Fire Jim Tracy

Saturday, December 18, 2004

How Soon is Now?

Dodger World has been shaking for almost two days now: shaking with anger, sadness, confusion, and fear. We'll no doubt feel the tremors for the rest of the offseason. But I think that amidst the madness we can already spot some sense and direction that shouldn't leave us feeling completely lost. Two significant bits of news today give us some light:

First, the Dodgers have signed Jose Valentin to replace Beltre at third base. While Valentin doesn't have great numbers, he helps mitigate the Beltre and Green power loss (assuming Green gets traded): he hit 30 homers in 2004, and has hit 25+ home runs for each of the last five seasons. He's a tad old--35--but DePodesta was able to lock him up for a low-risk one-year $3.5 million contract. While Beltre is practically irreplaceable, I'll rate this move a success--it basically leaves us with three positions to worry about: catcher, first base, and right field. More on this in a minute.

The second bit of news comes courtesy of the Times and other news outlets: Ishii will now likely get thrown in The Deal as a sort of addition-by-subtraction element. My reaction: If we can get Dreifort somehow involved in The Deal, I will personally help organize a parade down Figueroa.

After a year of feeling his way around, Paul DePodesta is finally doing what he was brought here to do: straighten out the mess that Kevin Malone and Dan Evans made while simultaneously give Dodger fans a contending team year in and year out. We fans almost unanimously praised the hiring of DePodesta. We knew he was an intelligent, thoughtful, and shrewd Moneyball guy who was going to do things differently. We knew this. And now that he is actually doing what he was hired to do we're complaining. Well guess what--change is hard. Uncertainty is difficult. But after 16 years of not seeing one significant postseason result, I am willing to give change a shot.

Assuming The Deal goes through, we will have 3 batting spots to fill and 3 starting rotation spots to cement. To fill these spots we should have a substantial amount of spending money available (to start: Green's 2005 salary ($16 mil), Penny's 2005 salary ($5 mil), Ishii's 2005 salary (reportedly we would be relieved of $2.5 mil), and Beltre's hypothetical 2005 salary (let's assume $10 mil). That adds up to more or less $35 million, not counting the money we are saving by saying goodbye to players like Nomo ($8 mil in 2004) and Hundley ($6.5 mil in 2004). So our starting point, more or less, is about $6 million to spend on each of those 6 spots.

On top of this, we have in-house alternatives that may be capable of filling at least a few of these holes already: 1) Wilson Alvarez; 2) Edwin Jackson; 3) Joel Hanrahan; 4) Chad Billingsley; 5) Hee Seop Choi; 6) Dave Ross; 7) Brent Mayne. Obviously not all of these alternatives are attractive (but when you think about the catcher's spot, is ANY option out there attractive?), but even if 2 or 3 of these players can meet our needs, we've increased the amount we can spend on paying good free agents to fill the remaining roles. At this point, I think that when you consider our substantial payroll flexibility and attractive farm system (for trade purposes), we should expect to add 1 or 2 impact hitters and 1 or 2 impact pitchers. Sure, the 2005 lineup and staff will be full of players we're not familiar with. But that's the sacrifice you make when you accept the proposition that change, while hard, is ultimately a good thing.

I'm nervous. I'm excited. I'm sad that Beltre left. But I'm anxious to see what a well-run Dodger team (read: no burdensome contracts + good-to-excellent players in every position and starting rotation spot) could look like in the short and long term.

--

And PS, if you still haven't gotten over the Beltre situation, maybe this will help you have a cathartic cry: video of today's press conference welcoming Beltre is available on Seattle's home page.

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