Six years — a little longer than six, really — is a long time to do anything. It’s a long time to write about the Dodgers almost entirely by yourself. Hell, it’s a long time to be a Dodger. Back in the summer of 2007 when I first started this thing up, we were talking about Grady Little, Juan Pierre and David Wells and Mark Hendrickson and Olmedo Saenz and whether Wilson Betemit should be starting at third base over Nomar Garciaparra and wondering why Luis Gonzalez was getting playing time over Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. Zack Greinke was working mainly out of the Kansas City bullpen. Clayton Kershaw wasn’t making $200 million; he was a 19-year-old walking nearly five per nine at Great Lakes and Jacksonville. You know, Jacksonville, which isn’t even a Dodger affiliate any longer, just like Vero Beach and Las Vegas.
At the time, I was pretty close to being the blogger stereotype: partially employed, fully single, and making a pit stop at my parents’ house. Now, I’m over 30, married, and probably over-employed. Along the way I’ve had a lot of fun, met some great people — I can’t say enough about the commenters on this site — and managed to take a stab at a career working fully in sports. All of which is to say, I can’t really keep up with being a one-man band at a daily baseball site any longer. I’ve loved doing it, but it’s exhausting, and it just no longer works. (I’ve also developed quite the reputation for, you know, being asleep or on vacation when awesome things happen.)
That’s a long way of saying that this is both post number 2,771 and the final post you’re going to see on Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness, and that’s both a happy thing and a sad thing.
But don’t worry: you’re not getting rid of me that easily.
You see, I love writing about the Dodgers. Wherever that takes me, I don’t intend to stop. And while I can’t do it myself any longer, I do like working with great people, and that means something exciting is going to happen.
So on Monday morning, don’t click over to MSTI.co like you otherwise might have. Instead, browse over to DodgersDigest.com, which will be my new home along with three of my favorite people: Chad Moriyama, Dustin Nosler, and Daniel Brim. That’s right, it’s a team effort, but this team spans about 6,000 miles, includes great prospect work from Dustin & Chad, awesome math things I don’t understand from Daniel, and whatever it is I add, which I believe is just funny GIFs and posts that end in “…and that’s okay.”
It’ll look a lot like this site — not entirely, dig Eephus Blue’s cool logo — but it’ll be better: more content, more timely, and more awesome.
Smell ya later.
MLB is running this “face of [team]” promotion, which is mildly interesting, I guess. Fans can vote by using hashtags for the “face” of their team, and so far the results have been expected — Joey Votto, Felix Hernandez, Joe Mauer, etc… with the obvious exception of the fact that Oakland fans trolled the game and voted Eric Sogard.
So I got to thinking, and well, people aren’t taking this seriously enough. Giants fans, you’re really voting for Buster Posey when this face exists? Come on now. People are making this a popularity contest, but it’s supposed to be about faces.
And the Dodgers, well… they have some faces. Who is the true face?
Dee Gordon, out at second:
Gordon, looking at his stat line:
Super mega happy A.J. Ellis:
Evil Zack Greinke:
We’ve been waiting for a long time for Clayton Kershaw to finally sign that extension, and yesterday he finally did. And yet if this is even possible, that’s not the news from the last 24 hours that I think we’ve been waiting on the most. Bill Shaikin explains:
MLB has approved the Dodgers’ deal with TWC, two people familiar with the matter said Wednesday. Although there has been no announcement, the Dodgers have hired on-air talent for the new channel — including former players Orel Hershiser and Nomar Garciaparra — and have reached agreement with MLB about how much television revenue the team would share with the league.
Mark Walter, the Dodgers’ controlling owner, said documentation had delayed formal league approval of a deal to which both parties agreed long ago.
“Our understanding with MLB has not changed in months and months,” Walter said. “I never felt it was in any way hostile.”
First off: finally. That’s great news, since pitchers and catchers report in less than a month, and the lack of updates over the last few months was somewhat shocking. Shaikin adds that SNLA plans to air every spring training game, which is fantastic and, I believe, unprecedented. (Of course, whether you’ll be able to see any of those games is an open question; there’s still the endless fight about the channel’s carriage with DirecTV and U-verse and everyone else to get through, and as we saw with the Lakers in 2012, those battles tend to be drawn-out and ugly.)
