COMMENTARY | The Major League Baseball Winter Meetings went by rather quietly for the Los Angeles Dodgers in terms of actual, tangible transactions.
However, it was a time filled with rumors about possible Matt Kemp trades, a David Price acquisition, and other small moves the New York Yankees of the West Coast found themselves rumored to be interested in as they look to make a run at the 2014 World Series.
While the club is likely to add a bench piece or two and perhaps even another bullpen arm to compete for a spot, it's time to review the moves the Blue Crew did make during the offseason as the date for pitchers and catchers to report rapidly nears.
Clayton Kershaw Extension: 7 years, $215 million -- A+++++
The Dodgers should have locked up Clayton Kershaw long, long ago. Because they waited and waited, they had to dish out a ton of dough for baseball's best pitcher. However, the deal is still a steal for the club, as Kershaw will almost assuredly exercise the opt-out clause in his contract and turn that 7-year, $215 million record-setting contract into a 5-year, $150 commitment.
Clayton will get a second huge payday, and it's likely to come once again from Los Angeles' lone team (memo to the Angels: You still play in Anaheim, last I checked). Signing baseball's preeminent hurler can only garner you an A+++++ grade, and even if Clayton doesn't opt out or they work out some extension in 2018, that grade will always remain the same.
The team can afford it, and the rotation has its long-term anchor.
Juan Uribe Signing: 2 years, $15 million -- A-
Juan Uribe was the best third baseman available on the free-agent market based on his stellar defense alone. The Dodgers didn't budge and give him three years as they did the last time around, and $15 million is fair market value as the going rate for a win is around ~$6 million. This will especially prove to be money well spent if he can just produce around 5 combined WAR in both seasons of the deal.
Yes, Juan was terrible offensively in 2011 and 2012, but with Matt Kemp's return, any offense Uribe can provide the club is simply icing on the cake of his excellent glove work.
Brian Wilson Signing: 1 year, $10 million (+ 2015 player option) -- A
Money is no object for this Dodgers' ownership group, so paying Brian Wilson $10 million for one year of mostly 7th- and 8th-inning work is not going to affect their ability to make other moves. Many have criticized the deal because Wilson won't be the "closer," but he will in fact be asked to close many high-leverage situations which arise in the 7th inning and later.
The Dodgers needed another reliever, and Wilson was one of the best available. If you believe he's all the way back to the ace bullpen arm he was before needing Tommy John surgery, he would have been the best available reliever without a doubt, and the Dodgers got him on a short-term deal.
While there is some risk with the player option, as Wilson is only likely to exercise that $8.5-10 million clause if he pitches poorly in 2014, it's a risk well worth taking for a team flush with cash that stands on the precipice of a World Series berth. They added a top reliever with great stuff while keeping him away from potential rivals who undoubtedly offered him longer-term contracts.
J.P. Howell Signing: 2 years, $11.25 million (+ mutual which can vest into player 2016 option) -- B-
I'm not a fan of giving three-year or more guarantees to non-elite relievers, and the club did avoid that, although the 2016 option could move solely into Howell's hands if things shake out well for him over the next two years.
While his 2013 was pretty good aside from too many walks, his career has been up and down and he was terribly ineffective and worth negative WAR in both 2011 and 2012. With that said, I like having another lefty in the pen, but I also wouldn't be shocked if Howell falls flat on his face this season.
Dan Haren Signing: 1 year, $10 million (+ 2015 vesting option and incentives) -- B+
Dan Haren as your team's No. 4 starter -- even as he moves away from his days as one of the game's truly elite and underrated aces -- is a great situation to find your club in. Haren has phenomenal control that is matched by very few since he entered the league. He's fanned over 7.5 per nine while issuing under two walks per nine in over 2,000 innings of major league work.
His addition helps to give the team the best rotation in baseball, as I wrote about previously. If all of his incentives are met and that option vests, the Dodgers would pay Dan around $26 million over two years, and considering what some pitchers are getting on the open market, that's not a ton of money and an even sweeter commitment on the low end of the years spectrum.
Outfield Situation, i.e. 4 Outfielders for 3 Spots -- A
The club did not trade one of its four major league outfielders and also held on to top OF prospect Joc Pederson. Considering Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig, Andre Ethier, and Carl Crawford all dealt with various ailments in 2013 and missed games, it is wise to value the depth these four provide.
By keeping all four, Kemp can receive some regular maintenance days of rest once he returns, and we won't have to see Ethier and Crawford both starting on days when a southpaw opposes the Dodgers.
Don Mattingly Returns: 3 years -- B
I've made my thoughts on Don Mattingly known before, writing that the club should fire him, but I also supported the organization not leaving him as a lame-duck manager heading into 2014.Greg Zakwin is the founder of Plaschke, Thy Sweater Is Argyle, a Dodgers' and sports card blog. He writes with an analytical tilt about The Blue Crew at Feelin' Kinda Blue and has written previously for ChadMoriyama.com and Memories of Kevin Malone. You can find and follow him on Twitter: @ArgyledPlaschke. A graduate of UCLA in 2011 with a Bachelor's in History, he's been a follower of the Dodgers since birth and still mourns the loss of both Mike Piazza and Carlos Santana.
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