Sarah's Take: Work cut out for Colletti
After Winter Meetings, Dodgers still have holes to fill
This week, baseball held its Winter Meetings. Although Ned Colletti accomplished a lot during the four-day Meetings, he must do more before Spring Training begins. The Dodgers helped their infield situation by re-signing Casey Blake and signing Mark Loretta.
When the offseason began, the Dodgers did not have an infield. The Dodgers had James Loney at first base and Blake DeWitt, who would play somewhere on the infield. Although the Dodgers wanted to re-sign Blake and Rafael Furcal, we didn't know if they could do it. Jeff Kent was retiring.
I didn't think Blake would re-sign with the Dodgers because he lives in Iowa. I thought he would want to be closer to his home. He had spent his entire career in the American League. Although he did a good job while with the Dodgers, he didn't light the house on fire. I thought Colletti could find a better third baseman than Blake. Larry Bowa has said that he would like to keep DeWitt at third base.
Signing Blake gives the Dodgers a steadying influence on the young team. Since the Dodgers had Milton Bradley, they have been more worried about getting players with good character. For some reason, the Dodgers feel they need role models for the younger players. Blake fills this role.
This week's signing of Loretta still shows Dodger fans the desire of Colletti to have good role models in the clubhouse. Although Loretta has been to two All-Star Games and played 13 seasons, he hasn't caught many headlines. He always has played with gusto and when the game was on the line, he usually has come through with the big hit or important catch. Loretta will give the Dodgers an infield depth that they lacked in 2008. Colletti has been quoted as saying that Loretta will be a mentor to the 23-year-old DeWitt.
The Dodgers still want to re-sign Furcal and Manny Ramirez. Not many teams wanted Ramirez after he developed a reputation for being a malcontent with the Boston Red Sox, but the Dodgers were glad they had him at the end of the season. His agent, Scott Boras, is looking for a long-term contract. Although Ramirez is the greatest hitter in baseball at this time, it's hard to imagine any team will give him a five-year contract when he is 36. The Dodgers already have withdrawn their original two-year offer. However, Colletti wants to continue talking with Boras about Ramirez. Most baseball people think Ramirez will be a Dodger by February.
Although Furcal only played in 38 games last season, the Dodgers remember when he was healthy in 2006. A healthy Furcal is difficult to replace. He brings such energy and enthusiasm to the baseball diamond. Although many teams would love to have a healthy Furcal, they don't want to risk giving him a four-year contract like he wants, especially less than a year removed from back surgery. Colletti overpaid him last time he was a free agent, so when he is receiving similar offers, he is not jumping at them. Colletti believes no other team will give Furcal what he wants, so Furcal eventually will re-sign with the Dodgers. His agent says that Furcal will sign with a team by Christmas.
So far, the Dodgers haven't done anything about their pitching staff. The minute that the Dodgers were eliminated from the playoffs, Joe Torre said that the Dodgers should make pitching a top priority this offseason. I agree! To me, with better starting pitching, the Dodgers could have gone to the World Series. I was disappointed when the Dodgers didn't really enter the chase for CC Sabathia.
Derek Lowe has become a free agent. Colletti didn't pick up the option on Brad Penny. Greg Maddux retired. Chad Billingsley slipped on the ice at his Pennsylvania home and broke his leg. Although everyone believes Billingsley will be ready for Spring Training, I doubt he will have the same leg strength. Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda and Clayton Kershaw make up the Dodger starting rotation if the season began now.
The Dodger bullpen is not in better shape than their starting rotation. Joe Beimel is a free agent. Chan Ho Park is gone. After saving 81 games over three seasons, Takashi Saito became a free agent. In July, he suffered a right elbow injury. Saito was likely to get a significant raise from his 2008 $2 million salary, and the Dodgers weren't willing to take this risk if Saito went to arbitration. Although the Dodgers and his agent continue to talk, I don't have much hope of seeing Saito in a Dodger uniform in 2009.
The Dodgers didn't give Scott Proctor an offer either.
There's talk about the Dodgers signing Trevor Hoffman to be a mentor to Jonathan Broxton. Although I have the utmost respect for Hoffman, the Dodgers don't need him with his skills declining. Last season, Hoffman had a 3.77 ERA and four blown saves while with the San Diego Padres. Hoffman has been the best closer in baseball history, but he made his excellent reputation with the devastating changeup. Broxton is a pitcher who will have his success by throwing heat and not relying on a changeup.
Colletti thinks if Broxton falters as the closer, the Dodgers can use Hong-Chih Kuo. Kuo is a fantastic pitcher when healthy. He has had four arm surgeries, including two Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgeries. He couldn't pitch last September or in the playoffs. I don't like seeing the Dodgers relying on him.
I am proud of Colletti for re-signing Blake and signing Loretta. However, Colletti is not done with making changes to the Dodgers. Although having Furcal and Ramirez would be nice, the Dodgers must address their pitching situation immediately.
Sarah D. Morris is the editor of Sarah's Dodger Place. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.