Nov 15

Dodgers add Treanor to catching confab


John Williamson/MLB Photos/Getty ImagesMatt Treanor

My favorite thing about the Dodgers signing catcher Matt Treanor, who will be paid $850,000 this season, is that he is clearly designed to be a backup, meaning that A.J. Ellis will finally get a chance to see what he can do with his on-base skills as a No. 1 (or No. 1.5) catcher.

My second-favorite thing is that Treanor himself walked 34 times in 242 plate appearances in 2011, though I’m not entirely sure how or why.

My third-favorite thing is that having lived through a litany of Dodger backup catchers, I don’t intend to spend a lot of time thinking about how valuable Treanor is. And I suggest you don’t either. Just know that he is joining the most hallowed list of hallowed lists: Dodger Catchers of the 2000s.

Nov 14

Dodgers close to adding second baseman Mark Ellis


Chris Humphreys/US PresswireMark Ellis

It’s natural to compare infielder Mark Ellis, whom the Dodgers are reportedly about to sign to a two-year contract, to Jamey Carroll, who recently completed a successful two-year contract with the Dodgers and just left to start another with the Twins.

The comparison isn’t necessarily a favorable one based on recent performance – Ellis delivered only a .288 on-base percentage and .346 slugging percentage this season despite playing half his year with Colorado, while Carroll was at .359/.347 as a full-season Los Angeles Dodger.

What intrigues me, though, is that if this choice had been offered two years ago, you might have picked Ellis over Carroll, who went .355/.340 with Cleveland in 2009 and was, then as now of course, 3 1/2 years older. Ellis had a .305/.403 mark with Oakland in 2009 – the on-base percentage was weaker, but given the respective ballparks, ages and glove abilities (Ellis has been above average in UZR at second base every year since 2003, according to Fangraphs, and superior to Carroll), you might have predicted that Ellis would have been more productive from 2010-11.

And in fact, as good as Carroll was for the Dodgers in 2010 (.379 OBP, .339 slugging, 100 OPS+, 2.5 WAR), here’s what Ellis delivered that same year: .358 OBP, .381 slugging, 103 OPS+, 3.4 WAR. It wasn’t until 2011 that Ellis came to appear so much worse than Carroll.

I can’t say I paid attention to Ellis this past season, but he’ll be 36 when his new contract ends, while Carroll will be on the downward side of 39. If you’re asking me today who I think will prove more valuable over that period of time, I think I’m going to lean toward Ellis, even if he’s nothing more than an upscale version of Aaron Miles.

Now, we do need to back away and realize that the Dodgers’ only choice wasn’t Carroll or Ellis. It was Carroll, Ellis or do anything else with the reported $8.75 million the team has committed to Ellis over the two-year stretch. The Dodgers, after all, have apparently committed close to a combined $10 million for each of next two seasons to Ellis and Juan Rivera – add in the more than $6 million that James Loney will earn next year if he remains a Dodger and you start to approach a hefty down payment on the first year of a Prince Fielder contract. The Ellis deal strikes me as one issued by a team that has an overflow of money or an underflow of savvy. I’d also offer that it’s another sign that prices this winter are just richer than we expected, period.

For the Dodgers’ sake, we’ll hope the addition of Ellis to a group that includes Juan Uribe, Dee Gordon and Loney means they’ll have one of the rangier defensive infields around. And just for the heck of it, we’ll also hope this: Uribe will bounce back from offensive vacuousness to offensive near-adequacy in 2012.

* * *

If I were making out the 2012 batting order today, here’s the approach I’d be curious to take.

1) A.J. Ellis, C
2) James Loney, 1B
3) Matt Kemp, CF
4) Andre Ethier, RF
5) Juan Rivera/Jerry Sands, LF
6) Juan Uribe, 3B
7) Mark Ellis, 2B
8) Clayton Kershaw, P
9) Dee Gordon, SS

It’s a little ungainly, I admit.

Here’s the approach I expect Don Mattingly might take:

1) Dee Gordon, SS
2) Mark Ellis, 2B
3) Matt Kemp, CF
4) Andre Ethier, RF
5) Juan Rivera, LF
6) James Loney, 1B
7) Juan Uribe, 3B
8) A.J. Ellis, C
9) Clayton Kershaw, P

Nov 14

The Kemp contract: Will this be the Dodgers’ decade, after all?

At the end of the indispensable, forever-a-touchstone “Joe vs. the Volcano,” Joe (Tom Hanks) has survived depression, a diagnosis of a brain cloud and being exploded out of a live volcano. Life is suddenly looking good.

Except that Joe is on a liferaft made of steamer trunks, floating in the middle of the ocean at Poseidon’s mercy. He starts to worry again. Patricia (Meg Ryan), his love, can only laugh.

