Los Angeles Dodgers Rumors
Free agents are not allowed to negotiate with all 30 MLB clubs until 11:01 pm (CT) Monday, but agent Scott Boras says his phone was ringing off the hook regarding Jacoby Ellsbury and Stephen Drew within hours of the Red Sox winning the World Series, reports Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. The Yankees will be the most interesting team during free agency, according to Cafardo, but will be hamstrung until a decision is made on Alex Rodriguez's appeal. Cafardo also lists the Phillies, Tigers, Giants, Orioles, Blue Jays, and Rangers as active participants in the free agent market. In other tidbits from his Sunday Baseball Notes column:
- Both LA teams are interested in acquiring David Price from the Rays. The Angels may have a slight edge because they can put together package with bats like Mark Trumbo and Howie Kendrick while the Dodgers have an overstocked rotation.
- Joe Nathan should be of interest to both the Tigers and Yankees even though the latter seems to have settled on David Robertson as Mariano Rivera's replacement.
- There may be no better time for the Red Sox to trade John Lackey than right now.
- The Red Sox may consider re-signing Joel Hanrahan after he recovers from Tommy John surgery to provide protection for incumbent closer Koji Uehara.
- Franklin Gutierrez, whose $7.5MM club option was declined by the Mariners, is an intriguing player who can still perform at a high level when healthy. Staying healthy has been an issue for Gutierrez with six trips to the disabled list in the last four years.
- Johan Santana, whose $25MM club option was declined by the Mets, is another pretty good low-cost gamble.
Dee Gordon is running out of both time and positions to play in his quest to prove that he belongs at the Major League level, writes Steve Dilbeck of the L.A. Times. The Dodgers moved Gordon from shortstop to second base this season, and while reviews said he wasn't as much of a liability at second base, they're now working him out in center field as well. The Dodgers aren't willing to give up on Gordon yet, says Dilbeck, but his best shot at sticking in L.A. looks to be in a utility capacity. Here's more from the NL West...
- In a separate piece, Dilbeck opines that the Dodgers need to have a contingency plan in place at second base, as it's too risky to assume that recently signed Cuban infielder Alexander Guerrero is ready to immediately dive into the Majors. He notes that Gordon could start there, but that plan would also have a great deal of uncertainty.
- Rockies senior vice president of Major League operations Bill Geivett made an appearance with Jim Bowden on MLB Network Radio this morning. Asked by Bowden how he would react if the Cardinals came knocking with an "overwhelming" offer for superstar shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, Geivett said he'd have to listen but added, "we're not doing anything with Tulo." Geivett went on to add that his top three priorities this offseason are starting pitching, a late-inning impact reliever and a corner bat (Twitter links).
- MLB.com's Chris Haft spoke with Ryan Vogelsong's agent, Dave Meier, who said that his client's preference is to remain with the Giants. According to Haft, the Giants will shop for a starting pitcher this offseason, but adding two starters will be difficult. The Giants have until tomorrow to decide whether or not to exercise a $6.5MM option on Vogelsong or pay him a $300K buyout.
Let's take a look around the developing starting pitching market ...
- The Blue Jays are still deciding whether or not to make Josh Johnson a qualifying offer, reports Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca. Davidi says that the hurler's health is the primary consideration, and adds that he would be "a near certainty to accept if he gets an offer." Johnson's agent, Matt Sosnick, told Davidi that he has not "talked about it much" with club GM Alex Anthopoulos, but said there were "good reasons to qualify [Johnson] or not qualify him."
- Sosnick also spoke with Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, providing a host of good information on Johnson, who he says may still receive (and could accept) a qualifying offer from Toronto. If Johnson hits the open market, his agent says he will certainly seek a one-year deal "to rebuild his value." With no interest in a multi-year deal, contract negotiations figure to be simplified somewhat, and could open the door to more teams with interest. Sosnick says Johnson is "looking for a good pitching atmosphere, a good defense behind him and a team with a good chance to win." He predicts that the big righty is "probably going to be the most approached free-agent pitcher out there" and will ultimately land a deal "somewhere around what the qualifying offer is."
- Twins VP of player personnel Mike Radcliff threw some cold water on the possibility of a move on Johnson, Berardino further reports. Radcliff said that Johnson is coming off of a "horrible" year and "if he wants $10 million, we're not going to be involved with that."
- Sosnick reps not only Johnson, but fellow free agents Ricky Nolasco and Randy Messenger. He says that the Twins seem to have interest in every member of that trio, but his "sense is they're most interested in Nolasco."
