Next up in the series, the Dodgers. You can view all the Needs and Luxuries posts here.
C – Russell Martin
1B – James Loney
2B – Jeff Kent
SS – Rafael Furcal
3B – Andy LaRoche/Nomar Garciaparra
LF – Andre Ethier
CF – Juan Pierre
RF – Matt Kemp
SP – Brad Penny
SP – Derek Lowe
SP – Chad Billingsley
SP – Esteban Loaiza
SP – Jason Schmidt/Mark Hendrickson/Hong-Chih Kuo
Setup: Jonathan Broxton
Closer: Takashi Saito
The Dodgers need some power; their .406 team SLG ranked 13th in the NL. $108MM should buy better than that. Fortunately, power will be added without acquiring anyone.
Rafael Furcal should slug better than 2007’s .355 mark. He was at .445 in ’06 (.564 after the break). Furcal sprained his ankle in a March ’07 game, and it bothered him all year. He’s a tough guy, and played through it. He won’t have surgery, but an offseason of rest and an upcoming walk year should get him back to normal for ’08.
Luis Gonzalez slugged only .433, not enough for a corner outfielder. He won’t be back; his absence should allow Matt Kemp to reach 500 ABs (Kemp slugged .521 this year).
Nomar Garciaparra was pitiful at .371. He did slug .463 in the second half, so maybe he can return to respectability. Grady Little needs a quick trigger finger to go to LaRoche, whose 2008 SLG is projected at .483 by PECOTA.
So, I question the notion that the Dodgers need a power bat. However, it sure as hell wouldn’t hurt. How about having Ethier becoming one of the game’s most capable fourth outfielders, and importing a left fielder with power? Adam Dunn, Jason Bay, Barry Bonds, or Manny Ramirez could be blockbuster acquisitions. What about A-Rod? As with any team that can afford him, he’d be the best possible acquisition.
Kent’s on board for $9MM in ’08, but there has been speculation that he might not return. Not sure if that means retirement or a trade demand. But if second base opens up, Tony Abreu seems a capable replacement. For this reason, Kent could almost be considered a luxury (he’d be easier to trade if he was a better clubhouse guy).
I like the front end of the bullpen a lot, even more so with Jonathan Meloan close to contributing. No need to sign pricey relievers, though I wouldn’t trade from this strength.
The Dodgers had an above average rotation in 2007 despite injuries. Penny, Lowe, and Billingsley is an excellent playoff core. The Dodgers hope to recoup some of the Schmidt investment. Loaiza is making $7MM, so he gets first crack at the fifth starter job. Hopefully, as with Nomar, Little isn’t overly patient because of salary.
Wild card: the Dodgers have the two best left-handed starting prospects in the game in Scott Elbert and Clayton Kershaw. Elbert is more of a question mark given June arthroscopic shoulder surgery. Kershaw could definitely make an ’08 impact.
Randy Wolf wants to come back on the cheap, and Ned Colletti shouldn’t pass that up. More starting pitching depth is always a good thing. That said, I wouldn’t start dealing from this possible strength either.
The emergence of Chin-Lung Hu as one of the game’s top shortstop prospects may make Furcal expendable. Furcal is still plenty valuable despite an off-year. As I said earlier, a healthy Furcal in his walk year should really bounce back. It makes sense to trade Furcal in June if he re-establishes his value and Hu keeps hitting at Triple A. At that time, Colletti can assess his biggest need, perhaps getting that power bat if someone’s hurt or underproducing.
This is a strong team that should win a lot more than 82 games if the young players aren’t benched for inferior veterans.