Nov 10

Rod Barajas signs with Pittsburgh

This will come as a surprise to many people, but Rod Barajas won’t be a Dodger next year. The veteran catcher has signed a one-year deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates, leaving the Dodger backstopping (until Ned Colletti wakes up in a veteran-less sweat) to A.J. Ellis and Tim Federowicz.

Previously … Remembering 2011: Rod Barajas

Update: Via Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness comes two tidbits: Barajas is getting $4 million in 2012 according to Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports, the latest indication that this is going to be a players’ free-agent market, and the Dodgers will receive a compensation draft pick, as noted by the True Blue L.A. crew.

For the curious, here’s a list of free-agent catchers, via ESPN.com’s MLB free-agent tracker.

Oct 25

Remembering 2011: Rod Barajas


Ric Tapia/Icon SMIRod Barajas (28)

The setup: Barajas bashed the ball for the Dodgers last year (.939 OPS, five home runs in 72 plate appearances) in a short stint after the Mets designated him for assignment in August 2010. In a 24-hour whirlwind that December, the Dodgers cut ties with incumbent-but-injured Russell Martin and signed Barajas to a one-year, $3.25 million deal for 2011, in contrast to the $500,000 plus incentives the Mets had guaranteed Barajas 9 1/2 months earlier. At his peak, Barajas had never been guaranteed more than $3.2 million for a year, and neither Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. nor myself thought Barajas could get more than $2 million. Though there was a cost savings in switching Martin’s uncertain future for Barajas, and though Barajas was a Southern Californian happy to be with the Dodgers, the contract had small-scale blunder written all over it, the same way that the second years in Los Angeles for Marlon Anderson and Ronnie Belliard went so unhappily.

The closeup: Not unlike Martin, whose surge-and-retreat year for the Yankees ended with a .723 OPS (92 OPS+), Barajas had a streaky 2011. His OPS was .635 at the end of July, before he connected for a .403 on-base percentage, .750 slugging percentage and six home runs in 62 plate appearances in August. His 10 total bases (two home runs and a double) against St. Louis on August 23 were unsurpassed by any Dodger this year. Thanks to that, he was able to finish the year with a .717 OPS that was slightly lower than Martin’s but a 97 OPS+ that was slightly higher. Barajas finished second on the Dodgers in home runs with 16, a mere 23 behind the team leader, despite missing a month at midseason with a sprained ankle and playing in only 98 games, seventh on the team. Fangraphs pegged Barajas’ value for 2011 at $5.8 million, Martin $13.8 million.

As late as August 23, Barajas had the same number of home runs and walks (14 of each), but he avoided becoming the rare Dodger to finish with more round-trippers than free-trippers, ending the year with 16 of one and 22 of the other. He threw out 20 of 80 runners attempting to steal.

Coming attractions: Barajas, who turned 36 in September, is a free agent who will sign somewhere for next year, but his Dodger future depends on his willingness to reduce that 2011 salary. His Los Angeles return would allow the Dodgers to slow-cook Tim Federowicz, who has played only 115 games above Single-A in his career, in the minors a bit longer next spring. But no outsider seems sure about whether Barajas will wear Dodger white and blue in 2012, and I don’t know that any insiders are sure either.

Sep 16

October looms large for Dodgers after all

The Dodgers beat the Pirates tonight, 7-2, to keep their playoff hopes alive for at least another night. But no matter what happens on the field between now and the end of the regular season September 28, there’s a big postseason showdown on tap for the Dodgers in October.

On October 12, Frank McCourt’s attorneys will formally ask the federal bankruptcy court that is overseeing the Dodgers to permit negotiations and possibly an auction for the franchise’s local television rights for 2014 and beyond. Should the court grant the request, it will pave the way for McCourt to retain ownership of the Dodgers – at least until Frank-Jamie II takes place in the courts sometime in the spring or summer of 2012.

Interested parties – Major League Baseball in particular – can and probably will file objections to the Dodgers’ request until September 30. The bankruptcy court’s first duty is to the creditors whom the Dodgers owe; what’s up in the air is whether MLB can make the case that there’s a better way to do this than by giving McCourt the chance to save his ownership – while further mortgaging the franchise’s future – through the future rights sale.