- One other possible target for Minnesota is Ubaldo Jimenez, reports Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN.com (via Twitter). Of course, Jimenez is widely expected to come with draft compensation attached, though the Twins enjoy a protected top-ten pick (fifth overall). The team has apparently told at least one free agent's representatives that it will be aggressive on the market.
- The Dodgers could conceivably hatch a strategy to trade for David Price and add Masahiro Tanaka via the posting process, a rival GM tells Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com. By doing that instead of signing a top free agent starter, the club could avoid the loss of its first-round draft choice and the bonus pool allocation that comes with it. Of course, the Dodgers would need to part with more advanced talent to snag Price.
The Dodgers announced on Twitter that they have declined their options on Mark Ellis and Chris Capuano. Ellis' contract contained a $5.75MM club option, and Caupano's deal contained an $8MM mutual option. Each player will receive a $1MM buyout.
Ellis, 36, batted .270/.323/.351 with six homers and four steals in 126 games (480 plate appearances) for the Dodgers this season. As is typically the case, he was a standout defender at second base, posting marks of +7.6 in UZR/150 and +12 in The Fielding Bible's Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) metric. I speculated earlier today that the Dodgers may be able to trade Ellis to a team in need of an upgrade at the keystone position, as his $5.75MM option was plenty reasonable, but the veteran will now be able to negotiate with any club.
Capuano, 35, pitched to a 4.26 ERA with 6.9 K/9 and 2.0 BB/9 in 105 2/3 innings for the Dodgers this season. While his role with the club was uncertain early on, injuries opened up a rotation spot, and 20 of his 24 appearances for the Dodgers wound up being starts. A .334 batting average on balls in play shows that Capuano was the victim of some poor luck, and his FIP reflects that, projecting that his ERA should've been closer to 3.55.
The Dodgers showed a clear readiness to move on from Ellis when they inked Cuban infielder Alexander Guerrero to a four-year $28MM contract on Oct. 22. In terms of pitching depth, they can afford to let Capuano go in search of higher-profile options, given the presence of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-jin Ryu, Josh Beckett, Chad Billingsley and Stephen Fife.
Here are today's minor transactions, with the most recent moves at the top of the page...
- Right-hander Peter Moylan has elected to become a free agent, according to the MLB.com transactions page. The Dodgers designated Moylan for assignment last week to create 40-man roster space for the newly-signed Alexander Guerrero. Moylan posted a 6.46 ERA in 15 1/3 relief innings for Los Angeles last season and was plagued by injuries in 2011-12, but the Aussie righty posted a 2.59 ERA in 260 2/3 IP out of the Braves bullpen from 2006-12.
- The Rays outrighted Freddy Guzman to Triple-A Durham and off the Major League 40-man roster, Roger Mooney of the Tampa Bay Tribune reports (Twitter link). Guzman will become a minor league free agent five days after the end of the World Series. Guzman appeared in one Major League game (his first since 2009) last season, stealing a base and scoring as a pinch-runner. Guzman has spent most of the last three seasons in the Mexican League and he posted a .855 OPS in 450 PA with Ciudad del Carmen in 2013.
- Now that Moylan is a free agent, the Red Sox Pedro Beato and the Padres' Colt Hynes and Tommy Layne are the only players remaining in DFA limbo, according to MLBTR's DFA Tracker.
The Yankees should sign reliever David Robertson to an extension, River Ave Blues' Mike Axisa argues. By signing Robertson now, Axisa argues, the Yankees will get to pay setup man rates for him. If, in the wake of Mariano Rivera's retirement, Robertson takes the Yankees' closer job in 2014 and performs reasonably well, he'll stand to make much more money after the season, when he becomes a free agent. But signing him now could be tricky, Axisa notes, since it will also be clear to Robertson what he stands to gain by closing for a year and then hitting the free agent market. Axisa proposes a three-year, $21MM deal. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.
- The Dodgers' pursuit of pitcher Masahiro Tanaka appears to be "the most obvious move since Brad Pitt sidled up to Angelina Jolie," writes Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times. Dilbeck cites the Dodgers' signings of Hyun-Jin Ryu, Yasiel Puig and Alexander Guerrero as evidence that the team will use its considerable financial heft to pursue the biggest-name international free agents. "We've scouted him a lot, we're very much aware of him," says GM Ned Colletti. "We saw him as recently as two days ago."
- Pitchers Tim Berry and Chris Jones and catchers Caleb Joseph and Michael Ohlman are all candidates to be added to the Orioles' 40-man roster this offseason, MASNsports.com's Steve Melewski writes. Jones, who spent most of the 2013 season pitching in relief at Triple-A Norfolk, is eligible for minor-league free agency, but Baltimore would like to keep him.
