Los Angeles Dodgers Rumors

Javy Guerra Drawing Trade Interest

Dodgers reliever Javy Guerra is drawing trade interest from several teams, a source tells MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo (via Twitter). The Dodgers designated Guerra for assignment last weekend.

It's not surprising that Guerra is attracting interest. He was a key part of the Dodgers' bullpens in both 2011 and 2012, serving as their closer in parts of both seasons. He spent much of 2013 in Triple-A Albuquerque, but he posted good numbers in a tough environment for pitchers, with a 3.66 ERA, 8.2 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 in 39 1/3 innings. He's also only 28 and is not yet arbitration-eligible. He is out of options, which limited the Dodgers' flexibility with him following an offseason in which they signed free-agent relievers Brian Wilson, Chris Perez and Jamey Wright.

Offseason In Review: Los Angeles Dodgers

After somewhat quietly spending over a hundred million dollars in free agency, and not so quietly committing about double that to extend their best pitcher, the Dodgers return a high-priced, star-studded team that will be disappointed with anything less than a championship.

Major League Signings

  • Alexander Guerrero, 2B: four years, $28MM.
  • Erisbel Arruebarrena, SS: five years, $25MM.
  • Juan Uribe, 3B: two years, $15MM.
  • J.P. Howell, LHP: two years, $11.25MM.
  • Brian Wilson, RHP: one year, $10MM. Includes $9MM player option for 2015.
  • Dan Haren, RHP: one year, $10MM.
  • Chris Perez, RHP: one year, $2.3MM.
  • Jamey Wright, RHP: one year, $1.8MM.
  • Paul Maholm, LHP: one year, $1.5MM.
  • Total Spend: $113.85MM (Including Wilson option)
Notable Minor League Signings
Trades and Claims
Notable Losses
Needs Addressed
After the ownership change, massive spending, and public attention on the game's apparent new force, the Dodgers had a mandate going into this offseason: lock down homegrown ace Clayton Kershaw. GM Ned Colletti got it done, signing the big lefty to a record-setting pact that will keep him in Los Angeles through his age-32 season ... at least, unless he opts out two years prior to gain a chance at another massive payday. Either way, the Dodgers avoided the scenario (however unlikely) of losing one of the game's very best players after the upcoming season.
For a team with championship aspirations, another key issue was the contract situation of manager Don Mattingly, who seemed unhappy to be entering the year without a guarantee extending to the future. The club put an end to any possible problems in that arena by giving Mattingly an extension that covers the 2014-16 seasons.
Beyond taking care of their own, the Dodgers did face several roster decisions, especially after declining the options of Capuano and Ellis (the latter somewhat more surprisingly than the former). That left openings at both second and third as well as some innings to fill at the back of the rotation and the pen. And, of course, there was the question whether Los Angeles would make a play for a top-end free agent, with Robinson Cano, Brian McCann, and Masahiro Tanaka all looking like possible targets for the west coast financial powerhouse. 
But the club did not end up making any top-dollar acquisitions. While it most looked like a player on Tanaka, Los Angeles seemingly pulled out of engaging in a real bidding war with the Yankees. Nevertheless, while landing far short of the Yanks' extraordinary outlay through free agency, the Dodgers did still manage to guarantee over $104MM through free agency (plus an additional $9MM promise to Wilson through his player option), the fourth-highest tally in the league. That was accomplished through volume: Colletti and company gave out as many guaranteed deals as did the Yankees (9), but promised just 18 years at an average annual value of $5.83MM through those contracts. (New York, by contrast, purchased 29 total seasons at the average cost of $16.24MM per.)  
That spending matched up -- theoretically, at least -- with the needs just outlined above. Uribe will reprise his role at the hot corner on a fairly modest contract, considering his production levels last year. (Of course, detractors would point to his less-than-stellar work for a stretch beforehand.) Haren and Maholm will provide rotation depth, especially with uncertainty still surrounding Josh Beckett and Chad Billingsley. The latter figures to start the year in the pen, but provides a nice depth option at quite a low price, especially when one considers that Jason Vargas landed four years and $32MM.
Maholm will join Wilson, Howell, Wright, and Perez to form a deep unit in front of outstanding closer Kenley Jansen. (Indeed, the club just designated the seemingly useful Javy Guerra for assignment.) Of course, it is fair to wonder whether Wilson's deal was worth the risk: the 32-year-old threw less than 20 innings last year after returning from his second Tommy John surgery, yet got arguably the best contract of any free agent reliever. (His $19MM total guarantee falls $1MM of that given Joe Nathan by the Tigers, but Wilson's second year is a player option -- giving him upside if he performs -- while Nathan gave up a third-year option.)
The two largest commitments -- Guerrero and Arruebarrena, a pair of Cuban prospects who signed for a total of $53MM -- were expected to provide some answers up the middle. The defensive specialist Arruebarrena looks like a long-term investment: a high-floor prospect who will try to develop his bat in the upper minors. But Guerrero was seemingly signed to occupy the open slot at second. Said to have an MLB-ready bat at age 27, Guerrero entered camp with only fallen prospect Dee Gordon and a series of minor league free agents standing between him and the Opening Day roster. 
Questions Remaining
If second base was a question mark entering the offseason, it is a much greater one (in relative terms) now. Having declined the option of the solid-but-unspectacular Ellis, and seen that Guerrero was in need of seasoning before he can handle an everyday MLB role at a new position, Los Angeles is left with the prospect of starting Gordon at second. The risk is not difficult to spot: soon to turn 26, Gordon has posted a .256/.301/.312 line in 669 MLB plate appearances, and advanced defensive metrics have rated his glovework at short as below average. While he has speed to spare (66 career stolen bases), he may not profile as much more than a replacement-level player.
Can Gordon reclaim his former promise? Will Guerrero put it together once given some time to adjust in Triple-A? The answers could ultimately prove favorable to the Dodgers, but these are not questions that this team hoped to be facing as it lands in Sydney to prepare to kick off the season. It is tough to imagine that the team is not rethinking somewhat its decision to give Ellis a $1MM buyout rather than paying him $5.75MM to stick around for another season.
