman Casey Blake and utility man Jamey Carroll.

McCourt’s reason was financial, according to multiple industry sources. But that is a charge McCourt flatly denied.

Tony Jackson, LA Daily News blog, July 8th:

I was told this morning, by a source completely separate from the ones from which I got the earlier story, that Matt Kemp WAS involved in the aborted trade for Sabathia, Blake and Carroll, and that either Jon Meloan or James McDonald also was involved. 

Dylan Hernandez, LA Times, July 8th:

McCourt said a trade with the Indians was a real possibility at one point. “I think the deal as it started out had a potential to be a deal that wouldn’t have compromised the goals of this organization,” he said. “I think the deal, as it evolved, got to the point where it became unacceptable to the organization.”

The talks are believed to have started out with the Dodgers offering two players, one of them being third baseman Andy LaRoche, for Sabathia, but came to include several other players on both sides. Sabathia will be a free agent at the end of the season.

Ken Rosenthal, FoxSports.com, July 9th:

The Dodgers not only could have had Sabathia, but also Indians third baseman Casey Blake and infielder Jamey Carroll without giving up any of their top young major leaguers, according to major-league sources.

The Indians would have received a package that included the following types of players, if not the exact names: Third baseman Andy LaRoche, right-hander Cory Wade, Class AA right-hander James McDonald and Class A catcher Carlos Santana.

Will Carroll, Baseball Prospectus, July 9th:

The Dodgers continue to confuse everyone. “Some want to buy, some sell,” I’m told. One faction of the front office wants to deal for a shortstop and is focused on Jack Wilson or David Eckstein, while another (which appears to hold sway with the McCourts for now) want to see if Nomar Garciaparra can hold the position down. Teams simply don’t want to deal with the Dodgers because of the confusion over who has final authority. One front-office source told me that the Dodgers have made deals, only to have ownership pull out at least twice.

So let’s recap: Matt Kemp WAS in the deal. Matt Kemp WASN’T in the deal. The Dodgers could have acquired Sabathia, Blake, and Carroll without including Kemp, Billingsley, Kershaw, Martin, Loney, or Ethier. (!!!!!!!!) Or just LaRoche and someone else for Sabathia. And that Colletti had a deal done, except that McCourt put the kibosh on it. Twice. Or he didn’t. But if he did, it was because of money. Or it wasn’t. Ned Colletti’s in charge. Or McCourt’s pulling the strings. Or, says another source of Rosenthal’s,

Others believe that assistant general manager Logan White exerts an inordinate amount of influence, discouraging trades of players that he once selected as the team’s scouting director.

This is getting completely out of hand, and it’s hardly the first time around here, is it? It’s getting to the point where it doesn’t even matter if you side with McCourt, Colletti, or even White (MSTI chooses White!) on decision-making, you just want to know that someone is actually in charge over there. I mean, look at what Carroll says: “Teams simply don’t want to deal with the Dodgers because of the confusion over who has the final authority.” How is that even possible? Is McCourt meddling too much? Is Colletti not assertive enough? This is the kind of internal politics that I really hate discussing – partially because you’ll never get a straight answer from anyone, but mostly because it distracts from where the focus really ought to be: on the field. You know what? That proposed deal for Sabathia/Blake/Carroll? I probably make that deal. I hate to give up LaRoche, but the thought of getting those players without giving up Kemp is mind-blowing. If the Dodgers aren’t going to be able to improve their chances at the playoffs because of some internal “whose is bigger” contest (sorry, Kim!), then that’s an insult to the fan base. Guess what, guys? Get it together. NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOUR PERSONAL ISSUES. GET THE JOB DONE, OR GET OUT OF THE WAY.

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

First Place… Really?!?

The idea that this team is in first place despite being a game under .500 is as crazy as saying “Nomar played shortstop and not only didn’t kill himself, but hit a homer, and a rookie Japanese pitcher who didn’t make it out of the third inning in two of his last four starts nearly pitched a perfect game.”

Wait, what?

I mean, what can you say about Hiroki Kuroda? He was absolutely fantastic last night, and perfect game or not, I’ll take a one-hit shutout every single time. Of course, some excellent defense definitely helped – particularly Blake DeWitt’s amazing bare-handed play on Gregor Blanco’s bunt, and as much as I hate to admit it, even Angel Berroa chipped in with some great defense after replacing Nomar at shortstop.