From The Associated Press:

… In a 37-page motion filed Friday with U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Gross, the Dodgers say “market conditions are optimal for licensing the telecast rights because the market for sports media rights in Los Angeles is vibrant at this time.”

The Dodgers say “there can be no assurance that these ideal market conditions will last” and they should be allowed to sell rights now “to avoid any risk of deterioration in value.” …

One argument against McCourt is that MLB commissioner Bud Selig is supposed to be able to approve any TV rights deal, and that McCourt shouldn’t be rewarded for steering the Dodgers into bankruptcy by being allowed to circumvent the sport’s chieftain. Whether that argument will hold any sway with Judge Gross, I don’t know.

Bill Shaikin has more in the Times, where he also passes along the news that the Dodgers are seeking to retain an expensive New York-based public relations firm.

… The two primary spokespersons (from the firm) charge $750 and $400 per hour, according to the filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

“Much of the media reporting on off-field issues has been inaccurate or misleading, and LAD requires a seasoned communications firm such as Kekst to better ensure that media coverage of LAD is more evenhanded and accurate going forward,” according to the filing, using the “LAD” abbreviation for the Dodgers.

The filing does not include any examples of inaccurate or misleading coverage. …

As far as I’m concerned, you can take this as another example of how deluded or desperate McCourt is – and no, the new PR firm won’t change my negative thinking on this. As Molly Knight of ESPN the Magazine tweeted:

What makes McCourt’s media blaming so laughable is the best stuff we got was straight from his mouth in public court filings. Amnesia maybe?

You can’t file mountains of court documents crying poverty to get out of paying spousal support and not expect fans to think you are broke.

* * *

In other inspiring news, Jonathan Broxton will have surgery Monday, 4 1/2 months after he last pitched for the Dodgers, to remove a bone spur and some chips, reports Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

… Although Broxton’s bone bruise had improved dramatically, Dodgers medical director Stan Conte said the spur and loose bodies were the cause of repeated setbacks Broxton suffered in his effort to return, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly saying earlier this week that club officials no longer expected Broxton to pitch this season.

Broxton underwent what Conte said were “three or four” MRIs on the elbow during the season, but Conte said the chips were revealed only after Broxton underwent a CT scan, which was ordered when he experienced mild discomfort earlier this week during his first bullpen session in several weeks.

“CT scans normally aren’t done on elbows,” Conte said. “But we just wanted to make sure the bone bruise wasn’t turning into microfractures.”

The surgery will be performed by team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache, after which Broxton is expected to need four to eight weeks to recover before he can begin throwing again. However, with free agency pending, it is possible Broxton has pitched his final game for the Dodgers, who already have replaced him in the closer’s role with rookie Javy Guerra and might balk at re-signing Broxton this winter to a major league contract. …

The surgery will take place nearly 15 months after Broxton began to lose effectiveness.

Jackson adds that Tony Gwynn Jr. will miss at least the remainder of this weekend’s series with the Pirates because of a jammed shoulder, which first happened last week in Washington and was aggravated Wednesday against Arizona.

* * *

Back on the field, the Dodgers came back strong tonight after Hiroki Kuroda allowed an unearned second-inning run, scoring once in the bottom of the second, twice in the third and four times in the sixth, capped by James Loney’s first career pinch-hit home run, a three-run blast that enabled him to reach 10 on the season.

Dee Gordon made his ninth error in his 45th game of the season, but had two hits and stole his 20th and 21st bases. Kuroda gave up a sixth-inning home run to Alex Presley (whom Vin Scully’s wife thinks looks like Tom Cruise, Scully told us), but was otherwise unscored upon. He allowed five hits, walked two and struck out seven.

Scully also passed along a story that warmed my heart: Rod Barajas chose uniform No. 28 with the Dodgers because of how much his mother loved Pedro Guerrero in the 1980s.

Sep 05

In short term, Ellis has proven himself

A.J. Ellis has a .405 on-base percentage this season and, in 216 plate appearances, a .360 OBP in his career.

On a ballclub that has struggled with on-base skills (even considering the recent offensive surge), we’re past the point of considering whether Ellis belongs. He deserves a spot on the team until he proves otherwise, not the other way around.

