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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Dodgers trade Alex Castellanos to Boston Red Sox for minor-league outfielder Jeremy Hazelbaker.

The Dodgers today acquired minor league outfielder Jeremy Hazelbaker and cash considerations from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for outfielder Alex Castellanos.

Since Castellanos had been designated for assignment on Oct. 17 (to make room for Mike Baxter), Hazelbaker does not immediately join the Dodgers’ 40-man roster.

Hazelbaker, 26, spent the entire 2013 season with Triple-A Pawtucket, batting .257/.313/.374 with 11 home runs and 54 RBI in 121 games. He was fifth in the International League with 37 steals.

The Muncie, Indiana, native has a .258/.338/.421 with 194 steals, 60 home runs and 247 RBI in 530 games in five professional seasons since being selected by Boston in the fourth round of the 2009 draft out of Ball State University — the alma mater of former Dodger Larry Bigbie.

The Red Sox designated Pedro Beato for assignment to make room for Castellanos on their 40-man roster.

Minor matters: Dodgers designate Alex Castellanos for assignment, claim ex-Mets OF Mike Baxter.

The Dodgers claimed former New York Mets outfielder Mike Baxter Thursday and designated Alex Castellanos to clear room on the 40-man roster.

Baxter, 28, played 194 major-league games, all with the Mets, over parts of the last four seasons. He’s got a career .229/.335/.348 slash line in the majors. A left-handed batter and right-handed thrower, Baxter played 59 games at Triple-A last season, batting .289/.380/.519.

Baxter is perhaps most famous in New York for making a sliding catch to preserve Johan Santana‘s no-hitter last June.

Castellanos wasn’t included on the Dodgers’ playoff roster and wasn’t traveling with the team. Originally acquired from St. Louis in the Rafael Furcal trade, Castellanos batted .257/.347/.468 at Triple-A Albuquerque this year. He saw action in 24 games with the Dodgers the last two years, hitting two home runs and batting .171/.186/.390 overall.

Scott Van Slyke lands on the disabled list as the Dodgers shuffle the deck.

Scott Van SlykeIt’s only June, but the Dodgers have already used the disabled list 20 times on 15 different players.

Scott Van Slyke became the latest to join the ranks of the wounded Tuesday, when an MRI exam revealed bursitis in his left (non-throwing) shoulder. Van Slyke received a cortisone injection and said he should be ready to return to the lineup once the 15 days are up.

Outfielder Alex Castellanos was recalled from Triple-A Albuquerque prior to Tuesday’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Skip Schumaker got the start in left field with Andre Ethier in center and Yasiel Puig in right.

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Jerry Hairston Jr.’s groin injury could open a spot for an outfielder in Los Angeles, but who?

First it was the pitchers. Now the Dodger position players’ health is unraveling like a spool of thread with Mark Ellis‘ quadricep, Hanley Ramirez‘s hamstring and Jerry Hairston Jr.’s groin all giving out within a 10-day span.

Hairston could join Ellis and Ramirez on the disabled list soon if he isn’t able to play the outfield. Among the Dodgers’ reserves, only Skip Schumaker is a natural outfielder (infielders Luis Cruz and Justin Sellers have made cameos there during spring training). Manager Don Mattingly had a clear criterion for Hairston to avoid the disabled list.

“Either he can play the outfield or he can’t go at all,” Mattingly said. “Jerry’s going to need to be able to play the outfield for us to not have to make a move.”
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Dodgers spring training preview: Outfielders.

Matt Kemp

There’s immense potential among this group, but questionable depth beyond the three starters – and an immediate need for depth. Remember when Shane Victorino and Torii Hunter were being mentioned as potential fourth outfielders? It’s because the need existed: Carl Crawford had Tommy John surgery on his left elbow and arthroscopic surgery on his left wrist in 2012, Matt Kemp had surgery to repair his left shoulder last October, and Andre Ethier can’t hit left-handed pitching. More on that in a bit.

In lieu of any big-name acquisitions, Jerry Hairston Jr. and Skip Schumaker — utility infielders who make occasional cameos in the outfield – might begin the season as the fourth and fifth outfielders. Crawford might well begin the season on the disabled list. With so many question marks, there will be plenty of focus on this group in the spring, beginning with the heart and soul of the Dodger lineup.

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Dodgers 9, Rangers 0.

In their most lopsided result of the spring, the Dodgers crushed a Rangers lineup that featured all but one of their projected opening-day starters. [box score]

Clayton Kershaw, making his first Cactus League start, allowed three hits and a walk in three innings against his hometown team. He induced consecutive comebackers to Josh Hamilton (on a grounder) and Adrian Beltre (line drive) to end the first inning. Kershaw also picked off Nelson Cruz at first base; of his 42 pitches, 28 were strikes.

“This is as normal as it gets,” Kershaw said. “I threw everything –some sliders, curveballs; my changeup was terrible.”

In what the Dodgers hope is a normal occurrence, Matt Kemp went 2-for-2 with a home run, Juan Rivera batted cleanup and belted his first home run of the spring, and Andre Ethier went 2-for-2 with a triple. Prospect Alex Castellanos hit his second home run of the spring, his second in as many days.

The Dodgers are 3-1-1 after starting 2-6 last season, but manager Don Mattingly isn’t placing value on results yet — even a lopsided victory. “I’d much rather see us swing the bats,” he said, “but I also know we’ll hit a stretch where we don’t score.”

A few more notes:
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Dodgers 7, A’s 2.

The Dodgers came within a couple innings of a shutout against the A’s at Camelback Ranch, getting two scoreless innings from Chris Capuano in his first Cactus League start Thursday. [box score]

Matt Guerrier, Mike MacDougal, Todd Coffey and John Grabow all threw scoreless relief innings in their spring debuts. Stephen Fife allowed a run in the seventh inning and Wilfredo Ledezma allowed the A’s other run in the ninth.

Adam Kennedy started at DH and went 2-for-2. Andre Ethier finished 1-for-2 with a two-RBI double in the fourth inning, raising his spring batting average to .500. Matt Kemp went 1-for-3 with an RBI single and two strikeouts. His spring average sits at .143.

Alex Castellanos, who was acquired in the Rafael Furcal trade last
season, blasted the game’s only home run off A’s reliever Travis Schilchting in the
sixth inning.

Dee Gordon stole his first base of the spring, swiping second base after drawing a walk to lead off the game.

A few more notes:

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