Daily Distractions: Because it’s never too soon, sizing up the Dodgers’ 2015 rotation.

Zach Lee

Zach Lee will attend his first spring training this weekend. Will he be in the Dodgers’ rotation in 2015? (Associated Press photo)


Today, we look ahead to next fall because, well, why not?

Josh Beckett, Dan Haren and Chad Billingsley — if the Dodgers decline his option — will become free agents after this season. Do the Dodgers have two pitchers in their system who would be ready to fill the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation by 2015?

Maybe. Zach Lee continues to be ranked as a top-100 prospect with middle-of-the-rotation potential. Ross Stripling could be closer than Lee to reaching the majors, depending on who you talk to in the organization. Julio Urias is 17, so probably not. The jury’s still out on the potential of Matt Magill, Seth Rosin and a few others.

The jury’s still out on all of them, actually, since you simply never know how much time a prospect needs to reach his potential. And if the Dodgers’ transactions log over the past two years indicates nothing else, it’s that they prefer proven performance to potential.

So who’s in the next wave of free-agent starters? The list could include Max Scherzer, James Shields, Justin Masterson, Homer Bailey and Jon Lester. Even if Scherzer gets a big extension from the Detroit Tigers, as expected, that’s still a strong class — stronger than this year’s, certainly. All of the Dodgers’ free-agent decisions this year were made with potential 2015 free agents in mind. (That principle applies every winter.)

In the linked piece, FanGraphs.com’s Dave Cameron concludes that Scherzer, Lester and Bailey are the most likely to re-sign long-term extensions. That potentially leaves Shields and Masterson as the cream of the 2015 crop. Depending on their health and performance in 2014, they would almost certainly be the best fourth starters in baseball if they joined the Dodgers.

Cameron predicts that Shields could command a five- or six-year contract “and probably close to the $25 million AAV that many of the better pitchers have attained recently.” Shields turned 32 in December. Despite his career WAR of 28.0 in eight seasons, that’s still quite a bit of risk to take on.

But so is giving the job to a prospect.

Taken together, who do you like in the group to fill out the 2015 rotation?

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Daily Distractions: Dodgers president Stan Kasten named ‘Sports Executive of the Year.’

Stan Kasten

Stan Kasten was named the 2013 Sports Executive of the Year by the Los Angeles Sports Council (Getty Images)


Stan Kasten didn’t take long to make a name for himself in Los Angeles.

The Dodgers president hasn’t been on the job for two years, but on Tuesday he was named the 2013 Sports Executive of the Year by the Los Angeles Sports Council. Kasten will be honored during the 9th Annual LA Sports Awards, March 5 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

The awards dinner and gala, emceed by comedian Bill Engvall, will be televised on Prime Ticket on March 14 at 9:30 p.m., with multiple airings to follow. The ceremony also will feature the presentation of the Sportsman, Sportswoman, and Coach of the Year Awards.

Under Guggenheim Baseball Management, an ownership group including Kasten, chairman Mark Walter and Magic Johnson, the Dodgers led all major-league teams in home and road attendance last season. The Dodgers capped season-ticket sales at 32,000 last year and are currently deciding where to cap that number this year.

Guggenheim’s greatest feat: Negotiating an $8 billion television contract with Time Warner Cable that kicks in this year. The network co-owned by the Dodgers and TWC, SportsNet LA, is set to launch on Feb. 25.

Previous Sports Executive of the Year honorees are: Tim Leiweke, AEG (2012); Arte Moreno, Angels (2011); Tim Leiweke, AEG (2010); Jerry Buss, Lakers (2009); Mitch Kupchak, Lakers (2008); Brian Burke, Ducks (2007); Ned Colletti, Dodgers/Brian Burke, Ducks (2006); and Arte Moreno, Angels (2005).

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Vin Scully honored at Southern California Sports Broadcasters awards luncheon.

Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully was named the Chick Hearn Radio Play-By-Play award winner for the 16th time at the Southern California Sports Broadcasters awards luncheon Monday.

Scully also won the SCSB Best Television Play-By-Play Announcer award for the 12th time. The 86-year-old has been part of the Dodgers’ broadcast team since 1950. Scully will broadcast all Dodgers games in California and Arizona in 2014.

The 2013 Special Achievement Award was bestowed upon Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw. In November, Kershaw won the Branch Rickey Award from the Rotary Club of Denver for his off-field humanitarian work, and the National League Cy Young award for his pitching exploits.

Earlier this month, Kershaw signed  a seven-year, $215 million contract, the largest ever given a pitcher.

Daily Distractions: Masahiro Tanaka rumors are rife; Dodgers and Yankees are interested in Japanese pitcher.

Masahiro Tanaka

The Dodgers and Yankees have reportedly made the largest offers for free agent right-hander Masahiro Tanaka. (Getty Images)

Watching the courtship of Japanese pitcher Masahiro Tanaka must be like making progress toward a major scientific discovery. The closer you get to the breakthrough, the more clear the discovery becomes. You know you’re on the brink. It’s exciting.