Matt Swartz has developed a very accurate model that MLBTR uses to project arbitration salaries, as explained in this series of posts. We've heard from many MLB teams and agencies that reference the projections in their work. The Dodgers are next in our series. Estimated service time is in parentheses, and estimated 2014 salary follows.
- Clayton Kershaw (5.105): $18.2MM
- Kenley Jansen (3.073): $4.8MM
- A.J. Ellis (3.151): $3.2MM
- Ronald Belisario (3.151): $2.3MM
- Drew Butera (3.018): $700K
- Scott Elbert (3.069): $600K
- Mike Baxter (2.129, Super Two): $500K
Kershaw easily has the largest projected salary of the 200+ arbitration eligible players. Furthermore, his projection tops the largest arbitration reward in MLB history, Prince Fielder's $15.5MM in 2011. Cole Hamels set the record for a pitcher with $15MM in 2012. We had to invoke the Kimbrel Rule in limiting Kershaw's raise to $6.9MM.
There seems to be a general feeling that Kershaw has little chance of reaching the open market, because the Dodgers have the money and intent to sign their ace long-term within the next 12 months (and preferably before the 2014 season begins). The largest contract ever given to a pitcher remains the seven-year, $161MM deal C.C. Sabathia signed with the Yankees nearly five years ago. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported progress in June between the Dodgers and Kershaw on a seven-year deal worth more than $180MM, with other proposals under discussion such as $250MM over 10 years and $300MM over 12 years. In August, Rosenthal reported that the Dodgers and Kershaw were close to a seven-year, $210MM deal that would have included a player opt-out clause after five years, from which the Dodgers backed off. This month, ESPN's Buster Olney wrote about a $300MM lifetime contract the Dodgers had offered earlier in the season, perhaps the same one to which Rosenthal referred in June. Players must file for arbitration on January 14th next year, with figures to be exchanged on the 17th, but I imagine the Dodgers and Kershaw will be willing to talk about a long-term deal up until Opening Day.
Closer Kenley Jansen posted another fine season, though perhaps his first 30-save campaign will come in 2014 assuming he owns the job from the start of the season. There is no extension model for three-plus closers, so the Dodgers and Jansen would have to forge new territory to get a deal done.
Ellis' production declined from 2012, to .238/.318/.364 in 448 plate appearances. The team could consider trading Ellis to open up a pursuit of Brian McCann or Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Butera, a backup type acquired for depth at the trade deadline, will likely be non-tendered.
The Dodgers picked up Baxter from the Mets on a waiver claim this month, suggesting they'll consider tendering him a contract. He'll make something around the league minimum, so it's really about how they want to use the roster spot. Elbert, a 28-year-old lefty reliever, had Tommy John surgery in June and is a non-tender candidate. Belisario was not particularly good this year, with ERAs around 8.00 in June and September. He did have a 3.97 ERA overall and the Dodgers liked him enough to use him in the playoffs, so he's probably safe.
Assuming the Dodgers tender contracts to Kershaw, Jansen, Ellis, Belisario, and Baxter, they're looking at an estimated $29MM for five arbitration eligible players.
The Dodgers' climbed from the bottom of the NL West all the way to the top thanks to a 42-8 midseason tear. After reaching the NLCS, L.A. hopes to take the next step in 2014.
- Matt Kemp, OF: $128MM through 2019
- Zack Greinke, SP: $118MM through 2018
- Adrian Gonzalez, 1B: $106MM through 2018
- Carl Crawford, OF: $82.5MM through 2017
- Andre Ethier, OF: $71.5MM through 2017
- Hyun-jin Ryu, SP: $28.5MM through 2018
- Alexander Guerrero, 2B: $28MM through 2017
- Yasiel Puig, OF: $26MM through 2017
- Brandon League, RP: $17MM through 2015
- Hanley Ramirez, SS: $16MM through 2014
- Josh Beckett, SP: $15.75MM through 2014
- Chad Billingsley, SP: $12MM through 2014
Arbitration Eligibles (service time in parentheses)
- Clayton Kershaw, SP (5.105): $19MM projected salary
- Kenley Jansen, RP (3.073): $4.8MM
- A.J. Ellis, C (3.151): $3.2MM
- Ronald Belisario, RP (3.151): $2.3MM
- Drew Butera, C (3.017): $700K (non-tender candidate)
- Scott Elbert, RP (3.069): $600K (non-tender candidate)
The Dodgers got their offseason started in a big way last Tuesday when they signed Cuban second baseman Alexander Guerrero to a four-year, $28MM contract that could reach $32MM via incentives. The Dodgers were supposed to be the Yankees' biggest foe in their bid to re-sign Robinson Cano, but the deal seemingly takes them out of the running. It's worth noting, however, that landing Cano is just improbable at this stage, not impossible. In theory, the Dodgers could move Hanley Ramirez - who could see a new deal with the club this winter - to third base and play Guerrero at shortstop, but Guerrero's defensive skillset is better suited for the other side of the bag. However, it has been rumored for the last few months that L.A. wasn't going to make a serious play for Cano and Magic Johnson pretty much confirmed that line of thinking earlier this month. Besides, the Dodgers figure to have some pretty serious expenses ahead of them.
