Feb 23

Braun news threatens to overshadow Sands’ Carlos Perez story

Ryan Braun won the appeal of his drug suspension. I’ll let the reaction of Hardball Talk’s Craig Calcaterra stand in for mine.

In almost all cases, the people who say that someone “got off on a technicality” or took advantage of a “loophole” really mean “I think the SOB was guilty and because of that I don’t care if the proper safeguards and protocols were followed!”  It’s a ridiculous stance.

Ridiculous because procedures such as chain of custody and the proper handling of samples — which were not followed in Braun’s case — exist for a reason. That reason is not, contrary to popular grunting, to make it harder for decent prosecutors or authorities to do their jobs. It’s to ensure the integrity of the system. And, in this case, the integrity of the sample. Every detail that is not adhered to presents another opportunity for a sample to be tainted, lost or otherwise compromised. When that happens the test itself is, by definition, unreliable and any reference to what it may or may not have shown is utterly beside the point. …

There’s more in Calcaterra’s post, one I urge you to read in its entirety. Between this chain-of-custody failure and the missing staple that was key to the McCourt divorce case, baseball appears to be ripping off Law and Order plot devices.

I’d like to think this will end the talk that there should be a re-vote of the National League Most Valuable Player award, but perhaps that’s still too optimistic.

* * *

Jerry Sands provided a lot of good copy for Dodger beat writers today, as these stories from Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A and Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com show.

The bulk of it consisted of fun anecdotes about Sands working as a substitute teacher over the winter, but my favorite part was this, from Stephen:

… Sands got married on November 19, then spent a month in the Dominican Republic, hitting .250/.325/.375 in 20 games with the Tigres de Licey in winter league ball, where he was teammates with 40-year old former Dodgers pitcher and water cooler destroyer Carlos Perez.

Sands said Perez was in something like his 20th year in the Dominican Winter League, and joked that management said of the pitcher, “We keep telling him not to come back, but every year he keeps showing up in the clubhouse.” …

* * *

The Dodgers had a few roster moves today.

They claimed 26-year-old outfielder Matt Angle off waivers from Baltimore. Angle had a .599 OPS in 95 plate appearances for the Orioles in 2011 and a .692 OPS in Triple-A, his skills mainly being incredible basestealing ability (38 for 42 at the two levels combined) and defense. Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness has more on Angle, who is on the 40-man roster but will begin the season in the minors.

Rubby De La Rosa was placed on the 60-day disabled list to make room for Angle.

Also, righty reliever Jose Ascanio failed his physical and won’t participate in Spring Training for the Dodgers. has left Dodger camp after failing his physical on Tuesday. From the Dodger Thoughts 2012 Spring Training Primer:

The 26-year-old allowed five runs on 12 baserunners in 6 1/3 innings for Pittsburgh last year and has a career 5.28 ERA in 46 MLB innings. However, he did strike out 50 in 44 innings for Triple-A Indianapolis in his first significant action since recovering from late-2009 shoulder surgery. So he sounds qualified for an Albuquerque stint.

* * *

  • Arizona offered Hiroki Kuroda $13 million for 2012, $3 million more than the contract he signed with the Yankees, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.
  • Ernest Reyes of Blue Heaven posted a bevy of vintage Dodger photos available at Legendary Auctions.
  • EAS Sports Nutrition has a contest that will provide the winner and a friend airfare to Phoenix, hotel, rental car and tickets for two Spring Training games over the March 16-18 weekend.
Feb 07

Dodgers sign Clayton Kershaw to two-year deal

The Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw have agreed to terms on a two-year contract that will keep him out of an arbitration deal at least until 2014, the year he could theoretically become a free agent over my dead body. Details on the deal to come …

Update: Dylan Hernandez of the Times tweets that the deal is worth $19 million. You would figure about $8.5 million of that would come this year and $10.5 million next year, though with the Dodger sale in progress, it might not slice quite like that.

By comparison, Tim Lincecum earned $23 million over his first two arbitration-eligible years (2010-11), which followed back-to-back Cy Young Award wins in 2008 and 2009.

Update 2: The contract is only slightly backloaded, reports Hernandez: $8 million (including a $500,000 signing bonus) in 2012, $11 million in 2013.