“It’s always going to be something with you, isn’t it Joe?” she remarks.

There will always be something with the Dodgers. There is no frying pan in this town whose escape route doesn’t lead to some flame, be it a campfire or a conflagration.

But the news today that the Dodgers are on the verge of signing Matt Kemp to a contract that locks up his rights until he is 35, in 2019, is Chapter Two in the rebirth of the franchise, following Frank McCourt’s agreement to sell the team this winter. The Dodgers might still be floating at sea, but they are floating in the right direction.

That the lame duck McCourt agreed to sign Kemp is newsworthy, though less surprising to me than others might find it. McCourt, essentially, is spending someone else’s money.  As I wrote about Prince Fielder last month, the argument for committing to a big contract for a superstar is at least as strong as the argument against it — for whatever cost it adds to the bottom line, if it’s a smart signing it only enhances the worth of the franchise. That being said, McCourt could have been a roadblock to the signing but chose not to be. It’s a point in his favor on an eight-year-old scoresheet.

That hasn’t stopped people from at least acknowledging the potential downside of the deal. Anytime you offer the longest and richest deal in National League history, there’s going to be some risk. Some would point to the previous No. 1 deal in Dodger annals, the seven-year, $105 million contract for Kevin Brown, as evidence of this, though I concluded (in a blog post I can’t find right now) that when you combine the value Brown provided with what was received after he was traded to the Yankees, the Dodgers actually made out just fine on the deal.

So let’s look at Kemp’s contract: $160 million over eight years, we’re told.  Some will get hung up over the question of whether Kemp will still be a $20 million player as he heads toward his 35th birthday in September 2019. But that’s the wrong way to eyeball things.

The only question that matters is whether Kemp will provide $160 million worth of value over the life of the contract, and that seems like a pretty safe bet.

Kemp will be 27 years old when the 2012 season begins. There’s an excellent chance he’ll be much more than a $20 million-a-year player next year and for at least few years after that, even if he can’t ever duplicate the marvels of his 2011 campaign.

To consider one evaulation, Fangraphs not only puts his value this year at $39 million, it assesses his 2009 season at $23.5 million. So even with a disappointing season mixed in ($1.6 million of value in 2010), Kemp has averaged $21.3 million in value the past three years — before hitting his prime. And that doesn’t even include one thing you can’t put a price on right now: the comfort of knowing that this signing means the Dodgers are back in business.

In other words, Kemp might earn the entire cost of his contract in the next five or six years — he might be a bargain over that time — and everything after that will be gravy on the cake.  Furthermore, though Kemp will be older at the end of the decade, he won’t exactly be ancient. He’ll be younger, for example, than Manny Ramirez was before Ramirez first wore a Dodger uniform.

Now, if and when Kemp is in decline in 2019, few people may remember to look at his contract the way I’m advising. They’ll compare his 2019 performance with his 2019 salary and come to a 2019 conclusion that he is underperforming. But major league baseball does not pay players strictly according to performance — they are underpaid some years, as Kemp was in 2011, and they will be overpaid in others. All a franchise can do is make the best decision possible regarding the entire life of the contract.

Over the next eight years, I expect to see different sides of Kemp.  I expect to see the all-out, hold-nothing-back player we saw in 2011, but undeniably, the contract is also an invitation to shift into cruise control from time to time — and honestly, who among us wouldn’t respond to that Evite here and there? The Dodgers are signing a human, not a robot. We also, for the first time, will at some point probably see a Kemp that gets hurt.

Contracts like these aren’t about moments, however. They are about the big picture. And with McCourt exiting to the left, and Kemp (and, I expect, Clayton Kershaw) remaining center stage, the big picture looks the rosiest it has for Los Angeles since before that day in October 2009, when the McCourt family business dumped a big ink blot on it. And Kemp himself must realize this. Though 160 million birds in the hand are nothing to be dismissed, it’s safe to say that Kemp might be leaving a few million more birds in the bush.

Yes, the Dodgers are still out to sea, but the wind is back at their back. We might even look back at 2011 to find, believe it or not, that this was the starting point for a Dodger decade.

Nov 14

Kemp is here to stay: Extension to keep star in Dodger outfield through 2019


Jayne Kamin-Oncea/US PresswireMatt Kemp is happy.

Did you feel that earthquake?

An eight-year, $160 million contract is about to be closed between Matt Kemp and the Dodgers, sources indicate, that would give Los Angeles the rights to see him play through the end of the decade. Here’s the breaking news story.