Ellis has thrown out 27 percent of opposing basestealers in his career (13 of 48) with one career error and two career passed balls in 511 1/3 innings behind the plate.

* * *

Meanwhile, a comparison:

Martin has played more and been more effective defensively, but offensively, Barajas’ power has been an asset this year. Barajas would have to be willing to take a paycut to return to the Dodgers in 2012 – perhaps he will.

* * *

Tim Federowicz has a .431 on-base percentage and .627 slugging percentage with six homers in 83 at-bats since coming to Albuquerque in the Trayvon Robinson trade. Expect the Dodgers to call up the 24-year-old in the next couple of days.

Aug 23

Mas Barajas: Catcher crushes Cards in 13-2 Dodger rout

So, Rod Barajas has raised his all-time Dodger slugging percentage without Dioner Navarro as a teammate to .681.

Barajas had 10 total bases tonight, a season high for the Dodgers, hitting two home runs and a double and driving in four runs in Los Angeles’ second highest scoring output of the season, 13-2 over St. Louis.

Matt Kemp got the Dodgers going in the first inning with a three-run home run, the MVP candidate’s 29th of the season, and later added a double of his own. Justin Sellers contributed two doubles and a single.

And while there was an emergency pitcher on this Dodger road trip, it wasn’t James Loney but rather the Cardinals’ Skip Schumacher, who struck out Trent Oeltjen to start the ninth inning but later surrendered a home run to Aaron Miles (career ERA 3.60) before finishing off his inning.

Clayton Kershaw … well, shoot, he needed 108 sweaty pitches just to get through his six innings of shutout ball, so what good is he? Just good enough to lower his ERA to 2.51 (third in the majors) and reach 200 strikeouts for the second consecutive season, the first Dodger to do that since Chan Ho Park in 2000-01, notes Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. He’s also the first under-24 pitcher since Dwight Gooden to reach 200 two years in a row, wrote Steve Dilbeck of the Times.  Kershaw trails Justin Verlander for the major-league lead in strikeouts, 212-207.

After pitching two scoreless innings, Blake Hawsworth was given the chance to preserve the shutout with a three-inning save – trying to become the eighth Dodger with a save this season – but loaded the bases before allowing a run-scoring double play. Hong-Chih Kuo gave up an RBI single before notching the final out.

Jun 18

Rubby deserved better, but don’t we all


Jayne Kamin-Oncea/US PresswireRod Barajas had a rough night.

Rubby De La Rosa cruised through the first four innings on 45 pitches, then threw 40 pitches in the fifth inning and still didn’t make it out (though he came within one pitch). The defense behind him didn’t help De La Rosa, who was ultimately charged with five runs in a 7-0 Dodger loss to Houston that also included a sprained ankle for Rod Barajas. So maybe A.J. Ellis will soon join the party, if you can call it that.

According to the Fox broadcast, tonight marked the first home shutout in nine innings for the Dodgers with at least 10 hits in 40 years. The Dodgers have averaged 2.2 runs while allowing 6.0 during their 0-5 homestand.

Jun 08

Hanging out on the corner, still waiting to turn


Jim McIsaac/Getty Images (file)Juan Uribe has three doubles and zero home runs in his past 75 at-bats.

There was no mistaking the foreboding, the fear threatening to smother the excitement.

Andre Ethier doubled, and Matt Kemp singled him to third with none out in the seventh inning and the Dodgers trailing Cole Hamels, 1-0 … but the next three batters were Juan Uribe, Marcus Thames and Rod Barajas.

All three are hitters who have produced in the past. But these guys against Hamels at the top of his game, that was going to be an uphill climb, with full packs, in the heat, on a muddy trail, with the sun in their eyes, with aliens firing lasers all around, while having to listen to Wham! – just to even get a sacrifice fly or RBI groundout.

They failed – Uribe spectacularly so, popping up on the first pitch before Thames struck out and Barajas also popped out. And that was followed by wasted baserunners in the eighth and ninth innings of what became a 2-0 loss to Philadelphia.

* * *

This was not a loss that I think twice about.  The Dodgers fell to one of their toughest opponents, on the road and with an offense that, despite its occasional spurts of greatness, is mostly, objectively awful. That’s not news.