Update 3: The Dodgers will pay Kershaw and Matt Kemp a combined $18 million in 2012 and a combined $33 million in 2013. Kemp is earning $10 million this year and $20 million plus $2 million in deferred money next year.

Update 4: Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com reports that $2 million of Kershaw’s 2012 salary is deferred, meaning he’ll be paid $6 million in 2012 and $13 million in 2013. That means the Kemp-Kershaw combo gets $16 million this year and $35 million next year.

Update 5: More from Jackson …

… Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti credited Alex Tamin, the club’s newly hired director of contracts, research and operations who was handing all the team’s arbitration cases for the first time, with coming up with a deal that was fair to both sides.

“It was a full-length process, and it took awhile,” Colletti said. “We had one-year discussions, two-year discussions and four-year discussions. There were a lot of different things in play all the time. Alex did a great job of managing it and keeping it level and giving us a chance at a multiyear deal that gives Clayton and his family some security. And for us, you know what you’re going to be paying (for two years).”

Said Kershaw of the deal: “There were a couple other options (in terms of years), but we felt like this was the best for both sides.” …

Feb 07

Infielder roulette

Monday was a day of past Dodger infielders making news, and present Dodger infielders become past ones.

  • Russell Mitchell was designated for assignment to make room on the Dodgers’ 40-man roster for Todd Coffey. He could return to the organization if he clears waivers. (Remembering 2011: Russell Mitchell)
  • Blake DeWitt, once upon a time known as “The Solution,” was designated for assignment by the Cubs, who acquired him in the Ted Lilly trade a couple years back. DeWitt, 26, had a 95 OPS+ (.305 on-base percentage, .413 slugging) with Chicago in 2011, compared with Adam Kennedy’s 79 OPS+ for Seattle – but don’t expect the Dodgers to give someone up to acquire DeWitt, who more likely would end up back in the minors for the Cubs.
  • Alex Cora is still at it, signing a minor-league deal with St. Louis.
  • Edwin Jackson reportedly turned down a three-year, $30 million deal with Pittsburgh to sign with Washington for one year and $11 million, banking on doing better in next season’s free-agent market (or just determined to set a record for organizations in a career).
  • Dodgers assistant general manager of amateur and international scouting Logan White talked about some of his prize picks – Zach Lee, Clayton Kershaw, Allen Webster, Nathan Eovaldi and Chris Reed – with David Laurila for Fangraphs.
  • Up-and-coming reliever Shawn Tolleson was profiled by Ken Gurnick of MLB.com.
  • The late Jose Lima is the subject of a recent SABR biography by Rory Costello.
  • Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. is taking a day-by-day look at the Dodgers’ divisional rivals, starting with Arizona on Monday and continuing with San Francisco today.
  • Monday in Jon SooHoo: Blake Griffin and Matt Kemp.
  • Mark Prior is trying one more time to salvage his pitching career, writes Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe (via Drew Silva of Hardball Talk). Prior last pitched in the majors in 2006 and won only two games after his 25th birthday.
  • Also aspiring to come back: Brandon Webb, out since Opening Day 2009.
  • Tim Lincecum talks about Clayton Kershaw, among other topics, in this video passed along by Roberto Baly of Vin Scully Is My Homeboy.
  • Here’s a simple dice baseball game designed for kids ages 3-6, via Baseball Think Factory.
  • One last baseball-oriented remark about “Smash” that I tweeted: “Hilty is the proven veteran talent. McPhee is green but higher-ceiling. It’s Juan Rivera vs. Jerry Sands. Harang vs. Eovaldi.”  Except this wasn’t quite right. It’s more like A.J. Ellis vs. Tim Federowicz.
  • Ten years ago, while on detail for MLB.com in Venezuela, former Dodger communications vice president Josh Rawitch wrote about an up-and-coming Rivera.
  • In this terrific podcast interview, ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Kamenetzky brothers talk to Oscar-nominated actor Gary Oldman about, among many other things in a 45-minute chat, his great admiration and love for baseball.
  • This seemed to fascinate some folks on Twitter late Monday: Take a look at these NPR contributor bios, and see if their pictures match with your images of them.
Jan 17

Late-season run spurs payday for Loney

Sometimes, it sure helps to finish strong.

