Thursday, January 28, 2010


ESPN's Keith Law released his Top 100 prospects of 2010 feature (Insider only). Of interest to us, Carlos Santana is Law's 3rd-ranked prospect in the Cleveland organization all of baseball. The Dodgers took Casey Blake and the remaining $2 million on his contract from the Indians in 2008 for a prospect who ended up the third best in the game. Oof. The first Dodger on the 2010 list is Devaris Gordon, ranked 39th by Law. Of Gordon, Law says, "His upside is substantial, but he's more like 19-year-old player in a 22-year-old body; he has to develop at a faster pace than a typical tools prospect to reach that [Jimmy] Rollins-like potential."

In 2008, Law wrote of Santana, "                      ," as Santana was not among his top-100, though Dodgers Kershaw, LaRoche, Hu, McDonald, and Withrow were. In the spring following the Blake-Santana trade, though, Law wrote about the "existential crisis [he] underwent when first hearing the Dodgers had traded this great catching prospect for an old, not very good impending free agent. It can't possibly be real." Santana had a great spring, evidently. Withrow made the list again this year, checking in at #83.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Does Frank want out of the Dodgers?

Over at NBC's Circling the Bases, journablogger Craig Calcaterra caused quite a ruckus with a blind item about the McCourts. He wrote this morning:
[T]here is buzz coming from some insiders and writers close to the Los Angeles Dodgers that, while Frank McCourt is going to go to the mat to beat his wife Jamie for ownership of the team, he wants out sooner rather than later and will look to turn around and sell within a year or two of the conclusion of the litigation.
The Dodgers were something less than pleased with Craig's post. Within a few hours, they sent Craig the following statement, which he ran at CTB:
The NBC report is completely erroneous, inaccurate and irresponsible journalism. The Dodgers are not for sale. Mr. McCourt has made it abundantly clear that he is the long-term owner of the Dodgers and he looks forward to the day when his four boys will own and operate the team.
In addition to taking umbrage to the club's reference to his craft as "journalism," Craig offered a few points to consider. His thoughts can be summed up like this: (1) No one ever said the Dodgers were for sale; and (2) Frank can't say he wants to sell the club because it might lead to an unfavorable settlement in the divorce.

Craig's right, though I think the two points can be combined: the Dodgers cannot be for sale. Not right now. As the club is a contested asset in the divorce, liquidating it would present serious problems for the court. While it's conceptually possible for the club to be sold and the proceeds held in escrow until the post-nup issue is resolved, Jamie would smartly argue that she doesn't want the money, she wants the team. 

As for the Dodgers' statement, it's mostly fluff. Frank will make it "abundantly clear that he is the long-term owner of the Dodgers" until he takes action in the opposite direction. And his eager anticipation of the day he gives his kids the keys to the Dodgers rings a little hollow. It wasn't so long ago that he used the club's "family ownership" as a way to endear he and Jamie to a Los Angeles community fed up with corporate control of the team. A few short years later, he's in court fighting against family ownership. 

The only part of the club's statement that matters is that the Dodgers are not for sale, which is true. It should be noted, though, that the Dodgers might not be for sale simply because they can't be. While I'm not convinced Frank's looking to get out as quickly as possible, the statement the club offered to refute Craig's rumor tells us nothing we didn't know already.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A surreal moment in an all-too-real offseason.

We're officially in the doldrums of the offseason, both for the club and the divorce. Unless Ned Colletti wants to snag Johnny Damon to play first or one of the McCourts wants to take a public shot at the other, there's just not a whole lot that's going to happen in the next few weeks. Which affords us the opportunity to revisit last week, when Frank McCourt was honored by the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce. Dylan Hernandez reports:
McCourt took a few minutes to talk about the Dodgers during his acceptance speech.

“It’s been a very quiet off-season for me,” said McCourt, prompting the crowd in the 499-seat Broad Stage auditorium to explode with laughter.
McCourt highlighted the measure of the stability gained by his club by agreeing with three of their arbitration-eligible players on two-year contracts, signing General Manager Ned Colletti to a “long-term” deal and engaging Manager Joe Torre in talks about an extension.