Similar issues seem present in the bench, where the Dodgers are reportedly looking to make additions at this late hour. Tim Federowicz is not a terribly exciting second catching option to pair with a solid-but-limited starter in A.J. Ellis. (Ellis had a tough year at the plate in 2013, delivers little pop, and has not been a very good pitch framer.) Otherwise, the team seems to have settled upon a relatively marginal mix, which at this point appears likely to include Scott Van Slyke, Justin Turner, Mike Baxter, and Chone Figgins. While there are things to like about each player, it would be difficult to say that there is much impact among that group.
Of course, there is still one source of possible impact off of the bench, although it could also be a source of trouble. With Matt Kemp still working back from injury, the oft-discussed four-way outfield situation has yet to come to a head. At some point, presumably, the team will be faced with managing the return of its highest-paid position player when three other well-paid players (Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier, and Yasiel Puig) have started the year with everyday jobs. If no injury, performance issue, or trade intercedes, the team will ultimately need to work out a way to manage four players who each "[want] to play every day," as Kemp himself said.
Finally, it is worth remembering that the Dodgers have yet to lock down shortstop Hanley Ramirez, who has been incredible since joining the club (at least while he has been on the field). There has been little reported movement on that front in recent weeks. Another big year could well leave Ramirez as the prize of the 2015 position player free agent market, and it may take a big contract to lock him up at this point. While Ramirez says he wants to stay with the organization long-term, it is still far from clear what both sides' parameters are.
One thing to keep an eye on, as well, is how the Dodgers' new TV network manages the negotiations to distribute the club's games in the Los Angeles market. There is a tendency to assume success with the announcement of each new television contract, but there is still plenty of risk in the execution of the entity's business plan. While the Dodgers reportedly have some protections in place to guarantee their income stream, the details remain hazy. 
Deal of Note
Much as I wanted to find a creative way to highlight something else, it is tough to ignore a contract that delivers the highest-ever annual salary for a Major League ballplayer -- all the moreso when it is an extension for a pitcher. The Clayton Kershaw contract is, in some respects, the least-interesting mega-deal one could imagine: He has established himself as the game's best pitcher and is just entering his age-26 season. The Dodgers just signed an unfathomably large new TV deal and are one of the league's true glamour teams. Nobody seems surprised by the number ($215MM), large as it is.
On the other hand, the deal is certainly notable for the fact that it includes an opt-out clause permitting Kershaw to reach the open market after five years. (MLBTR's Tim Dierkes examined the history of opt-out clauses, in light of Kershaw's massive payday.) Relatively rare in the first place, the opt-out clause in Kershaw's deal is the first given to a pitcher in an extension scenario. (Only Vernon Wells and Elvis Andrus received extension clauses before Kershaw.) Having taken on $215MM of risk on one man's left arm, the Dodgers will not reserve for themselves the upside of his last two seasons if things work out. 
In the end, however, Kershaw may have had unprecedented bargaining power for a player. His incredible performance, stature, and youth -- combined with the situation of his current team and his own proximity to free agency -- left him situated as well as one could reasonably hope to drive a whole new kind of bidding war. Giving up that possibility was always going to cost a lot of money, and the Dodgers managed to secure Kershaw without clearly overspending relative to his demonstrated ability.
What do you buy for the team that has everything -- or, at least, has the money to buy everything it does not have? That was the question seemingly facing Colletti in the offseason, and it was interesting to see how he responded. The club spent a lot of money, but its largest single commitment fell shy of those made by teams like the Astros, Brewers, Royals, and Twins.
Many have noted the potential value in the contracts given players like Haren, Maholm, and some of the bullpen additions. But while the Dodgers spent the fourth-most money in the league, it remains to be seen whether the club maximized the impact of those dollars in on-field results. The Wilson contract was certainly a risky proposition. With such a talented and expensive roster, it is fair to ask whether some of the team's still-sizeable outlay should have gone to a premium free agent at an area of potential impact, such as McCann. Alternatively, perhaps, with a bench set to be populated by several players picked off of waivers or added on minor league deals, some cash might have been well spent on achieving more production from the non-regular segment of the roster. 
Most of all, of course, Los Angeles faces a big hole at second. If the club has anything less than a strong start and the keystone looks to be a part of the problem, there will be intense pressure to act decisively to find a solution. That is rarely a good situation to be in. Likewise, the club will have to tread cautiously in managing its four outfielders, a situation that could result in friction. Though predictions would be unwise -- the matter depends upon a multitude of hard-to-pin-down factors -- suffice it to say that the scrutiny is already primed. 
It has become popular to lampoon the Dodgers for their free-spending ways, and indeed the club did manage to spend a princely sum through free agency. But the outlay was of quite a different character than the club's bold series of trades and free agent signings before the 2013 season. Does this signal an end to the organization's seemingly limitless dispensing of cash? A change in strategy? A reflection of the front office's evaluation of the talent and market rates being paid? It is hard to know, but we can expect that many such questions will be asked if the Dodgers do not ride their league-leading $225MM+ payroll all the way to a parade through downtown Los Angeles.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NL West Notes: Wieland, Dodgers, Lyles