James Loney has signed a 2012 contract for $6.375 million plus incentives, according to Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com. That’s an increase of $1.5 million (31 percent) from his 2011 salary of $4.875 million, compared with the $1.7 million (18 percent) increase that Andre Ethier received earlier today.

(In September, I predicted Loney would end up with $6.5 million.)

One shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that Ethier is still getting nearly $5 million more than Loney will for 2012, but it’s still a pretty impressive haul for Loney, who had a .612 OPS as late as August 6 last season.  But he OPSed 1.082 in his final 47 games, a late-season run that was worth millions, given the probability that he would have been non-tendered without having done so.

And so, the spotlight now turns to Clayton Kershaw’s 2012 contract …

Jan 17

Ethier signs surprisingly modest 2012 deal

Andre Ethier has avoided a salary arbitration hearing by signing a one-year deal for $10.95 million plus minimal incentives – a deal so modest, given what he could have potentially earned, that it’s almost as if Ethier has taken a Dale Carnegie approach to 2012.

Tip of the hat, no muss, no fuss, let’s play ball.

Based on the history of raises for arbitration-eligible players of his caliber, I had projected in September that Ethier (who made $9.25 million last year) could pull $13 million in salary for 2012. On this, I wasn’t alone: Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. reached the same conclusion, while Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness was close behind at $12 million. By my estimation, $10.95 million (plus $25,000 for reaching 600 plate appearances and again for 625 plate appearances, according to ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Tony Jackson) is roughly the minimum Ethier would have gotten in salary arbitration – the figure he would have ended up with had he lost.

If you’re wondering why Ethier would be guaranteed a raise even after a decline in performance last year, you have a lot to learn about Major League Baseball’s salary structure. By way of comparison, James Loney got a 57 percent salary bump after the 2010 season despite falling to a .723 OPS that year. Ethier just pulled an 18 percent increase.

Perhaps all of us overestimated what Ethier could get this year, but it would appear that he simply wanted to just take care of business and have no part of a protracted conflict.

Now the path is clear for Ethier to pursue a healthy rebound from his career-low 11-homer, .789 OPS season, not to mention a reversal of his decline against left-handed pitching. Ethier obviously won’t end up in the poorhouse should he fall short, but all in all, a comfortable peace between the Dodgers and Ethier would seem to be a good thing.

Jan 15

Shots at Kuroda undeserved

Some online have criticized Hiroki Kuroda for joining an East Coast team this winter after refusing to approve a trade to an East Coast team last summer. Those criticisms are way off the mark.

There’s a big difference between making your own decision to go east after months of deliberations, as opposed to being forced to do so at a moment’s notice, against your will.

In November 2010, Kuroda signed a contract in good faith to pitch in Los Angeles in 2011 and made clear his intention of how important it was to him to be in Los Angeles by negotiating a no-trade clause. Now, some would fault him for not volunteering to leave the team he signed with – not to mention his family – behind.

This is a pretty bizarre loyalty test, where you’re required to make a sacrifice for a team that, the minute you make the sacrifice, is no longer your team. I don’t know where the idea that he owed the Dodgers something comes from.

Trading Kuroda for prospects would have helped the Dodgers. So would Kuroda and all his teammates playing for free. It doesn’t mean they’re lesser people for choosing not to do so. It doesn’t mean that Kuroda didn’t have valid reasons for staying.

Those of you who are employed – would you accept a sudden and immediate transfer to a completely different company, across the country, even when you didn’t want to go, only because it would help the company you were previously working for?

Jan 05

Dodgers back with Mac

Predictably, the Dodgers have re-signed reliever Mike MacDougal to a 2012 contract with a 2013 club option.

According to The Associated Press, MacDougal gets a slight raise from his 2011 salary this year, to $650,000. If the Dodgers pick up his option for 2013, he’ll get another $2.35 million, which means the Dodgers will pick up his option over my suspendedly animated body. But if things go according to Hoyle, MacDougal will get a $350,000 buyout after the coming season.

MacDougal returns to a bullpen that figures to also include Kenley Jansen, Javy Guerra, Scott Elbert, Matt Guerrier, Josh Lindblom and one other.

Previously on Dodger Thoughts: Remembering 2011: Mike MacDougal.

… MacDougal not only ended up pitching more innings for the Dodgers than all but one of those names, he finished the year with the lowest ERA on the entire staff: 2.05. Now, if you were paying attention, you’ll know that latter figure is tainted: He allowed 17 of 51 inherited runners to score. It was actually much worse before the All-Star break, when he allowed 13 of 33 inherited runners to come home – nearly 40 percent. His second-half numbers (4 of 18) were respectable. He struck out 6.5 batters per nine innings but allowed 13.1 baserunners. So, he was effective, but then again he wasn’t, but considering his $500,000 salary, then again he was. …

Dec 12

Tony Gwynn Jr. signs for two years

Ending speculation that today might be his last day in a Los Angeles uniform, the Dodgers have signed Tony Gwynn Jr. to a two-year contract rather than non-tender him.

The 29-year-old Gwynn will earn a modest $850,000 in 2012 and $1.15 million in 2013. Gwynn will be a late-inning defensive replacement, spot-start and back up center field in case of a Matt Kemp calamity. You can look back on Gwynn’s 2011 season here.

Assuming James Loney isn’t cast off by tonight’s 9 p.m. deadline to offer arbitration-eligible players contracts, here’s how the Dodgers would presumably fill their 14 position-player spots on the roster if the season started today:

C – A.J. Ellis
1B – James Loney
2B – Mark Ellis
SS – Dee Gordon
3B – Juan Uribe
LF – Juan Rivera
CF – Matt Kemp
RF – Andre Ethier
Bench C – Matt Treanor (R)
Bench IF – Adam Kennedy (L)
Bench IF – Jerry Hairston, Jr. (R)
Bench OF – Tony Gwynn, Jr. (L)
Bench OF – Jerry Sands (R)
Bench – Trent Oeltjen (L) or Justin Sellers (R)

I’m still in doubt about Sands starting the season in the majors, because you’d like him to play every day, but Ned Colletti has definitely made some noise this offseason that he’s not satisfied with how Ethier and Loney hit against lefties.

Elsewhere, Takashi Saito is headed to Arizona. Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com tweeted that the Dodgers had been considering bringing the beloved Saito back to Los Angeles as an alternative to Mike MacDougal, a move I would have enjoyed for the right price.

Dec 08

Dodgers finalize Harang contract and trade Eveland

On the same day that Aaron Harang signed a $12 million Dodger contract that will pay him $3 million in 2012 and $7 million in 2013 (with a club option for 2014 that comes with a $2 million buyout) , the Dodgers traded Dana Eveland to Baltimore.

Eveland, who allowed 36 baserunners with a 3.03 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 29 2/3 innings for Los Angeles in 2011 but was not likely to be tendered a 2012 contract, went to the Orioles in exchange for minor-leaguers Jarret Martin and outfielder Tyler Henson.

Martin, a Bakersfield native, has walked 5.9 batters per nine innings in his two-year minor-league career, but the lefthander has also struck out 8.7, so the Dodgers will see where his live arm takes him. As Chad Moriyama notes, there is some upside. Henson, an outfielder who turns 24 next week, had a .634 OPS in Triple-A this season.

Dec 02

Dodgers reportedly to sign Capuano

Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesChris Capuano

The Hiroki Kuroda era has all but ended in Los Angeles, with the Dodgers agreeing to terms with 33-year-old lefthander Chris Capuano on a two-year contract worth a total of $10 million, according to Jim Bowden and Jayson Stark of ESPN.

Capuano should be replacing the Jon Garland spot in the Dodger rotation, which in turn became the Rubby De La Rosa and Nathan Eovaldi slot. But all recent signs from Ned Colletti have indicated that the Dodgers don’t have the budget to sign two free-agent pitchers, which would mean that Capuano would replace Kuroda, with Eovaldi competing with your Dana Eveland types for the No. 5 spot.

The only reason I’m not sure about this is the possibility of Capuano and Kuroda salaries being weighted to future years to fit them both into the 2012 payroll.

Capuano is more than three years younger than Kuroda, and though he is bouncing back after missing 2008 and 2009 because of Tommy John surgery, he is not of Kuroda’s caliber, even given the likelihood of Kuroda declining in 2012 at age 37. Capuano’s career-best adjusted ERA of 113, achieved five years ago, ranks below Kuroda’s average for his major-league career.

The bright side for Capuano is that he struck out 8.1 batters per nine innings in 2011 with the Mets, but that went with 256 baserunners and 27 homers allowed in 198 innings. His ERA was 4.55; his fielding-independent ERA was 4.04. In 31 starts last season, he had 14 quality starts.

