Daily Distractions: What will the Dodgers do with their 39th and 40th roster spots?

Miguel Rojas

Miguel Rojas (bottom) could figure into the Dodgers’ infield depth, as the 40-man roster is currently constructed. (Getty Images)

The Dodgers will have 38 players on their 40-man roster once the contracts for J.P. Howell and Juan Uribe are finalized.

Here’s how that breaks down:

Relief Pitchers (13):
RHP Kenley Jansen
RHP Brian Wilson
LHP Paco Rodriguez
LHP J.P. Howell
RHP Brandon League
RHP Chris Withrow
RHP Jose Dominguez
RHP Javy Guerra
LHP Scott Elbert (will likely begin the season on the 60-day DL)
LHP Onelki Garcia
RHP Yimi Garcia
RHP Pedro Baez
LHP Jarret Martin

Starting pitchers (9):
LHP Clayton Kershaw
RHP Zack Greinke
LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu
RHP Dan Haren
RHP Josh Beckett
RHP Chad Billingsley
RHP Matt Magill
RHP Stephen Fife
RHP Seth Rosin

Catchers (3):
A.J. Ellis
Tim Federowicz
Drew Butera

Infielders (5):
1B Adrian Gonzalez
2B/SS Alexander Guerrero
SS Hanley Ramirez
3B Juan Uribe
2B/SS Justin Sellers

Outfielders (6):
Carl Crawford
Matt Kemp
Andre Ethier
Yasiel Puig
Mike Baxter
Nick Buss

Utility (2):
2B/SS/CF Dee Gordon
1B/OF Scott Van Slyke

One trade or one injury between now and Opening Day can shake up the roster. Already, we can count Scott Elbert (who had Tommy John surgery in June) as a placeholder for the 38th spot.

But if you’re Ned Colletti, having filled the big holes already with plenty of free agents still available on Dec. 18, how do you budget those last two spots?

One clue might have come this morning in an interview Colletti gave to 710-AM in Los Angeles. Speaking of the second base position, he mentioned Guerrero, Gordon and Double-A prospect Miguel Rojas as candidates for major-league competition. Rojas is a 24-year-old from Venezuela whom the Dodgers picked up as a minor-league free agent a year ago. One reason why the Cincinnati Reds might have let Rojas go after seven seasons in the organization: He batted just .186/.226/.233 in 44 games at Triple-A in 2012. Rojas batted .233 with 10 steals in 130 games at Double-A Chattanooga in 2013, then batted .235 in the Venezuelan Winter League. He is as defense-first as defense-first second basemen get.

Gordon has less than four innings of major-league experience at second base, but the Dodgers are trying to expand his versatility in the field. He batted .348 with four stolen bases in 12 games in the Dominican League — playing center field. The Dodgers also invited 8-year major-league veteran Brendan Harris to camp on a minor-league contract; that Colletti didn’t mention Harris was probably a simple error of omission.

Still, it was an insight into the Dodgers’ lack of depth compared to spring of 2013, when Skip Schumaker, Nick Punto, Luis Cruz, Jerry Hairston Jr., Gordon and Sellers were all capable of filling in somewhere.

The Dodgers could keep their final roster spots open, thinking that Harris and Rojas (or someone else) will be able to grab them in camp. Colletti said he’s comfortable making second base a defensive position next season — which was often the case with Mark Ellis anyway. But as long as Guerrero’s major-league ability remains a question mark, this seems to be the Dodgers’ biggest area for improvement.

Some bullet points for a Wednesday:

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Dodgers announce eight additions to their scouting staff.

The Dodgers announced eight additions to their professional and international scouting staffs Tuesday.

Willie Fraser, who originally joined the club in 2012 as a professional scout, and long-time White Sox scout Gary Pellant, are the new advance scouts. Chris Smith returns to the Dodger organization as a professional scout after four seasons with Cleveland, joining pro scouting additions Ron Mahay, Peter Bergeron and Greg Booker, who is returning to the scouting ranks after spending the last four seasons as pitching coach for Washington’s Triple-A Syracuse club.

In addition, Special Assistants, Player Personnel Josh Bard and Aaron Sele will expand their duties to include pro scouting.

Internationally, the club hired Hidenori Sueyoshi as Senior Manager, International Scouting Operations, Rafael Colon as Special Advisor, International Player Performance and Juan Garcia-Puig as a scout for Spain.

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Report: Dodgers must pay $11.4 million in luxury taxes.

From the Associated Press:

According to Major League Baseball calculations Thursday, the Los Angeles Dodgers are the only team [other than the Yankees] that exceeded the tax threshold this year and must pay $11.4 million.

Figures include average annual values of contracts for players on 40-man rosters, earned bonuses and escalators, adjustments for cash in trades and $10.8 million per team in benefits.

The Yankees finished with the highest regular payroll for the 15th consecutive year, winding up at a record $237,018,889. The Dodgers were just $146,647 behind.

The Dodgers should be able to afford it. Forbes.com reported today that MLB is closer to approving the Dodgers’ new television deal, which could pay $7 billion or more. The team’s new flagship network, SportsNet LA, has already begun hiring personnel and is set to debut in 2014.

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Dodgers announce tentative spring training report dates.

The Dodgers are taking three days off on either side of their games in Australia to open the 2014 regular season against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

With that long a break in the schedule, it’s no surprise that spring training starts early next year. Here are the tentative report dates, announced Tuesday:

Pitchers and catchers report date: Feb. 8

First workout for pitchers/catchers: Feb. 9

Position players report date: Feb. 13

First full-squad workout: Feb. 14

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Daily Distractions: On Masahiro Tanaka, the new posting system and the Dodgers.

Masahiro Tanaka

In spite of the new posting system, Masahiro Tanaka might not leave Japan until next year. (Associated Press photo)

A posting system was finally, formally agreed to yesterday by MLB and NPB. Observers have long believed the only Japanese player who would create demand among major league teams, if posted this year, is Masahiro Tanaka. And Tanaka’s team doesn’t want to let him go.

First, the stipulations of the new posting system:

  • If an NPB Club wishes to make one of its players available to Major League Clubs, the NPB shall notify the Office of the Commissioner of the NPB player’s potential availability and the “release fee” that a Major League Club must pay to the NPB Club in order to secure the NPB player’s release.  The NPB Club may not set the release fee at an amount higher than $20 million and the fee cannot be changed once it has been set by the NPB Club.
  • The Office of the Commissioner shall then “post” the NPB player’s availability by notifying all Major League Clubs of the NPB player’s availability and the release fee sought by the NPB Club.
  • All “postings” of NPB players must be made between November 1st and February 1st.
  • Beginning the day after the player is posted, and concluding 30 days later, any Major League Club willing to pay the release fee set by the NPB Club may then negotiate with the player in an attempt to reach an agreement on a contract.
  • If a Major League Club is able to reach an agreement on a contract with the posted NPB player, the Major League Club must pay the NPB Club the designated release fee, which will occur in installments, the timing of which depends on the size of the release fee.
  • If the posted NPB player fails to reach an agreement with a Major League Club, the release fee is not owed, the NPB player remains under reserve to his NPB Club, and the player may not be posted again until the following November 1st.
  • The term of the new posting agreement is three years, continuing from year-to-year thereafter until either the Office of the Commissioner or the NPB gives notice of its intent to terminate the agreement one hundred and eighty days prior to the anniversary of the commencement of the agreement.

On that last point, neither side can formally declare its intent to opt out of the agreement until June 2016. One reason to opt out sooner: There’s a loophole.

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