And here’s some supplemental information I prepared Sunday:

The deal is the largest in franchise history, surpassing the seven-year, $105 million contract pitcher Kevin Brown signed with the team as a free agent in December 1998, and effectively matches Manny Ramirez’s deal signed with Boston in 2001 for the seventh-largest contract in total value major-league history. It is the largest contract in ever in the National League, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

The 6-foot-3, 215-pounder blossomed in 2011 to nearly snag the NL triple crown while becoming a leading candidate for the National League Most Valuable Player Award with a .399 on-base percentage, .586 slugging percentage and a league-leading 39 home runs, 126 RBI and 115 runs. He also stole 40 bases and 51 attempts and won his second Gold Glove award in the past three seasons. According to Fangraphs.com, he led the NL with 8.7 wins above replacement.

The signing is by far the biggest the Dodgers have made since the ownership crisis that has gripped the team since October 2009 began with the public disclosure of Jamie and Frank McCourt’s marital separation. Frank McCourt agreed to sell the Dodgers on Nov. 1, but because new ownership isn’t expected to be in place until close to Opening Day at the earliest, there had been speculation that the Dodgers wouldn’t be offer a palatable extension to Kemp this winter. Kemp had indicated he would follow the common practice of not negotiating after the regular season began.

However, Kemp’s agent Dave Stewart and Dodger general manager Ned Colletti told ESPNLosAngeles.com last week that negotiations had been progressing with regard to Kemp, who would have been eligible for free agency after the 2012 season.

Kemp stood to earn in the neighborhood of $15 million in 2012 with his final year of arbitration eligibility. He just completed a two-year contract that paid him $11 million total. By earning such a large commitment, he adds to the financial burdens of whomever the new Dodger owners will be, but gives them a player they can potentially market around for the remainder of the decade.

A year ago at this time, Kemp was the subject of much angst in Los Angeles after a season in which he hit 28 home runs but had fallen to a .310 on-base percentage and .450 slugging percentage while successfully stealing only 19 bases in 34 attempts (55.8 percent) and suffering through noticeable defensive lapses. Colletti questioned Kemp’s effort and performance in an April 2010 radio interview, and in late June 2010, Kemp was pulled from the lineup for three consecutive starts, though he played in each to keep alive a consecutive-game streak that is now the longest one active in MLB at 365 games.

But Kemp and Colletti had a clear-the-air conversation later that summer, and the outfielder, who also began receiving baserunning tutelage from new coach Davey Lopes before the 2011 season began, impressed the Dodgers from the start of the year, when he singled, walked three times and stole a base in an Opening Day victory over San Francisco, to the finish, when he came within one home run of becoming the franchise’s first 40-40 man.

He hit a walkoff home run April 17 to beat St. Louis and another four days later to topple Atlanta. On June 4, he hit a solo homer and a grand slam in consecutive innings to help rally the Dodgers from a four-run deficit to victory at Cincinnati. Six days after that, when hamstring tightness forced him to miss his only start of 2011, Kemp came off the bench in the ninth inning and launched a home run that bounced through the concourse behind the left-field seats at Coors Field and into the parking lot, sparking a five-run rally that nearly brought Los Angeles back from a 6-0 deficit.

He reached the 20-20 mark in homers and steals in his 75th game June 21 and started his first NL All-Star Game, where he walked, singled and scored a run. He became a 30-30 man in game 130 on August 26, then hit another walkoff home run in the 11th inning, less than 24 hours later. He finished with eight home runs in September for the Dodgers, whom he led to a 45-28 finish after a 37-51 start, and wasn’t eliminated from Triple Crown contention until the season’s final five days.

Other than Chad Billingsley, who in March signed a contract extension through the 2014 season, Kemp is the only homegrown Dodger to remain with the team past free-agent eligibility this century.  Next in line for such honors would be Cy Young Award candidate Clayton Kershaw, though the 23-year-old can’t become a free agent until after the 2014 season.

For comparison, Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki last December signed a seven-year, $134 million contract extension that runs through the end of the 2020 season.

Nov 02

Juan Rivera expected to return to Dodgers on one-year deal

In a move reminiscent of Rod Barajas 2010-2011, the Dodgers are close to a one-year contract with Dodger second-half helper Juan Rivera for 2012, according to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com. The contract would have a 2013 club option.

Rivera will get $4 million next season, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. You can evaluate the worth of the signing by reading more about Rivera here in his Remembering 2011 piece.

Oct 04

Dodgers part ways with Blake, Garland

As expected, the Dodgers have paid $1.25 million to buy out Casey Blake’s $6 million contract option for 2012, while also declining Jon Garland’s $8 million option for next season (at a cost of $500,000). Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has more.

Both players become free agents and are eligible to sign with any team after the World Series ends, and with the Dodgers at any time. In fact, each has past experience of returning to the Dodgers as a free agent: Blake three years ago, Garland last year.

