Dodgers avoid arbitration with A.J. Ellis; catcher signs 1-year, $3.55 million contract.

The Dodgers avoided arbitration with catcher A.J. Ellis on Saturday, agreeing to a 1-year, $3.55 million contract.

Ellis requested a $4.6 million salary when figures were exchanged Jan. 17; the Dodgers countered with $3.0 million. He’ll earn something below the exact midpoint ($3.8 million) but still gets a nice raise over his $2 million salary from 2013.

The 32-year-old batted .238/.318/.364 in 115 games last season, while his 3.06 catchers’ ERA led all major-league starting catchers.

Closer Kenley Jansen is the Dodgers’ only remaining arbitration-eligible player. He’s requested a $5.05 million salary and the Dodgers have countered at $3.5 million. Asked Saturday if he anticipates a deal getting done before the two sides head to arbitration, general manager Ned Colletti said only that “it takes two.”

An arbitration hearing date hasn’t been set.

Daily Distractions: California Superior Court judge tosses class-action lawsuit against Dodgers, Lakers, TWC.

SportsNet LA

The Dodgers’ new network, SportsNet LA, is launching Feb. 25. (Photo courtesy of SportsNet LA via Facebook)

A California Superior Court judge tossed out a class-action lawsuit filed against the Dodgers, Lakers, and Time Warner Cable on Tuesday, citing federal laws designed to protect the rights of cable providers. Judge Amy D. Hogue ruled that California’s Unfair Competition Law couldn’t be invoked to relieve Time Warner subscribers of the burden of unwanted fees or channels.

This blog space has focused on the Dodgers’ $8 billion, 25-year television contract to the extent that it impacts the team and its fans — the Time Warner subscribers who are bracing for a rate hike, and non-TWC subscribers who are being asked to “Demand Your Dodgers Now.” That makes sense. This is a Dodgers blog, after all.

But what about the non-Dodger (and non-Laker) fans who don’t want to pay for two channels they don’t plan to watch? That’s the group who filed the class-action suit. Their lead attorney, Max Blecher, summarized their position: “People should have the right to say ‘no.’ ”

Here’s how that position was eloquated in Judge Hogue’s nine-page ruling:

1. TWC plans to pass some the cost of its licensing deal with the Dodgers to its enhanced basic cable customers by increasing the cost of service by an estimated $4 to $5 per month. The Dodgers … knew and consented to the fact that the costs of the licensing agreement would be passed on to TWC enhanced basic cable customers without an opportunity for customers to opt-out of including those channels in their enhanced basic cable subscription.

2. TWC customers who subscribe to the enhanced basic cable package have no way of unsubscribìng from the costs of the Dodgers and Lakers networks, despite the fact that up to 60 percent of customers would do so if given the choice.

In response, TWC contended that the plaintiffs “entirely fail to address the ‘safe harbor effect’ of the CCA” — the federal law that allows cable providers to “bundle” channels in the same manner as SportsNet LA and TWC SportsNet (the Lakers’ network). The federal “safe harbor” law takes priority over California’s Unfair Competition Law. The judge agreed.

Blecher said he might file a notice of appeal if it can be argued that the judge’s ruling went too far. So this fight might not be over. The plaintiffs have at least one strong ally in Congress.

Some bullet points for a hump day:
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Daily Distractions: Who will be the next Hall of Fame inductee with a Dodgers logo on his cap?

Greg Maddux

Greg Maddux pitched 23 games, regular and postseason, in separate stints with the Dodgers in 2006 and 2008. (Getty Images)

Greg Maddux won’t have a logo on his Baseball Hall of Fame cap. It was never going to be a Dodgers logo, but that got me to thinking: Who will be the next Hall of Fame inductee with a Dodgers logo on his cap?

The Hall of Fame has a list of future candidates, listed by year of eligibility. (They haven’t gotten around to scratching Bobby Abreu‘s name off the 2018 list, assuming Abreu makes the Phillies’ roster.) Another future eligible is still on the Dodgers’ payroll (Andruw Jones). Jeff Weaver and Chan Ho Park become eligible in 2016.

Among the serious candidates, Manny Ramirez and Gary Sheffield did some of their best work in Dodgers uniforms.

