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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Daily Distractions: Tender deadline looms at 9 p.m. tonight.

Ronald Belisario

Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis (left) and pitcher Ronald Belisario (right) are both arbitration eligible. (Associated Press photo)

By 9 p.m. tonight, A.J. Ellis, Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen will have been tendered a contract by the Dodgers. That much we know. The deadline for teams to tender a contract to their arbitration-eligible players is fast approaching, and the Dodgers won’t leave Kershaw, Ellis and Jansen behind.

We don’t know how much the Dodgers will offer each player, how much they’ll ultimately sign for, or if Ronald Belisario — the final remaining member of the Dodgers’ arbitration-eligible class — will get an offer at all. MLBtraderumors.com made some predictions here.

So far, the Dodgers have only dipped into the free-agent market for a starting pitcher, Dan Haren. But they had enough interest in adding a right-handed reliever that they were among the first teams to offer a contract to Joe Smith. Smith ultimately signed a three-year, $15.75 million contract with the Angels.

Did the Dodgers hope to replace Belisario with Smith, a sinker/slider pitcher who rarely exceeds 90 mph on the radar gun? Or do they still see a need for a power arm to complement Brandon League, Chris Withrow, Jose Dominguez, and any other right-handers who might be in the mix for 2014?

Belisario’s lousy September (7.94 ERA, .842 opponents’ OPS) obscured what was previously a solid year. Statistically speaking, the Dodgers had one of the National League’s better bullpens in 2013. Bringing back everyone, or attempting to, isn’t out of the question.

Three other arbitration-eligible Dodgers already agreed to contracts for 2014. Scott Elbert signed for $575,000 for 2014 with up to another $100,000 in possible incentives on the table. Drew Butera and Mike Baxter both signed for $700,000.

That’s three down, three (or four) to go.

Some bullet points for a Laotian National Day:
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Daily Distractions: Mike Matheny gets a three-year contract extension: What that means for Don Mattingly.

Don Mattingly

St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny (right) signed a three-year contract extension Wednesday. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly (left) would like one of his own. (Associated Press photo)

It wasn’t the biggest transaction Wednesday, but certainly Dodgers manager Don Mattingly was paying close attention when the Cardinals signed manager Mike Matheny to a 3-year contract extension through the 2017 season.

Mattingly’s contract with the Dodgers is set to expire after next season. The two sides began talking nearly a month ago, since shortly after a season-ending press conference in which Mattingly actively lobbied for a contract extension.

Here is Matheny’s managerial record, via baseball-reference.com. Here is Mattingly’s.

Those numbers are similar. But there’s more to the comparison than just wins and losses and playoff appearances, and the actual negotiations won’t be so crude as sizing up the numbers and picking a number of dollars and years.

Still, negotiations between a manager and a team don’t quite work the same way as negotiations between a player and a team. There’s no “waiting for the market to settle,” as is currently the case in the heat of free agency. Matheny’s negotiations with the Cardinals reportedly lasted a week.

One major difference is that teams can’t quickly access the salary information of a manager on a whim. This isn’t a problem when negotiating with players, whose contract information is made available through the MLB Players’ Association. Sometimes a manager’s agent will make his client’s contract information available to the media; other times, the manager’s representative will have to dig up that information on his own. Still other managers don’t have an agent at all and negotiate for themselves (though this is not the case with Mattingly).

Today, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported this about Matheny:

Financial terms of his deal were not announced. Matheny made $750,000 before bonuses this past season. His new deal moves him up with managers of similar success and experience.

Two people with experience negotiating contracts between managers and teams told me that three-year contracts, like the one Matheny just signed, are common. One-year contracts aren’t popular for the reasons Mattingly cited. Two-year contracts aren’t very popular without an option for a third year, since a manger is merely signing up to be a lame duck the following season. So the three-year deal is a popular one.

