Feb 11

Dodgers, Loney agree to terms for 2011

Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireJames Loney, here hitting a game-winning 13th-inning home run in July against the Mets, is looking for his first month with a .500 slugging percentage since June 2008.

The Dodgers cleared their arbitration docket by signing James Loney to a one-year contract for 2011 worth $4.875 million, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

The team also added reliever Juan Rincon to its Spring Training crew via a minor-league contract, though without an invitation to major-league camp. Rincon, 32, has not pitched effectively in the majors since 2006.

Feb 08

Baby, why you gotta treat me this way?

As Russell Martin remains on his “Even though I said I was trying the past two years, I really wasn’t — but now that I’m gone, I really am” tour … some notes:

Feb 03

Report: Dodgers add lefty relief candidate in Ron Mahay

In the spirit of Jesse Orosco, the Dodgers have turned to an oldster in an attempt to add more lefty strength to their bullpen.

According to Jayson Stark of ESPN.com, Los Angeles has signed Ron Mahay — who will be 40 in June — to a non-roster deal.

Despite the age issues, this is no Merkin Valdez signing. Mahay, who has pitched in 514 career games, allowed only 41 baserunners in 34 innings with Minnesota last season. Against lefties, Mahay gave up 12 singles, a double, a homer and two walks in 68 plate appearances — a .520 OPS.

Mahay will give Scott Elbert, among others, a challenge in Spring Training, and it’s hard to say it’s not justified. It’s been these types of signings that have been among the brightest in general manager Ned Colletti’s tenure — low-risk moves with legitimate chance of reward.

Update: The Dodgers confirmed the signing at 3:30 p.m.

Feb 02

Dodgers avoid salary arbitration with Hong-Chih Kuo


Kelvin Kuo/US PresswireHong-Chih Kuo has averaged 10.5 strikeouts per nine innings in his major-league career. Believe it or not, Kuo turns 30 this summer.

The Dodgers have signed Hong-Chih Kuo to a one-year contract that pays $2.725 million plus incentives. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details.

James Loney is the lone remaining potential 2011 salary arbitration case for Los Angeles.

Feb 02

Merkin 9 to 5: Valdez to toil in Dodger minor leagues

The  Dodgers have signed former San Francisco Giants and Toronto Blue Jays reliever Merkin Valdez to a minor-league contract, though without giving him an invitation to big-league camp at Spring Training. (Matt Eddy of Baseball America first reported the signing.)

Valdez is looking to rebuild his career. The 29-year-old righthander pitched 67 games for the Giants from 2004-2008 with a 5.24 ERA, allowing 115 baserunners in 67 innings while striking out 53. Last year, he allowed three runs in 1 1/3 innings for Toronto while spending most of the season with Triple-A Las Vegas, where he had a 7.91 ERA in 58 innings.

A native of the Dominican Republic, Valdez was originally signed by the Atlanta Braves in 1999, then came to the Giants in 2002 (with Damian Moss) in a trade for … Russ Ortiz.

Jan 28

Dodgers invite Mike MacDougal to Spring Training

Seven seasons removed from All-Star status, right-handed reliever Mike MacDougal has signed a minor league contract with the Dodgers and received an invitation to major league spring training.

MacDougal, who turns 34 in March, reached the 2003 All-Star Game with Kansas City (though he did not play) and as recently as 2009 had a 3.60 ERA in 50 innings with Washington.

Last season, however, MacDougal allowed 15 runs and 36 baserunners in 18 2/3 innings with St. Louis, and compiled a 4.45 ERA with three minor league teams.

Since 2007, MacDougal has allowed more than 16 baserunners per nine innings in the majors. In trying to make the major league bullpen for the Dodgers, MacDougal will have competition from such righties as Jonathan Broxton, Kenley Jansen, Vicente Padilla, Matt Guerrier, Ronald Belisario, Blake Hawksworth and Ramon Troncoso.