But about Kuroda… how manic is this guy? Look at his last five starts, interrupted by a DL stint:

7/7 vs. ATL: 9 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 6 K, 0 BB, 91 pitches – 3-0 win
7/2 @ HOU: 7 IP, 0 R, 5 H, 1 K, 1 BB, 83 pitches – 4-1 win
6/12 @ SD: 2.1 IP, 6 R, 5 H, 2 K, 4 BB, 63 pitches – 6-3 loss
6/6 vs. CHC: 9 IP, 0 R, 4 H, 11 K, 0 BB, 112 pitches – 3-0 win
6/1 @ NYM: 2.2 IP, 6 R, 7 H, 0 K, 2 BB, 66 pitches – 6-1 loss

There’s not much gray area, is there? Obviously, it’s an encouraging sign that he’s been unscored upon since returning from the DL, but it’s also hard to point to a tired arm as a cause for those two lousy games since his gem against the Cubs was sandwiched in between them. Anyway, a solid round of applause for our man Hiroki for the effort he put forth last night. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Clap, clap, clap.

But even more importantly, first place! Sure, it’s mostly because the Diamondbacks have been so lousy as to keep the Dodgers in the race. But do you think the 2006 Cardinals kept their World Series parade subdued because they snuck into the playoffs with a 83-78 record? I doubt it. First place is first place, so let’s go with that. Interestingly enough, Baseball Prospectus has a “playoff odds report” updated daily, where they simulate out the rest of the season one million times to see what happens, using some fancy math algorithms I won’t even pretend to explain here. The Dodgers win the NL West 48.6% of the time, which may be less than half, but it’s still leading the division – Arizona wins only 41.5% of the time. They also have likelihoods for the wild card, but let’s not kid ourselves, it’s going to be the division title or bust here. (Oddly enough, the Nationals, who are on pace for a 61-101 record, win the NL East .0006% of the one million simulations. What happened in those simulations? Did they poison the water supply of the Mets and Phillies? Did the Confederacy secede from the Union and take the Marlins and Braves?)

On to some trade rumor updates. Despite all the fur that’s been flying around here and elsewhere about Jack Wilson, Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette says “not so fast“:

The Pirates expect to keep shortstop Jack Wilson beyond Major League Baseball’s July 31 trading deadline, despite overtures from several teams in the past week.

And he might stay a lot longer than that.

The front office’s thinking, as outlined by internal sources yesterday, is that Wilson is valuable to the Pirates not only because of his fine performance in the past year-plus but also because his departure would leave a gaping hole, as was painfully evident when he missed two months to injury this season. Top shortstop prospect Brian Bixler has recovered nicely with Class AAA Indianapolis after a rough debut in Pittsburgh this spring, but he is not of Wilson’s pedigree. And no one else is on the horizon.

Management also values that it can retain Wilson for two more seasons, with a guaranteed $7.25 million next season and a club option of $8.4 million for 2010. That is well within market range for a shortstop of Wilson’s experience, and management has repeatedly stated that it is under no financial constraints to move any current contract.

Put that together, and the general view is this: Why give up Wilson when a comparable replacement must be acquired by next spring, at the latest?

That’s a little disappointing, but not crushing, I suppose. I thought Wilson was a good stop-gap solution, but hardly someone I’ve been drooling over. Really, I’d love for Nomar to nail down the job, and even if he hits as poorly as last year that’s still an improvement over Berroa and Maza, but there’s absolutely no one who thinks he’ll stay healthy all year, is there? Kovacevic also offers one other nugget:

Los Angeles initiated the inquiry about Wilson last week and was the first team to do so this year. Those talks, which never involved any player on the Dodgers’ major league roster, never got very far and seemed dormant, if not dead, late yesterday afternoon.

That’s a relief, if true. Hopefully all the hand-wringing over Matt Kemp getting dealt was just overblown media speculation. On the other hand, Tony Jackson has some very intriguing news about the Dodgers’ involvement in getting C.C. Sabathia:

Shortly after the Milwaukee Brewers finalized a trade for reigning American League Cy Young Award winner CC Sabathia on Monday, the Daily News learned that sometime in the days leading up to that deal, Dodgers owner Frank McCourt nixed a trade that would have brought Sabathia to Los Angeles, along with Indians third baseman Casey Blake and utility man Jamey Carroll.

McCourt’s reason was financial, according to multiple industry sources. But that is a charge McCourt flatly denied.

I’m not sure I’m buying the financial part, because all three Indians are free agents at the end of the season. As the Daily News story says, they’re owed somewhere between $8-9 million for the remainder of 2008, and for a trade that would bring a Cy Young Award winner, are we really that hard up against the cap? Especially when you consider that obviously, some amount of salary would have to have gone back to Cleveland.

Of course, I shudder to think what the Dodgers would have had to give up for Sabathia, Blake, and Carroll. It’s well-known that the Indians’ #1 priority was to get a young power hitter, which they did in Matt LaPorta, so Matt Kemp is almost a certainty to be included. I can’t even imagine who else; assuming that Martin, Billingsley, and Kershaw are completely untouchable, and that it’s unlikely that both Kemp and Ethier would be moved in the same deal, I’m guessing.. James McDonald, Chin-Lung Hu, and Andy LaRoche? At the very least? Probably Delwyn Young too, since he really ought to be a DH in the American League? That’s a pretty steep price, and I’m just completely speculating here.

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