The Padres have already taken a hit to their starting pitching depth after losing Cory Luebke to a second Tommy John surgery, and now right-hander Joe Wieland could suffer the same fate. Wieland is scheduled to have an MRI on his sore right elbow today, and Yahoo's Jeff Passan tweeted late last night that there's "significant concern" throughout the organization, with a re-torn UCL being the worst-case scenario. Wieland, like Luebke, spent the 2013 season recovering from 2012 Tommy John surgery. A second Tommy John surgery has become a familiar refrain around MLB of late; Daniel Hudson underwent his second Tommy John last summer, and there's a strong likelihood that Braves hurlers Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy will do so as well. D'Backs lefty Patrick Corbin could be headed for his first Tommy John surgery as well.

Here are a couple of other NL-West-related items...

  • The Dodgers are currently on the lookout for bench help, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, who questions how the club could spent $225MM on payroll but enter the season with such a weak group of reserve players. Rival evaluators in Spring Training consider the Dodgers' bench to be the weakest in the division, says Rosenthal.
  • Within that piece, Rosenthal reports that the Dodgers indicated to Mark Ellis early in the offseason that another two-year deal was a possibility. However, Ellis eventually grew weary of the Dodgers' indecisiveness, as they offered a one-year deal after signing Alexander Guerrero. Rosenthal adds that one potential scenario last summer was for the Dodgers to flip Zach Lee to the Angels for Howie Kendrick, then move Ellis to Kansas City for Luke Hochevar, but ownership nixed the Kendrick-for-Lee swap.
  • Troy Renck of the Denver Post writes that while the Rockies initially thought right-hander Jordan Lyles would need some time in the minors when they acquired him in the Dexter Fowler trade, Lyles is forcing his way into immediate rotation consideration. He's competing with Franklin Morales for the fifth starter's role, and Lyles could benefit from the fact that Morales has bullpen experience. Manager Walt Weiss told Renck that Lyles is viewed strictly as a starter, so Morales could end up in relief with Lyles in the starting five.

Dodgers Designate Javy Guerra For Assignment

The Dodgers have designated pitcher Javy Guerra for assignment to make room on the roster for utilityman Chone Figgins, MLB.com's Ken Gurnick tweets. Guerra spent most of the 2013 season with Triple-A Albuquerque and posted a 6.75 ERA with 10.1 K/9 and 5.1 BB/9 in just 10 2/3 innings in the big leagues. He was, however, an effective member of the Dodgers' 2011 and 2012 bullpens, even serving as their closer in parts of both seasons, and he's still just 28. He entered 2014 out of options, and it would have been tricky for the Dodgers to fit him into a crowded bullpen.

Figgins, meanwhile, appears to be headed back to the Majors. He last appeared in the big leagues with the Mariners in 2012, when he hit .181/.262/.271 in 194 plate appearances.

NL Notes: Niese, D'backs, Pirates, Marlins, Dodgers

Mets left-hander Jon Niese was removed from his start today after only two innings and 35 pitches with what the club calls left elbow discomfort. Niese had been wearing a neoprene sleve on his left arm the past few days, tweets Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News. "It's the Spring Training from hell," Niese told reporters (as quoted by ESPNNewYork.com's Adam Rubin). Niese also said he hyperextended the elbow, which first flared up during an intrasquad game 10 days ago, and has been taking anti-inflammatory medication and undergoing rehab since. Niese added the discomfort is in the back of the elbow, not in the ligament area (the focus of Tommy John surgery). The Mets are flying the 27-year-old to New York tonight with a MRI, his second in less than three weeks, scheduled for tomorrow, tweets Marc Carig of Newsday

Elsewhere in the National League:

Miguel Olivo Requests Release From Dodgers

Veteran catcher Miguel Olivo has asked the Dodgers to release him after learning he would not be part of the club's trip to Australia to open the season, reports MLB.com's Tyler Emerick. The report indicates that Olivo has not yet been released, but hopes to pursue a MLB job elsewhere if he is. The Dodgers did announce they have reassigned Olivo to their minor league camp.

The 36-year-old said he would not report to minor league camp and accept a MiLB assignment, as the team has requested (the Dodgers have tweeted Olivo has been reassigned to their minor league camp). He has been battling with Drew Butera to be the team's third catcher to open the year, behind A.J. Ellis and Tim Federowicz, as the club will get to bring five additional players to Australia. Olivo, who reportedly has had a solid spring thus far, is at a disadvantage in that Butera would have to pass through waivers to be stashed in the minors.

It is not yet clear whether the Dodgers will grant the backstop's request. Olivo, who is not a Rule XX(B) free agent, apparently does not have an opt-out date until June. He went through a controversial end to his time with the Marlins last year, when he asked to be released due to lack of playing time. 

West Notes: Urias, Morales, Nady

Top pitching prospect Julio Urias, just 17, will start the Dodgers' spring training game today against the Padres, the team has announced. Urias has never pitched above the Class A Midwest League, where the lefty posted a 2.48 ERA with 11.1 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 in 54 1/3 innings last season. That in itself was an accomplishment, given that it was only Urias' age-16 season, and he was pitching in a full-season league. Baseball America's Prospect Handbook 2014 ranks Urias the Dodgers' third-best prospect, noting that he throws 91-96 MPH, has an advanced approach to pitching, and could make quick progress through the minors. The Dodgers will surely have him start the season in the bush leagues, but even starting a big-league spring training game is quick progress indeed for a 17-year-old. Here are more notes from the West divisions.

  • The Mariners are still trying to re-sign DH Kendrys Morales, ESPN's Jim Bowden tweets. They still would like Morales to reduce his price, however. Morales, of course, is still a free agent because the qualifying offer has depressed his market. Bowden also tweets that Felix Hernandez has been in touch with Morales and says that Morales would like to return if the two sides' financial differences can be resolved.
  • Veteran Xavier Nady is back with the Padres, the team that drafted him, as an NRI, and he's trying to enjoy all the baseball he has left, writes MLB.com's Corey Brock. "I'm thankful for every day to put this uniform on," says Nady. "I know it doesn't last forever, but it's sure been a lot of fun." Nady also looks back to the beginning of his career, when he signed with the Padres in 2000 as a second-round pick out of UC-Berkeley and was immediately promoted to the Majors, where he went 1-for-1 in his only big-league at-bat before heading to the minors for the first time the following season.

West Notes: Dodgers, Mariners, Rangers

One doesn't always associate the Dodgers with bargain signings, but agents tell Ben Nicholson-Smith of SportsNet.ca that the Dodgers' acquisitions of Dan Haren and Paul Maholm are among the most team-friendly of the offseason. L.A. got Haren, who wanted to return to the West Coast, for one year and $10MM, and Maholm on an incentive-based deal. Agents also name the Ervin Santana, Nelson Cruz and A.J. Burnett deals as good ones for teams. Here are more notes from around the West divisions.