If Los Angeles had won, that would have made me think twice about this team.  A victory would have given the Dodgers’ four straight series wins, two of those series on the road against division champions from last year, including one series against the best starting pitching east of Yosemite. An 8-4 record in their last 12 games, against mostly good competition.

In a 162-game season, a road loss to Phillies means next to nothing. Hiroki Kuroda vs. Hamels in Philadelphia is not a game that the Dodgers would have been favored to win even if they were in first place. But at the same time, if something’s going to change my opinion that this team doesn’t have the strength to seriously compete this year, then it’s going to have to be something not just dramatic, but kind of epic. It’s going to have to be more than 7-5 in their past 12, no matter the competition. It’s going to have to be more than a massive comeback from down five runs in the eighth inning against the Reds. There has to be more than a mere flashes of greatness. There has to be something sustained. Even then, there would be doubt, but there’d be more than just blips.

If even the losers get lucky sometimes, then you can’t decide on a moment’s notice that a loser has become a winner.

And believe me, I know the division looks weak. Frankly, the entire National League doesn’t strike me as all that wonderful. I know everyone’s unhappy about tonight’s game, but let’s look at it another way – if Hamels gives up a hit to a guy hitting about .220, the Phillies are poised to drop two of three to a sub-.500, offensively challenged NL West team.

The weaker the league, the easier it is you to compete – but also, the easier it is for other mediocre teams. Nearly every Tom, Dick, Harry, Orson and Mary Beth has a right to think they can win this year. So this isn’t really about worrying that the Dodgers would sneak into the playoffs only to be swept in the first round. This is about worrying that, just like in 2005, there’s a land of opportunity out there, but this covered wagon still doesn’t have the horses even to make it past the Appalachians.

* * *

My theme for this year has been that the Dodgers need everything they can to go right. No margin for error. Despite some of the season’s most exciting moments coming in the past two weeks, it’s still not happening. First base and left field are still nightmares, catcher is close to it, third base is heading in that direction. We’re faced, for example, with the burning (not in a good way) question of whether Aaron Miles is actually better than Uribe.

The young replacements in the bullpen have been practically spectacular, as has Matt Kemp. The starting pitching remains as good as advertised, and Andre Ethier, though his home-run power has gone AWOL, is still productive. The defense has been better than expected.

It’s still not enough. We’re now in the third month of the season. Where’s the extra help going to come from?

Will James Loney, Uribe, Thames (6 for 42 with two walks in 2011), Barajas (7 for his last 49 with a walk and two doubles) and Jerry Sands (3 for his last 35 with two walks) pull out of their slumps?

Will Dee Gordon be a game-changer, at least until Rafael Furcal comes back? Will Furcal come back?

That’s a lot of guys who can help – if they can help. But what I find is that we’re asking mostly the same questions we’ve been asking for some time now. Those questions will not go away overnight.

Years ago, I wrote that if you’re asking “Does this win mean the Dodgers have turned the corner?” then you know the team hasn’t done so. If you have to ask, it hasn’t happened. It means the losing is still too fresh. You’ll know subconsciously your team has turned the corner when it doesn’t occur to you to wonder.

The Dodgers have had a decent road trip, a decent past couple of weeks. But they are still on the other side of the street.

May 23

Ethier, Barajas out of lineup but not on DL

Andre Ethier and Rod Barajas are being held off the disabled list, according to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com.

In addition, Aaron Miles has returned to the playing field. He’ll give Jamey Carroll, who has played in 46 of 48 games this season, a theoretical day off — although it seems very likely we could see Carroll off the bench.

Dodger batting leaders for May appear in the chart below. James Loney, who is batting third in the Dodgers’ latest makeshift lineup, does in fact have the third-best May OPS among tonight’s starting nine:

Update: More from Jackson:

Ethier said he woke up without soreness one day after injuring his left big toe, left elbow and lower back when he banged into the right field wall chasing a ball.

“I’m going to go out and see how I feel [during batting practice] and go from there,” he said. “I don’t know if it was a good sign or a bad sign, but I really wasn’t all that sore when I woke up this morning.”

Mattingly said he wouldn’t hesitate to use the left-handed-hitting Ethier as a pinch hitter, but with the Dodgers scheduled to face Astros lefty J.A. Happ on Tuesday night, Mattingly said that might be a good excuse to rest Ethier for one more day.