We’ve gotten mixed signals on Blake, from possible retirement to a potential willingness to come back as a reserve to the Dodgers on a cheaper contract. However, I’d be surprised if the Dodgers bid very enthusiastically on either Blake or Garland, both of whom spent much of 2011 injured, unless their salary quotes came way, way down.

Some might consider this the top story: The Dodgers also removed Eugenio Velez from their 40-man roster by outrighting him to Albuquerque. That takes him out of the team’s 2012 plans, but it doesn’t mean we won’t see him at Camelback Ranch for Spring Training next year.

* * *

  • Federal bankruptcy judge Kevin Gross has appointed a mediator to try to bridge the chasm between the Dodgers and Major League Baseball out of court. Good luck on that one.
  • Suspended list star Ronald Belisario is looking to rebuild his career, even if it’s not with the Dodgers or even in the U.S., according to this story on the Bravos de Margarita website (Google translation here) passed along by Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy.
  • Baly also has links to radio interviews with Vin Scully, Tommy Lasorda, Ned Colletti and Charley Steiner.
Sep 06

Federowicz gets called to the show

The Dodgers have recalled John Ely and Jerry Sands while purchasing the contract of Tim Federowicz from Albuquerque. Federowicz will become the 48th player to suit up for the 2011 Dodgers once he gets in a game.

When that will happen is a bit murky. Dylan Hernandez of the Times tweeted that Federowicz might not play until the last week or two of the season because Don Mattingly wants him to get used to his “new environment.” Aside from this making more sense if Federowicz were joining the Terra Nova Dodgers, I can’t quite believe that Mattingly thinks it’s necessary for the young catcher to have no game action for more than a week. It’s not as if the Dodgers have been doing that with any of their other young farmboys this year.

In a procedural move, injured pitcher Vicente Padilla was moved to the 60-day disabled list, so the number of players on the Dodgers’ 40-man roster remains the same.

Meanwhile, to give Sands at-bats, Don Mattingly will have to take some playing time from either Juan Rivera or Andre Ethier. That could mean more angst for Ethier, whose saga gets scoped out by Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Sep 04

Kershaw adds ERA title to targets

Amid all of Clayton Kershaw’s accomplishments this season, one feat has been seemingly out of reach – an ERA title.

As recently as a week ago, Kershaw trailed Cincinnati’s Johnny Cueto by about half a run, 2.51 to 2.05. Today, however, Kershaw takes the mound trailing Cueto by only 0.16, 2.45 to 2.29.

Since Independence Day, Kershaw has an ERA of 1.18 with 74 strikeouts in 76 innings and an opponents’ OPS of .533.

* * *

  • The Dodgers, who have needed nine reliever innings in the past two days, added Ramon Troncoso to their roster for today’s game. More help will be on the way after the Albuquerque season ends Monday. Reinforcements from Chattanooga, if any, will take longer because the Lookouts are headed to the Southern League playoffs, running through at least September 10.
  • In the New York Times on Friday, Richard Sandomir wrote about how much the Dodgers are being billed by their bankruptcy lawyers.
  • Thanks to Ernest Reyes of Blue Heaven for the link to Vin Scully’s 1963 description of “What Is a Dodger?” Suitable for a bedtime story …

    There’s more – all on the album “Jackie Barnett Presents The Sound of the Dodgers” – from noted stage and singing stars Stubby Kaye, Jimmy Durante, Maury Wills and Willie Davis. And to wrap things up, one more piece from Vin: “The Story of the Dodgers.” Note his pronunciation of “Chavez.”

Sep 01

Makeup game chat

It’s almost impossible for me to hear the name “Eveland” and not think of Phil Hartman as Bill McNeal telling off his co-workers on “NewsRadio” for mocking his real first name: “First of all, it’s pronounced Evelyn.”

In addition to purchasing Dana Eveland’s contract from Albuquerque, the Dodgers greeted Roster Expansion Day with two other initial moves: activating Dee Gordon and recalling Russ Mitchell.

  • Eric Seidman writes at Fangraphs of “The Awesomeness of Clayton Kershaw.”
  • Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy notes the signing by Toronto of Roberto Osuna, the 16-year-old nephew of former Dodger Antonio Osuna, and wonders if he’s another one the Dodgers shouldn’t have let get away.
  • Also from Baly … Sandy Koufax: “It would have been a simple surgery.”
  • Ernest Reyes of Blue Heaven alerts us that Vin Scully’s call of the ninth inning of Bill Singer’s 1970 no-hitter is available to hear.
  • Rany Jazayerli tells Grantland readers that the future of the Phillies beyond 2011 is worrisome.
Aug 26