The Dodgers hope to lock up Clayton Kershaw for the foreseeable future and at some point during the season they went to their star left-hander with a $300MM offer. The 25-year-old backed out of the talks because he apparently had reservations about the length of the deal (it was said to be a "lifetime" contract) and didn't want to have an unnecessary distraction during the year. Regardless, the two sides will meet at the negotiating table this winter and whether or not the deal breaks the $300MM barrier, it is all but guaranteed to be the largest contract ever given to a pitcher, topping CC Sabathia's $161MM pact signed in 2008.
More immediately, the Dodgers have to figure out what to do about their managerial situation. Don Mattingly's contract option for 2014 has vested, but the Dodgers seem to be waffling on whether they want him back and the skipper says he'll honor the deal, but he wants a multi-year pact to avoid lame duck status. The coaching staff is now more or less set, meaning that the Dodgers are probably either looking to retain the former Yankees great or go with someone in-house. Third-base coach Tim Wallach is said to be a strong candidate if there is a change in the dugout.
Los Angeles has a number of free agents this season and they'll probably have at least a few holes to fill. Both second baseman Mark Ellis ($5.75MM option, $1MM buyout) and third baseman Juan Uribe can hit the open market and while Guerrero's arrival can help fill one position or the other, he can't do both. Odds are, Guerrero will be slotted in at second base, displacing Ellis from the starting lineup, but the Dodgers could welcome the 36-year-old back as a reserve. Uribe turned over a new leaf in 2013 (.278/.331/.438 with 12 homers) and gave the Dodgers a solid everyday play in the hot corner. Given the lack viable third base options available on the open market, it would be wise to re-sign the veteran. The trade market for third baseman is headlined by Chase Headley, but the Dodgers will be hard-pressed to pry him away from one of their divisional rivals. Thinking outside of the box, they could call up the Brewers and see if they can work out a deal for Aramis Ramirez in which Milwaukee eats a good portion of his $20MM salary. If they want to play musical chairs with their infield by putting Ramirez at third, they can go out and get a shortstop instead. Stephen Drew will be a free agent and Jhonny Peralta is available and unlikely to return in Detroit.
The Dodgers will also have some housekeeping to do when it comes to their infield depth. Michael Young, Jerry Hairston Jr., Nick Punto, and Skip Schumaker are all eligible for free agency. Young could conceivably be their third base answer if Uribe isn't retained, but they'd probably prefer someone who can do more defensively. Punto would offer that defensive acumen, but he's lacking at the plate.
The Dodgers' rotation is quite strong at the top with Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Hyun-Jin Ryu, but there are some question marks beyond that. Chad Billingsley and Josh Beckett could fill the No. 4 and 5 spots, but they'll both be recovering from surgeries. Re-signing free agent Ricky Nolasco would be a great way to shore up the back end of the starting five and the Dodgers would almost certainly welcome him back if they knew they could have the pitcher they saw from July through early September. The wheels came off a little bit in his final few starts of the year, but those rough outings only bumped his ERA to 3.52 with 7.8 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 in 15 starts and one relief appearance for L.A. In September, when Nolasco had a 2.07 ERA in 74 innings for the Dodgers, Tim Dierkes estimated that he could see a three-year, $36MM contract. Talking to Dierkes now, he's considering upgrading that to a four-year, $52MM deal. If the Guggenheim group is still willing to spend big, they can replace Nolasco with the likes of Ervin Santana or Japanese standout Masahiro Tanaka, whom they're said to be high on. Both players will cost them a pretty penny, but they'll have some breathing room with Ted Lilly and Chris Capuano coming off the books. Who knows, they could even be players for Rays ace David Price if they want to make an enormous splash.