Barajas, who suffered a sprained right wrist on a play at the plate, was sent for an MRI exam on Monday morning. Just as the X-rays he underwent on Sunday, the MRI showed no fracture and nothing seriously wrong.

“It’s still sore, but it hasn’t gotten any worse,” Barajas said. “I think I could [play], but I love to play. I feel like I could tough it out even if I’m not 100 percent.” …

“At this point, we have a couple of guys we can put back there [to catch],” Mattingly said, adding that infielder Russell Mitchell is his primary emergency catcher for now. “But obviously, you don’t anticipate Navarro getting hurt.”

Meanwhile, third baseman Casey Blake (left elbow) and reliever Blake Hawksworth (right groin) were set to begin their minor league rehabilitation assignments on Monday night at Triple-A Albuquerque and advanced Class A Rancho Cucamonga, respectively. Outfielder Marcus Thames (right quad) is tentatively slated to report to Albuquerque on Friday, and Mattingly said he likely will need a longer rehab than Blake, whom team officials hope to activate in about a week.

May 22

Andre Ethier, Rod Barajas leave game with injuries

A day that has gone poorly from the start for the Dodgers has become a real nightmare.

With the White Sox leading 4-0 in the bottom of the fourth inning, Juan Pierre muscled up on a Hiroki Kuroda slider and send it toward the right-field wall.  Andre Ethier chased it, and at the last moment, turned the right side of his body into the fence and slammed into it in his vain attempt to make the catch. As Gordon Beckham went into third base and Pierre into second, Ethier retrieved the ball but clearly looked shaken up afterward.

The next batter was Alexei Ramirez, who homered earlier in the game. The Dodgers had the infield in, while the staggered Ethier was playing deep. Ramirez hit a 3-1 pitch for a pure Texas Leaguer in between the oncoming Ethier and backpedaling second baseman Jamey Carroll. The ball fell in for an RBI single.

After that play, as Ethier retreated back to his position, Tony Gwynn Jr. came running out of the dugout on manager Don Mattingly’s direction to replace Ethier in right field. It was unclear to me whether Ethier signaled that he needed to replaced.

Though Ethier had been in a 1-for-30 slump (including 0 for 2 today) when the play occurred and has only one extra-base hit this month, there’s no doubt that any kind of injury to him would be a significant blow to a reeling Dodger team. Of course, Ethier has already been nursing a troublesome left elbow, which some think might be responsible for the hitting woes that followed the end of his 37-game on-base streak.

In the meantime, the Dodgers were hoping that Kuroda could just stabilize things, not out of any realistic hope of winning the game, but just to spare a Dodger bullpen that used mop-up relievers Ramon Troncoso and Lance Cormier for outings Saturday of 30-plus pitches each.

Kuroda ended up allowing two runs in the inning (both unearned, thanks to an error by Rafael Furcal), but at least he made it through four frames, albeit on 89 pitches. Rookie reliever Javy Guerra, who warmed up in the fourth inning, would probably combine with Scott Elbert to take the role of long man today.

However, the sixth White Sox run of the day brought about another injury, as Pierre, sliding home on Paul Konerko’s sacrifice fly, brought his right leg right into catcher Rod Barajas’ face. Dioner Navarro pinch-hit for Barajas in the top of the fifth.

Update: The Dodgers tried to come back, managing to score three runs and get Matt Kemp to the plate as the tying run in the seventh, before ultimately losing, 8-3. A day after his first major-league home run, Jerry Sands went 4 for 4 with his 10th double of the season and third stolen base. James Loney reached base three times. Rafael Furcal made an error and went 0 for 5 with three strikeouts, including one with the bases loaded, in his return from the disabled list.

Chicago’s Ramirez went 4 for 5 with his home run and two doubles, driving in five runs.

Ethier and Barajas are currently day-to-day with their injuries, according to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com. The Dodgers said Ethier had injuries to his right elbow, right lower back and left big toe, while Barajas had a right wrist injury.

