Lopes, 70, brought a unique voice to the coaching staff. He was the oldest uniformed coach in baseball last season and was an instrumental baserunning mentor when the Dodgers had speed to spare. His prized pupil was Dee Gordon, who stole an MLB-leading 64 bases (in 83 attempts, a 77 percent success rate) in his final season as a Dodger in 2014. In 2015 with the Marlins, Gordon stole 58 bases in 78 attempts, a 74 percent success rate.
The Dodgers did not have speed to spare last season. Carl Crawford and Yasiel Puig, maybe their two fastest baserunners, spent much of the season on the disabled list. Puig’s explosiveness was sapped by multiple hamstring injuries. Acquiring Chase Utley and Jose Peraza helped, but the Dodgers still finished the regular season with 59 steals as a team — one more than Gordon — and a paltry 63 percent success rate.
The Nationals only stole 57 bases last year, so Lopes will have his work cut out for him again. He was the first base coach in Washington in 2006 under Frank Robinson.
Lopes played for the Dodgers from the time he was drafted in 1968 until 1981.
Some more notes from the morning:
A surprising bit of news leaked out of our nation’s capital today: Bud Black will not manage the Washington Nationals.
Nationals GM Mike Rizzo offered Black the managerial job last Wednesday, which he accepted, but when they entered contract negotiations, they never came close to reaching a deal.
The Nationals, according to a person with knowledge of the talks, originally offered Black a one-year deal for $1.6 million, and refused to guarantee more than two years. Black informed the Nationals’ ownership several days ago that he couldn’t accept a deal, which is considerably lower than he anticipated.
By contrast, Don Mattingly, who has less experience, just received a four-year deal for about $10 million from the Miami Marlins.
Baker earned $4 million in the final year of his contract when he was fired in 2013 by the Cincinnati Reds, according to USA Today, and $3.5 million according to CBS. He was not among the front-runners to manage the Dodgers.
Black, who managed under Dodgers executive Josh Byrnes in San Diego, is a candidate to at least get an interview this month.
Some more tidbits:
Here’s what we know about the latest Cuban defector:
According to ESPN Deportes, Arruebarruena is a “defensive artist” who batted .320 in 2011-12 and .293 last season. Arruebarruena played for Cuba in the most recent World Baseball Classic. He went 6 for 16 (.375) with a stolen base in six games. Here’s a clip of his two-run single against Brazil.
Since Arruebarruena has six years’ experience in Cuba, the Dodgers aren’t limited by the spending restrictions placed on international amateurs. ESPN reported that most scouts believe Arruebarruena is capable of winning a Gold Glove but don’t consider him an “offensive force” in the majors. BaseballAmerica.com recently offered this scouting report:
At 6 feet, 195 pounds, Arruebarruena has clean hands, quick actions and good body control. He’s a below-average runner, but his quick first step and instincts give him good range. He has a quick transfer and a plus-plus arm with accuracy, which allows him to make throws from deep in the hole and turn 4-6-3 double plays with ease. His awareness in the field is advanced and he’s shown the ability to make the barehanded play look routine and make strong throws from different angles.
The video above certainly confirms the “clean hands.”
Knowing nothing else, Arruebarruena could be a valuable complement to offensive-minded shortstop Hanley Ramirez, if his defense is as good as advertised. But without any sterling offensive evaluations to point to, it’s not clear if Arruebarruena is major-league ready. It will be interesting to see what kind of a contract he commands.
Arruebarruena established residence in Haiti and displayed his talents for teams in the Dominican Republic.
His name is admittedly difficult to pronounce.
Si Arruebarruena llega a Grandes Ligas ya me imagino como colegas gueros van a despedazar su apellido.Pocos s esfuerzan x pronunciar correct
— Jaime Jarrín (@JaimeJarrin) February 12, 2014
If it seems like the Dodgers practically have their choice of Cuban defectors, well, maybe they do.
Some bullet points for a Wednesday:
In the absence of something tangible to report — which will be true for most of the 151 days between the end of the World Series and the beginning of the 2014 regular season — there is the tangible difficulty of going into a season with four outfielders who deserve to start, and no DH rule to keep the fourth one happy. That’s where the Dodgers stand now.
That wasn’t a problem in the second half of 2013. All four battled injuries of some magnitude. Matt Kemp played one game between July 5 and Sept. 16, then missed all of the playoffs with an ankle that required surgery. Carl Crawford missed 30 games at midseason. Andre Ethier missed most of September. Yasiel Puig injured his knee and hip in September, but at least avoided missing significant time.
Kemp will enter spring training in 2014 coming off shoulder and ankle procedures, so there’s some reason for the Dodgers to be cautious. He turns 30 next September. Crawford and Ethier will both be 32.
“We didn’t play with four the whole year,” he said. “It would be hard talking about something that’s a possibility for next year. You’re always looking to improve. You never know what happens before the year’s over. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there. Number of games, how you mix and match … it’s just something you have to talk about with guys.”
That the problem is purely hypothetical hardly dismisses the fact that it would be a problem for a manager to satisfy four outfielders owed more than $61 million in combined salaries next season. Mattingly’s answer didn’t exactly downplay the potential for a problem.
To the hot stove action: It’s believed that Puig is untouchable. To trade Kemp, Ethier or Crawford, “general manager Ned Colletti will need to be creative, but it’s not as if he’s embarking upon mission impossible,” writes Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com. There’s also the opinion that maybe Puig shouldn’t be untouchable.
Writes Jesse Spector of SportingNews.com: “It’s valid for the Dodgers to shop Kemp and see what the market might hold, but he’s not a player you trade unless you’re absolutely blown away. When that doesn’t happen, because of the effect of a lost 2013 season on Kemp’s trade value, then it’s time to call around about Ethier or Crawford, and eventually make the best deal possible – most likely, that would mean dealing Ethier.”
“To do it,” writes Craig Calcaterra of NBCsports.com, “the Dodgers are going to clearly have to eat a lot of salary. But money is the least of the Dodgers’ concern.”
Buster Olney and Jim Bowden of ESPN.com weighed in on the possibility of Tampa Bay trading pitcher David Price, with the Dodgers a possible suitor. Both seem to be anticipating a winter trade rather than one next summer, and Bowden believes it would cost the Dodgers multiple prospects rather than an outfielder, which the Rays probably can’t afford. Unless that outfielder is Puig.
Some bullet points for a three-day weekend: