Daily Distractions: Let the free agency period begin.

Red Sox fans

Boston Red Sox fans celebrate the start of free agency Wednesday night. (Associated Press photo)

The World Series is over, making ringbearers of the Red Sox and free agents of dozens of players around baseball.

The Dodgers will have at least 10: Ricky Nolasco, Michael Young, Juan Uribe, Carlos Marmol, Jerry Hairston, Edinson Volquez, Skip Schumaker, Nick Punto, J.P. Howell and Brian Wilson. Per MLB rules, the Dodgers have exclusive negotiating rights with each player up until midnight Eastern Time Monday, after which all are free to sign with any club.

Sometime within the next five days, general manager Ned Colletti and staff must ultimately decide whether or not to extend these players a qualifying offer, a guaranteed contract for 2014 equal to the average salary of the highest-paid 125 players. This year, that’s $14.1 million.

The potential risk every team faces in extending a qualifying offer is that the player will accept the offer and receive more money than he would by testing the open market. The potential reward is twofold: 1, you might re-sign the player at a discount compared to his open-market value; 2, if the player doesn’t accept the qualifying offer and signs elsewhere, your team receives a first-round draft pick in 2014 from the team that does sign the player.

Of the Dodgers’ 10 free agents, Nolasco is the only viable candidate to receive a qualifying offer. He made $11.5 million last year. What’s another $2.6 million? That’s the, um, $2.6 million question that’s been floating around the front offices at Chavez Ravine this month. The answer should be an easy one: Since Nolasco didn’t begin the year with the Dodgers, they won’t receive any draft-pick compensation if he signs elsewhere.

More on him, and the other free agents, later today.

We should also note here that Chris Capuano and Mark Ellis have options for 2014 in their contracts. Capuano’s is a mutual option for $8 million with a $1 million buyout; Ellis’ is a $5.75 million club option with a $1 million buyout. If the team declines the option on both players, that’s a dirty dozen Dodgers destined to hit the free-agent market.

Some bullet points for an Allantide morning:
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Daily Distractions: Why isn’t Chris Capuano on the Dodgers’ NLCS roster?

Chris Capuano

Chris Capuano walked three batters but didn’t allow a run in Game 3 of the National League Division Series against the Braves, earning the victory in his only postseason appearance. (Associated Press photo)

Five days ago, Chris Capuano said he “really had no idea” that he was going to be on the Dodgers’ roster for the National League Division Series.

“You have Carlos Marmol who’s just throwing the ball fantastic, you’ve got Brandon League, you’ve got Edinson Volquez, you’ve got some real power arms,” Capuano said. “It was exciting for me to have a chance to contribute.”

At the time, Capuano reeked of false modesty. He had just pitched three scoreless innings in relief of Hyun-Jin Ryu, who lasted just three innings in his MLB postseason debut. The veteran left-hander is the only pitcher not named Clayton Kershaw to win a game for the Dodgers this postseason. He validated manager Don Mattingly‘s faith in Capuano and his health — he missed three weeks in September with a strained groin — and seemed to have earned his keep as a long reliever for any similar situations in the National League Championship Series.

Why, then, was Capuano left off the Dodgers’ NLCS roster Friday morning?
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Dodgers reliever J.P. Howell reflects fondly on his time in Tampa Bay.

J.P. Howell

Dodgers reliever J.P. Howell pitched for the Tampa Bay Rays from 2006-12. (Getty Images)

When J.P. Howell was traded to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2006, he was a “failing starter” making the major league minimum. When he left as free agent to sign with the Dodgers before this season, he was a southpaw specialist pitching out of the bullpen and making $2.85 million.

So there really are no sore feelings toward the Rays, the Dodgers’ opponent this weekend.
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A content James Loney returns to Dodger Stadium.

James Loney

James Loney was drafted 19th overall by the Dodgers in 2002, and played in Los Angeles from 2006-12. (Getty Images)


Dodgers pitcher J.P. Howell and Tampa Bay Rays first baseman James Loney were sitting in opposite clubhouses Friday. They were never traded for each other, but they have effectively swapped spots: Loney appeared in parts of seven seasons for the Dodgers from 2006-12, while Howell pitched for the Rays from 2006-12.

Both said the same thing about playing in Tampa.

“You always want to be yourself. (Manager Joe Maddon) is real big on that,” Loney said.

Howell elaborated: “Sometimes where people [on other teams] give up on (players), they go to Tampa and they get another chance, and they’re allowed freedom to be themselves, create who they want to be when they first started their career. … That’s what happened in my case.”

That seems to be the case with Loney, too.

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Daily Distractions: Let’s go streaking.

Kenley Jansen

Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen retired 27 straight batters, a streak that ended Thursday night. (Getty Images)

The Dodgers have racked up a lot of streaks lately, enough to put a fraternity house to shame. The top five, in my opinionated order:

1. 15 straight road wins. This streak ended Tuesday in a 5-1 loss, curiously the only game in St. Louis started by Clayton Kershaw, the presumptive Cy Young award favorite. The Dodgers fell three games short of a major league record but created eight bottom-of-the-ninth save situations in the process, making a hero of Kenley Jansen. More on him … now.

