Tuesday, February 3, 2009

What the Dodgers Need to Do (About Manny and Otherwise)

I'm a huge Dodgers fan. In the wake of Manny denying the 1 year, 25 million dollar offer the Dodgers gave him, the team now is still trying to get him, but has started to consider getting Adam Dunn and Orlando Hudson instead.

My thoughts:

1. Manny is as good as it gets, but if you can't get him, Adam Dunn sure ain't bad. I've heard some fans and radio personalities go on about how Manny is the only option for the Dodgers. But here's my case for Adam Dunn:
  • 40+ homers per year every year for the last 5 years sure ain't bad. Dunn is a model of consistency, and he doesn't get hurt, mouth off, or push team employees to the ground. Of course, he also strikes out like crazy and hasn't hit better than .267 in that time, but his OBP is always in the high 300's and he walks a ton. Clearly he's no Manny at the plate, but that's still pretty dang good, especially on a team that really needs a power bat.
  • In kind of a strange way, Dunn actually provides more depth for the Dodgers than does Manny. The Dodgers have Juan Pierre just sitting on the bench at this point. If James Loney were to get hurt, you could slide Dunn to first and put Pierre, Delwyn Young, or possibly even Jason Repko in the outfield spot. There isn't, by contrast, a legitimate back-up first baseman if Manny signs.
  • Most importantly, Dunn would probably sign for less than half of what Manny wants, and for not as many years. Considering how many crappy contracts the Dodgers have been stuck in, that's pretty appealing. That would open up money for the Dodgers to make other moves. On that note...
2. The Dodgers need pitching. Right now they have 3 starters: Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda, and Clayton Kershaw. Kuroda is solid but in his mid-30's (you never know when an arm dies at that age...), Kershaw, on the other hand, won't be able to legally buy beer for another month and a half and has never pitched a full major league season. His half major league season sure wasn't bad for such a young guy, but it wasn't that good either. All I'm saying is that to count on him as a starter (the #3 starter, no less) is asking a lot of the kid. Billingsley, the ace, got killed in the playoffs last year, and broke his leg in the beginning of the offseason. Who knows what he's got right now.

Point is, the Dodgers need to address their starting pitching badly. And this is where I just don't understand why Randy Wolf is their main target and not Ben Sheets. Apparently they have 40+ million to spend. Even if 25 goes to Manny, 15 has to be enough to get Sheets. So why not get him? Injury history can be my only guess. But if that's the problem, why get Randy Wolf? Wolf is notoriously injury prone as well, but lacks the upside of Sheets. Last year Wolf started 33 games while Sheets started 31. The difference? Wolf's ERA was 4.30 while Sheets's was 3.09. Sheets is one of the most dominant pitchers in the game. Wolf is solid when not hurt, but nothing more. I just don't get it.

My solution? If you don't get Manny, go after Sheets, Wolf, and Dunn (not Wolf, Dunn, and Orlando Hudson, since the Dodgers already have a viable second base option in Blake DeWitt). Lock up the pitching staff. Pitching wins championships.

3. Most importantly, the key to the Dodgers' success this year is going to be based on what their young players, namely Kemp, Ethier, Loney, and Martin do. Look at the playoffs last year: Manny played great in the NLDS, but what made them beat the Cubs was the play of Loney and others. Manny's homers in that series were generally inconsequential in the games. In the NLCS, Manny still played great, but the young core didn't, and they lost. That simple.

Look: Manny Ramirez is better than Adam Dunn. No one is disputing that. But the Dodgers still have holes even if Manny comes. If he refuses to take an incredibly reasonable 1 year, 25 million dollar offer when no one else is touching that money, then what else can you do? Not much, and I think they would be ok redistributing that money into a more well-rounded team. For one thing, imagine a starting rotation of Ben Sheets, Chad Billingsley, Randy Wolf, Hiroki Kuroda, and best case scenario, a healthy Jason Schmidt, or else Clayton Kershaw. Pretty dang good, no matter what the lineup.

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