Dodgers are ahead of last year’s curve
With nearly $80 million spent this off-season, the Dodgers look better than they did at this time last year.
And at least one of the three teams that finished ahead of them in the National League West looks significantly worse: the San Diego Padres.
The Padres, who led the division as late as Sept. 25 and finished second to the World Series champion San Francisco Giants, did what teams with no money do: trade their best hitter for prospects.
All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez is now property of the Boston Red Sox. Barring significant changes, the Padres, who had a higher team batting average than only the Pittsburgh Pirates and Seattle Mariners last season, figure to be non-contenders next year.
“Adrian Gonzalez is a great player, no doubt,” Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti said. “We saw him enough for a long time.
“I don’t think anybody in the National League is sorry to see him go to the American League.”
The teams most likely to contend with the Dodgers for the division title, the Giants and the Colorado Rockies, right now are more or less the same teams they were a season ago.
The Giants fended off the Dodgers to re-sign first baseman Aubrey Huff to a two-year, $22-million contract. World Series hero Juan Uribe defected to the Dodgers, but the Giants made up for it by adding Miguel Tejada, who finished up last season with ... the Padres.
The Rockies re-signed free-agent starting pitcher Jorge De La Rosa and locked up 26-year-old power-hitting shortstop Troy Tulowitzki through 2020. They signed free agents Ty Wigginton, who will provide cover at first base in case Todd Helton’s health or declining skills become issues, and Jose Lopez, who hit 25 home runs only two seasons ago.
The Dodgers might not be able to match the top of the Giants’ rotation, which features Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, but will be six-deep in starting pitching if Vicente Padilla passes his physical this week. Padilla will return as a swingman and possible closer since the Dodgers signed three starters earlier this winter: Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda and Jon Garland.
The Dodgers continued to round out their roster Wednesday, settling on contract terms with Dioner Navarro to back up starting catcher Rod Barajas, according to baseball sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the deal is pending a physical.
The addition of Navarro almost certainly will seal the departure of Russell Martin, whose emergence led the Dodgers to trade Navarro to the Tampa Bay Rays in 2006.
Like Martin, the 26-year-old Navarro became a free agent last week when he wasn’t tendered a contract. Like Martin, Navarro is a former All-Star whose offensive production has declined over the last couple of seasons.
A .295 hitter in 2008, Navarro batted .194 in 48 games last season, prompting the Rays to exclude him from their playoff roster.
It appears that Martin is close to moving on. Agent Matt Colleran said Martin has received multiple contract offers.
The Dodgers remain in search of a left fielder and are among the teams courting Bill Hall, who hit 18 home runs but struck out 104 times in 119 games with the Red Sox last season.
The Dodgers inquired about former Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke, but are yet to hear from the Kansas City Royals.