Minutia, Minushka

Catching up on some news …

  • Kenley Jansen has been activated from the disabled list. Josh Lindblom was sent to Double-A Chattanooga, where he will bide his time until he can return, in 10 days when rosters expand or sooner if there’s another Dodger injury.
  • Dee Gordon was scheduled to begin a minor-league rehabilitation assignment, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, but Gordon did not play Thursday. It does not appear that the Dodgers will wait until when rosters expand September 1 to activate Gordon, which would mean that Eugenio Velez might not remain on the 25-man roster for long (though would no doubt clear waivers).
  • Ted Lilly is responding well to acupuncture treatment, he told Gurnick.
  • Don Drysdale’s daughter Drew is scheduled to sing National Anthem and God Bless America at Dodger Stadium on Monday.
  • While much talk about the Cubs’ general manager vacancy has centered on Ned Colletti, it’s former Dodger general manager Dan Evans who might be a more likely choice, according to Gordon Wittenmeyer of the Chicago Sun-Times.
  • Dodger prospect Jerry Sands is breaking some eggs – that is, making some significant adjustments with the hopes of deriving long-term benefit. From Christopher Jackson at Albuquerque Baseball Examiner:

    … “It’s been real tough, cause I came back down and I knew I needed to change some things, but it’s tough to totally overhaul in the middle of the season and be productive,” Sands said. “I want to get back up there, but I want to look like I learned something.

    “It was tough having to change things I’d done for years and then change them right over. The hot and the cold stretches have been a part of me learning, just a process of what I have to do to be more consistent.” …

  • Clayton Kershaw “stands to become just the fourth Dodger in the 128-year history of the franchise to post three straight seasons with an ERA+ of 130 or higher,” writes Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. Jeff Pfeffer, Sandy Koufax and Orel Hershiser are the others.
  • Stephen also passes along the news that outfielder Kyle Russell has gotten a late-season promotion from Chattanooga to Albuquerque.
  • Sons of Steve Garvey caps its visit to St. Louis with a long, thoughtful piece about sportswriting.
  • The man himself, Bob Eubanks, talked to Dodger historian Mark Langill about the Beatles, setting up this weekend’s commemoration of the 45th anniversary of the Beatles playing Dodger Stadium (via Blue Heaven).
  • The friendly folks at Bronx Banter passed along “10 Things John Sterling would say in a hurricane” from IT IS HIGH! IT IS FAR! IT IS… caught.
  • On target as always, Joe Posnanski about “the myth of pressure.”

    … This line — that it’s easier to put up numbers without pennant pressure — is a lot like that. Nobody can possibly believe this. First of all, there’s the obvious flaw: If it were easier to put up numbers in non-pressure situations, then players would consistently and obviously have better years on lousy teams than they do on good ones. Does this ring even the slightest bell of truth? Does anyone believe that Derek Jeter would have put up better numbers had he played for Kansas City? Does anyone believe that Albert Pujols would be so much better if he had spent his career playing in the carefree world of the Pittsburgh Pirates? Roy Halladay was great for mediocre Blue Jays teams and is great for outstanding Phillies teams. Hank Aaron was the same great player with the same great numbers when Milwaukee won, when Milwaukee almost won, and when Milwaukee wasn’t very good at all. …

    If you’ve read this blog at all you know: I’ve covered a lot of bad teams in my life. I’ve been around some good ones, too. And as far as “pressure” goes, well, from my observation, it’s not even close. There is infinitely more pressure on players on lousy teams than on good ones. Obviously, this depends on how you define pressure, but if the textbook definition of pressure is “the feeling of stressful urgency cause by the necessity of achieving something,” well, absolutely, there’s way more pressure on the lousy teams.

    … Think about it: What pressure is there on players in pennant races? The pressure to win? Sure. But players come to the ballpark energized. Everyone on the team is into it. The crowd is alive and hopeful. The afternoon crackles. Anticipation. Excitement. There’s nothing in sports quite like the energy in a baseball clubhouse during a pennant race. Players arrive early to prepare. Teammates help each other. Everyone’s in a good mood. There’s a feeling swirling around: This is exactly the childhood dream. The added importance of the moment could, in theory I suppose, create extra stress. But the reality I’ve seen is precisely the opposite. The importance sharpens the senses, feeds the enthusiasm, makes the day brighter. Baseball is a long season. Anything to give a day a little gravity, to separate it from yesterday, to make it all more interesting — anything like that, I think, is much more likely to make it EASIER to play closer to one’s peak.

    A losing clubhouse? Exactly the opposite. The downward pressure is enormous and overwhelming — after all, who cares? The town has moved on. A Hawaiian vacation awaits. Teammates are fighting to keep their jobs or fighting to impress someone on another team or just plain fighting. The manager might be worried about his job. The reporters are few, and they’re negative. Smaller crowds make it easier to hear the drunken critics. Support is much harder to come by, and there is constant, intense force demanding that you just stop trying so hard. After all: Why take that extra BP? You’ve got the swing down. Why study a few extra minutes of film? You’ve faced that hitter before. Why take that extra base? Why challenge him on that 3-1 pitch? Why? You’re down 9-3 anyway.