The auditorium, of course, is named for Eli and Edythe Broad. You might remember Eli from such episodes as "Eli Broad Offers to Buy Dodgers if McCourt Deal Falters" and "Report: Billionaire Broad makes bid to buy Dodgers." On this dull January day, I wonder how many of the 500 applauding Frank (I'm assuming he clapped for himself) wished that Eli Broad had succeeded in his last-second gambit to buy the Dodgers. In any event, McCourt joking about his offseason travails in a building named for his only semi-serious competition for the club struck me as surreal.

As to his comments...I still don't buy that the deals with arbitration-eligible players signify anything important. Those deals were getting done. Lauding them as progress feels like a guy who went through a messy break-up last week telling his friends he's ok; he's eating and showering and going to work. Yeah? So you're doing exactly what you have to do, despite some tough circumstances. 

While it's important to recognize the difficulties people face, I'm not going to give Frank any extra credit for doing deals which were never in any sort of jeopardy. Sure, the fact that they were two-year contracts is nice, I suppose, but that's not a huge coup. Although, I suppose that knowing what we know now about the Dodgers' financial state, saving a million bucks here and there might qualify as news. Still, wake me up when Frank flies coach. Or even commercial first class.

Frank, tone-deaf as usual, also added:
Oh, and for those that are watching closely, we will get another starting pitcher.
It's not just those "watching closely" who worried about the 4th starter, Frank. It's a new age in baseball--the casual fan knows more about the team now than the hardcore fan did a generation or two ago. We were all waiting to see what was going to happen with the 4th spot in the rotation, at second base, and at the backup positions in the infield and outfield. Now we know the answers are Vicente Padilla, Blake DeWitt/Jamey Carroll, Nick Green, and Jason Repko. Forgive those of us who "watch closely" for being a touch concerned about the club's depth.

Over at The Hardball Times today, I ask some hard-to-answer questions about the future of evaluating general managers. Please help us begin to work toward some answers, or at least in finding the right direction!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Clubs and agents: "They have no money."

So says ESPN's Jayson Stark. He writes:  
Two years ago, the Dodgers' payroll was almost $119 million when the season started, and at about $122 million when it ended -- a number that doesn't even include all the salaries (Manny Ramirez's, most prominently) that were being paid by other teams.  
By last year, the Dodgers' opening-day payroll had dropped to just more than $100 million, according to's calculations. 
But this year, it looks as if the payroll is going to be somewhere in the 80s -- a plummet of approximately $40 million from just two years ago. And clubs and agents that have dealt with the Dodgers this winter keep coming away reporting: "They have no money." 
Well, they led the major leagues in attendance last season. So you can't blame those folks for asking: "Where'd that money go, anyway?" Excellent question. 
Well, barring a further salary purge, the Dodgers will open 2010 with a payroll in the $90 millions according to Jon Weisman's math. That's not important, though. What matters is that the club is pretty much broke. Not in a can't-pay-its-bills sense, I don't think. But certainly in a can't-operate-as-a-contending-team sort of way.

I don't mean the 2010 Dodgers don't have a chance. You know I'm very hopeful about the upcoming season. But I do worry that in the case of injury or unexpected poor performance, the Dodgers might not have any flexibility to patch a hole in the ship mid-voyage. 

It's going to be a tumultuous spring at Chavez Ravine. For the life of me, I can't find or remember the source, but I believe a baseball season must be 46 games old before what has happened in that particular season matters more than what happened in the past. Game 46 for the Dodgers is May 26 at Wrigley Field. Coincidentally, I'll be at the next day's game.

Also coincidentally, the divorce litigation will have recently concluded its third day. By the time Commissioner Gordon determines the long-term future of the franchise, we'll have a very good idea about the rosiness (or not) of the team's short-term outlook. 

Baseball's quite the hurry-up-and-wait game, isn't it? Unless the parties unexpectedly settle, it's going to be until the kids are out of school before we know who's going to own the team. And unless a key player is unexpectedly injured, it'll be at least that long until we know what we've got with the 2010 Dodgers.

Also, if you're dying to know how I feel about the Royals' Rick Ankiel signing, you can check that out here.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A routine exercise.

