Daily Distractions: Apparently the Dodgers’ bullpen really needed an upgrade.

Chris Perez

The Dodgers have reportedly signed pitcher Chris Perez to a one-year contract. (Getty Images)

In all his postseason comments to the media, Ned Colletti never called out the Dodgers’ bullpen as an area of weakness in 2013. With the signing of former Cleveland Indians closer Chris Perez, the GM’s actions have spoken louder than his words.

Perez, 28, reportedly signed a one-year deal with the Dodgers Monday, pending a physical. He started the 2013 season 17-for-19 in save opportunities with a 2.52 ERA through his first 35 2/3 innings. Then in an Aug. 5 game against the Detroit Tigers, Perez allowed four earned runs without recording an out. He would go on to allow 16 earned runs over his final 18 1/3 innings as an Indian.

The right-hander finished the season with a 4.33 ERA and five blown saves in 30 opportunities.

Before contract the contract becomes official, the Dodgers have already committed $18.5 million next season to two set-up men — Brian Wilson and Brandon League, both former closers themselves. Between Wilson, League and Perez, the Dodgers have 377 career saves sitting in the bullpen before giving the ball to ninth-inning man Kenley Jansen.

That gives the Dodgers the most experienced (and arguably the deepest) bullpen in the majors heading into 2014. FanGraphs’ Jason Collette threw together this chart comparing Jansen, Wilson, League and Perez.

Left-handers J.P. Howell, Paco Rodriguez and Onelki Garcia, and right-handers Jose Dominguez and Chris Withrow all figure to compete for innings in spring training. Colletti has also said he’s looking to add a long reliever to the mix.

Perez has a connection to Los Angeles. In September, he pleaded no contest in Ohio to a misdemeanor drug abuse charge and was found guilty of receiving a small package of marijuana mailed to his home on June 4. From Cleveland.com:

The six-ounce bag of marijuana was sent from Los Angeles and addressed to Brody Baum, the couple’s dog. Police seized the pot plus two pipes, a bong and several items of drug paraphernalia found in a basement kitchen. Chris Perez said the drugs and items belonged to him.

The package of marijuana was discovered after a postal supervisor smelled the weed and called a postal inspector, who opened the package, resealed it and delivered it to the home. An undercover officer posing as a delivery man approached (the pitcher’s wife) Melanie Perez, who confirmed the packages were for the dog. Baum is her maiden name.

Perez stirred the pot one year ago by criticizing his ownership regime in an interview with FoxSports.com:

“Different owners,” Perez said frankly, in reference to Detroit’s Mike Ilitch and Cleveland’s Lawrence J. Dolan. “It comes down to that. They (the Tigers) are spending money. He (Ilitch) wants to win. Even when the economy was down (in Detroit), he spent money. He’s got a team to show for it. You get what you pay for in baseball. Sometimes you don’t. But most of the time you do.”

Perez should be happy with his new bosses. The Dodgers have committed roughly $200 million to 19 players for next season, including the recently agreed-to contracts for third baseman Juan Uribe and Howell. Last year, the team reportedly spent $237 million on payroll.

Of that, less than 10 percent (somewhere in the $13 to $15 million range) went to full-time relievers. That percentage could increase significantly in 2014.

Statistically speaking, the Dodgers’ bullpen was excellent last year, at least after Jansen replaced League as the closer on June 11. Their 3.49 ERA ranked 13th among 30 teams. Their strikeout rate ranked ninth. They allowed 24 percent of inherited runners to score, third in the majors. And since the Dodgers’ starting rotation pitched relatively deep into games, the bullpen didn’t have to work too hard.

Perez brings a simple fastball/slider repertoire, with roughly 10 mph difference between the two pitches. It’s not the “power arm” profile that teams covet but League, Wilson, Withrow and Dominguez all fall into that category. Perez’s repertoire could be a nice complement.