Manny is 14th on the career home run list, and ninth in career slugging percentage and OPS. But he spent eight seasons in Cleveland and eight in Boston before his brief tenure as a Dodger. He also failed a drug test. Given the current climate toward known PED users among Hall voters, that won’t bode well for Ramirez. It didn’t bode well for the candidacy of Rafael Palmeiro (12th on the career home run list, off the ballot next year).

Sheffield played for eight teams in 22 seasons. If that doesn’t scream “please don’t put a logo on my hat,” I don’t know what does. And despite his gaudy career numbers, they aren’t much gaudier than those of Jeff Bagwell (listed on 54.3 percent of ballots this year) or Larry Walker (10.2 percent). He also took a designer steroid by his own admission, albeit by accident, and that might be enough to earn a thumbs-down from three-quarters of Hall voters.

Looking at the current ballot, Mike Piazza will wear a Mets hat if he gets in. Jeff Kent (listed on 15.2 percent of recent ballots) isn’t getting in.

In reality, you might be looking at someone on the current roster — one of these four — but only if their skills, health and the voters cooperate. Don’t hold your breath.

Some bullet points for a Pie Day:
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Kenley Jansen, A.J. Ellis fail to reach agreements with Dodgers prior to 10 a.m. deadline.

The Dodgers failed to reach agreements on a new contract with catcher A.J. Ellis and closer Kenley Jansen prior to Friday’s 10 a.m. deadline for arbitration-eligible players. Jansen and Ellis are both eligible for arbitration, and will have their cases heard before an arbitration panel in February if they can’t come to an agreement on a new contract with the Dodgers by then.

Soon, we’ll have the salary figures that the team and each player has submitted for arbitration. The Dodgers have been busy this week finalizing a seven-year, $215 million contract with Clayton Kershaw. It figures that negotiations with Ellis and Jansen took a back burner to Kershaw, and each could have a new contract in the coming weeks.

No player has taken the Dodgers to arbitration since 2007, when relief pitcher Joe Beimel lost his case. Three years before that, the Dodgers won their arbitration case with closer Eric Gagne.

Ellis became arbitration-eligible for the first time last year. He’s coming off a 1-year, $2 million contract. Jansen is eligible for the first time and stands to get a significant raise after leading the Dodgers in saves each of the last two seasons.

Reports: Dodgers, Clayton Kershaw agree to 7-year, $215 million contract.

Clayton KershawThe Dodgers and pitcher Clayton Kershaw have agreed to a 7-year contract extension worth $215 million, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com and Jon Heyman of CBSsports.com on Twitter. Kershaw would be able to opt out of the contract after five years, according to Shelburne’s tweet.

If the terms as reported are correct, that’s the richest contract ever for a baseball player in terms of average annual value — $30.7 million a season. It’s also smaller than the Dodgers’ $300 million contract offer that some had reported.

The previous record for average annual salary was $28 million, which the Yankees paid Roger Clemens in 2007. In terms of total value, a $215 million contract would be the sixth-largest of all time.

A.J. Ellis, the Dodgers’ starting catcher and Kershaw’s best friend on the team, virtually confirmed the new contract with this reaction on Twitter:

Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen, A.J. Ellis file for arbitration.

Clayton KershawA.J. EllisKenley Jansen headshotThe Dodgers’ three arbitration-eligible players, pitchers Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen, and catcher A.J. Ellis, formally filed for arbitration on Tuesday.

Since today was the deadline for arbitration-eligible players to file if they had not signed a contract, this bit of news came as no surprise to the Dodgers. Teams and players will exchange arbitration figures Friday if the players haven’t re-signed by then. If needed, the arbitration hearings will be held between Feb. 1 and Feb. 21.

History says that Kershaw, Jansen and Ellis will have new contracts before February. No player has taken the Dodgers to arbitration since reliever Joe Beimel in 2007. Prior to that, it was Eric Gagne in 2004. In both cases, the arbitration panel ruled in favor of the Dodgers.

In 2013, 133 players filed for arbitration. None of those players went to a hearing — a first since salary arbitration became an option for players in 1974.

So, what can the three expect to earn?
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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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