Dodgers’ shortage of arms could be cause for alarm
Staff writer Dylan Hernandez examines five issues facing the Dodgers as they head into the winter meetings, which begin today in Indianapolis. (Keys in boldface correspond to boldface in lineup):
Itching for pitching
By declining to offer Randy Wolf arbitration, the Dodgers essentially bid their most reliable starter farewell. And if they didn’t want him back on a one-year deal -- albeit a potentially expensive one -- it doesn’t appear likely that they’ll offer him the kind of multiyear contract he is seeking.
Wolf’s likely departure leaves the Dodgers short on arms and experience in their starting rotation, which returns only Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley and Hiroki Kuroda.
The Dodgers have already said they won’t pursue free agent John Lackey and their chances of acquiring Roy Halladay from Toronto appear slim.
The Dodgers could bring back midseason additions Vicente Padilla and Jon Garland, but will do so only at the right price and length of contract.
General Manager Ned Colletti could do what he did a year ago, when he waited until late in the off-season to sign a starting pitcher. Doing so allowed Colletti to pounce on a pitcher who misread the market and sign him to a bargain deal. That pitcher was Wolf.
Who’s on second?
Seven of the Dodgers’ eight starting position players from 2009 are under contract. The lone vacancy is at second base.
Orlando Hudson, who played the position most of the season, wasn’t offered arbitration by the Dodgers and is even less likely to re-sign with them than is Wolf.
Ronnie Belliard, a late-season pickup, could be brought back, but, like Padilla and Garland, only at the right price. The Dodgers could also turn to in-house candidate Blake DeWitt, a 24-year-old converted third baseman.
The Dodgers were prepared to go with DeWitt as their starting second baseman last season until they signed Hudson early in spring training. The team appears to be taking a similar wait-and-see approach now.
Juan Pierre turned into a fan favorite last summer, but still was the team’s fourth outfielder when Manny Ramirez returned from his 50-game suspension for violating baseball’s drug policy.
While Pierre has value as a reserve -- particularly with Ramirez turning 38 in May and likely needing frequent days off -- the development of prospect Xavier Paul could make him expendable.
To move Pierre, the Dodgers might have to agree to pay a significant portion of the $18.5 million owed him over the next two seasons. Their preference would be to trade Pierre for a pitcher with a similar contract in what would be a swap of oversized deals.
The importance of the Dodgers’ bench last season cannot be overstated. Because catcher Brad Ausmus and infielders Mark Loretta and Juan Castro were hitting early in the season, the Dodgers were able to carry 13 pitchers until Manager Joe Torre settled on roles for his previously unproven relievers.
The Dodgers are trying to re-sign Ausmus, but who will provide depth in the infield is anyone’s guess. The club isn’t expected to pursue Loretta. Castro signed with the Phillies, which could result in an opening on the major league roster for former minor league
player of the year Chin-lung Hu.
Colletti has perfected the art of dumpster diving. His ability to pull gems out of scrap heaps could be more important now than in years past, considering the budget restraints he appears to be operating under.
Jeff Weaver, Ronald Belisario, Eric Milton and Charlie Haeger made surprising contributions last season.
Among the potential reclamation pitching projects the Dodgers are thinking of undertaking include once-effective reliever Luis Ayala and former Giants pitcher Noah Lowry, who has been sidelined the last two years by arm trouble. Lowry might give the Dodgers a second left-hander in a predominantly right-handed starting rotation.
The Dodgers’ projected lineup, based on current roster. (Keys in boldface correspond to boldface in story):
|1. Rafael Furcal||shortstop|
|2. Matt Kemp||center field|
|3. Andre Ethier||right field|
|4. Manny Ramirez||left field|
|5. James Loney||first base|
|6. Casey Blake||third base|
|7. Russell Martin||catcher|
|8. Blake DeWitt||second base|
|1. Clayton Kershaw||left-handed|
|2. Chad Billingsley||right-handed|
|3. Hiroki Kuroda||right-handed|
|4. James McDonald||right-handed|
|5. Charlie Haeger||right-handed|
|Jonathan Broxton (closer)||right-handed|
|George Sherrill (setup)||left-handed|
|BEST OF THE BENCH|