COMMENTARY| So much for the universally feared $500 million payroll at an average of $20 million per man.
The Los Angeles Dodgers followed their weekend spending spree -- Zack Greinke, six years for $147 million; Ryu Hyun-jin for six years at $36 million, plus a $25.74 posting fee -- with a trade of the five-and-dime variety, acquiring Skip Schumaker from the St. Louis Cardinals for minor league infielder Jake Lemmerman.
Schumaker, 33 next February, will earn $1.5 million in the final year of his St. Louis deal and is expected to play all over the field. While far from the blockbusters of recent days, it's a good little move for a number of reasons.
Schumaker is a career .288/.345 hitter, a lefty with a lifetime .305 average against right-handers. Since he's no threat against southpaws (.205 lifetime) and provides little pop (23 career homers, .377 slugging), he doesn't fill L.A.'s reserve-outfielder role fully. You won't see him replacing Carl Crawford, or more importantly, Andre Ethier versus left-handed starters often, if ever. And Los Angeles needs help there.
But Schumaker does play a decent backup center, which means the Dodgers won't have to drive Matt Kemp into the ground throughout the long season. They might still do it, but they won't have to.
Look for Schumaker to play plenty of second base as well, not in a straight platoon with Mark Ellis but not all that far from it, either. Ellis could manage only a .228 average against right-handers in 2012, .241 the year before that.
Schumaker has postseason experience, earning a World Series ring with the Cards in 2011, and can drop down a bunt and work a walk. General manager Ned Colletti and Don Mattingly love guys who play a bunch of positions and do the little things well. Schumaker fits the bill to a tee.
The club may yet address Ethier's split issues, so an outfielder who plays the corners and bats from the right side with a little sock wouldn't be a waste of anyone's time. Maybe someone like Ryan Doumit, currently with the Minnesota Twins and due $7 million over the next two years, is gettable.
Doumit can play both left field and right, switch-hits, and has some oomph (18 home runs, 75 RBIs in 2012, career .777 OPS). He'd also make a nice complement to A.J. Ellis behind the plate part-time. Two Dodgers with one stone. I've always liked Doumit and can see him succeeding in Los Angeles. Just a suggestion.
With all the talk about trading Dee Gordon (which I address here), bringing in a new shortstop and moving Hanley Ramirez to third base permanently, it's possible the Dodgers do nothing of the sort. Perhaps Gordon bounces back to hit, say .275 and .325, while keeping his errors to the neighborhood of the low-20s. Maybe he has a bang up spring and earns his old job back.
Or maybe Luis Cruz proves to be more than the flash-in-the-pan some suggested he was last year. Maybe the .297, six homers and 40 RBIs in 78 games wasn't a fluke. Maybe he earns a full year at third, with Ramirez back at short in 2013.
I don't think Hanley is much of a shortstop, and I have never in my life seen a middle infielder have so much trouble getting rid of the baseball. Guys don't usually turn it around completely after seven full seasons in the middle of the diamond so if I had my druthers, Gordon and Cruz fight it out for short, with Hanley manning third come April.
The Dodgers have eight starters in the fold now, with either Chris Capuano or Aaron Harang probably heading out the door via trade. However that shakes out, starting pitching is not an issue at the moment. At the moment.
Which brings us to the bullpen. Various news outlets have the pen shaping up this way: Brandon League, Kenley Jansen, Ronald Belisario, Scott Elbert, Matt Guerrier and Javy Guerra, but I'm confident Shawn Tolleson and Jamey Wright, if he can be re-signed, take Guerrier and Guerra's places.
I'm not so sure about Elbert, either, and if it's not him Los Angeles needs a left-hander in the pen. Or two. Rookie Paco Rodriguez was impressive in 11 late-season appearances last year (1.35 ERA and 1.050 WHIP) and probably gets a chance at the job.
With Schumaker filling multiple roles the Dodgers are nearly done with their offseason makeover. A trade of a starting pitcher or two and the inclusion of some minor leaguers should help bring the pieces still outstanding.
With a right-handed reserve outfielder, a couple arms in the pen, and perhaps another catcher, the 2013 Dodgers are good to go. And maybe they pare that payroll down to a measly $200 million in the process.
Howard Cole is the Director of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America (IBWAA) and has been blogging about the Dodgers since 2000, at Baseball Savvy , The Orange County Register and Cole On LA . Follow him on Twitter @Howard_Cole.
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