Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Off In LA LA Land

I know that I'm not breaking any news by telling you that over the past few seasons, the Dodgers rank among one of the worst run franchises. With the massive, but illogical and sporadic, payroll cutting that has occurred as Frank McCourt prepared for his inevitable little-less-painful-than-Tiger payout for his divorce, I have surprised no one with my first sentence. That last run-on, however, maybe surprising to some, as you can clearly tell I lost my train of thought a good seven or eight times. Work with me, I'm shaking off some of the writing rust.

I understand the cost cutting initiative McCourt has forced upon his less than genius GM, Ned Colletti. There's certainly nothing wrong with it, it's a part of the business and/or divorces. The problem is that if they are going into a cost cutting mode, don't you think that the Dodgers should be doing a better job of it?

They only have to look down the road (I know it's kind of far because California is unfathomably huge) to see the model of re-building and cost cutting Billy Beane and the Athletics accomplished in Oakland. Now, I realize that things like sabermetrics, numbers, math, and logic may be out of Colletti's range of comprehension, which makes the Athletics model tough for the Dodgers.

That's why they could have seen what the Florida Marlins have done essentially every year in their existence and copied accordingly. There's certainly nothing terribly difficult about trading off the good players and huge contracts a team currently has for a boatload of random young players and hoping something happens, right? I mean, I feel like a chimp throwing darts against a wall could accomplish this task while saving money and fielding a team of (hopefully) humans.

But getting rid of the current, large contracts on a team is not the only part of cost cutting. The team also has to use their money wisely in the offseason and make smart free agent pickups. And it would be hard for one to argue that this is the strategy the Dodgers have taken so far.

Just look at the contracts that the Dodgers, who are supposed to be cutting money, signed this offseason:
Rod BarajasC
1year   $3.25MM
Juan CastroSS
1year   Minor
Dana EvelandSP / RP (Left-Handed)
1year   Minor
Jon GarlandSP
1year   $5.00MM
Jay GibbonsLF
1year   $0.65MM
Matt GuerrierRP (Right-Handed)
3years   $12.00MM
Tony GwynnCF
1year   $0.68MM
Hiroki KurodaSP
1year   $12.00MM
Ted LillySP
3years   $33.00MM
Dioner NavarroC
1year   $1.00MM
Vicente PadillaSP
1year   $2.00MM
Juan Uribe2B
3years   $21.00MM
Eugenio VelezLF / CF
1year   Minor

On the surface, most of those signings look alright. The Velez/Gwynn/Gibbons/Eveland/Castro signings seem fine since they are simply filling organizational depth. However, they have to spend that money because of terrible decisions in the past that gutted the team's minor league system (ahem, the Carlos Santana throw-in). That undernote makes those signings hurt in the end.

Then you have the idiotic Barajas signing. Please note this point, teams trying to cut payroll/turn the corner: do NOT spend $3.5 million on a pudgy, old catcher who can't stay healthy simply because he played better than your oft-injured but extremely overrated young catcher. Especially since Barajas became completely unnecessary once Navarro signed his contract later.

Now on to the glaring bad spots of the offseason:
1. WHY THE HELL ARE THE DODGERS PAYING $12M FOR HIROKI KURODA NEXT YEAR!?!? When I first learned of this signing in the offseason, I knew that the recession was officially over.
2. Let's hand another $33M to an aging left-hander in Ted Lilly. The left-handed starter pool of free agents was extremely shallow this year, but I think I established that the Dodgers are trying to save money and sudo-rebuild. Handing $33M to Lilly isn't going to help either of those causes. Although I do think that Lilly is a solid starter, a team with clear and realistic intentions of competing next year should have been giving him a contract, not the Dodgers.
3. Matt Guerrier is seriously the worst contract handed out this entire offseason. Hands down, a replacement-level reliever should never ever be given $12 million guaranteed.
4. What's the plan with that Uribe signing? Do they really see him being productive in the last two years of that contract, because I certainly don't. I get the feeling that it was a move to block the Giants from re-signing him. Revenge signings are not an intelligent move for teams that need to learn good roster management skills.

All in all, the signings were not good for the Dodgers this offseason. But they also should have been attempting to dump some of their current payroll. Between Rafael Furcal and Casey Blake, you have to think they would be able to find a suitor for one of the two players. In fact, I bet the Red Sox would love to have both, and they don't give a fuck about money, so they may pick up the tab, too. This is where the Florida Marlins strategy of turning a starter into a handful of minor leaguers could ultimately benefit the Dodgers right now.

After sifting through all of this Dodgers information, I think it is possible for the Dodgers to compete in their rather weak division while also cutting money. If they had the right people running the show, things could get turned around. However, it seems more likely that they are using the McCourt divorce and corresponding cost cutting as a scapegoat for their failures, which are supposedly so crippling that they couldn't have overcome them. But ultimately, the Dodgers will not be competitive in the NL until they realize that there is a lot more overhauling that needs to be done with this team other than cost cutting.


  1. When did we start writing things that were good? I've set a precedence here of only posting absolute shit, please follow my lead.

  2. Didn't you read this line about the Barajas signing?

    "Barajas, 35, excelled in 72 plate appearances after the Dodgers acquired him for the stretch run."

    72 plate appearances is a ton of PAs. Not to mention, if you do well in those, you are bound to get at least $3 million...even if you are an old fat guy.