    It’s absolutely AMAZING to me when a player puts up a fantastic year even when the team around him stinks. …

Aug 23

Dodgers replace Navarro with Ellis

Choosing not to wait until rosters expand September 1, the Dodgers have designated catcher Dioner Navarro for assignment and recalled A.J. Ellis from Triple-A Albuquerque. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has the news story.

Navarro had a .276 on-base percentage and .324 slugging percentage in 202 plate appearances for the Dodgers, throwing out 14 of 55 basestealers (25.4 percent). His performance had actually improved in recent weeks, with Navarro posting a .337 on-base percentage and .417 slugging percentage in 87 plate appearances since Independence Day, and three times this year (on June 19, July 9 and July 20) he had the only RBI in a 1-0 Dodger victory.

But overall, Navarro failed to justify the $1 million contract he signed Dec. 14, an attempt by general manager Ned Colletti to buy low on a 27-year-old one-time All-Star who had a .569 OPS from 2009-10 with Tampa Bay.

The transaction gives the Dodgers an opportunity to take another extended look at Ellis – though his credentials as a low-power, high-OBP threat seem well-established. Ellis has a .364 OBP in the majors this year and a .467 OBP with Albuquerque.

Barring any offseason moves, Ellis and Tim Federowicz (recently acquired in the Trayvon Robinson trade) are leading candidates to split catcher time in the Dodger starting lineup next year, though Barajas could return as a free agent if he’s willing to take a significant pay cut from his $3.25 million salary. Barajas has a .699 OPS and, remarkably, is second on the Dodgers in home runs with 12.

Navarro could return to the Dodgers in September if no team picks him up, but it seems more likely now that Federowicz will get his first taste of the majors then.

* * *

  • Not a lot of middle-of-the-order bats will be available this offseason, writes Tim Dierkes of MLB Trade Rumors.
  • St. Louis reacts, mostly negatively, to Tony LaRussa’s Monday managerial machinations. See here in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
  • How did “Moneyball”  stay alive? Mark Harris writes about the film’s tale of survival for New York Magazine.
  • Sons of Steve Garvey enjoyed being in the St. Louis press box Monday.
Aug 15

Dodgers sign O’Sullivan to round out agreements with top nine draftees

The Dodgers have signed their top nine draft picks with this news from Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

The Dodgers reached agreement on Monday with former Oklahoma City University right-hander Ryan O’Sullivan, their fourth-round selection in this year’s amateur draft. The agreement came hours before the deadline for signing this year’s picks and just four days after the club finalized an agreement with first-rounder Chris Reed, a pitcher out of Stanford University.

O’Sullivan, who will turn 21 next month, is the brother of former Los Angeles Angels pitcher Sean O’Sullivan, now with the Kansas City Royals. He never actually pitched at Oklahoma City, redshirting there this season after transferring from San Diego State, where he went 4-4 with a 6.71 ERA in two seasons. He was drafted out of high school three years ago by the San Francisco Giants, in the 10th round, but opted to attend college instead.


Jul 31

More reviews of Dodgers’ new prospects

Alex Castellanos

“… A 25-year-old right-handed hitter, he has mediocre tools but has put up big numbers this year. His plate discipline needs work, and despite the line at Springfield I’d rate him a Grade C prospect at this point, with a chance to be a bench asset.”
– John Sickels, Minor League Ball

Tim Federowicz

“… Federowicz is a catch-and-throw specialist who isn’t likely to produce enough at the plate to be an average regular, but is plus across the board behind the plate (including a career 34 percent caught-stealing rate) and is no worse than a good backup in the majors.”
– Keith Law, ESPN.com

“… The best defensive catcher in the Red Sox system, with the catch-and-throw skills to be a big league regular. His pure arm strength is average, but it plays up because he has smooth footwork and a quick release. He has thrown out 36 percent of basestealers this year in Double-A, and also has shown off his receiving ability by committing just one passed ball. Federowicz’s bat will determine how much he plays when he gets to the majors. He ability to hit for average and control the strike zone is decent, and he has some gap power. He runs well for a catcher and has more athleticism than most backstops.”
Baseball America

“… A top-flight defensive catcher, he has a strong throwing arm, plenty of mobility, and excellent leadership skills behind the plate. A weak stick has kept him off prospect lists. … He probably won’t hit enough to be a major league regular, but he could last a long time as a defense-oriented reserve. He turns 24 this week. Grade C.”
– John Sickels, Minor League Ball

“… He’s a very good catch-and-throw guy, with a quick release and strong arm. He’s also worked very hard to improve his blocking. At the plate, he uses a middle-of-the-field approach and has average pull power. Most see him as a defensive-oriented backup at the big league level, but he could become an everyday guy if he hits a bit more than expected.”
– Jonathan Mayo, MLB.com