Here’s a quick look at the bullpen pecking order, comparing the 2013 Opening Day Roster to the potential 2014 Opening Day group:

2013 2014
Brandon League (closer) Jansen (closer)
Kenley Jansen Brian Wilson
Ronald Belisario Chris Perez
Paco Rodriguez Rodriguez
J.P. Howell Howell
Matt Guerrier League
Aaron Harang Chris Withrow

Some bullet points for a Festivus:
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Report: Mark Ellis signs with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Mark Ellis

Dodgers second baseman Mark Ellis dives for a ground ball in a June game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. He reportedly agreed to a contract with the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday. (Associated Press photo)

According to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the St. Louis Cardinals have agreed to sign Mark Ellis, pending a physical.

Ellis started 206 games for the Dodgers over the last two seasons, batting .264/.328/.357 and finishing in the top five in the National League in fielding percentage at second base both years.

In 2013, Ellis batted .270/.323/.351 with six home runs and 48 RBIs in 126 games. He batted .250 (10 for 40) in the playoffs.

Ellis’ departure came as little surprise after the Dodgers signed free agent infielder Alexander Guerrero to a four-year, $28 million contract in October. Guerrero might not be ready to be the Dodgers’ everyday second baseman at the beginning of next season, but such a long-term commitment left little room for Ellis in the Dodgers’ infield the next four years — particularly after the Dodgers locked up third baseman Juan Uribe on Saturday.

Though Ellis’ offense can be replaced, the Dodgers will undoubtedly miss his defense. Ellis ranks fourth all-time in UZR/150 among major-league second baseman who have played at least 4,000 innings. He is second all-time in total defensive runs saved and UZR.

Ellis’ humble persona also played well in a full clubhouse of superstars.

Since the Dodgers have no real insurance if Guerrero falters, a veteran with major-league experience at second base becomes high on their off-season wish list. Brendan Harris, who signed a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training Nov. 18, could also figure into the major-league team’s plans.

Report: Juan Uribe returning to the Dodgers on a two-year contract.

Juan Uribe

Juan Uribe was the Dodgers’ key remaining free agent. (Associated Press photo)

The Dodgers and third baseman Juan Uribe have reached agreement on a two-year contract, according to FoxSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal. Terms of the contract haven’t been reported.

Uribe was the Dodgers’ primary target to fill the position after a productive 2013 season. He batted .278/.331/.438 with 12 home runs and 50 RBIs, and was a finalist for the National League Gold Glove Award at third base. Uribe has been praised by teammates and coaches for his character and leadership during the past three seasons in Los Angeles, even in the midst of his colossal struggles in 2011 and 2012.

But he’d rejected multiple contract offers since the season ended, forcing general manager Ned Colletti to consider his alternatives in a weak free agent crop. There weren’t many.

“We may have to mix and match a little bit,” Colletti said Saturday morning at a charity event in South Los Angeles.

Should Uribe’s new contract become official, the Dodgers may have their 2014 Opening Day infield in place by mid-December: Uribe at third base, Hanley Ramirez at shortstop, Adrian Gonzalez at first base and rookie Alexander Guerrero — if he’s ready — at second.

The Dodgers still would like to add to their bullpen, particularly a left-hander and a long reliever, and possibly a starting pitcher as insurance for pitchers Chad Billinsgley and Josh Beckett. Both are attempting to return from season-ending surgeries.

But Uribe was the Dodgers’ key remaining in-house free agent and, potentially, their most expensive target still on the market.

Dodgers non-tender pitcher Ronald Belisario, making him a free agent.

Ronald BelisarioThe Dodgers signed Ronald Belisario as a free agent on Jan. 16, 2009. On Monday, they declined to tender him a contract before the 9 p.m. deadline for arbitration-eligible players, making him a free agent again.

The intervening four-plus years were hardly quiet.
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Reports: Dodgers sign Dan Haren for one year, $10 million.

According to multiple reports Sunday, the Dodgers will sign free-agent right-hander Dan Haren to a one-year, $10 million contract with an option for 2015 that vests at 180 innings, pending a physical. Terms of the contract were first reported by Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com.

Haren, 33, went 10-14 with a 4.67 earned-run average in 30 starts last season for the Washington Nationals. Known as a fly-ball pitcher who pitches to contact, Haren is 2-3 with a 3.49 ERA in eight career starts at Dodger Stadium.

Haren has made at least 30 starts each of the last nine seasons, and his 297 starts since 2005 are tied for the most among all major-league pitchers.

The Monterey Park native was coming off a one-year, $13 million contract that he signed in Dec. 2012.

Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis quickly chimed in with his opinion of the signing:


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Daily Distractions: Farewell, Shawn Tolleson.

Shawn Tolleson

Shawn Tolleson, who was claimed off waivers Tuesday by the Texas Rangers, faced two batters in 2013 and walked both. (Getty Images)

At some point the Dodgers will add to their major-league roster this off-season.

For now at least, the Dodgers continue to clear room. Reliever Shawn Tolleson was claimed off waivers by the Texas Rangers on Tuesday, leaving the 40-man roster at 31.

Tolleson’s 2013 season was sabotaged by injury. He appeared in one game in April, but couldn’t sleep following the game because of an intense pain his back. Later that month, he had season-ending back surgery.

The Dodgers had to replace his innings somehow, and right-handers Chris Withrow, Jose Dominguez and, later, Carlos Marmol and Brian Wilson, all held down the fort. That was apparently enough for the Dodgers to feel comfortable about cutting ties with the 25-year-old, who not long ago was chosen as the organization’s minor-league pitcher of the year.

In 40 games in 2012, Tolleson went 3-1 with a 4.30 ERA, striking out 39 batters in 37 ⅔ innings.

Some bullet points for a Transgender Day of Remembrance:
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Daily Distractions: Would the real Juan Uribe please stand up?

The depth chart on the Dodgers’ website is missing a third baseman, which paints an accurate picture of their third-base situation if Juan Uribe does not re-sign.

If only penciling him into the Dodgers’ 2014 lineup were as simple as lifting a pencil.

 

It seems that Uribe, whose OPS jumped from .542 to .769 in the final year of his contract, is counting on being rewarded handsomely for his bounceback season, which also saw him finish as the runner-up to Nolan Arenado for the National League Gold Glove award at third base.

The circumstances are similar to 2010, when Uribe signed a three-year, $21 million contract with the Dodgers after posting a .248/.310/.440 slash line for the defending champion San Francisco Giants. (His slash line in 2013: .278/.331/.438.) That year, the top free agent third baseman was Adrian Beltre. The Dodgers determined early on that Beltre would be out of their price range; under Frank McCourt, the 5-year, $80 million deal Beltre ultimately signed with Texas certainly qualified as “expensive.”

So they bit on Uribe. The next-best third baseman in that free agent class was either Miguel Tejada or Bill Hall, depending on your point of view. Neither player finished last season in the majors. Hall (-1.5) and Tejada (0.5) actually have fewer Wins Above Replacement, per baseball-reference.com, from 2011-13 than Uribe (3.7). That statistic is a little misleading, since Uribe had -0.4 WAR from 2011-12, and 4.1 WAR last season. Here’s why:

Juan  Uribe spray chart

Those spray charts are courtesy of FanGraphs’ new interactive spray chart tool, which I plan on using way too much from now on. (For all its limits compared to the tools offered for a price by Bloomberg, and to ESPN employees by ESPN, you can lose an entire afternoon playing with FanGraphs’ new toy.)

The chart on the left shows where Uribe hit the ball in 2012. On the right, 2013. The quick takeaway: Uribe re-discovered his power stroke last year, particularly his pull stroke, and probably hit the ball harder too. At least that’s one way to explain Uribe’s uptick in line drives and ground balls that got through the infield.

Optimistically, pairing Uribe with hitting coach Mark McGwire for another season (or three) could lead to similar results. Pessimistically, 2013 was a fluke and Uribe — who turns 35 next July — can be expected to regress to more 2012-like levels at some point during a three-year contract.

In the midst of another thin free agent market, how optimistic are the Dodgers feeling about Uribe internally? We could find out soon.

Some bullet points for a World Toilet Day:
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Report: Skip Schumaker signs two-year contract with Cincinnati Reds.

Skip SchumakerSkip Schumaker and the Cincinnati Reds have a two-year contract in place, according to FoxSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal. The contract is pending a physical.

Schumaker batted .263/.332/.332 in 125 games last season for the Dodgers, primarily as a backup second baseman and outfielder. He also made two appearances as a mop-up reliever, pitching one inning in each game while not allowing a run.

The free-agent period is beginning slowly, but some of the earliest player movement has depleted the Dodgers’ bench.