Even if Barajas is only going to be out for a few days, it’s hard to imagine the Dodgers won’t have to call up catcher A.J. Ellis from Albuquerque, rather than rely on Dioner Navarro and emergency catchers – regardless of whether it’s Barajas, Ethier or Aaron Miles who goes in the disabled list. (Miles has been said to be improving enough to be ready to play Monday in Houston.)  If two players went on the DL, then Jamie Hoffmann would be the likely second callup.

After the three-game Houston series that starts Monday, the Dodgers play 19 consecutive games against teams with winning records. Brace yourselves.

May 21

Dodgers lose some, lose some

To get the formalities out of the way, Jon Garland got pounded for 11 hits in 3 2/3 innings of a 9-2 Dodger loss to the White Sox, a game that found Garland and catcher Rod Barajas not on the same page, according to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com. The bright side of the game was the first major-league home run for Jerry Sands.

And now, to the speculation: The Dodgers might get Rafael Furcal back as soon as Sunday, but it doesn’t appear that the team has ruled out placing Juan Uribe or Aaron Miles on the disabled list, if not both. If both of them go, that could mean Juan Castro and Russ Mitchell sharing time at third base until Casey Blake is ready to return.

May 15

Gap between Martin and Barajas is narrowing

On April 23, Russell Martin homered twice and walked, raising his 2011 on-base percentage to .410 and his slugging to .723.

Since then, Martin has gone 8 for 52 with nine walks, a .279 OBP and a .250 slugging.

Martin is still having a better season than the man who replaced him on the Dodgers, Rod Barajas, but the difference between the two is shrinking. The power is there with Barajas, whose main problem continues to be his walks – only five (against 33 strikeouts) in 126 plate appearances.

* * *

I couldn’t resist finding the irony in the fact that amid the maelstrom of poor-performing, massively paid Jorge Posada being dropped last in the Yankees’ lineup and then pulling himself out of the game entirely, the player selected to replace him Saturday was Andruw Jones, who knows a thing about maelstroms of poor-performing, massively paid players.

The other thing I noticed is that Posada’s adjusted OPS of 71 is still considerably higher than James Loney’s 50, even though Loney is on his hottest streak of the season.

Here’s what ESPN Stats and Information had to say about Posada: “Part of Jorge Posada’s poor start can be explained by a .164 batting average on balls in play, by far the lowest among 194 qualified players. However, it can’t all be blamed on bad luck, as Posada’s batted ball profile isn’t helping. His line drive rate is just 11.4, which is the sixth lowest among qualified players and would be by far his lowest since data is available in 2002.”

Feb 27

Dodgers look sharp against Angels


Harry How/Getty ImagesMatt Kemp and Marcus Thames feel fine in the sunshine.

Spring Training, Day 2

Highlights:

  • Looking to return to form and function, John Ely faced eight batters and allowed one hit, striking out three and walking none.
  • The Dodger bullpen followed with seven shutout innings from Mike MacDougal, Blake Hawksworth, Kenley Jansen, Ramon Troncoso and Jon Link.
  • Two hits from Rafael Furcal in his Spring Training debut.
  • Jamie(Jamey)’s got a glove: Diving defensive plays from Jamey Carroll at short and Jamie Hoffmann in left field.
  • Rod Barajas hit the Dodgers first homer of the spring.

Lowlights:

  • I didn’t see the play, so I don’t know how bad it was, but after hitting a two-run single in the first inning, Matt Kemp was picked off. Something for him and Davey Lopes to talk about?
  • Andre Ethier struck out in both his at-bats.

Sidelights:

Dec 03

Dodgers sign Rod Barajas for $3.25 million

Groupon might have turned down $6 billion from Google, but Rod Barajas knows a great deal when he sees one.

As we suspected after enjoying a similar late-season hot streak,  Barajas will join the likes of Jay Gibbons and Ted Lilly in in a Dodger uniform next season, having signed a one-year contract to return to the team. What we didn’t suspect was how much he would get paid.

A year ago, Barajas went unsigned until February, before getting a $500,000 base salary from the Mets and another $400,000 for making the Opening Day roster, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts. The potential of $1 million in performance bonuses gave him a maximum 2010 income of $1.9 million.

He then went onto have a .263 on-base percentage and .414 slugging percentage before being designated for assignment in August. The Dodgers picked him up, and he had a hot streak. Barajas, who turned 35 in September, ripped a .939 OPS for the Dodgers, though only over 72 plate appearances.

