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'Tis the Season to Play GM

Let’s play like we’re Nick Colletti and take a look at what is out there in the free agency market in order for the Dodgers to get better. There’s no doubt that even as imitators we know that we should be looking for starting pitching but before we do - let’s look at what else we need or is open ended for filling.

A look at what the Dodgers do have and should immediately strike us that we have a lot. Essentially, we can say we are pretty much set at every position for the 2010 season except maybe 2nd Base.

A close look at what is available at second base makes it clear even to us amateur GM’s that there isn’t much of a selection. We might do best by signing Ronnie Belliard for next year even at his ripe old age of 35 years. He’s probably one of the best hitting second baseman available on the free agent market right now.

Then again, there’s always the dependable and lovable Orlando Hudson who will be 32 years old next year and is coming off a pretty good year in which he won another Gold Glove. He definitely is the best defensive second baseman available, but might be a bit expensive. What Ned knows and is not clear for those of us looking in outside the locker room, is why did Orlando lose his spot to Ronnie Belliard in the first place. He was hurt but then he was fine and didn’t break back into the lineup. Obviously for us it’s because Belliard is considered a better hitter. But that’s last year and 2010 has a whole new outlook for us. But there is the idea or strategy for us to hold on to as much money as we can for what we really need. Blake DeWitt might be ready and why not give him a chance to play every day in the majors. He’s certainly not deserving of being that same perennial yoyo – going up and down from the minors. As a fan, maybe not a GM, he’s earned a regular spot even if it’s on the bench as a utility fielder and bat. You never know, he could be the starting second baseman and we’d be able to save at least $3 to $5 million on second basemen. But GM’s aren’t paid to not know, so there are the other possibilities; Juan Uribe, 31 who is coming off a good year with the Giants, Mark DeRosa, whose probably more of a third baseman now and perhaps the best option out there, Luis Castillo, who the Mets are trying to rid. So these are the obvious possibilities for the Dodger second base job.

Now, let’s get to the meat and potatoes of looking at what it’s going to take to get the Dodgers into the World Series and quite possibility a World Championship; starting pitching.
The Dodgers spent $109,176,000 on payroll last year. This year - they have $64,133,000 on the books already accounted for. That gives them about $50 million to solidify their roster. They have several players who are in their first year of arbitration which means they will probably get a fair raise. Andre Ethier in his first year of arbitration received a raise to $3.1 million and Russell Martin received $3.9 million in his first eligible year of arbitration. So it’s safe to speculate that Matt Kemp, James Loney, Chad Billingsley, Hung Che Kuo and Jonathan Broxton combined should warrant about $15 to $22 million this year. That leaves about $35 to $28 million left to spend on pitching.

The other question is Juan Pierre who is due $10 million in 2010 and it’s no secret he would probably like to be traded. The problem is he also has $8.5 million due in 2011 and that’s a two year contract for $18.5 million, which make it rather difficult to trade to a team who can probably like to have him. So assuming we keep Pierre, the Dodgers have $35 to $30 million to spend on free agents. The only other thing that complicates this a bit, is that Kemp, Ethier, Loney, Broxton, Billingsley, Martin and Kershaw will warrant even more money in 2011, 2012 and 2013. But then again Manny’s $20 million contract will come to an end after the 2010 season, which means there will be another $20 million available. So assume that the Dodgers have $30 million to spend this year to improve and of course we’ve already decided that we’re going to spend it on pitching; starting pitching.

Let’s start with a tough question because there isn’t much starting pitching out there to choose from, so do we go after Randy Wolf to sign? I say yes – if we can sign him to a $5.5 million deal; or less for no more than two years. He had a great year last year, probably one of the more consistent pitchers in all of baseball. But the problem is - will there be another team that increases the bid for him? It just might be what ends up happening. That leaves Jason Marquis, Vincent Padilla, Erik Bedard, Cha Seung Baek, and Rich Harden that are available in the same category of B+ pitchers to sign. I say Randy Wolf would be a good pick but I also like Rich Harden.

But the big and obvious prize in the free agent market this year is John Lackey. The Angels last offer to him was $72 million for five years and he turned it down. The rumor mill has him speaking with the Mariners, Brewers and Mets. Can we afford to let him get away?
There is always a trade to be made for Roy Halladay. But what would we have to give up for two years; $22 million; pitchers Billingsley and James McDonald and possibly a double-A player; would you make that trade? I would.

There are rumors that we are exploring a possible trade for Javier Vazquez of the Braves, but that rumor was quickly denied. So there are very few options out there to get a top notch Pitcher and if the McCourts settle their divorce without spending too much of the money, we definitely have plenty of money and options available to us to make it happen.

Another possible move is to offer the Marlins a trade for Josh Johnson, the Cy Young caliber hurler who recently fell out of negotiations for a new contract because they were only offering him a three year deal and he and his agent are looking for five. He's only 25 years old, so let's give him a four year deal with an option for a fifth - if in his third year he has pitched at least 160 innings or has notched 15 or more wins. He probably would accept $44 million for 4 years, not bad for a guy who could possibly win two Cy Young awards in that time and two or more World Series championships.

There's no denying that one or two good starting pitchers in 2010 to go with what we have will mean after 22 years of wheelin' and dealin' - we’re finally going back to the World Series. The question is; will they let Ned make it happen? I’m rooting for him and continuing to make his decisions from my arm chair. Pull up a chair and join me.