Nov 29

Adam Kennedy reportedly Dodgers’ next backup infielder

Ted S. Warren/APDespite how it may appear, this photo shows Adam Kennedy hitting an RBI single off Cole Hamels, not a pop out. Granted, it was a bloop single …

In 2002, he was a postseason hero for the Angels, but if he is to do the same in 2012, Adam Kennedy will do so as the guy who steps in for the Dodgers if and when Juan Uribe or Mark Ellis get hurt.

Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com reports that the Dodgers are close to signing Kennedy, who will be 36 in January, to a contract that presumably would bind both parties to each other for some period of time. Kennedy would take the place of Aaron Miles from the 2011 team and probably pushes Russ Mitchell down the 2012 depth chart back into the minors, at least for now.

Kennedy struggled to a .277 on-base percentage and .355 slugging percentage in 409 plate appearances last season, though that was with his home games in the poor hitting environment of Seattle. His last solid season was in 2009 with Oakland, when he produced a .348 OBP and .410 slugging in 586 plate appearances.

Assuming he makes the team, the left-handed hitting Kennedy would be the primary backup at second base and third base, with Justin Sellers competing with Mitchell and any other incoming detritus for the other backup infield spot. If Sellers didn’t make the team, then Uribe would probably become the Dodgers’ backup shortstop behind Dee Gordon.

If Kennedy’s contract is the equivalent of the minor-league deal that led to Miles’ run as a Dodger, then that’s a no-risk deal that anyone can live with. But if it starts to move toward or beyond Dioner Navarro territory, one might start to wonder what the point is.

Nov 18

Dodgers remove Ely, Monasterios from 40-man roster

Ahead of the deadline to protect players from the Rule 5 draft, the Dodgers outrighted pitchers John Ely and Carlos Monasterios to Triple-A Albuquerque in order to make room for five first-timers on the 40-man roster.

Two came at the trading deadline: outfielder Alex Castellanos and pitcher Steven Fife.

  • Alex Castellanos, the 25-year-old outfielder who came from the Cardinals in exchange for Rafael Furcal and had a combined .958 OPS in 534 plate appearances at Double-A.
  • Stephen Fife, a 25-year-old righty who came from the Red Sox in the Trayvon Robinson trade and had a combined 3.74 ERA with 95 strikeouts in 137 innings at Double-A.
  • Chris Withrow, a 2007 first-round draft choice who had a 4.20 ERA with 130 strikeouts in 128 2/3 innings as a starter at Double-A Chattanooga.
  • Michael Antonini, a 26-year-old who came from the Mets organization last winter in exchange for Chin-Lung Hu and had a 4.01 ERA with 131 strikeouts in 148 innings as a starter at Chattanooga.
  • Josh Wall, a 2005 second-round draft choice who had a 3.93 ERA with 57 strikeouts in 68 2/3 innings as a reliever at Double-A Chattanooga.

After spending all of 2010 with the Dodgers, Monasterios was injured most of 2011, pitching only four innings with the Isotopes. Ely never recovered his Elymania form of 2010, though he was mostly effective in very short spurts with the Dodgers in 2011.

Both players could easily remain in the organization for 2012, depending on the interest they receive elsewhere.

For more on the state of the 40-man roster,  as well as some names that were left unprotected from the Rule 5 draft, check out this post and this post from True Blue L.A.

Nov 18

It’s officially the Age of Kemp

Damian Dovarganes/APMatt Kemp celebrates his new contract in the Dodgers’ new home uniform.

The breakdown of Matt Kemp’s new Dodger contract, now officially running through 2019, comes from Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com and The Associated Press.

It’s not exactly $20 million each year, but the difference in future years doesn’t figure to be significant, unless you’re the kind of guy or gal who frets over $22 million vs. $20 million.

  • In 2012, Kemp will make $10 million, which includes a $2 million signing bonus due by April but not $2 million that will be deferred for a year.
  • 2013: $22 million, including the $2 million deferred from 2012.
  • 2014: $21 million
  • 2015: $21 million
  • 2016: $21.5 million
  • 2017: $21.5 million
  • 2018: $21.5 million
  • 2019: $21.5 million