Today 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.
Happy salary figure exchange day. May the odds be ever in your favor.
The Dodgers’ two salary arbitration-eligible players, A.J. Ellis and Ronald Belisario, will present their contract proposals to the team today. Both might end up signing a new contract today. They might end up negotiating with the Dodgers for a couple weeks. Or, they might let an arbitrator decide how much they should earn next year — their proposed salary or the team’s. That rarely happens.
In fact, the Dodgers haven’t had an arbitration case since Joe Beimel on Feb. 9, 2007.
Last year, only Clayton Kershaw got close to going to arbitration before signing a two-year deal on Feb. 7.
Ellis made $490,000 in base salary last year and Belisario made $480,000, according to Cots. Roll out a starting catcher and a set-up man with comparable stats, at comparable points in their careers, with comparable injury histories (or the lack thereof, in the case of these guys) and you have the basis for a negotiating point. Sometimes that’s easy to get to, sometimes it isn’t, but it’s fair to expect these guys will be getting raises very soon.
For other arbitration resolutions around the league, MLBtraderumors.com has set up an updating “arbitration tracker” link here.
Or, just do what everyone else does and stay glued to Twitter. Today’s links …
Baseball America is expected to bestow the St. Louis Cardinals with the mantle of Best System in Baseball, eight years after BA had St. Louis ranked dead-last, 30th among the 30 teams. (BA doesn’t typically announce its rankings until late March/early April, but that article explains what to expect and why.)
Folks who spend more time thinking about prospects than major-league players — you know who you are – tend to forget that organizational rankings are nothing more than opinion polls. Titles such as “top organizational prospect” are opinions, not facts.
But I think there’s some significance to the Cardinals’ turnaround to the Dodgers, who ranked sixth, 23rd, 21st, 11th and 24th the last five years (in order) in BA’s annual list. Last March, BA wrote: “If OF Alfredo Silverio hadn’t had a breakout season in 2011, it would be hard to pinpoint a Los Angeles position prospect with much upside—and he could miss the first two months of the season after an offseason auto accident. [Frank] McCourt hasn’t spent on the draft or the international market, severely weakening the system.”
Dodgers pitcher Brandon League is dressing up as Psy for Halloween. The Korean rapper is best only known in United States for the song and music video “Gangnam Style,” a frequent champion on “Dodgers Jukebox” this year.
Coincidentally, San Francisco Giants broadcasters Jon Miller and Dave Flemming were doing the “Gangnam Style” dance today — a “perk,” I suppose, when your team wins the World Series and throws a parade.
Usually, another “perk” of winning the World Series is that you’re considered the favorites to win your division next season. Not in League’s opinion.
“We are going to be the team to beat next year,” he said. “We have everyone coming back, everyone coming back healthy.”
The Dodgers signed Brandon League to a three-year contract yesterday worth $22.5 million. General manager Ned Colletti envisions League closing, though ultimately that decision will fall to manager Don Mattingly. The value of League’s contract makes that seem like a straightforward decision — why pay a guy $7 million-plus to pitch the eighth inning? — but the decision on paper is closer than you might think.
For one thing, League is one of three pitchers who closed games for the Dodgers last year (three-and-a-half, if you include Ronald Belisario’s brief time co-closing with league in September). He, Belisario and Kenley Jansen are all high-strikeout power pitchers with a repertoire worthy of the role. Of course, if Jansen weren’t waiting in the wings at the time, the Dodgers might have continued to let Javy Guerra pitch through his early-season struggles; Guerra finished the season with eight saves and a 2.60 ERA. Arguably, that makes four capable closers in the Dodger bullpen. And while Guerra pitched his way out of the job, Jansen only lost the job because of a health setback.
Among that quartet, League has the most career saves (60). Want to guess how many active major-league pitchers have more? Thirty-seven. Experience isn’t everything — I would rather have League pitching the ninth inning in 2013 than, say, Jason Isringhausen — but the point is that Jansen (34 career saves), Guerra (29) and Belisario (3) aren’t that much less proven in the ninth inning than League.
So for today’s poll question, we give you the manager’s jersey and a baseball to hand to your closer of choice.
Kenley Jansen is facing something between a best- and worst-case scenario after learning Tuesday that he must take prescription blood-thinner medication for another 10 days. The 24-year-old closer originally believed he would miss either five days or four weeks; instead he is targeting a Sept. 18 return when the Dodgers visit the Washington Nationals.
“It’ll be a perfect time to come back and help the team,” Jansen said.
Jansen said that he will have surgery as soon as the season is over to correct the cardiac arrhythmia that originally forced him to the hospital last Tuesday. The procedure, called a cardiac ablation, “works by scarring or destroying tissue in your heart that triggers an abnormal heart rhythm” according to the Mayo Clinic website. It is not an open-heart surgical procedure. Jansen said the recovery time is “probably a month, two months.”
“It’s a relief,” he said. “It’s not something you want to worry about every year.”
Jansen hasn’t had a recurrence of the arrhythmia since last week.
“Whenever I’m off the medicine,” he said, “I’ll be ready to roll.”
The Dodgers will continue forward with Brandon League and Ronald Belisario splitting the closer’s duties. Belisario will get the ninth tonight in a save situation because League pitched two innings on Monday.
Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen will meet with a cardiologist today to determine whether he can resume pitching Friday or must miss the next four weeks because of a cardiac arrhythmia.
One could downplay the significance of the meeting, but only because Brandon League and Ronald Belisario have pitched well lately. Since Aug. 20, the two-man closing committee is 2-for-2 in save opportunities, with 19 strikeouts and zero earned runs in 14.1 innings. Manager Don Mattingly said he is comfortable using League and Belisario in the ninth inning for the remainder of the season if he has to.
But Mattingly isn’t downplaying the importance of Jansen’s appointment.
“You can’t say that you can go without Kenley and be as good,” the manager said. “That doesn’t mean you can’t get it done. You have to make things work, that’s all. It’s like playing without Matt (Kemp) — you know you’re not as good but you can make it work. You can still win games.”
“Beli [Ronald Belisario] has thrown the ball well. Brandon (League) has had success closing games. We’re probably go back and forth between those two,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said.
Former Dodger closer Javy Guerra, who is currently at Triple-A Albuquerque, could also be in the mix once rosters expand Sept. 1. Mattingly said that rest will factor into his decision, meaning League is more likely to pitch the ninth inning if Belisario closed the night before.
League has struggled since he was acquired from the Seattle Mariners on July 30, allowing six runs and walking five in nine innings. The veteran right-hander recorded 37 saves last year for the Mariners and nine more this season before losing the closer’s job to Tom Wilhelmsen. Continue reading →