There are some exceptions. Jim Leyland and Tony La Russa managed year-to-year in the final years of their contracts with the Detroit Tigers and St. Louis Cardinals, respectively, because they were comfortable dictating their futures as their careers wound down.

Because there is no Collective Bargaining Agreement between owners and managers, teams are free to creatively throw bonuses and perks into contracts. Houses and cars aren’t uncommon. Sometimes the bonuses significantly elevate the actual dollar value of a contract. But these details are rarely made public and can be difficult for rival negotiators to unearth.

So will Matheny’s new deal have an affect on Mattingly’s negotiations? Maybe. But it’s not a simple cause/effect proposition that allows for educated predictions.

The length and dollar value of one contract doesn’t quite “set the market” for a similar manager like it would for a player or pitcher. It’s each man(ager) for himself.

Some bullet points for a World Hello Day:

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Five Dodgers are among the Rawlings Gold Glove Award finalists.

Mark Ellis

Mark Ellis dives for a ground ball in a June game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. (Associated Press photo)

Third baseman Juan Uribe, catcher A.J. Ellis, second baseman Mark Ellis, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and pitcher Zack Greinke are finalists for Rawlings Gold Glove Awards at their respective positions.

The finalists were announced Friday morning. Winners will be announced on ESPN2 at 5 p.m. Pacific Time on Tuesday.

The Dodgers’ five finalists are second only to the Baltimore Orioles, who have six. The Kansas City Royals also have five Gold Glove Award finalists.

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Was Kenley Jansen warm in the 13th inning?

Kenley Jansen

Carlos Beltran’s walkoff single off Kenley Jansen (background) lifted the St. Louis Cardinals to a 3-2 win Saturday. (Associated Press photo)

It’s a fair question.

The temperature at Busch Stadium was in the low 60s when Dodgers pitcher Chris Withrow allowed a bloop single to St. Louis Cardinals pinch-hitter Daniel Descalso in the early hours Saturday morning. That’s when Jansen said he began to throw in the bullpen, having not thrown a warm-up pitch at any point prior to the 13th inning.

Was it tough to stay warm?

“Yeah kinda,” Jansen said, “but you’ve just got to keep being strong out there.”

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When did Hanley Ramirez turn it up? Depends on who you ask.

Hanley Ramirez

Hanley Ramirez is hitting .538 in the first four games of the National League Division Series. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff photographer)

Hanley Ramirez‘s 3-for-4, two-RBI performance Sunday sparked some discussion about how Ramirez turned his career around.

Ramirez won a batting title with the Marlins in 2009, but didn’t hit above .300 in a single season since. This year, he batted .345 in the regular season with a 1.040 OPS that led the team. His six extra-base hits in this playoff series have matched a team record set by Steve Garvey in 1978. His batting average in the four games is .538.

So when did Ramirez turn it up?

“I saw a big difference in Hanley coming back from the (World Baseball Classic), a passion for winning,” Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis said. “A passion for competing. He made himself a better hitter.”

Sports Illustrated senior writer Tom Verducci (who to my knowledge hasn’t interviewed Ramirez this season) said on TBS last night that the transformation came more recently.

Yasiel Puig really lit a fire under [Ramirez]. He saw the kind of energy that Puig brought to the game and he has followed suit,” Verducci said. “He’s the most dangerous hitter in their lineup. They have a great lineup and he is the guy that would scare me the most.”

Ramirez said the turning point came even sooner, when he arrived in Los Angeles last year.

“I knew what I was going through the last two years after that big surgery on my left shoulder” in Sept. 2011, he said after Game 3. “I wasn’t feeling the same. So I knew that I’ve got to put extra work on my shoulder to get back on track.

“After I got here, the medical staff, man, they’ve been unbelievable. I think they’re part of my success, you know? I think I wouldn’t be where I am right now without them. And my teammates, you know, they show me a lot of support all year long. I really appreciate that. You don’t go anywhere without your teammates and whoever is around you.”