Kurt Henin of NBC Los Angeles writes this afternoon:
The Dodgers have awakened from their winter hibernation.
Today they reached new deals to keep more of their core intact —Andre Ethier, Jonathan Broxton, Russell Martin, James Loney, George Sherrill and Hong-Chih Kuo all reached deals with the Dodgers in the last 24 hours. Those players were arbitration eligible and the Dodgers have avoided that in each case.
Ethier and Broxton, as Matt Kemp did last week, signed a two-year deal with the franchise, providing a bit of stability. Ethier had 31 home runs last season, drove in 106 runs and was the team’s best clutch hitter. Broxton became one of the most feared closers in baseball on his way to 36 saves last season.
That's great and all, especially the Ethier and Broxton parts. But to imply that this was anything beyond routine business is to fail to grasp some fundamental realities of the system. These players weren't going anywhere. 

Avoiding arbitration serves two useful functions. First, it provides cost certainty, mitigating risk but sacrificing upside for both parties involved. This holds true whether the team and player agree to a one-year contract or multi-year deal. Second, avoiding arbitration goes a long way toward preserving an amicable relationship between the player and the team. This is especially important in Matt Kemp's case, as he's the one the club most needs to retain beyond his six years of team control.

Nothing that happened today signifies that the Dodgers' money woes are a thing of the past. As Jon Weisman notes at Dodger Thoughts, one interesting development was Russell Martin's clear penalty for his dismal 2009 season. Other than that, all the contract news of the last few days is relatively unsurprising. I'm happy that no cases went to arbitration, but so very few ever do. 

Stay dry and safe, everyone. Yesterday was probably the first time in my life I've flown out of Los Angeles to better weather in Minnesota. I understand that San Pedro, my home town of four years, was hit particularly hard. Hope everyone's ok.

Monday, January 18, 2010

More fun with quotes.

I go through periods where I feel sympathy for public figures whose every statement gets torn up on sites like this one and thousands of others. And then the pendulum swings and I consider that this sort of scrutiny comes with the territory. In the end, I think I have a finite amount of tolerance for public relations gaffes. It's the people who just can't help themselves that get me riled up.

Like Frank McCourt. More quotes from his interview with Ken Gurnick of

We've spent a huge amount of money during my tenure as owner. We're a big-market team and fans deserve a great team on the field. One of our core promises is to consistently put a championship-caliber team on the field. I wish there was a direct correlation between how much you spend and how many games you win. Unfortunately, there is not. The key is how wisely you spend the money.
Well, the first problem is that there is a positive correlation between payroll and winning. It's slight, but it's there. You can't just deny the existence of something proved to exist. He's right, though: it's mostly about efficient use of resources. Let's move on:

[The on-field success] happened in part because of what we spent. But equally or more, because we have a development system in place and a way to do business to identify big league talent and develop players that can play here for a period of time and give us consistency and who the fans can relate to. 
As developing young talent goes, the Dodgers might be the most irresponsible team in the major leagues over the last few seasons. Spending on the draft and in international free agency has dried, and the club has sent premium prospects out in deals for pieces here and there.*

*And just what the heck does that comment on consistency and players we can relate to have to do with anything? Consistency has a dark side: you can be consistently bad. And developing players who the fans can relate to has to be one of the silliest things I've read in the last few days. These are young men paid millions of dollars to play a game. We might relate to their struggles, or maybe their hometowns. But come on. If that's a goal of the Dodgers' player development system, I might just quit.

None of this is new to us. We've been over it ad nauseam. I'm just baffled by Frank's insistence on saying the wrong thing to the wrong person at the wrong time. He just can't help but come off as awkward, straining, and directionless. His current tune is that high-priced free agents are bad, even though the club would not have had the success of the last couple years without the highest-paid player in team history. He lauds a development system with no top-shelf talent to, you know, develop. And he continues to blame the club's current constraints on the down economy, the very same financial maelstrom which could not prevent Dodger fans from buying more tickets to see their beloved team than any other fanbase in the world.

Times are tough right now. For me, maybe you, and certainly Frank McCourt. The way to make this work, though, isn't to put red lipstick on a pig and call it blue. Don't tell me that the lack of spending on free agency is due to the negative value of free agents. That's just not true. And don't tell me that the player development system is what should inspire hope for the team going forward. That's just not true.

