For a team that won the NL West in 2008, the Dodgers have a lot of work to do this offseason. Fortunately, they have a lot of money to spend.
The Dodgers need a second baseman to replace retiring 2B Jeff Kent. Or, they could sign a third baseman to replace free agent Casey Blake and shift Blake DeWitt to second base. Who’s available? Orlando Hudson is the best free agent second baseman, but he would cost a draft pick (and considerably more money). David Eckstein is another option. He has grit. Casey Blake is probably the best free agent third baseman out there, though word on the street is the Twins are hot on his heels. Joe Crede could be another intriguing option at third base. His recent injury history should give the Dodgers pause, but it should also prevent him from demanding big money or big years.
The Dodgers also need to resign Rafael Furcal or find a new shortstop. Angel Berroa isn’t going to cut it. L.A. could trade for Boston’s Julio Lugo, but Lugo tanked in his first go round with the Dodgers, so he probably won’t be welcome back. Orlando Cabrera is a solid option, but he would cost a draft pick. Resigning Furcal is almost certainly the way to go here. Though, if the Dodgers sign Furcal and Crede then they had better have one hell of a chiropractor on staff.
Next, the Dodgers need an outfielder, unless of course they want to give playing time to Andruw Jones or Juan Pierre. At the top of L.A.’s list? Manny Ramirez, of course. You know the book on Ramirez. Supreme offensive talent. Woeful defensive outfielder. Going to cost a fortune. If Ramirez were willing to sign for two years he might be worth the investment. But three or four years from now it’s hard to imagine that his offense will continue to be elite and very easy to imagine that his defense will be unforgivable. Other outfield options include Pat Burrell, and while he’d come cheaper than Manny he brings the same limitations — he’s a very poor defender and getting worse. Juan Rivera could make some sense in the outfield, and so could Raul Ibanez. Or L.A. could trade for an outfielder. Now that they have Coco Crisp, the Royals will want to move either Mark Teahen, who is still arbitration eligible, or David DeJesus, who is signed affordably through 2010 with a club option for 2011. Teahen simply isn’t very good, but DeJesus could play either centerfield or leftfield for the Dodgers.
Finally, there’s the rotation. Derek Lowe is a free agent and the cost to retain him figures to be very steep. Brad Penny is also a free agent, and he couldn’t get out of town fast enough. Without Lowe and Penny, the Dodgers’ staff includes Chad Billingsley, Hideki Kuroda, Clayton Kershaw and (technically) Jason Schmidt, though counting on him to pitch anytime soon is not a safe bet. At the end of last season the Dodgers traded for Greg Maddux. Bringing back Maddux would be a great move, but it looks like the future Hall of Famer will retire. So how about that other elderly pitcher, Randy Johnson? The Big Unit is poised to win his 3,000th game this season and that’ll be fun. Plus, he’s likely to be one of the more affordable starters on the market. Last year, Johnson won 11 games, had a nearly 4:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and kept his ERA under 4.00. Sounds like a no-brainer to me.
Here’s my final analysis: CC Sabathia is a great pitcher and Manny Ramirez is a great hitter, but the Dodgers would be wise to spread their money around, rather than investing in either of those players. Bring back Furcal. Keep Dewitt at third base and give top prospect Chin-Lung Hu the chance to win the everyday second base job. Chin-Lung has played shortstop in the minors, so he’s got the range to play second. The 24-year-old hit .299/.344 in parts of six minor league seasons. He’s ready.
Next, sign Randy Johnson to a one-year deal and sign Raul Ibanez to a three-year deal.
Finally, sign Randy Wolf. He’ll give you a west coast discount. He always does.