Injury updates: Carl Crawford, Yasiel Puig, Hanley Ramirez, A.J. Ellis

Carl Crawford had the most honest answer of any Dodger when asked to update his health status after Game 3 of the National League Division Series on Sunday night.

Crawford, who went head-over-heels over a short padded fence and fell into a concrete patio along the left-field line — all while catching Brian McCann‘s foul pop-up in the eighth inning — stayed in the game and seemed no worse for the wear.

Why was that?

“I’m on all kinds of medication right now so I won’t feel it until tomorrow,” he said. “I’ll have an answer for you by tomorrow.”

Crawford even beat out a forceout in the bottom of the eighth inning, then scored from second base on a single by Hanley Ramirez.
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Carl Crawford’s three-run home run gives Dodgers early 4-2 lead in Game 3 of NLDS.

Carl Crawford‘s fourth career postseason home run — in his last three playoff series — brought the Dodgers back from down 2-1 in the second inning of Game 3 of their National League Division Series against the Atlanta Braves.

Crawford, a left-handed hitter, took advantage of a 2-2 slider that Braves right-hander Julio Teheran left over the middle of the plate, turning on the pitch and belting it over the right-field fence. The three-run home run put the Dodgers ahead 4-2.

Crawford’s last postseason home run came on Oct. 9, 2010 in the American League Division series against the Texas Rangers when he was playing for the Tampa Bay Rays. In 2008, Crawford hit a pair of home runs for Tampa Bay in the franchise’s only World Series appearance against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Dodgers pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu broke Teheran’s early shutout bid with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly on a low fly ball to right field. Juan Uribe advanced to third base on the sacrifice fly, and A.J. Ellis remained at first base, setting the stage for Crawford’s home run.

Crawford hit six home runs in his first season with the Dodgers, but only one after June 1.

Dodgers clinch National League West title and first playoff berth since 2009, beating Arizona Diamondbacks 7-6.

It’s been expected since Day 1. Even more since Sept. 1.

Now it’s official: The Dodgers are going to the playoffs.

A.J. Ellis broke a 6-6 tie with a solo home run off Josh Collmenter in the eighth inning, lifting the Dodgers to a heavily anticipated win over the Arizona Diamondbacks to clinch the National League West title.

See the game-winning home run for yourself:

It’s the Dodgers’ first playoff berth since 2009, when they won 95 games and the division before losing to the Philadelphia Phillies in the National League Championship Series.
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Daily Distractions: To Hanley, or not to Hanley?

Hanley Ramirez

The Dodgers are 35-37 this season when Hanley Ramirez isn’t in the starting lineup. (Associated Press)

At some point this month, maybe tomorrow if the Dodgers have clinched a playoff berth by then, Don Mattingly will be asked how he balanced winning September games with keeping injured players intact for October. The answer was not obvious when the sun rose and it wasn’t any clearer when Hanley Ramirez was listed third in the batting order for today’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Mattingly told reporters in Phoenix on Wednesday that Ramirez likely would be out of the lineup today. Ramirez isn’t fully recovered from the irritated nerve that led him to receive a pair of cortisone injections over the weekend, and watching him run the bases has been painful at times. It’s abundantly clear he isn’t healthy.

Yet playing Ramirez can’t be a simple matter of keeping him fresh; he’s 6 for 15 with four runs scored and an RBI on four or more days’ rest this season. Dee Gordon is healthy, so far as we know. So are Nick Punto and Jerry Hairston Jr., who’s been taking ground balls at shortstop recently.

Here’s a better stat: The Dodgers are 52-28 with Ramirez starting, but 35-37 without him. Simply put, they are an average team without Ramirez in the lineup.

Run him into the ground, and Ramirez won’t be in the lineup at all in October.

Don’t play him at all in September and there might not be an October — at least, it’s felt that way at times recently.

At some point, we’ll find out how the thinking goes in the manager’s office.

Here be some bullet points for a National Speak Like a Pirate Day:
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