The Dodgers have a center fielder and a starting pitcher who could very well be the best players in the league at their positions for the next several years. That's good. There's also a right fielder and another starter who are damned amazing in their own right. That's good. There's a left fielder still capable of being the best hitter in the league, a dominant reliever, and plenty of other nice pieces. That's all good.

The Dodgers are what they are: extremely promising in 2010. And a big 'ol sackful of "who the hell knows" after that. So let's sign whatever flotsam and jetsam we're going to sign and get rolling. Baseball is a wonderfully healing sort of thing. It won't be long before the beautiful grind commences.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Just my luck.

We'll dive further into Frank McCourt's statements next week, but my guess is this tells us all we need to know:

We're committed to developing young players, more so than ever. We've invested heavily in that area. And we're in the trade and free-agent markets to see if we can improve the team. We made decisions last year to put this club in a great position to compete at the highest level last year, and the vast majority of those players are back and there's not a lot we had to do this offseason. 
It just bothers me so much that you have to jump through so many logical hoops to arrive at a place where this makes sense. I suppose that the team may indeed be "committed to developing young players, more so than ever" in the sense that there are fewer premium players in the system now due to the extremely low spending on the draft and in amateur free agency. So, in theory, the remaining talented players might be getting more coaching or something. Better student-to-teacher ratio now, you see.

And Frank, we know the organization made decisions last year (and for several years prior) to "put this club in a great position to compete at the highest level last year." Really, no one's complaining about last year. It's the foreseeable future we care about, the one where player payroll and season ticket renewals move in lockstep. 

Lastly, we're all well aware that by body count alone, last year's very-successful team is largely intact. The problem with Frank's statement is that the team lost its best pitcher (by some measures) in Randy Wolf, which it has yet to replace. That counts. And speaking of things "we had to do this offseason," you know what you should do when the major league club doesn't need a lot of help? Reallocate resources to international talent or long-term extensions for key players. 

Of course, there are no resources to reallocate. Whether that's the divorce's fault or something else's is largely irrelevant this morning, isn't it?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Some not-so-good news.

Remember back when Ned Colletti told us that, essentially, the 2010 player payroll budget was dependent on season ticket renewals? Well, that's not going so well. According to Dodgers President Dennis Mannion, only 20,700 season tickets have been sold thus far, compared to 23,900 last season. And Mannion has an interesting way of addressing the issue:
My concern is the number of unpaid accounts that haven't canceled.
Some tortured words, there, huh? Presumably, the simple failure to renew a season ticket would be a de facto cancellation, right? So, according to Mannion, the problem isn't that people have been canceling.* No, the problem is that many, many peole have thus fair declined to renew the tickets.

*I do not, for one, think that the problem was that the band was down. I think that the problem may have been, that there was a Stonehenge monument on the stage that was in danger of being crushed by a dwarf.

Am I missing something here? Isn't that the exact same thing? I mean, sure, it'd be awfully nice of folks to let the ticket office know they weren't renewing. But I'm not sure that, one day before the renewal deadline, it's accurate to imply that this is a problem of non-payment on accounts which are pending renewal. I strongly believe that a great percentage of accounts that had not been renewed as of this morning will not be renewed by tomorrow afternoon.

So where does that leave us? Well, if Colletti's December statement is to be taken at face value, I'd feel even less optimistic about a Pineiro signing today than I did yesterday. But hey, at least Bud Selig isn't pressing the panic button just yet. Speaking at the Owners' Meetings, Selig assured us all:
I don't have any concern until I feel I have something to be concerned about.
Thanks to Bill Shaikin of the Times for the reporting today.

It's clearly Twisted Logic Day at Dodger Divorce. Selig won't be concerned until he is concerned. Super. Thanks for clearing that up, Bud. And what's more...isn't the prudent course of action to be concerned about things before you actually have a situation that could impact you negatively? I'm not going to jump into the steroids morass at this juncture, but...well, to throw another Tap quote out there:
Ian Faith: I really think you're just making much too big a thing of it.
Derek Smalls: Making a big thing out of it would have been a good idea.

What an odd day. I think I saw Don Mattingly near my uncle's house in the South Bay. And, gosh, it's great to be back home for a little bit. I'll donate some dimpled orbs of plastic to the local golf course tomorrow morning, and then off duck hunting for the weekend.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A bit of good news...sort of.

Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports that the Dodgers and Matt Kemp are nearing a two-year extension which would buy out two of Kemp's three arbitration years. Unless another agreement is reached, Kemp would be slated for a final round of arbitration prior to the 2012 season, after which he would hit free agency. As Craig Calcaterra at Circling the Bases implies, this extension will probably make bigger waves than it ought to. The talented young center fielder was going to be a Dodger for the next three seasons unless something drastic occurred. This extension is about security; cost-certainty for the club and financial stability for the player.

We've also got a reaffirmation of the party line. Dodgers President Dennis Mannion reiterated:
I don't think we're hamstrung by Frank and Jamie's situation. If anything, we're more challenged by the economy.
As we've discussed many times, I'm not sure that's the right message to be sending. To keep insisting the divorce isn't affecting spending is to acknowledge that the club is in fairly dire financial straits. Without the divorce, things would still be this lean. That might be the complete truth, and, if so, I give the club credit for its candor. However, the good will generated by such candor could quickly fade as reality sets in. The Kemp extension will likely save the Dodgers money, barring some sort of collapse in performance or health. It shouldn't be taken as a sign that the club is healing financially.

A potential Joel Pineiro signing would be different. That's money the team wouldn't have had to spend anyway. I have two main concerns, though. First, is Joel Pineiro really the right place to spend what money is available? Yeah, he was excellent last season, but his track record suggests he's not as good as his 2009 numbers indicate. Second, are the Dodgers really in on him? Or do they know they're not going to offer enough but want to appear to be active in the market?

Monday, January 11, 2010

On Nick Green, particularly, and depth in general.


The Dodgers agreed to terms with free agent shortstop Nick Green today. Green, 31, posted an uninspiring .236/.303/.366 line for the Red Sox last year. He's able enough defensively, it seems, but...well, just blah. While getting worked up over a backup middle infielder isn't exactly warranted, the offseason inertia is just starting to get to me. We knew it wasn't going to be pretty, but I think my anxiousness over the 2011-and-beyond future of the club is affecting how I view this 2010 team.

So, like I said, blah. And Mike Scoscia's Tragic Illnesnails the analysis, concluding that Chin-Lung Hu offers everything Nick Green does, and with at least a slim chance at some upside.

Maybe the relevant point here is this: if Nick Green or Chin-Lung Hu rack up significant at-bats, the team's probably screwed either way. This offseason hasn't doomed the Dodgers' chances of contention, but it has left the club (thus far) with a negligible margin for error. Jason Repko is slated to be the fourth outfielder. Jamey Carroll and Nick Green will back up the infielders. The back of the rotation will likely be a revolving door of mediocrity, and the Dodgers would be very fortunate to unearth another bullpen surprise.

I guess I'd liken building a playoff-caliber baseball team to a game of Jenga. Can you win despite some tricky, dangerous pulls? Absolutely. But the teams that can remove a few blocks and still have a pretty stable tower are in a much better position. The core of this team can compete for a World Series in 2010. I have no doubt that, given 162 games of health, the Dodgers would be pretty strong favorites to win the division. Problem is, that's just not likely.


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Fantasy baseball.

The new year has folks thinking big. Over at True Blue LA, Phil Gurnee expresses a vision for a Los Angeles Dodgers hall of fame, of sorts:

Ultimately Frank McCourt will build a Vin Scully Lords of the Ravine tunnel connecting the right and left field pavilion's and we will have everything they need but the busts to make it happen.  This will be built with the windfall from the 2010-2012 string of world championships acquired on the pitching combination of Kershaw/Billingsley as they make their case to become part of the Walter O'Malley Suite once they have pitched 300 games.
First and foremost, of course, I love the optimism. You should definitely head that way and give the concept a look. The first class of inductees will be a little light on more recent players due to its very strict minimums (3000 games for hitters and the above-mentioned 300 for pitchers). After the first class, though, those standards will be lifted, allowing for the more, well, mercurial types. Cool idea all around. 