2. Kenley Jansen’s 27 straight outs: This one ended last night, ensuring that Mark Buehrle‘s record of 45 straight batters retired is safe. (Bobby Jenks still holds the record for relievers with 41.) Eric Stephen at TrueBlueLA.com charted each out today, while Evan Bladh at Opinion of Kingman’s Performance reminded me that the streak began rather inauspiciously in Toronto.

3. Fourteen straight series at .500 or better (10 wins, 0 losses, 4 ties). Managers tend to think in terms of series, and players do to an extent, but I think for many fans this concept is harder to grasp. Consider that when the streak began June 23, the Dodgers were in fifth place in the National League West. Since then, the Dodgers have only played one team (Arizona) that was in first place at the time of the series — so they were all series that a good team would expect to win. The Dodgers simply weren’t a good team when the streak began.

4. Eleven straight wins in one-run games. Again, this is largely due to Jansen and a bullpen that has held batters to a .179 batting average since the All-Star break. Paco Rodriguez has faced 33 batters in the second half and five have reached base.

5. Yasiel Puig‘s 16 straight games reaching base. Nobody’s talking about this one because it’s only 16 games, but those 16 games have seen Puig walk 12 times and reach base at a .520 clip. He’ll go for number 17 tonight.

Some bullet points for a Singaporean Independence Day:
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Daily Distractions: Picking a new WBC favorite; Cactus League attendance down; Mike Piazza ads.

WBC logoI started toying with this mental exercise last night: What if the state of California had a team in the World Baseball Classic?

Forget about how many players would decline invitations. Forget about generational eligibility — if you were born in California, you’re eligible (which is fine, since I had a better chance of making Team Wisconsin anyways). What would that team look like? Could it contend?

The answer is yes.

C: John Jaso, Mariners/Rod Barajas, Diamondbacks
1B: Adrian Gonzalez, Dodgers
2B: Aaron Hill, Diamondbacks
SS: Jimmy Rollins, Phillies
3B: Ty Wigginton, Cardinals
LF: Ryan Braun, Brewers
CF: Coco Crisp, A’s
RF: Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins
DH: Prince Fielder, Tigers
UT: Skip Schumaker, Dodgers

SP: Jered Weaver, Angels
SP: CC Sabathia, Yankees
SP: James Shields, Royals
SP: Cole Hamels, Phillies
SP: Stephen Strasburg, Nationals
RP: Sergio Romo, Giants
RP: Brandon League, Dodgers
RP: Addison Reed, White Sox
RP: Dale Thayer, Padres
RP: J.P. Howell, Dodgers
RP: Bryan Shaw, Diamondbacks
RP: Kris Medlen, Braves

Manager: Dusty Baker, Reds
Hitting coach: Mark McGwire, Dodgers
Pitching coach: Chris Bosio, Cubs

Apologies to C.J. Wilson, Mark Trumbo, Michael Young, Will Venable, Brandon McCarthy, Kyle Lohse, Mike Moustakas and Carlos Quentin. Perhaps you can dig into your family tree and find another state to play for.

On to some bullet points:

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Some odds and ends from Dodgers spring training.

Some odds and ends from Thursday at Camelback Ranch, the final day before the Dodgers’ position players are expected to report to spring training.
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Spring training preview: Relief pitchers.

Brandon LeagueToday begins our daily countdown to pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training on Tuesday with a position-by-position breakdown of the Dodgers’ roster. We begin with the bullpen.

I didn’t include Aaron Harang, Chris Capuano or Ted Lilly on this list, even though one or more of them could wind up pitching out of the ‘pen. Even without them, this is a solid unit on paper with ample depth. The closer situation is fairly clear, but the Dodgers enter the season with more viable options for the ninth inning than they’ve had in recent seasons.

There are a few injury concerns facing this unit, but none are severe. With one exception, the Dodgers’ bullpen should start the season healthy, capable of becoming one of the best in the National League.

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Scott Elbert has arthroscopic elbow surgery, expected to miss Opening Day.

Scott Elbert underwent a left elbow arthroscopy today in Los Angeles, leaving the Dodgers without one of their top left-handed relievers to start spring training.Scott  Elbert He is not expected to be ready by opening day, according to a source.

The 40-minute procedure was performed by team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache after a new area of cartilage damage was discovered and debrided. Elbert, who had a different elbow procedure Sept. 19 that ended his 2012 season, will start his physical therapy in three days and a throwing program in six weeks.

Elbert, 27, went 1-1 with a 2.20 ERA in 43 relief appearances last season. Right-handers hit .170 against him and lefties hit .271 – a strange split for a southpaw. He and J.P. Howell were expected to be the team’s top left-handed relievers.

In a crowded Dodgers bullpen, at least two players’ chances of making the opening day roster just improved.

Left-hander Paco Rodriguez allowed one run in 11 appearances over 6 2/3 innings as a rookie last year, though his control wavered against right-handers in a small sample size (two unintentional walks in 2 2/3 innings). Right-hander Shawn Tolleson had more success against right-handers out of the bullpen as a rookie (.152 batting average) but was atrocious against left-handers (.316). Non-roster invitee Peter Moylan, aiming to re-establish himself after a series of injuries cut short his time in Atlanta, could also grab a spot.