Maybe it’s time to give some credit to Dodgers GM Ned Colletti.
The Dodgers’ situation this off-season has so far been the most interesting, what with the McCourts’ divorce and the team’s inability to spend money as a result. However, Ned Colletti and company have been creative. Kicking Juan Pierre to the White Sox in exchange for paying some of his contract and getting a genuine relief prospect out of it was … I want to say impressive, but I get the feeling Colletti stumbled into that one, so I’ll say lucky. Then last week, the Dodgers came to agreements with key 2009 players Matt Kemp and Chad Billingsley. Colletti and company then avoided arbitration with almost all of their young talent: Kuo, Loney and Sherrill.
And today, Andre Ethier agreed to a two-year deal, pending a physical, according to Ken Gurnick.
Baseball Prospectus’ Jay Jaffe reports (via Cots Contracts) that they’ll be free of a lot of money as of 2010 and almost all contracts by 2011.
[Kemp’s 2011] deal more or less represents the Dodgers’ strongest acknowledgment to date that the world will not end after the coming season, which should come as a relief to anxious fans. According to the data at Cot’s Baseball Contracts (h/t new colleague Jeff Euston), the team has just four players under contract after this year: Kemp, Rafael Furcal ($12 million), Casey Blake ($5.25 million), and Carroll ($1.925 million). The club will still have control over the seven remaining arbitration-eligible players: Billingsley, James Loney, and Hong-Chih Kuo (who will be in their second years), Jonathan Broxton, Andre Ethier, and Russell Martin (third years), and George Sherrill (fourth year). [Ed. note: Ethier’s agreement came shortly after this was published–like, five minutes. That sucks.]
Of course this makes Dodger fans nervous–who’s going to play for the team??–but this opens the door to make wiser financial decisions than throwing two- or three-year deals for high per annum dollars at aging superstars. Rebuilding the farm is considerably more important and cheaper. We’ll stay tuned to see if they spend the dollars in the first round come June.
Colletti is not a good evaluator of talent (and both of last year’s July 31 deadline trades are examples of that), but he’s been remarkable at showing financial dexterity in a not-so-good time. That he was able to trade Pierre and get some of that contract off the table while also not signing big free agents to hefty contracts and using that money toward his more important assets–his arb. eligible players–is great. He also found a good value in 2B Jamey Carroll, who is slightly undervalued because of his above-average on-base percentage.
If he can pull off signing either Joel Piniero, Ben Sheets or another high-reward potential starter on the cheap, it’ll be a great off-season for the Dodgers.
Edit: Dylan Hernandez reports the Dodgers have now agreed to contracts with Jonathan Broxton and Russell Martin as well, meaning they’ve avoided arbitration with all of their eligible players. Well done.