Whimsical thinking seems to be the week's theme. Writing for Bleacher Report, Garrett Markley writes an open letter to the Hollywood Dodger fans. An excerpt:

Hollywood Elite, I offer you a simple proposal: Buy the Dodgers from Frank McCourt. I guarantee if 100 of you A-listers chip in $10 million each, Frank will sign the Dodgers over faster than he can say "No" to Randy Wolf's arbitration.
If only it was so simple. As I'm sure you'd guess (if you didn't already know), Frank couldn't sell the team right now if he wanted to. Not unless the proceeds of the sale would be held in escrow or something until the post-nup issue is resolved. And even that wouldn't happen; Jamie, if she wanted to, would be very justified in arguing that she doesn't want the money, she wants the baseball team. It's not like those are available off the rack at Macy's. 

Of course, even if she wins on the post-nup, the odds of her holding an ownership interest in the Dodgers for longer than it would take to sell the club are minimal at best. Either she and Frank would have to cooperate (unlikely) or she would have to be a minority partner in a group assembled to purchase the club from the couple's community property. Out of spite alone, at this point, I doubt Frank would allow that to happen. Even if he was ready to get out of the game--which doesn't seem to be the case--I can't imagine he'd sign off on any scenario resulting in Jamie's ownership.

Things will probably be quiet from now through the weekend unless something happens tomorrow morning. I'm heading off on an ice fishing trip tomorrow afternoon. I have to give these Minnesotans credit; they don't hide from the winter, they attack it. I'll be back in Los Angeles next week, though, and look forward to shorts, flip-flops, and sunglasses. I'm officially a tourist in my home town.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Of deadline acquisitions, flyovers, and mints.

Jon Weisman at Dodger Thoughts wonders how Frank McCourt might try to win his way back into the fans' good graces should he prevail in the spring's litigation. Jon suggests:

[I]f that happens, what do you think are the odds that Frank (via his minions and Mannions) tries to repair his relationship with the fans with a grand gesture in the summer of 2010? And what would that grand gesture be?  A trade deadline acquisition? (I probably think that's more likely than most people do.) A Navy flyover? Mints?
The answer, in my mind, is that winning is the closest thing in sports to a true panacea; a cure-all. So what does that mean in mid-June? Well, it could certainly mean a splashy trade. It could also mean figuring out a way to keep Kemp in the fold long-term. It could also mean, very quietly, making a huge dent in the organization's debt load. 

Look, we want the Loge level renovations to be completed. Portable concession stands aren't the answer. But Dodger Stadium isn't like everywhere else. Sunset at Chavez Ravine makes up for the lack of some amenities, you know? What we want is a healthy organization.

The dark side of things is that even a win for Frank is something of a loss. He's out a couple hundred million bucks of property, and his personal income is reportedly capped as a term of the private placement. I'm not sure that prevailing on the post-nup issue is going to leave him feeling particularly generous.

What's more, it's clear that Frank's focusing his efforts on developing the Chavez Ravine acreage. Because he's handcuffed on the TV issue and can't really mess with Dodger Stadium, Frank's search for additional revenue streams is likely to lead to commercialization of the space around the ballpark. How do you all feel about this?

Personally, I like the oasis-like feel of Dodger Stadium. I don't need restaurants and shopping and entertainment. As a Los Angeles ex-pat, I'm struck every time I fly in by how long you're over developed land before you touch down. It's a solid 45 minutes. I like that going to Dodger games feels like an opportunity to breathe a little.

Also, at The Hardball Times, I ran the first part of a three-part series on fan happiness. The Dodgers didn't make the first tier.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Colletti's free agent history.

Slow day in Dodger Divorce land. Embele Awipi of the Salinas Californian says that, in an "awful year in sports," the Manny Ramirez suspension wasn't even the strangest story surrounding the Dodgers in 2009. Instead, says Awipi, the oddest moment occurred when "Frank McCourt tried to fire [...] his estranged wife Jamie." Of course, he did more than try. And I'm not certain at all that Jamie's firing was the most curious moment of the saga; Jeff Fuller's ambassadorial trip gets my vote.

So with not much else going on, I took a gander at MLB Trade Rumors' Brendan Bianowicz's GM history for Ned Colletti. The 'Signings' tab caught my eye, and here are my quick thoughts on Colletti's top and bottom free agent acquisitions.