Also …

  • “Rachel Robinson has been given Ohio Wesleyan University’s Branch Rickey Award for her contribution and commitment to equality,” reports The Associated Press.
  • Former Dodgers as ESPN baseball commentators not only include Orel Hershsiser and Bobby Valentine on Sundays, but Rick Sutcliffe on Mondays and Nomar Garciaparra on Wednesdays.
  • The Dodgers might need to secure their airspace Opening Day, notes Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk.
  • The Mets look more excited about Chin-Lung Hu than the Dodgers had been in years, writes Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com.
Jan 18

Dodgers invite Gabe Kapler to Spring Training, exchange salary arbitration figures with Kuo and Loney

Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com updates the arbitration situation with Hong-Chih Kuo and James Loney:

… In each case, the gap seemed small enough that the sides would appear likely to reach an agreement well in advance of going to an arbitration hearing in February.

Kuo, who made $975,000 last season, is seeking $3.075 million through the arbitration process, while the club filed at $2.55 million. Loney, who made $3.1 million last year, is asking for $5.25 million while the club filed at $4.7 million.

If either player goes to a hearing, after hearing each side state its case, a three-person arbitration panel would be forced to choose one of those two figures, with no wiggle room in between. Until such a hearing, though, the two sides are free to reach an agreement at any figure, and the sides often settle at the midpoint.

The mathematical midpoint for Kuo is $2,812,500. For Loney, it is $4,975,000.

Only two players — pitchers Eric Gagne in 2004 and Joe Beimel in 2007 — have taken the Dodgers all the way to an arbitration hearing in the 10 years that assistant general manager Kim Ng has been handling cases for the club. Both of those players lost their cases. …

* * *

Gabe Kapler, who returned in 2008 from a year-long retirement to a major-league playing career, has signed a minor-league contract with the Dodgers.

Last season, the 35-year-old outfielder had a .288 on-base percentage and .290 slugging percentage in 140 plate appearances with Tampa Bay.

After retiring following the 2006 season, Kapler managed the Greenville Drive of the Single-A South Atlantic League to a 58-81 record. He then returned to the playing field in 2008 with the Milwaukee Brewers, for whom he had one of his best seasons: an .838 OPS in 245 plate appearances.

The Dodgers have already made several signings this winter to try to fill out their outfield alongside Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp, agreeing to terms with Marcus Thames, Jay Gibbons and Tony Gwynn Jr. In-house options Xavier Paul and Jamie Hoffmann, among others, also return.

Detroit selected Kapler, a graduate of Taft HS in Woodland Hills, in the 57th round of the 1995 amateur draft out of Moorpark College.

* * *

  • Steve Henson of Yahoo! Sports writes about the reaction of baseball scouts, who spend week after week on the road away from their families, to the murder of Christina Taylor Green, daughter of Dodger scout John Green.
  • You think Jose Offerman made a mess of the Dodger infield? Look at what Monster Jam is doing (via Vin Scully Is My Homeboy).
  • Rather than face another round of surgery, Gil Meche of the Kansas City Royals retired — leaving $12 million in 2011 salary on the table. I guess you can’t say it never happens.
  • The Detroit Tigers signed former Dodger Brad Penny — and designated near-perfect-game pitcher Armando Galarraga for assignment. That caught me off guard. Galarraga had agreed to a $2.3 million contract for 2011 a day ago. He had a 4.49 ERA and 74 strikeouts in 144 1/3 innings last season.
Jan 17

Report: Dodgers agree to terms with Marcus Thames

Tom Szczerbowski/US PresswireMarcus Thames

Adding to their collection of poor-defending but slugging outfielders, the Dodgers are poised to sign the guy who might be Jay Gibbons’ brother from another mother: Marcus Thames. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has details.

Thames, 34 in March and four days younger than Gibbons,  had a .350 on-base percentage and .491 slugging percentage against lefties last season, making him a potential platoon partner with Gibbons or Xavier Paul (only if the latter has a knockout Spring Training, it appears). Overall, Thames has an OPS of .802 in a career spent entirely in the American League. But Thames carries with him the baggage of being yet another left fielder that Dodger pitchers might be afraid of.

The Thames signing reduces the chances of the Dodgers resorting to games with Casey Blake or Jamey Carroll in the outfield. Whether the Tony Gwynn, Jr. plan B to realign the outfield is dead remains to be seen. Jamie Hoffmann has no chance of making the Opening Day roster now unless someone gets hurt.

Thames and Gibbons represent appealing bats off the bench — whether we want to see them each play 500 innings in the field this year is another story. But this definitely beats re-signing Scott Podsednik.

* * *

The Dodgers are taking negotiations with Chad Billingsley, Hong-Chih Kuo and James Loney down to the wire, Jackson writes in a separate story.

With major league teams and arbitration-eligible players set to officially file salary figures on Tuesday, the Los Angeles Dodgers still haven’t reached agreement with any of their affected players — pitcher Chad Billingsley, reliever Hong-Chih Kuo and first baseman James Loney — but based on recent history, it appears highly unlikely that the club will end up going to a hearing with any of those players in early February.

In the decade that assistant general manager Kim Ng has been handling all the team’s arbitration cases, only two players have taken the Dodgers to a hearing. The club won both of those cases against pitchers Eric Gagne in 2004 and Joe Beimel in 2007, the victory over Gagne coming the winter after he won the National League Cy Young Award.

For now, Ng isn’t making any predictions.

“We will have a much better idea in the next 24 hours [after numbers are filed on Tuesday],” Ng said. “It’s moving. We’re progressing, but nothing is final yet.”

Ng did confirm that the club isn’t discussing a multiyear contract with either Billingsley, Kuo or Loney. All three are “four-plus” players, meaning they have between four and five years of major league service time, are arbitration-eligible for the second time and — barring a multiyear deal — will be arbitration-eligible again next winter. …

* * *

Trayvon Robinson is the subject of a really nice feature by Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

As far back as any of his baseball coaches can remember, people noticed Trayvon Robinson. He had the skills, but not the polish; the raw tools, but not the savvy.

Anyone with a little vision could see what kind of player he could become. The question was whether that potential would develop and bloom one day.

Andre Green had coached baseball at Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles long enough to recognize a talent such as Robinson’s early on. He’d also been around long enough to know all the things that could keep Robinson from developing into what he’s since become: one of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ top prospects.

Like many of Crenshaw’s top athletes in recent years, Robinson also played football before high school.

“He wanted to play football, and I just told him ‘No,’” Green said. “I said, ‘You’re a baseball man and you’re going to put Crenshaw on the map.’” …

Jan 03

Dodgers sign Tim Redding to minor-league deal

Looks like the world is getting back to work …

  • The Dodgers signed Tim Redding to a minor-league contract. Redding, who will be 33 in February, had a 2.89 ERA in 109 Triple-A innings last year, following a 2009 major-league campaign in which his ERA was 5.10 with 76 strikeouts in 120 innings.
  • Albert Lyu of Fangraphs has a precision look at Matt Kemp’s struggles against fastballs in 2010 compared with the year before. “Kemp’s whiffs against lower-90s fastballs dramatically increased in the past year, nearly doubling that of the average hitter,” Lyu writes.
  • Ronald Belisario won a Venezeulan winter league closer of the year award, notes Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy.
  • Baly also passes along word of the arrival of Clayton and Ellen Kershaw in Africa.
  • Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness wonders if there is still room to add a second lefty reliever to the 2011 Dodger bullpen, especially because Hong-Chih Kuo can’t be wasted as someone who only faces lefty batters.
  • Alex Belth of Bronx Banter shares a sweaty, tongue-tied New York moment, co-starring Tina Fey.
  • Farewell, Anne Francis and Pete Postlewaite.
Dec 27

Dodgers part ways with Chin-Lung Hu


Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireChin-Lung Hu

Chin-Lung Hu’s days as a Dodger prospect are over. After eight years in the organization, Hu (27 in February) was traded today to the New York Mets for 25-year-old minor-league lefthander Michael Antonini.

Antonini has primarily been a starting pitcher in the minors and was exclusively so in 2010, posting a 4.32 ERA with 7.3 strikeouts per nine innings in 23 Double-A starts and a 5.11 ERA with 6.1 strikeouts per nine innings in six Triple-A starts. This does not compare favorably, for example, with the credentials John Ely had when he was acquired by the Dodgers a year ago, so I wouldn’t count on Antonini being much of a factor in 2011. But you never know.