A.J. Ellis seems likely to be back behind the plate as the Dodgers' starting catcher, but it's not a sure thing after he had some hiccups in the postseason. There are talented backstops to be had on the open market like Brian McCann and Jarrod Saltalamacchia and both guys can bring a level of offensive firepower that Ellis does not. Of course, they'll both require quite a bit of coin at a time where catching around baseball is rather thin. Tim believes McCann is in line for a five-year, $80MM deal while Saltalamacchia should see something in the range of $36MM over four years. If the Dodgers want to be a little more fiscally responsible (hey, why are you laughing?) they'll find less expensive veteran options like A.J. Pierzynski and Carlos Ruiz.
Much of the Dodgers bullpen will return in 2014, but two key members - Brian Wilson and J.P. Howell - might not. Wilson could very well take his talents and his beard elsewhere after pitching extremely well (0.66 ERA with 13 strikeouts and four walks over 13.2 innings) in his brief time with the Dodgers. Howell was also sharp (2.03 ERA with 7.8 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 67 appearances and figures to be one of the most sought-after left-handers this winter. If one or both go, they can look into setup men like Jesse Crain and LaTroy Hawkins.
That pretty much covers the Dodgers' holes, but they have quite an enviable talent surplus in the outfield with Yasiel Puig, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, and Carl Crawford. The Dodgers could plug their other holes by moving one of the four. It goes without saying that Puig is staying put. Crawford is probably staying put too, seeing as how he's owed a small fortune between now and 2017. One would probably think that Ethier is more likely to be moved than Kemp, but from the outside it looks like either one could be moved depending on how the market plays out. Ethier has been maddeningly inconsistent but Kemp should bring in a greater return, injury concerns and all. There is an option C, of course: keeping all four. The Dodgers know that they can't bank on the health of Crawford or Kemp, so having four high-level outfielders would be a wonderful luxury to have.
After piecing together a payroll big enough to make a Jerry Bruckheimer film blush, the Dodgers are eager to put it all together in 2014. With some patching up, they can carry their second half surge into a strong wire-to-wire effort next season.
Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis offers his thoughts on this year's World Series contenders in a special piece for the Los Angeles Times. In the article, Ellis breaks down the Dodgers' loss to the Cardinals in the NL Championship Series, as well as the approaches of the St. Louis and Boston offenses. More Saturday night National League links:
- Congratulations to the Cardinals' Carlos Beltran, who was presented with the Roberto Clemente Award earlier this evening for his contributions on and off the field. As Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch notes, the Carlos Beltran Baseball Academy, the high school that the outfielder established in Puerto Rico, has graduated its first class of students.
- Many of the players that Tony La Russa led to a World Series victory in 2011 as manager of the Cardinals are no longer with the team, but La Russa says that the organizational culture remains unchanged. The team is “set up real well for the next three to four years," he comments in an article by Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. La Russa also offers praise for current Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny and his thoughts on the role of the manager in today's game.
- Sources tell Troy Renck of The Denver Post that the Rockies bid as much as $63MM for Jose Dariel Abreu, who eventually signed with the White Sox for $68MM over six years. Renck says the revelation that the Rockies are willing to go as high as $10MM annually for a player is an "intriguing development" and notes that the club is expected to sift through possibilities in the outfield and at first base. The Rockies also appear to ready to listen to offers for Dexter Fowler, Renck writes.
Here's the latest news from Motown...
- The Tigers interviewed Dodgers third base coach Tim Wallach for their vacant manager's job today, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports (Twitter link). ESPN's Jonah Keri tweeted earlier tonight that "talks [were] escalating" between Wallach and the club, and Wallach himself confirmed the interview in a text message to Mlive.com's Chris Iott. "I thought it went well," Wallach said in the text. "It's a very good ballclub and I know how Dave [Dombrowski] works. He was my general manager in Montreal."
- Earlier this week in an article for Grantland, Keri opined that the Tigers could address their baserunning and defensive problems by signing Jacoby Ellsbury. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe also noted Ellsbury as a fit for Detroit last weekend, and the Tigers have a good relationship with Scott Boras, Ellsbury's agent.
- The Tigers have already spent so much on payroll in recent years that Tony Paul of the Detroit News wonders if the team has reached the limits of its budget and may have to make lower-priced additions this offseason.
- Hitting coach Lloyd McClendon is the only other candidate to interview for the job thus far, and John Lowe of the Detroit Free Press wonders if third base coach Tom Brookens or bullpen coach Mike Rojas will also receive interviews or if the Tigers will limit internal candidates to prevent any issues if one coach beats another out for the job.