Ned's Best

1. Takashi Saito

2006-08 ($0.5M, $1.0M, $2.0M)

In his three seasons with Los Angeles, Saito was paid $3.5 million and produced $27.5 million of Fangraphs value. Wow! Of course, it was relatively predictable that his production would go down as his salary increased, and that's exactly what happened. Still, the Saito signing was brilliant. And a unique story, at that. Has any major leaguer who debuted at or after age-36 been as good?

2. Randy Wolf II

2009 ($8M after reached incentives)

This is really odd. I barely remember Wolf's first tenure with the Dodgers. I mean, it only lasted about 100 innings, but he wasn't awful. There was just something goofy about that club, the only Dodgers team not to make the postseason of the last four. Wolf was superb the second time around, providing $13.6 million of value for an $8 million salary. And that Fangraphs figure doesn't account for just how badly this team needed Wolf last year. Given the September swoon, it's not unrealistic to think the club might not have reached the playoffs without Wolf.  Now if only he'd been offered arbitration.

3. Orlando Hudson

2009 ($8M after reached incentives)

He and Wolf did nearly the same thing: provided about $5 million of excess value on one-year deals. Hudson was more responsible for the club's success than he was given credit for, especially late in the year. He also exposed Torre's tendency to ride the hot hand despite evidence of the availability of a better player. Hudson's a pretty frustrating figure in retrospect because of his benching and Colletti's failure to offer him arbitration. With Wolf and Hudson, Ned did so much right. And just couldn't finish the process.

Honorable mention: Kenny Lofton, Jeff Weaver,

Ned's worst.

1. Jason Schmidt

2007-2009 ($12.5M, $12.0M, $12.0M)

Oof. He made more than a million bucks an inning. I mean, sometimes these things happen. But check out Schmidt's average fastball velocity from 2003-06:

03:  95.0 mph
04:  93.5 mph
05:  91.8 mph
06:  92.4 mph

That '06 bounceback season cost the Dodgers $47 million. '05 was a down year in a major way, and if he'd hit the market that offseason, he wouldn't have approached this kind of deal. But he had a very nice '06 campaign and got paid as if that would be his standard going forward.

It was not.

2. Andruw Jones

2008-09 ($36.2 million in combined salaries and bonuses)

Oof. He's only below Schmidt on this list because hitters are safer investments than pitchers. But my goodness, was this a stinker. His acquisition was much different from Schmidt's. While the pitcher had the courtesy to post a bounceback season before robbing the Dodgers blind, Jones managed to get his cash despite having already hit the wall. After a string of fabulous seasons with the Braves, the then-30-year-old Jones had a dismal final season in Atlanta. Ned Colletti rewarded him with this deal, and the Dodgers will be paying the ghost of Andruw Jones through 2014 after reworking his deal to make him go away.

3. Rafael Furcal II

2009-11 ($6.5M, $8.5M, $12.0M (!), club option for '12 at $12.0M which vests with 600 PA in '11)

I'm not looking forward to 33-year-old Furcal making $12 million in 2011. Even if the club has to eat some salary, I sure hope Devaris Gordon makes Furcal expendable by then. Because, if not, a warning: Furcal has eclipsed 600 plate appearances twice in his four-year Dodger career (and missed by just 19 trips to the plate in 2007).

Honorable mention: Rafael Furcal I, Nomar Garciaparra, Juan Pierre, Luis Gonzalez


Casey Blake

2009-11 ($5.0M, $6.0M, $5.25M, club option for $6M in '12 and up to $0.5M in performance bonuses each season)

This wasn't a good deal at all, but then something funny happened: Blake had a career year in 2009. At 35. In fact, Fangraphs says he's already been worth more than he'll be paid over the course of the entire deal. So I can't really say whether it was a good signing or a bad one. A bad decision that turned out well, maybe?

Hiroki Kuroda

2008-10 ($5.0M, $10.0M, $13.0M)

He's worth the money when he can take the mound. Whether he can give the Dodgers 175+ innings in 2010 is up in the air. But as a signing, it was a decent one, I suppose. It's a lot of money, but these are the risks you take when you aspire to compete for a World Series. Or at least those are the kinds of risks the Dodgers used to take.