There were two really good scouting reports published today, each a practical take on what kind of pitcher Tanaka might be in the United States. Dan Szymborski, writing for ESPN.com, concludes that “the biggest test for Tanaka will be the command on his fastball. … Tanaka doesn’t have (Yu) Darvish’s raw stuff, so he’ll need to go after hitters like Iwakuma has done. This may result in more home runs than he allowed in Japan — just six in 2013 — especially if he’s pitching in Yankee Stadium, but that’s the tradeoff that worked for so well for Iwakuma in 2013.”

That sentence should come with a caveat: Darvish’s raw stuff would probably rank among the top 10 in the world. Maybe top 5. Tanaka’s offspeed pitches are pretty good, too. According to BaseballAmerica.com, his splitter and slider would both fetch at least a 60 on the 20-80 scouting scale.

So what’s all that worth on the open market?

According to Nikkan Sports, at least $100 million over six years, plus a $20 million posting fee to be paid to the Rakuten Golden Eagles. Nikkan also reported that the Dodgers and Yankees have made the largest offer so far. Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti made the strongest statement by any interested GM on Friday: “We’ll play it for as long as we can play it until we know that we’re out.”

Remember, Tanaka doesn’t have to choose the team that offers the most money. There are other factors at play.

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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.

Daily Distractions: The verdict is in, and Clayton Kershaw’s contract makes sense.

Clayton Kershaw

Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw will re-sign for $215 million over seven years, a contract that is expected to become official today or tomorrow. (Associated Press photo)

Serious question, folks: When’s the last time an athlete signed for mind-boggling money, and there was almost unanimous consensus that the money was worth it?

FanGraphs.com called Clayton Kershaw’s contract a “ridiculous bargain,” at least if he opts out of the final two years. TheScore.com called it “a risk, but not a significant one for team or player.” That’s because they broke the flow chart, writes Grant Brisbee of SBNation.com.

SportsOnEarth.com had a well-informed analysis of the economic situation in baseball that neither trashed nor praised Kershaw’s contract, but concluded this: “knowing the money is there to help if needed, it’s easier to take those shots now than it ever was.” Similarly, ESPN.com said that a contract of $300 million over 10 years — essentially the same average annual value that Kershaw got, only over a longer term — would be “a smart move for a team with the ability to be able to absorb the downside risk.”

FanGraphs.com called seven years and $230 million a “decent price.” NBCsports.com took a stab at what Kershaw might give the Dodgers before the contract runs out. We know what Kershaw gives off the field.

Everyone’s a winner, writes colleague Jill Painter, except there are losers in the deal. They work for teams in San Francisco, Denver, Phoenix and San Diego. Writes ESPN’s Buster Olney: “The Blue Jays haven’t made the playoffs in two decades, and the Orioles have made it once in the past 16 years. And this is what the existence of the Padres, Rockies and Diamondbacks promises to be, in light of the Dodgers’ massive payroll advantage.”

Olney goes on to suggest that the Kershaw contract could be a thorn in the side of labor peace, if enough small-market owners needed this as ammunition to complain about a lack of parity in baseball.

If the Dodgers win the next three World Series before the Collective Bargaining Agreement expires in 2016, will fans complain about a strike or lockout?

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Report: Dodgers will make Clayton Kershaw a $30 million pitcher in 2015.

If Clayton Kershaw opts out of the final two years of his new contract, he will be leaving $65 million of a possible $215 million on the table.

Jon Heyman of CBSsports.com reported the year-by-year financial breakdown of Kershaw’s seven-year deal as follows:

2014: $22 million ($18 million signing bonus plus $4 million salary)
2015: $30 million
2016: $32 million
2017: $33 million
2018: $33 million
2019: $32 million
2020: $33 million

Based on salary obligations to current players only, and including the payments from the Boston Red Sox from the 2012 trade for Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford, here are the new Dodgers payroll estimates for each of those seasons:

2014: $229.0 million
2015: $173.9 million
2016: $162.3 million
2017: $162.3 million
2018: $112.6 million
2019: $53.7 million
2020: $33 million

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:

Daily Distractions: Is this the week the Dodgers go for broke?

Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers have had active contract negotiations this off-season, with big numbers being bandied about. (Associated Press photo)

Is this the week Clayton Kershaw decides how rich he wants to be?

Kershaw filed for salary arbitration on Tuesday, a procedural formality. He and the Dodgers must exchange their one-year salary proposals Friday; if the two sides can’t reach agreement over the next two weeks, they will bring a case before an arbitration panel in February.

If you work a night shift Friday, set your alarm for 10 a.m. That’s MLB’s deadline for “pre-exchange contracts.” Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com reported today that the Dodgers want to sign Kershaw to a long-term contract extension by then. The Dodgers have been looking to lock up Kershaw for months. This is the closest thing to a hard deadline the Dodgers have faced since contract talks began last year.

The real hard deadline, of course, is after the final game of the 2014 World Series. At that point, the Dodgers won’t just be bidding against themselves — they will be bidding against 29 other teams, as Kershaw is due to become a free agent.

In anticipation, there have been multiple reports of a contract offer in the $300 million range.

A contract of that magnitude wouldn’t necessarily eliminate the Dodgers from the Masahiro Tanaka derby, but they are reportedly competing against the deep-pocketed and pitching-poor Yankees. The deadline to sign Tanaka is Jan. 24 at 5 p.m.

The takeaway: This could be a big week of spending in Chavez Ravine.

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