Somehow, he has parlayed that into a $3.25 million guarantee for 2011. Incredible. That’s at least double my estimate of his market value — I had thought Barajas and Gibbons could be had for $2 million combined. Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. was in a similar neighborhood — $1.5 million for Barajas.

After his peak season of 2005, when he was only 30, Barajas only drew a $3.2 million salary. Somehow, he has managed to top it.

Looking at the totality of his career (.284 OBP, .696 OPS), it seems more likely that he’ll be next year’s version of Ronnie Belliard at the plate (if not Marlon Anderson 2007). For someone who contribute as much (or as little) as Barajas, it’s a shocking amount of money.

Dec 02

Russell Martin is on the open market


Mark J. Rebilas/US PresswireRussell Martin

He was something special. And then he wasn’t.

It happens to the best of ‘em, but I can’t believe it happened this fast.

It is most certainly a non-tender night. The Dodgers have parted ways with 27-year-old Russell Martin, at least for now, by not offering him a 2011 contract. Again, the reason: They would have had to guarantee the slumping and injured catcher at least 80% of his 2010 salary, and risk paying him even more – easily over $6 million – if they lost an arbitration hearing.

If it were simply a case of Martin’s offensive struggles, I think Dodger general manager Ned Colletti would have guaranteed his contract, as they have done today with James Loney. But the uncertainty over his recovery from his hip injury made Los Angeles that much more guarded about spending all those millions. Wrote Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com:

… the Dodgers’ first choice was to bring Martin back if an agreement could be reached on a contract that would have paid him a lower base salary than what he received in 2010. Colletti said that in the final minutes before the 9 p.m. PST deadline, Colleran lowered Martin’s asking price to a simple $5 million guarantee, but the Dodgers weren’t willing to go that high.

“We were willing to get to the same point with performance bonuses, but not with a guaranteed $5 million,” Colletti said.

This isn’t necessarily the end of Martin’s Dodger career – he is free to negotiate with the Dodgers, as with all 29 other teams, for any contract, and Colletti told reporters that they would still talk. (Among other things, Jackson wrote that the Dodgers were interested in Martin in a utility role.)

But given that the parties couldn’t come to terms by this point, it seems unlikely to me that they would at any other. And that was made even more the case when, as Jackson reported, the Dodgers moved closer to signing Rod Barajas to a one-year contract.

“I think we are on the cusp of getting something done in a different direction,” Colletti said. “I wasn’t going to go to sleep tonight without a big league catcher here besides [backup] A.J. [Ellis]. We’re pretty far down the road with something, and it should come to fruition in a short period of time. This is somebody who, if the season were to start today, would take the lion’s share of [playing time], with A.J. in a backup role.”

The rest of the Dodgers’ decisions today went according to form. George Sherrill, like Martin, was non-tendered (as was September call-up Trent Oeltjen), while Loney, Hong-Chih Kuo and Chad Billingsley all were guaranteed 2011 contracts.

Nov 23

No salary arbitration for Barajas, Padilla and Podsednik

In declining to offer salary arbitration to free agents Rod Barajas, Vicente Padilla and Scott Podsednik, the Dodgers chose the flexibility of being able to offer each contracts on the teams’ terms in exchange for the rights to compensation of a draft pick after the first round should the players sign elsewhere. (Here’s a list of those elsewhere who got salary arbitration offers, from MLB Trade Rumors. Octavio Dotel?)

But on this day, I just wish to celebrate once again the fact that baseball has eliminated its nonsensical rule that prevented teams from negotiating with their own free agents if they declined arbitration – a rule that gave the 29 other teams a distinct advantage over the player’s most recent team. Having nothing to do with these three players, I’m just glad a stupid rule is no more.

As True Blue L.A. reminds us, December 2 is the deadline for the Dodgers to offer arbitration to non-free agents: Russell Martin et al.

Meanwhile, in the Noah’s Ark that bears non-roster invitees to Spring Training two-by-two, the Dodgers now have a pair of sub-mediocre ex-Diamondbacks, Dana Eveland and Oscar Villarreal.

* * *

Farewell, Danny McDevitt.