Stephen Fife

“… Fife probably profiles as a right-handed reliever rather than a starter because he lacks the out pitch to start; he’ll touch 95 as a starter with a fringe-average curveball.”
– Law

“… Didn’t start pitching regularly until he was a high school senior, but after three years of college ball at Utah he worked himself into the third round of the 2008 draft. His best pitch is an 88-93 mph fastball that features good sink. He lacks an above-average secondary pitch, with his changeup (which has some splitter action) ranking ahead of his curveball. His control and command are average, and it’s more likely that he develops into a middle reliever than a starter.”
– Baseball America

“… His stuff is average across the board: 88-92 MPH sinking fastball, average changeup and curveball, but he throws strikes and keeps the ball low in the zone. … In the majors, he projects as a fifth starter or more probably a long/middle reliever. I’ve see him as a sleeper in the past but he’s never quite woken up. Grade C.
– Sickels

“… Fife is a solid right-handed starter with a three-pitch mix. An Eastern League All-Star this season, Fife can run his fastball up to 93 mph with some sink. His curveball can be an out pitch, and he’s also got a pretty good feel for a changeup. He mixes his pitches well and can change speeds, but he also has enough velocity to put hitters away at times.”
– Mayo

Juan Rodriguez

“… Rodriguez has a plus fastball, no average second pitch and below-average command and control – a nice arm to add to your system but a reliever at best and not a high-probability guy, either. Unless Robinson was somehow burning a hole in the Dodgers’ pockets, this (trade) doesn’t make a ton of sense to me, as they didn’t get any prospect as good as he is in the exchange.”
– Law

“… He still has room for projection in his 6-foot-5, 195-pound frame, and he already throws 93-95 mph coming out of the bullpen, enabling him to rank second among South Atlantic League relievers with 13.42 strikeouts per nine innings. There’s a good deal of effort in Rodriguez’s delivery, which hampers his control and command. His slider and changeup are fringy pitches, so his ceiling is as a late-inning reliever rather than as a starter.”
– Baseball America

… His command is spotty and his slider is mediocre, but his 92-95 MPH fastball has movement and his K/IP ratio is excellent. He needs to sharpen up his command and add polish, but he’s an interesting arm at least. Grade C, but has some upside.”
– Sickels

“… Rodriguez is a raw, tall and lanky right-hander with plenty of arm strength. Pitching out of the bullpen for Greenville in the South Atlantic League, he’s shown plus velocity, up to 98-99 mph at times. He’s got a slider that’s below average, and he’s working to develop a better feel for an offspeed pitch. He generally throws strikes, but he needs to find more consistency with his fastball command. That, and development of his offspeed stuff, will be key. But the power and arm strength that many teams covet are definitely there.”
– Mayo

Jul 31

Dodgers trade Trayvon Robinson for trio

Potential 2012 starting outfielder Trayvon Robinson, 23, has been sent by the Dodgers to Seattle as part of a three-team trade that brought Boston minor-leaguers Tim Federowicz, Juan Rodriguez and Stephen Fife to the Dodgers. Erik Bedard was the main prize of the deal, going from the Mariners to the Red Sox.

For the Dodgers, the key to the deal appears to be Federowicz, a catcher who will contend for playing time in Los Angeles next year. I think I might have been happier with Mark Brendanowicz. Turning 24 on Friday, Federowicz only has a .337 on-base percentage and .397 slugging percentage, however, with Double-A Portland in the Eastern League. SoxProspects.com praises his defense.

Rodriguez, a 22-year-old righthander, has pitched out of the bullpen this year and has 88 strikeouts in 59 innings (13.4 per nine), but with 32 walks and a 5.19 ERA. In Rookie ball last year, he pitched in 12 games, starting nine, with a 3.51 ERA and 9.4 strikeouts per nine innings.

Fife, a 24-year-old righty, has a 3.66 ERA and 6.1 K/9 in 19 games (18 starts) for Portland. That’s a bit below what John Ely could brag about after pitching in Double-A in 2009 at age 23.

For those three, the Dodgers gave up Robinson (24 in September), who has a .375 on-base percentage and .563 slugging percentage (26 homers) this year for Triple-A Albuquerque.  Robinson, who has hit well on the road as well as at home this season, has had his fine year marred by striking out 122 times in 100 games. But it’s stunning to see him traded for such an offensively challenged catcher and two sketchy pitching prospects.

In 2007, A.J. Ellis had a .382 on-base percentage and .409 slugging percentage in Double-A – better than what Federowicz has – and Ned Colletti does all he can to keep Ellis from getting regular playing time.