Hu hasn’t shown any potential with the bat since 2007, when he had an on-base percentage of .364 and slugging percentage of .507 in Double-A and Triple-A combined. In his major-league career, Hu has a .241 OBP and .283 slugging over 191 plate appearances. Nonetheless, he could be Juan Castro for some team, and I always thought the Dodgers could be that team.

Ultimately, Hu was out of options and there were doubts he’d make the Opening Day roster, so this is a way of salvaging something for him, given the odds against him.

Hu leaves Los Angeles with the most plate appearances (191) of any Taiwan-born player in major-league history, ahead of Hong-Chih Kuo (36) and Chin-Feng Chen (25).

Dec 15

Dodgers roll the dice with long-term bet on reliever Matt Guerrier


Bruce Kluckhohn/Getty Images
Matt Guerrier

The Dodgers are about to give a three-year, $12 million contract to Matt Guerrier, writes Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com. The deal was first reported by Newsday’s Eric Boland in a tweet.

Guerrier, who came up with the Minnesota Twins in 2004, has had a pretty fine career as a reliever, with a career ERA of 3.38. He has averaged 75.5 appearances the past four years. But the 32-year-old righty’s strikeout rate has dropped below six per nine innings over the past two seasons, and as Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. points out, his fielding independent ERA was over 4.00 last season, indicating he’s benefited from some luck. Add to that a batting average on balls in play over the past two seasons of .224, which is exceedingly lucky — and a warning sign considering that, as David Pinto of Baseball Musings writes, he’ll have a poorer defense behind him in Los Angeles.

So you know, there’s some stuff that’s good with Guerrier, and there’s some stuff that’s less good. With the exception of 2008, when his ERA soared above 5.00, the results have been there. The main concern might be asking him to continue being this productive from ages 32-35.

Since the Dodgers’ last won a World Series, according to Baseball-Reference.com, the following pitchers have had an ERA below 4.00 with a K/9 rate below 7.00 for three consecutive seasons after turning 32, pitching a minimum of 50 innings: David Weathers, Steve Reed, Paul Quantrill, Terry Leach, Chris Hammond, Ryan Franklin and Jeff Reardon. I realize that ERA isn’t a very good way to measure the quality of relief pitching, but I’m just exploring the possibility of someone being good, not making any definitive statement.

So you have that. He might be good, maybe for a long time.

Against that, though, I would still offer that relievers are simply, unavoidably, notoriously inconsistent. We’ve detailed this frequently in the past, but to sum up, it’s exceedingly rare that relievers don’t go through bad spells, and when you try to jump on the bandwagon of one that’s been successful for a while, the odds grow against you.

There have been 66 pitchers for the Dodgers in the Ned Colletti era, from Jonathan Broxton to Mark Loretta. The highlights in the bullpen have been the low-risk investments, coming up through the farm system or coming in as cheap free agents, who have paid dividends.  Perhaps, based on the failures of the 2010 bullpen, Colletti has decided he can’t play that game anymore, though you’d think George Sherrill might dissuade him from placing such a big bet on Guerrier.

Guerrier joins a bullpen that, if the season were starting today, would include Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo, Kenley Jansen, Vicente Padilla, Blake Hawksworth and Ronald Belisario, with Ramon Troncoso, Carlos Monasterios, Travis Schlichting and Scott Elbert among those waiting in the wings.  That’s a deep bullpen, indicating at least one of three things — Colletti doesn’t see any hope for additions to the Dodger offense, he doesn’t intend to tolerate any weakness on the pitching staff, or someone’s being lined up as trade bait.

Dec 08

Dioner no longer a goner: Navarro to return

Well, I was a year early with this prediction. According to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com, it appears Dioner Navarro will return to the Dodgers to help replace Russell Martin, 4 1/2 years after he was traded away with Jae Seo and Justin Ruggiano for Toby Hall and Mark Hendrickson. (Here’s my rather unflattering review of that deal.)

Navarro was a 22-year-old with a .759 OPS when he was traded amid 1) concerns about his defense and 2) enthusiasm for Martin, and some have always wondered whether, by keeping Navarro, the Dodgers might have saved Martin from overuse.

