As baseball's Hot Stove League burns, are Dodgers fiddling around?

As baseball's Hot Stove League burns, are Dodgers fiddling around?
Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez signals he's safe after scoring a run against the San Francisco Giants in July. (Ben Margot / Associated Press)

The Boston Red Sox got Hanley Ramirez, and Pablo Sandoval too.

The Dodgers got Juan Nicasio. He is a pitcher, given away by the Colorado Rockies, the team most desperate for pitching in all of baseball.


It was that kind of Monday in Los Angeles, on Day 42 of the Friedman administration.

Yes, spring training does not open for three months. Yes, the Dodgers have time to fill vacancies at shortstop, catcher, on their pitching staff and, with the departure of Ramirez, in the heart of their batting order.

And yet the team with the highest payroll in North American sports history has added these players since Andrew Friedman replaced Ned Colletti as the architect of the Dodgers' roster: Nicasio, Joel Peralta, Adam Liberatore, Mike Bolsinger, Kyle Jensen and Ryan Jackson. The first four are pitchers. On Monday, three weeks after they picked up Jackson, they cut him.

Friedman understands that Dodgers fans do not want to hear about trusting the process. They want a World Series, that magical place visited by every other team in the National League West since the Dodgers last got there in 1988.

"Our mind-set is to do everything we can to put together the most talented and deepest roster that we can," Friedman said Monday. "How that shakes out will take time.

"I'm confident we'll be in the position, come opening day, that we feel really good about our collection of talent."

To this point, the talent brought in is relatively anonymous and low paid, but Friedman quietly has started to remedy the most glaring deficiency on last year's team: too many relievers getting paid too much money, with no choice other than to ride them out or let them go.

Peralta, 38, long has handled the seventh inning, but the Dodgers will not be restricted financially if he cannot, as they were this year when Brian Wilson and Chris Perez faltered. Nicasio did not fare well as a starter in Colorado, but the Dodgers like him as a reliever, and they can afford $2 million.

Bolsinger and Liberatore are young and the Dodgers can shuffle them between the majors and minors based on how well they pitch — not stash them in the minors, as they did with Paco Rodriguez last season, because they didn't have the option to demote anyone else.

To the Dodgers, the only breaking news Monday on the Ramirez front was where he would land. The Dodgers extended him a qualifying offer and floated other short-term contract options, but he is a defensive liability at shortstop, and they did not consider him a viable option at third base, either. The Red Sox reportedly guaranteed him $88 million over four years to play left field, with designated hitter available if David Ortiz retires.

The Dodgers do not have the DH option, and they certainly do not need another outfielder. In fact, the new outfield surplus in Boston could complicate the Dodgers' efforts to move one of their outfielders — why haggle with the Dodgers over splitting the contract of Matt Kemp ($107 million), Carl Crawford ($62 million) or Andre Ethier ($56 million) when you can get Yoenis Cespedes ($10.5 million) or Allen Craig ($26.5 million) from the Red Sox?

The Dodgers have one week to decide whether to offer catcher A.J. Ellis a contract to return. At shortstop, the Dodgers have defense-first options in Erisbel Arruebarrena and Miguel Rojas. They are not excited about free agents Stephen Drew or Jed Lowrie, but they would consider trades for Jimmy Rollins of the Philadelphia Phillies or Alexei Ramirez of the Chicago White Sox.

If those names are not big enough to interest fans, the Dodgers have checked in on the top pitchers on the free-agent market: Jon Lester, Max Scherzer and James Shields. It might be due diligence, the better to jump in if they can clear some money, but too soon to say for sure. They would love to trade for Cole Hamels of the Phillies but have no more interest today in trading their top prospects — infielder Corey Seager, outfielder Joc Pederson and pitcher Julio Urias — than they did last summer.

These are confusing times. The Red Sox crowed about financial flexibility two years ago, when they dumped $250 million worth of Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Beckett on the Dodgers. Now they have committed about $200 million to Ramirez and Sandoval, before working on their starting rotation.


Dodgers second baseman Dee Gordon is confused too, and understandably so. This is what he tweeted on Monday: "Sooo ... Who wants to turn DP's with me?"

In April and May, players and managers like to say, "It's early." In November, baseball executives say the same thing.

Twitter: @BillShaikin