2007 Los Angeles Dodgers

I received several requests for the Dodgers to be covered in the next 2007 Team Outlook.

Ned Colletti’s contract obligations:

C – Russell Martin – $0.33MM
C –
1B – James Loney – $0.33MM
2B – Jeff Kent – $9MM
SS – Rafael Furcal – $13MM
3B – Wilson Betemit – $0.345MM/Andy LaRoche – $0.33MM
IF – Olmedo Saenz – $1MM
LF – Andre Ethier – $0.33MM
CF – Jason Repko – $0.338MM/Matt Kemp – $0.33MM
RF – J.D. Drew – $11MM
OF – Marlon Anderson – $0.925MM
OF – Jayson Werth – $0.355MM

SP – Derek Lowe – $9.5MM
SP – Brad Penny – $7.5MM
SP – Hong-Chih Kuo – $0.3275MM
SP – Chad Billingsley – $0.33MM
SP – Mark Hendrickson – $2MM

RP – Brett Tomko – $4.1MM
RP – Jonathan Broxton – $0.33MM
RP – Elmer Dessens – $1.7MM (paid by KC)
RP – Yhency Brazoban – $0.345MM
RP – Takashi Saito – $0.33MM
RP – Greg Miller – $0.33MM
RP –

RP – Eric Gagne – $1MM
OF – Jose Cruz Jr. – $0.3MM

Nontender candidates:
C – Toby Hall – $2.5MM

Injured players:
3B – Bill Mueller – $4.5MM (hopes for an experimental knee treatment to allow him to play)

Ballpark estimate: $70MM tied up.  This team came into 2006 with a $98MM payroll, so money will be spent again.

I put down Hall as a nontender candidate as most teams don’t pay a backup catcher that much money.  He did hit surprisingly well in his very limited Dodger sample.  Perhaps they’ll keep him and make a trade?

Try Loney at first, or resign Nomar?  It’s worth noting that Garciaparra’s big comeback season was exactly league average for first base.  Plus he only played three-quarters of the team’s games.  I think Loney will be worse than that, but not terribly so.  If you choose the kid, you’ve got to upgrade in a few of the other open spots.

One of those open spots is 3B.  Bill Mueller looks like a no go for 2007, so we’re looking at some combination of Betemit and young Andy LaRoche.  The Dodgers hope LaRoche will be fully healed from labrum surgery of the throwing shoulder by spring training. 

They probably don’t want to block LaRoche for four years, which takes A-Rod out of the picture.  If you use that logic, though, Aramis Ramirez becomes unlikely as well.  Perhaps Colletti would sign Ramirez and worry about LaRoche later.  In that case he’ll be competing with the Angels and several other clubs for the best free agent 3B.  Yet another route would be Japanese third baseman Akinori Iwamura, said to be admired by the Padres. 

The Dodgers have similar situations in left and center field: kids who might be capable but could have growing pains.  What to make of Ethier’s second half (.277/.337/.429)?  Fine for a young kid but probably not the starting left fielder on a big budget team.  (Matt Murton, ahem).  Kemp’s CF defense has been panned, and Repko/Werth don’t look like starters. 

Should Colletti deal Scott Elbert or one of his other talented prospects, perhaps the Dodgers could acquire Vernon Wells or Andruw Jones for center field.  Otherwise Jim Edmonds seems like a reasonable signing.

With the quasi-openings at 1B, 3B, LF, and CF, Colletti will probably bring in several veteran free agents as he did for 2006.  I can’t see the Dodgers going with young players in more than two of those four spots.

For the starting rotation, we know that Colletti would like to bring Maddux back for a full season. Such a move would probably push Hendrickson to the pen.  A related scenario: trade the frustrating Penny to fill a position, and then go after Jason Schmidt or Barry Zito.  How about Penny to Houston for Morgan Ensberg?  To the Rangers for Hank Blalock?  To Cincy for Adam Dunn?  Tell me your ideas in the comments. 

Should a starter struggle or get hurt, the Dodgers will have Hendrickson and Tomko at the ready to fill in.  And if Elbert harnesses his control he could join the rotation by summertime.

The bullpen looks solid, and the Dodgers don’t need the frustration of Eric Gagne.  For a big-time discount, maybe, but they’ll be fine without him assuming Saito stays and Brazoban is healthy.  Tomko is a candidate to be dealt, as he’ll probably be unhappy as a middle reliever.

With $30MM to spend, Colletti might be able to acquire Edmonds, Schmidt, and someone like Rich Aurilia to play some third and first.  If youngsters like Kemp, LaRoche, and Loney prove worthy they can get plenty of ABs too for this fragile team.

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