This is the first in a series of posts that will call out all 30 teams for their wily offseason moves and tragic offseason blunders.
Ned Colletti has continued to show us that he has an extreme case of “big-name-itis” with his offseason moves. Colletti is like that guy in your football fantasy league who will trade you Philip Rivers for Brett Favre because, after all, he’s BRETT FAVRE. So despite having the best-stocked farm system in baseball and several of the most coveted major-league-ready prospects, Colletti merrily proceeded to lavish rich contracts on “experienced veterans” and “proven quantities” until all the Dodgers hot prospects were blocked from getting to the majors.
To be sure, the Dodgers made a few good deals. The signings of pitchers Randy Wolf and Jason Schmidt were almost universally lauded as reasonable gambles for reasonable prices (at least given the crazy pitching market this year), and resigning closer Takashi Saito was an absolute must. The Dodgers also immediately gained by subtraction when JD Drew and Julio Lugo opted to split town.
But Colletti also handed out several awful to potentially disastrous contracts in his neverending quest for the big names of yesteryear. Nomar Garciaparra was certainly a valuable piece for the Dodgers last year, but he was just as injury-prone as ever, and first base prospect James Loney (who won the PCL batting title last year and has nothing left to prove in AAA) is now blocked for two more years. There was some talk of playing Loney in the outfield, but that talk ended when Coletti opted to sign aging, weak armed left-fielder Luis Gonzalez (yes, he of the mighty 15 home runs last year) for 7 million dollars. Sure, Gonzalez once hit 57 homers in a season and was a walk-off world series hero, but that was six years ago when he wasn’t north of 40 and was still juicing. What are the odds that Loney could have produced 15 home runs this year, virtually for free? Exceedingly high, is what I would say.
But worst of all was the ridiculous, and almost universally panned 5-year, $45 million dollar contract Colletti awarded to centerfielder Juan Pierre. It boggles the mind that a low-OBP centerfielder who your mother could outthrow, and whose only skill (speed) is very likely to decline as he heads into his 30s, is going to be getting $9 million (!) a season while he blocks hot prospect Matt Kemp in center for the next five years.
And then there was also Colletti’s bizarre and utterly inexplicable decision not to even offer Greg Maddux arbitration, even after it was clear that Maddux was going to sign elsewhere, thus allowing Maddux to sign with the division-rival Padres without the Dodgers even getting a draft pick in return for losing a pitcher who is still pretty damn good.
All in all, a very mixed offseason for the Dodgers. The good part is that the NL West still looks weak enough that the Dodgers should contend for the division crown, even though they did nothing to address their most glaring weakness (a lack of power in the lineup). The bad part is that the Dodgers will be playing and overpaying aging big-name veterans instead of rookies who would probably be providing similar numbers at much cheaper prices, as well as developing their skills for the future.
At least the Dodgers get a few bonus points for finally giving up on Frank McCourt’s mad scheme to turn the Dodgers into Red Sox West. For once they didn’t sign any former Red Sox, and they finally put the names back on the back of the Jerseys!
Offseason Grade: C
Nomar Garciaparra, Jason Schmidt, Takashi Saito, Juan Pierre, Randy Wolf, Luis Gonzalez, Mike Lieberthal, Ramon Martinez
Greg Maddux, JD Drew, Julio Lugo, Kenny Lofton, Aaron Sele, Eric Gagne, Giovanni Carrara, Toby Hall, Jayson Werth
Projected Lineup, Rotation and Closer
SS Rafael Furcal – .300/.369/.445, 37 SB
CF Juan Pierre – .292/.330/.388, 58 SB
1B Nomar Garciaparra – .303/.367/.505, 20 HR
2B Jeff Kent – .292/.385/.477, 14 HR
LF Luis Gonzalez – .271/.352/.444, 15 HR
C Russell Martin – .282/.355/.436, 10 HR
3B Wilson Betemit – .263/.326/.469, 18 HR
RF Andre Ethier – .308/.365/.477, 11 HR
RHP Jason Schmidt – 11-9, 3.59
RHP Derek Lowe – 16-8, 3.63
RHP Brad Penny – 16-9, 4.33
LHP Randy Wolf – 4-0, 5.56
RHP Chad Billingsley – 7-4, 3.80
CL Takashi Saito – 24 SV, 2.07