  • The Mariners are still open to adding a starting pitcher, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweets. "Our ears are still open," says GM Jack Zduriencik. "We’ll see what happens." Injuries have left the Mariners' rotation uncertain after Felix Hernandez.
  • Zduriencik says the Mariners' attention to detail helped them woo Robinson CanoMLB.com's Barry M. Bloom writes. "Jay-Z came, Robinson Cano came. There were probably eight of them that rolled into Seattle. ... It was Jay-Z's birthday the day before. We had a birthday cake for him. We sang Happy Birthday," Zduriencik says. "We made a great presentation. It was amazing how the whole process came along so quickly."
  • The Rangers had already discussed the idea of trading Ian Kinsler for Prince Fielder before the Tigers proposed it, ESPN Dallas' Richard Durrett reports. The day before Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski called to propose the deal, Rangers assistant GM A.J. Preller had discussed it in a meeting of the Rangers' baseball execs. Durrett's piece is one of two parts about the Rangers' offseason additions of Fielder and Shin-Soo ChooHere's part two, which details a meeting the Rangers had with Choo before they signed him.

Quick Hits: Platoons, Taveras, Billingsley, Coffey, Shoppach, Berroa

Baseball America's Matt Eddy's latest piece is a fascinating look back at the history of platoon usage in Major League Baseball and the increasing role of specialized relievers in Major League bullpens. Last season, more pure left-handed relievers (i.e. lefties who made zero starts) appeared in a season than any year in Major League history. Eddy's piece is rife with tables and charts to provide the breakdown on the numbers behind left-on-left matchups as opposed to right-on-right matchups (not surprisingly, the former leans more heavily in the pitcher's favor) and is well worth the read. Here are some more links from around the league for some late-night Thursday reading...

  • The Cardinals optioned top prospect Oscar Taveras to Triple-A today, putting an early end to a Spring Training that didn't allow him to fully showcase his talents, writes MLB.com's Jen Langosch. Taveras received just six plate appearances in a pair of games after sitting out the first week due to what Langosch calls "hesitancy to fully trust his surgically repaired right ankle." He also left his second and final Spring Training game with a minor hamstring injury.
  • Dodgers right-hander Chad Billingsley is well ahead of schedule in his rehab from Tommy John surgery and could be ready to pitch in the Majors as soon as late April, reports ESPNLosAngeles.com's Mark Saxon. Billingsley will face live hitters next week and begin a minor league rehab assignment on April 3. Billingsley's return further crowds the competition for the team's fifth starter. Josh Beckett or Paul Maholm figures to occupy that role to open the season.
  • Right-hander Todd Coffey has drawn interest from as many as nine to 10 teams and expects to sign right around Opening Day, according to MLB Daily Dish's Chris Cotillo (Twitter links). Coffey is currently throwing 91 to 92 mph in bullpen sessions, he adds. Coffey last pitched in the Majors for the Dodgers in 2012.
  • Cotillo also tweets that free agent catcher Kelly Shoppach is looking to play in 2014 "if the right situation/opportunity presents itself." The 33-year-old isn't close to a deal at this time. He slashed just .199/.288/.339 in 127 PAs between the Mariners and Indians last season.
  • Lastly, Cotillo tweets that former AL Rookie of the Year Angel Berroa, now 34, is seeking a minor league deal to return to affiliated baseball. Berroa spent 2012 playing independent ball and was in the Mexican League last season, where he slashed .293/.362/.462 in 460 trips to the plate.

NL West Links: Rockies, League, Lincecum, Giants

Earlier tonight, Jeff Todd recapped and analyzed the Padres' winter moves in the latest entry of the MLBTR Offseason In Review series.  Jeff has also covered the Giants and Diamondbacks thus far in the OIR series.  Here's some more from around the NL West...

  • "There has been buzz" that the Phillies and Tigers are interested in the Rockies' extra outfielders, Troy Renck of the Denver Post writes.  Even if Colorado uses a center field platoon of one of Corey Dickerson or Charlie Blackmon (both left-handed hitters) and one of Drew Stubbs or Brandon Barnes (both righty batters), that still leaves a surplus.  Detroit could use a left-handed hitting outfielder to replace the injured Andy Dirks, though the Tigers aren't yet sure if they'll look outside the organization to make such a move.
  • Could the Dodgers cut Brandon LeagueSteve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times doesn't quite think the club is ready to take that step given the $17MM remaining on League's contract through 2015.  That deal looks worse and worse for L.A. given how League struggled in 2013 and during this year's Spring Training, while the Dodgers have a number of impressive young bullpen arms who might be relegated to Triple-A.
  • Tim Lincecum dicusses his pitching evolution with Yahoo Sports' Jeff Passan, noting that though he has lost a few miles off his fastball, he is working to become a better overall pitcher as he ages.
  • Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com discusses the Giants' roster and other topics during a Giants-centric chat with readers.

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