The only rationale I can think of is that the Dodgers think they’ll do better in the offseason trying to find a proper left fielder than they would trying to find a proper catcher. Essentially, Robinson was not in their plans, and they decided to unload him to fill a positional need. But it’s still puzzling, because the trade feels less like a step forward behind the plate and more like a step backward in outfield depth.

Jul 31

Castellanos comes to Dodgers with power, but also strike-zone issues

Outfielder Alex Castellanos, in the midst of a strong season in Double-A for Springfield in the Texas League, is coming to the Dodger organization to complete the Rafael Furcal trade, according to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

The 5-foot-11, 180-pound Castellanos turns 25 next week, which puts him on the older side for Double-A, but he has made progress since being drafted out of Belmont Abbey College in 2008. This season, he has a .379 on-base percentage and .562 slugging percentage (sixth in the Texas League) with 19 homers, 21 doubles and 10 steals in 11 attempts in 93 games. He was named a starter in the Texas League All-Star Game (the story cited states that Castellanos, who played a little infield at the outset of his pro career but has been full-time in the outfield since 2010, has a “laser arm” in right).

The main problem with Castellanos is plate discipline: He has 24 walks and 94 strikeouts this season. In 384 minor-league games, he has 94 walks and 366 strikeouts. Those ratios are huge warning signs as far as major-league success goes.

Here’s what Future Redbirds had to say about him in April:

… Castellanos is off to a huge start in 2011, but at this point it looks slightly unsustainable because he has hit home runs on 16.1% of his balls hit in the air.  (Around 6.5% is average.)

Looking at the stats, it is pretty clear what type of player Castellanos is so far in his career.  He will swing for the fences and is happy to go down swinging while trying.  He will not try to work a walk and his OBP will not be much more than his (batting average). But when he hits the ball it will go very far and he has the ability to stretch a single into a double and double into a triple which helps his slugging numbers.  Once on base, he also has dangerous speed to steal bases at will.  Castellanos is an intriguing prospect based on his power and speed numbers, but will need to cut down on the strikeouts and add some walks to really push his prospect status to the next level.

Castellanos would appear to be an offensive upgrade over Kyle Russell, the Dodgers’ 25-year-old Chattanooga outfielder who is at .331/.473 with 36 walks and 129 strikeouts this year. Here’s how Castellanos compares to Jerry Sands and Trayvon Robinson, who were 22 at Double-A in 2010, not 24 as Castellanos is now. I’ve also thrown in former Dodger Xavier Paul and former Cardinal Colby Rasmus for added context.

Castellanos (24 in 2011): 93 games, .379/.562, 24 walks/94 strikeouts
Paul (22 in 2007): 118 games, .366/.429, 48 walks/112 strikeouts
Rasmus (20 in 2007): 128 games, .381/.551, 70 walks/108 strikeouts
Robinson (22 in 2010): 120 games, .404/.438, 73 walks/125 strikeouts
Sands (22 in 2010): 68 games, .360/.529, 33 walks/62 strikeouts

Take all these comparisons with a grain of salt, of course. The numbers for the Dodger minor-leaguers came in the Southern League.

One final comparison: Because this trade reminds me so much of the Milton Bradley-Andre Ethier trade, in that it involves getting rid of a player whom everyone knew had no future in Los Angeles for a Double-A outfielder, here’s how Ethier had performed leading up to that exchange. With Midland of the Texas League at age 23, Ethier had a .385 on-base percentage and .497 slugging percentage with 48 walks and 93 strikeouts.

Keeping in mind that getting Ethier for Bradley was at worst a minor miracle for the Dodgers and arguably a major one, Castellanos almost seems like a respectable exchange for Furcal. Unfortunately, being a little older than Ethier with less plate discipline doesn’t help Castellanos’ case. Baseball America is even less sanguine:

Castellanos was having a career year in Double-A (he ranks eighth in the Texas League in hitting, fifth in homers and fourth in runs scored), but he’ll turn 25 on Thursday and his tools don’t live up to his performance. He has some pop but he has a long swing and chases too many pitches out of the strike zone. His speed and defensive tools are fringy, and the former Belmont Abbey (N.C.) second baseman fits best in right field. Despite his 2011 numbers, he doesn’t have the bat to profile as a big league regular there. He signed for $70,000 as a 10th-round pick in 2008.

If that seems disappointing, consider that the alternative would have been that the Dodgers would be paying Furcal anyway while getting nothing in return. (MLB Trade Rumors calculated earlier in July that Furcal will not be a Type A or Type B free agent this offseason).

Knowing that Furcal could break down again at any moment physically the way Bradley could be counted on to mentally, it was always unlikely that the Dodgers were going to get a can’t-miss prospect for him. But it will be understandable that some will point to Ethier and wonder why not.