While neither Kershaw’s deal nor MLB approval of SNLA have been officially announced yet, there’s just absolutely no way that the timing here is a coincidence. A month ago, when we were all getting panicky about Kershaw remaining unsigned, I spitballed a few possible reasons for the delay. This was one of them:
3) The Dodgers are waiting on the SNLA deal to be officially announced.
Despite the fact that we keep hearing new names being added to the team — ABC’s John Hartung is reportedly the latest — you’ll notice that there is, as of yet, not an official deal in place, or at least not one that has been approved by MLB. We keep hearing that it will be, but even when it is, there’s going to be some messy carriage fights with providers. Considering just how much a Kershaw deal is likely to cost, it’s theoretically possible that the team prefers to know for sure, in officially approved writing, that all the billions they’ve been banking on are actually coming in.
A month later, both are happening — or at least, reported to be done or close to it — within hours of one another. I’m having a real hard time believing those two things have nothing to do with one another, though Shaikin says that the MLB deal was agreed to long ago and just not announced yet.
Anyway, 48 hours ago Kershaw didn’t have a deal and the TV situation was up in the air. The carriage fight looms, but we have a lot more clarity and resolution on both situations. Not a bad few days, as far as days go.
2014: $22m ($18m signing bonus, $4m salary)
Why is there a dotted line after 2018? That’s because that’s when his opt-out date is, and if he chooses to opt out — and walk away from the $65m due him in the final two years — the Dodgers would have essentially signed him to a 5/$150m contract. Think about that for a second, won’t you? We were worried this would be $300 million, and that’s less guaranteed money than Manny Ramirez got 13 years ago
Yes, pitchers carry more risk than hitters, but still. I’m not saying that I want him to opt out, of course, but the fact that Kershaw is staying for at least the next five years on a contract that is large but not even close to being obscene, as we all worried? Honestly, I’m stunned. I love this deal. I love it hard.
It says a whole lot about both the greatness of Clayton Kershaw and the financial health of the game in general that the Dodgers just signed him to a $215 million extension over seven years, and my reaction is, “wow! that’s not that bad!” Think about that. Two hundred and fifteen million dollars, and I’m wondering if he could have managed more.
And it might not even be $215m, since it comes with an opt-out after the fifth year, which would be after his age-30 season. You’ll probably hear why that’s a bad thing, because it means that he could leave, but it’s really not: if he does, it means you signed Kershaw to a five-year contract when every rumor said he’d require ten.
This does more than lock up the best pitcher in baseball, by the way. It avoids an entire season of “does he want to stay? does he want to go?” annoyance. It avoids distraction. It avoids questions about his relationship with the team. It keeps the focus on the field, and it just had to be done before the season got going.
This, I can say without reservation, is a great contract. It’s the next one — when he’s in his 30s and probably gets $300 million — that might scare me. But for a team with no budget limit to lock up a man who is well on his way to being one of the best pitchers in the history of the game for his age 26-30 seasons, at the very least, well, this was a no-brainer. It had to be done. It’s done.
Next stop: Tanaka. Is that greedy? Probably. It’s good to be a Dodger fan. But it’s better to be Clayton Kershaw.
So says Ken Gurnick. So say we all.
The Dodgers let Mark Ellis, their starter at second base the past two years, leave as a free agent. They are trying to work out a deal to bring back Young, whom they acquired in a Trade Deadline deal, because he could start at second base if Guerrero isn’t ready or be a threatening bat off the bench.
Young was last a regular second baseman in 2003. He didn’t see any time there again until 2011, when he started 14 games (and 14 more the next year) as a utility type for Texas. I assume I don’t need to tell you how horrifying this scenario is, right?
Fortunately, Ken Rosenthal reports that Young is “strongly” considering retirement, and just because Gurnick is speculating otherwise hardly means it’s likely to happen. Still, the fact that we’re even discussing this on January 14 tells you a lot about how things stand. It’s not great.
Second base is still a huge concern, but at least there’s some good news: J.P. Hoornstra reports that Alexander Guerrero has finally received his visa and is currently in the country, presumably headed straight to Arizona. As we’ve learned over the years with Ronald Belisario‘s endless issues — obviously, Belisario brought a whole lot of that on himself — simply getting a foreign player into America isn’t always the easiest. This doesn’t necessarily alleviate any of the other concerns we’ve had about the keystone, but it’s a good start. You can’t prove you can play if you can’t legally get to the field, right?