In any event, Navarro rehabilitated his made the 2008 American League All-Star team but has been pretty dreadful since. Though some might pencil Navarro in to make the major-league roster and share time with Rod Barajas, I’m not going to rule out A.J. Ellis beating him out.

* * *

From Mark Simon of ESPN Stats and Information:

Tony Gwynn Jr. rates high regardless of what defensive metric you use. The last two seasons, he rated second and fourth among centerfielders in +/-, which measures the ability to turn batted balls into outs. He also rated highest in Ultimate Zone Rating for outfielders, pro-rated to 150 games (also known as UZR/150) in 2010, as tallied on Fangraphs.com.

Baseball Info Solutions also tracks approximately 30 categories of Good Fielding Plays and more than 50 categories of Defensive Misplays, based on specific criteria outlined by Bill James. Gwynn was tied for the major league lead in Net Rating (Good Fielding Plays minus Defensive Misplays and Errors) among centerfielders at the All-Star Break. Injuries limited his playing time after the break, so he finished the season fourth in that metric, behind Marlon Byrd, Michael Bourn and Peter Bourjos.

Gwynn’s signature defensive play was a gamesaver on June 6, with the Padres hanging on to a one-run lead in the bottom of the 10th inning, when he threw out Placido Polanco trying to go first-to-third on a single with one out in an eventual San Diego win. That’s the kind of play the Dodgers could use. Their assist total from centerfielders dropped from 14 in 2009 to three in 2010, tied for fewest in the majors.

* * *

The Dodgers have been named Organization of the Year by Topps. I’m going to pass along Topps’ rationale, and then you can get to making jokes about the award.

The Organization of the Year award dates back to 1966 and highlights the Major League team that has shown outstanding performance, depth and talent throughout their Major and Minor League teams. The award is presented annually based on the number of players in the organization that have received Topps awards during the season.Points are awarded in four different minor league categories including: All-Star players, Players of the Month, Trautman Award recipients, awarded to each league’s Minor League Player of the Year, and The J.G Taylor Spink Award recipient, awarded to the overall Minor League Player of the Year. Points are also awarded for those players selected for Topps’ Major League Rookie All-Star team.

The Dodgers’ individual winners included: Nick Akins (Player of the Month – Arizona Lg.); Brian Cavazos-Galvez (Player of the Month – Midwest Lg.); Leon Landry (Player of the Month – Pioneer Lg.); Jake Lemmerman (Class A All-Star/Trautman Award – Pioneer Lg.); John Lindsey (Class AAA All-Star/Player of the Month – Pacific Coast Lg.); Russell Mitchell (Class AAA All-Star); Elisaul Pimentel (Player of the Month – Midwest Lg.); Kyle Russell (Player of the Month – California Lg.); Jerry Sands (Player of the Month – Midwest Lg.) …

Dec 07

Dodgers to sign Chris Gwynn’s nephew

Tony Gwynn, Jr., is probably few people’s idea of an answer to the Dodgers’ outfield concerns, but now that the Dodgers are about to sign him, let’s talk about what they will do with him.

In his best year (2009), Gwynn reached the .350 mark in on-base percentage, but other than that and a good year on the basepaths last season (17 steals in 21 attempts), Gwynn has zero — or less than zero — offensive value.

Defensively, Gwynn’s another story, as he was arguably the best center fielder in the National League last season.

So if the Dodgers plan on using Gwynn as more than a fifth outfielder, should they not play him in center field, either moving Matt Kemp to left field or Kemp to right and Andre Ethier to left?

Just as you shouldn’t bat a great offensive player eighth, shouldn’t you avoid minimizing the impact of a fine defensive player?

The Dodgers’ 2011 lineup may be the most OBP-challenged we’ve seen in Los Angeles in some time. If the plan is to win with pitching and defense, while hoping that Kemp, Ethier and others hit a few home runs along the way, the Dodgers should seriously consider using Gwynn in center.

Of course, if the Dodgers want to find more offense for that third outfield slot, fine by me.

Update: R.J. Anderson of Fangraphs has more on Gwynn.

* * *

According to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, in addition to his $2 million base salary, Vicente Padilla could earn as much as $8 million in incentives as a starter or $6 million in incentives as a reliever.