Off Base
Dodgers Getting Closer

January 23, 2010, 9:10 p.m. Listen sports fans, whatever you think of the Dodgers brain-trust (and both air-quotes and regular quotes are employable here), Ned Colletti and Frank McCourt were right about one thing. The club didn’t have a ton of work to do this offseason.

Late for Christmas, sure, but L.A. is checking off its list. And it's not a race. That begins in April. Saving millions by signing the same players in January and February rather than November or December is simply smart business, and you'd give the team a bleepload for doing the opposite.

John Lackey got a ridiculous contract, and in the long run, the Boston Red Sox will pay dearly for it. Perhaps in the short run too. I wanted Randy Wolf back for a year, same as you, but I've come to believe that letting him go without an arbitration offer is acceptable practice. The assumption that Wolf would bite, and give the Dodgers yet another hometown discount is, well, it shouldn't be an assumption.

I like Joel Pineiro just fine, and the Angels did extremely well to get him for a fraction of Lackey's selling price, but Vicente Padilla has as good a chance – and probably better – to throw the ball well for a year, as does Pineiro. And 2010 is all I care about.

Padilla was the best and most appropriately-priced fourth starter option available and the Dodgers made the right call. This is not a shot in the dark – pun intended. Jon Garland and Braden Looper were more-than-serviceable alternatives, and I would've been OK with either man, but Padilla was my first choice.

And the economical Padilla signing does give Los Angeles a competitive edge over a team like say, the Phils, who donated $24 million to a thoroughly pedestrian Joe Blanton for three years. Joe Blanton!

So the Dodgers have filled one of their two main holes to date. Now let's talk about second base. There are things to admire about Blake DeWitt's game, and I can imagine him becoming a .280 to .300 hitter someday, perhaps with 10 to 15 homers and 60 or 70 RBIs, but there's really no reason to expect those numbers anytime soon. Might happen, but who knows?

If he were a sure-fire Gold Glover now, immediately, it might be worth throwing him out there to see what sticks. DeWitt is a bona fide major league third baseman already, so why not be optimistic? But since he's unproven with both the bat, and the glove at second, L.A. should do better.

And this business about, "well, it's OK to carry a struggling second baseman because you'll make up it for around the diamond" is a lame, if not negligent approach to take. The Dodgers should have excellence wherever they can get it. So no; no Ronnie Belliard, no Adam Kennedy, and no platooning of DeWitt with Jamey Carroll.

I'll leave you with three names, two of which I've been harping on all winter. Shame on you if you missed it. I'm torn between Felipe Lopez and Orlando Cabrera, but either would be an absolutely excellent choice for Chavez Ravine.

Don't buy the talk that Cabrera has "fallen off a cliff" defensively or that "he hasn't played second base since 2000." Most shortstops can and do make the transition to second well – it's the other way around that you can't count on – and Cabrera can handle the job just fine.

The notion that he changes clubs too often so there's gotta be a problem is worth considering for a minute, but it shouldn't stop a good acquisition from occurring. Critics said the same thing about Kenny Lofton for as long as I can remember, and he played well wherever he went. And his teams won.

Do you think it's a coincidence that the Minnesota Twins were below .500 when they traded for the guy mid-summer, and even with one of their best players in Justin Morneau injured, stormed to the division with Cabrera in the middle of it all? Please.

Orlando Cabrera is a winner, and just plain hits the crap out of the ball. Always. A dozen homers, 75 RBIs, .275-plus, and never missing a ball game. Guaranteed. He'd be a great Dodger.
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Felipe Lopez is right up there with Cabrera all-around, and like Cabrera, can fill in for Rafael Furcal at short for a stretch of games. He's a switch-hitter, consistent from both sides and has some sock. He gets on base more than Cabrera, is five years younger, but he doesn't have the record in September and October. It's a push, really, and I will do cartwheels if either man is reeled in.

There's word that the Mariners are shopping Jose Lopez, and he's a serious hitter, perhaps ready to bust out more than he already has in Seattle, but who knows with these rumors? And who knows what it would take to get him?

The Dodgers need a real backup catcher as well, so I'm hopeful they'll spring for the extra $500,000 or so it'll take to get someone other than A.J. Ellis, who'd play for the minimum. Not that it'll make all that much difference, with Joe Torre priming to play Russell Martin 145 games again next season, but it'd be nice to have the option to go to someone more capable, like Brad Ausmus.

That's my spiel for the moment. It's good that the Dodgers signed all their arbitration-eligible players, and it's comforting to have Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp and Jonathan Broxton settled for two years without contractual incident.

So complain about the current state of Dodger affairs all you like. The club is almost there, despite its troubles. I just renewed my season tickets, so I'm confident. I wouldn't waste your time otherwise. Really, I wouldn't.

Just 26 days till pitchers and catchers and J.D. Closser report…

Talkback: Your comments are always encouraged…

Last Add, Dodgers: Randy Winn a Dodger? The argument is similar to the one about second base above. I like Repko, and he's an excellent defensive player, who can fill in at all three spots in ways that Juan Pierre could not, but with Manny Ramirez another year older and either a bad mood or a pee pee cup away from oblivion, fourth outfielder is going to be an increasingly important position for the Dodgers. Winn would be a real asset.

He's a considerably better hitter than his 2009 .262 indicates, switches, gets on base, and plays a fine left, center or right. A Dodger killer and savvy veteran, who even with the seven year age difference, is more likely to stay on the field than poor Jason Repko. It's the least of the club's worries, I suppose, but you know me – if I mention a player I want once or twice, I certainly won't hesitate to go for three…

Who Goofed: As you probably know by now, the Dodgers are set to play two exhibitions in Taiwan, March 13 and 14. Perhaps in its eagerness to get the story out, the Taipei Times mixed up the names of L.A.'s big-time sluggers a tad. Who's this Rodriguez fellow?

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Statue for Sandy: The Koufax in bronze campaign continues. Please Vote “Yes on 32.” And tell a friend…

Remember, glove conquers all….

 

 

 

 

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