Veteran utilityman Nick Punto signed a one-year contract last Wednesday with the A’s, with an option for 2015. In Schumaker, the Dodgers lose Punto’s carpool mate and another versatile veteran who was well-respected in the clubhouse.

Neither defection is terribly surprising. General manager Ned Colletti said in his season-ending press conference that he wanted to bring back a younger roster in 2014. Schumaker, who turns 34 in February, and Punto, 36, don’t fit that mold.

Daily Distractions: What the absence of a new Posting System means for Masahiro Tanaka, Dodgers.

Masahiro Tanaka

Masahiro Tanaka will not be able to come to the United States until a new posting system is agreed to by MLB and NPB. (Associated Press photo)


The Associated Press reported this morning that Major League Baseball is withdrawing its proposal for a new bidding system with Japan.

What does that hold for Masahiro Tanaka, Japan’s best pitcher? Without agreement on a new bidding system, Japanese players would not be able to sign with MLB until they had nine years of service time and could become free agents. Tanaka has seven years of service time in NPB, Japan’s top league. You do the math.

Imagine for a moment that the best available free-agent pitcher is now off the market. Every other pitcher at the top of the free agent crop — Ricky Nolasco, Ervin Santana, Matt Garza, etc. — now jumps up a spot on teams’ wish lists. And those teams still have all their money to spend.

That figures to help a pitcher like David Price, who is not a free agent, but whom many expect the Tampa Bay Rays to dangle as trade bait. Perhaps Price’s price just rose too.

The New York Post reported today that a complete elimination of the posting system is now possible, which might ground Tanaka in Japan for another two years. It’s not clear what will happen to the proposal MLB just withdrew, which the Post described as “a moderate tweak of the old system: The team with the highest bid on a posted player would still win exclusive negotiating rights with that player, but the amount of the bid would be an average of the top two bids. … Furthermore, a team would be fined if it failed to sign the player after securing the negotiating rights.”

FanGraphs.com speculated that if this system were ratified, “the player won’t gain any leverage in order to get a better contract for himself, or play in a different city. But! If the posting fees actually do go down, the player should get a bigger slice of the pie.” The team with the highest bid still won.

Now? Even is if no agreement is reached this winter, the Dodgers’ odds of signing Tanaka might decrease. Their team payroll is expected to exceed baseball’s luxury-tax threshhold again in 2014, which means the Dodgers will be taxed 30 percent on every dollar spent on player salaries above $189 million. The tax rises to 40 percent if the Dodgers exceed the threshhold in 2015, and 50 percent in 2016. Team president Stan Kasten has said repeatedly that he doesn’t intend to pay these luxury taxes indefinitely, and that 50 percent tax-rate could be where the Dodgers decide to draw the line.

According to Cots, the Dodgers are already on the hook for $122 million for SEVEN players in 2016, and that doesn’t include a possible extension for Clayton Kershaw.

So assuming Tanaka’s health and effectiveness hold steady for two more years, would the Dodgers be restricted in their willingness to spend on Tanaka in the winter of 2015-16? Under the old system — and, presumably, under Monday’s proposal — posting fees don’t count toward a team’s luxury tax. But at least one small-market club reported by the Post, the Pittsburgh Pirates, would like to see that changed.

There are some variables in this equation that definitely work against the Dodgers.

Some bullet points for a Day of the Colombian Woman:
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Tim Wallach added to Seattle Mariners’ list of managerial candidates.

Wallach mugConfirming an earlier report by CBSsports.com, Dodgers third base coach Tim Wallach is a candidate for the Seattle Mariners’ managerial vacancy. Wallach has also interviewed for the Detroit Tigers’ managerial job.

Wallach wasn’t believed to be a candidate in Seattle as recently as yesterday, so that might not bode well for San Francisco Giants bench coach Ron Wotus, Detroit Tigers hitting coach Lloyd McClendon and Oakland A’s bench coach Chip Hale, all of whom interviewed for the job previously. However, CBSsports.com reports that the Seattle has a very long list of candidates to replace Eric Wedge, so the vetting process might be unfolding slowly by design.

At least one former Dodgers pitcher has endorsed Wallach for his hometown team: