Dodgers might need to get more creative after Michael Cuddyer signs with Mets.

Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said Friday that “we are trying to solve for talent and be as creative as we can to put the best team on the field as we can.”

How creative can Friedman and his colleagues be? We’ll find out soon enough.

One obvious trading partner for the Dodgers’ glut of outfielders all but eliminated itself from consideration Monday, when the Mets signed Michael Cuddyer to a two-year contract. The Mets’ outfield is full now with Cuddyer, right fielder Curtis Granderson and center fielder Juan Lagares.
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Hanley Ramirez sounds ready to reject the Dodgers’ qualifying offer.

As expected, it looks like Hanley Ramirez will reject the Dodgers’ $15.3 million qualifying offer and become a free agent. At least, that was the logical conclusion after Ramirez all but renounced his ties to the Dodgers in a series of tweets Thursday:

Ramirez also changed his Twitter bio to read “MLB shortstop,” taken from the business card of a man who knows what position he wants to play but doesn’t care where.

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Daily Distractions: Would the real Juan Uribe please stand up?

The depth chart on the Dodgers’ website is missing a third baseman, which paints an accurate picture of their third-base situation if Juan Uribe does not re-sign.

If only penciling him into the Dodgers’ 2014 lineup were as simple as lifting a pencil.

 

It seems that Uribe, whose OPS jumped from .542 to .769 in the final year of his contract, is counting on being rewarded handsomely for his bounceback season, which also saw him finish as the runner-up to Nolan Arenado for the National League Gold Glove award at third base.

The circumstances are similar to 2010, when Uribe signed a three-year, $21 million contract with the Dodgers after posting a .248/.310/.440 slash line for the defending champion San Francisco Giants. (His slash line in 2013: .278/.331/.438.) That year, the top free agent third baseman was Adrian Beltre. The Dodgers determined early on that Beltre would be out of their price range; under Frank McCourt, the 5-year, $80 million deal Beltre ultimately signed with Texas certainly qualified as “expensive.”

So they bit on Uribe. The next-best third baseman in that free agent class was either Miguel Tejada or Bill Hall, depending on your point of view. Neither player finished last season in the majors. Hall (-1.5) and Tejada (0.5) actually have fewer Wins Above Replacement, per baseball-reference.com, from 2011-13 than Uribe (3.7). That statistic is a little misleading, since Uribe had -0.4 WAR from 2011-12, and 4.1 WAR last season. Here’s why:

Juan  Uribe spray chart

Those spray charts are courtesy of FanGraphs’ new interactive spray chart tool, which I plan on using way too much from now on. (For all its limits compared to the tools offered for a price by Bloomberg, and to ESPN employees by ESPN, you can lose an entire afternoon playing with FanGraphs’ new toy.)

The chart on the left shows where Uribe hit the ball in 2012. On the right, 2013. The quick takeaway: Uribe re-discovered his power stroke last year, particularly his pull stroke, and probably hit the ball harder too. At least that’s one way to explain Uribe’s uptick in line drives and ground balls that got through the infield.

Optimistically, pairing Uribe with hitting coach Mark McGwire for another season (or three) could lead to similar results. Pessimistically, 2013 was a fluke and Uribe — who turns 35 next July — can be expected to regress to more 2012-like levels at some point during a three-year contract.

In the midst of another thin free agent market, how optimistic are the Dodgers feeling about Uribe internally? We could find out soon.

Some bullet points for a World Toilet Day:
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Which players might the Dodgers pursue in free agency?

Masahiro Tanaka

Soon-to-be free agent pitcher Masahiro Tanaka hasn’t lost a decision since Aug. 2012 and will pitch Game 6 of the Japan Series on Saturday. (Associated Press)

Yesterday, we analyzed the Dodgers’ 12 in-house free agents. Don’t be surprised if only a few players out of that group return — say, four or less. Signing 26-year-old infielder Alexander Guerrero was the first indication that the Dodgers are serious about getting younger. All of their in-house free agents are more than 30 years old. So are all of the players on this list, with one outstanding exception at the top.

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Report: Dodgers offered Clayton Kershaw contract close to $300 million.

Clayton  Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw is expected to sign the richest contract by a pitcher in major-league history. (John McCoy/Staff photographer)

The Dodgers offered Clayton Kershaw a contract in the range of $300 million earlier this season, according to ESPN.com’s Buster Olney.

That’s the highest dollar amount associated with the contract in any report this season. USA Today suggested earlier this month that Kershaw, who is in his final year of arbitration eligibility, could be in line to make more than $220 million over the life of the deal.

Olney reported that Kershaw balked at the scope of the contract and might seek a deal “perhaps more conservative in length.” Even if the actual amount of dollars and years are slightly less — 10 years would match Alex Rodriguez‘s contract, which Olney used as a comparison — it would make a prophet of Dodgers co-owner Magic Johnson, who said earlier this month: “This young man is going to get paid.”
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Dodgers expected to announce signing of Cuban infielder Alexander Guerrero.

The Dodgers are expected to announce the signing of Alexander Guerrero following multiple reports Monday that the Cuban infielder has been cleared by the United States government to sign with an MLB team.

ESPN Deportes reported that Guerrero’s contract was for seven years and $32 million, while MLB.com reported that the deal could be between five and seven years. The Dodgers have yet to confirm the signing, and it’s not clear where Guerrero will debut.
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Deadline lackluster: Dodgers acquire catcher Drew Butera from the Minnesota Twins.

The Dodgers have acquired catcher Drew Butera from the Minnesota Twins for a player to be named later.

Update (1:55 p.m.): The final deal is Butera for a player to be named later or cash. He will report to Triple-A Albuquerque.

Butera, 29, was batting .229 with two home runs and 10 RBIs in 26 games for the Twins’ Triple-A affiliate, the Rochester Red Wings. He also appeared in two major-league games this season, going 0 for 3.

Butera missed two months earlier this season with a broken finger after being hit on the left hand by a Ramon Ortiz pitch in a Triple-A game. Butera played for Italy in the World Baseball Classic and hit .375 in 16 spring at-bats for the Twins. He is the son of former Twins catcher and current Toronto Blue Jays scout Sal Butera.

As one of five catchers listed on the Twins’ 40-man roster, Butera was expendable. He’ll give the Dodgers some organizational depth at the position behind A.J. Ellis, Tim Federowicz and John Baker, and could be in line for a call-up in September when rosters expand.

Butera gives the Dodgers 40 players on their 40-man roster.

That was the only trade the Dodgers completed before Wednesday’s 1 p.m. non-waiver trade deadline. Teams can still trade players who pass through waivers before August 31.

Padres unite Ian Kennedy, Carlos Quentin in trade with Diamondbacks.

The Dodgers haven’t completed any trades this morning, and don’t appear to be close on any either. They have had some interest in making trades within their division, but that’s a difficult proposition. Especially when you’re in first place, the rest of the division trying to knock you off your perch.

That didn’t stop the Arizona Diamondbacks and San Diego Padres from pulling off a rare intradivision swap Wednesday morning. The Padres receive starting pitcher Ian Kennedy, while the Diamondbacks receive relief pitcher Joe Thatcher, minor-leaguer Matt Stites and a draft pick.

The trade unites Kennedy and outfielder Carlos Quentin in San Diego, the two players responsible for inciting benches-clearing brawls with the Dodgers this season.

Daily Distractions: Time to forget about Robinson Cano?

Robinson Cano rocks a Cleveland Cavaliers sweater while bro-hugging Jay-Z at a Cavs playoff game in 2009. C.C. Sabathia (right) photo-bombs. Which of them will be Yankees in 2013?    (Getty Images)

If Robinson Cano isn’t the Dodgers’ second baseman next year, blame Jay-Z. A little.

More accurately, you might blame Cano for switching agents this week, from Boras Corp. to the brand-new Roc Nation Sports Agency, a Jay-Z creation. Cano is Roc Nation’s first client.

Jay-Z is not Cano’s agent — in fact, Cano will be represented by CAA’s Brodie Van Wagenen. CAA and Roc Nation have some sort of a working agreement and it’s unclear how the particulars of that arrangement shake out. Regardless, here’s what we know:

1. Jay-Z is a Yankees fan who would probably like to see his team re-sign its best player.
2. CAA is less likely to usher its star clients onto the free-agent market than Boras.

FoxSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal asked Van Wagenen the question on every Dodger fan’s mind: Will Cano hit free agency when his contract expires at the end of the season, or will he re-sign with the Yankees before then?

Cano, who is eligible for free agency at the end of the season, enjoys playing for the Yankees and is open to staying with the club.

“New York and Yankees fans have been great for Robbie,” Van Wagenen said. “He has flourished in pinstripes and loved his time in the city. His primary focus is continuing to represent that brand and help his team win games.

“Is there an opening for him to explore a contract? You know us. We’re not going to talk publicly about that. We certain will continue to work diligently to help him achieve his goals both on and off the field.”

There isn’t much to read into there, but it’s probably time to line up a Plan B in your fantasy 2014 Dodgers lineup. The Dodgers hold a club option for their current second baseman and number-two hitter, Mark Ellis, once his contract expires after this season. Ellis turns 36 in June. His age, and his career .265/.331/.394 slash line, are why no one is clamoring for the Dodgers to exercise that option — even if Ellis is the team’s best defensive infielder.
As for other second basemen who could become free agents at the end of the season, the Rays hold an option on Ben Zobrist; Chase Utley will be 35; Brian Roberts will be 36; and there’s always Nick Punto and Skip Schumaker. (Full list courtesy of MLBTradeRumors.com).
Some bullet points:
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