Here’s a fun tidbit from Troy Renck of the Denver Post yesterday:
Rafael Betancourt couldn’t live with the uncertainty. There was path to retirement after he he tore his right elbow ligament last Aug. 22.
“But I didn’t want to wonder what if?” Betancourt said on Friday morning.
The 38-year-old elected to undergo surgery and said Friday that his recovery is advancing as planned. He will visit Dr. James Andrews next week, and should begin throwing soon after the exam. Betancourt plans to visit the Rockies for two weeks in spring training in March, and hasn’t given up on pitching during the 2014 season. The Los Angeles Dodgers contacted him as a free agent, but he’s committed to returning with Colorado.
“If I pitch again, it will be with the Rockies. I can’t see myself anywhere else at this point in my career. I have really enjoyed five years there,” Betancourt said.
I guess Ned Colletti really does want all the closers. Obviously, we have no idea if that “contact” was anything more than a 30-second phone call or a even a text message to check in on his arm, and this also could have been from before Chris Perez & Brian Wilson were signed. Obviously, Betancourt wasn’t interested anyway. Still, it’s an interesting approach to take, similar to how Texas signed Joakim Soria to a two-year deal knowing he’d miss most or all of the first year after elbow surgery. Betancourt toiled in relative obscurity for years in Cleveland, but has served as Colorado’s closer since late 2012, and has long been an underrated reliever — in 11 big league seasons, he has a 9.5 K/9 mark while walking just a hair over two per nine.
So here’s a thing that happened today:
The #Dodgers have let it be known they plan to go all-out in their efforts to sign Tanaka, saying they and certainly won’t be out-bid.
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) January 10, 2014
Yeah! Give me all of the Tanaka! This multi-headed rotation monster can’t be stopped! The 2014 Dodgers are going to win 207 games and 14 World Series titles!
Oh, what’s that?
The #Dodgers, while confirming their interest in Tanaka, say they won’t spend wildly on him, particularly with Kershaw about to hit FA
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) January 10, 2014
Got it. So basically, we’ve learned absolutely nothing new today. The Dodgers have interest in Masahiro Tanaka, as we already knew. They’re almost certainly going to offer him a ton of dollars, though we don’t yet know if it will be all of the dollars. And even if they do, it might very well come down to whether or not he prefers to be in Los Angeles or Seattle or Boston or New York or elsewhere.
So nothing’s changed, really. We’re about 30 minutes past there being two weeks remaining until Tanaka’s deadline comes due at 5pm ET on January 24, and you can be all but certain that you won’t know where he’s going until the very last minute… which again, we already knew.
This concludes your regular “disregard 99% of what writers tweet about teams or players having ‘interest’” update.
This morning at FanGraphs, I took a look at the increasingly questionable second base situation for the Dodgers:
But while there’s obvious questions about how reliable the projections might be, the unavoidable truth is this: if Guerrero doesn’t work out or isn’t ready, the Dodgers have almost nowhere else they can turn, and so if this isn’t the worst situation for a contender in the bigs, it’s almost certainly the riskiest.
It’s not that I don’t like Alexander Guerrero, of course. It’s that he has so many questions marks hanging over him — mainly the missed season in Cuba and limited winter ball play thanks to an injured left hamstring — that I can’t say that it’s at all a given that he’s going to be ready to play on Opening Day. And, though the FG article only went up this morning, I wrote it on Tuesday night, before we got the added curveball about his uncertain visa status.
As you’ll see in the FG article, the primary in-house option is Dee Gordon, which is hardly appealing, and this situation is probably going to get Justin Sellers through yet another winter on the 40-man roster. And yet Ned Colletti keeps talking about Miguel Rojas, who did get an invite to the Winter Development Program, and who reportedly has an outstanding glove. Yet there’s just seemingly no way that a guy who has a career .234/.302/.287 line in parts of eight minor league seasons — all but 44 games of which have been below Triple-A, where he hit only .186/.226/.233 in 2012 and didn’t return to in 2013 — can be anything approximating even a below-average major league hitter.
Hopefully, Guerrero gets into the country, arrives at camp, and shocks us all. But with each day, I’m feeling less confident about that, and there’s no good alternatives available otherwise. Right now, this is probably the biggest trouble spot on the team heading into 2014.