Things about to get interesting for Dodgers

November, 23, 2008
Dodgers GM Ned Colletti says Chad Billingsley "is expected to be ready before spring training," after the starter slipped on ice in Reading, Pa., and suffered a broken left fibula.

"It doesn't change anything for the Dodgers," Colletti said.

Likely to lose Derek Lowe and Brad Penny to free agency and Greg Maddux to retirement, the Dodgers seem thin in starting pitching, with Clayton Kershaw, Hiroki Kuroda, James McDonald and Jason Schmidt. And no one knows about the uncertain future of closer Takashi Saito.

Will the Dodgers jump hard on CC Sabathia? Will they try to reopen talks on Jake Peavy? Will they move on Ben Sheets or A.J. Burnett? To go into spring training without adding a veteran starter may be a big gamble, although they still reside in the subpar NL West. Colletti will see what unfurls over the next few days.

The next 10 days will be significant as the Sabathia Sweepstakes picks up pace. Colletti knows that if he gets close to the Yankees' offer, he has a legitimate shot at the prize of this offseason. The fact that Billingsley got hurt before Thanksgiving may be a blessing in one sense. Then again, it may force the Dodgers to offer Sabathia a larger deal than they ever imagined.

Sabathia right now holds the major free-agent market hostage -- impacting Manny Ramirez, Burnett, Lowe and, to a lesser degree, Mark Teixeira.

The Mets control the closer market. Sure, there are a lot of teams from Cleveland to Milwaukee to St. Louis to Detroit to Texas to Tampa that would like closers, but the Mets are the key.

Jayson Stark's closer piece succinctly summed up the market, which is why it's been hard for the White Sox to get value for Bobby Jenks or the Pirates to get much for Matt Capps. Or why it may be hard for the Mariners to get a Fernando Martinez from the Mets for J.J. Putz, or for the Rockies to get two young pieces for Huston Street.

Are any of the other closer-seeking teams really going to go to four or five years on Francisco Rodriguez, even if he is only 26? Is anyone going to go four years -- and pay Billy Wagner money -- for Brian Fuentes? Is anyone going to go more than two years and $20-23 million for Kerry Wood?

Mets general manager Omar Minaya has quietly and smartly positioned himself so the closer market can come to him. A backloaded, three-year deal of around $35 million (after all, they still owe Wagner $10.5 million for 2009) for Rodriguez? That makes sense. Right now, it appears that the Mets can wait, let the market take its course and end up with Rodriguez, Wood, Fuentes or Putz while they deal with rotation and outfield depth issues.


• One of the things Scott Boras does brilliantly is use selected media members to take his gospel forth, a skill all his clients value. His latest case for why Jason Varitek should get a contract like the one the Yankees gave Jorge Posada points to Bob Boone and Carlton Fisk, who had down years at 36 years old, then came back stronger at 37 (Fisk hit 37 home runs at 37).

A quick look at my sabermetric encyclopedia shows that only six catchers have ever caught 100 games at age 37 -- Boone (147), Brad Ausmus (138), Fisk (130), Benito Santiago (125), Ernie Whitt (115) and Elston Howard (100).

Only five catchers have hit as many as 12 homers at 37 years old: Fisk, Mike Piazza (22), Ernie Lombardi (19), Santiago (16) and Greg Myers (15).

Johnny Bench caught five games at 35, and retired before his 36th birthday. At 36, Yogi Berra hit 22 homers; at 37, he hit 10. Berra caught 68 games after he turned 36.

Boras' holiday sales pitch sounds as if the Varitek market is a tad slow.


• Paul Volcker's appearance at this week's owners' meetings got the owners' attention, and lends credence to Bud Selig's warnings about the economy's impact on the game. The former Federal Reserve chairman warned owners that the worst has yet to come, and teams are finding that high-end ticket sales have slowed dramatically and that corporate marketing dollars are suddenly hard to come by, even in big-market cities. Not everyone can be like Tigers owner Mike Ilitch and absorb $30-40 million in losses. And remember, in Games 4 and 5 of the ALCS between the Rays and Red Sox, many tickets went unsold at face value at Fenway Park.

• The Cape Cod League Hall of Fame inductions on Saturday included Mike Stenhouse, Jeff Innis (who spoke eloquently of visiting the Cape League Hall of Fame at the JFK Building in Hyannis 45 years to the day after John F. Kennedy was assassinated), Matt Murton, Ben Sheets and Bob Hansen.

The league has gotten past the pitiable, blind commissioner's office bean counters who in the name of licensing are forcing teams to change their names if they are used by major league franchises, proof that there are too many people in New York who care more about another $600 David Glass can stuff in his pockets than the game.

It makes one wonder if some of the commissioner's office business folks understand the roots of the game and where fans come from.

• Chad Cordero is back throwing ahead of schedule and hopes to be back in the big leagues by May. So watch for the Mets and Angels to show interest in the one-time All-Star reliever.

• Looking at the list of players available in next month's Rule 5 Draft of unprotected players is a reminder of the risk of drafting pitchers in the first round. The list of those available includes Jay Rainville, Ryan Wagner, Tim Stauffer, Wade Townsend and Bobby Brownlie, as well as Kei Igawa and Alan Horne, whom the Yankees were discussing in some of their Johan Santana deal combinations last winter.

• The best radio I've heard in months was Mike Krzyzewski's interview with Bob Knight on Coach K's "Basketball and Beyond" on Sirius.


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