To the glee of Dodgers’ fans everywhere, Brian Wilson signed a one-year contract worth $10 million dollars, making the former closer arguably the best set-up man in the game today. According to MLB.com the deal also includes a player option for at least $8.5 million in 2015 that could climb to $10 million, plus $700,000 in incentives. The Dodgers’ were one of the few teams that were interested in Wilson, and offered him a one year deal worth $1 million dollars last season, after he was let go by the San Fransisco Giants’ after having to go through a second Tommy John surgery.
Wilson paid the Dodgers’ in return with a great comeback campaign going 2-1, with a 0.66 ERA, and a 0.878 WHIP in 13.2 innings pitched in the regular season. The “Beard” (which I’m still waiting for him to dye it blue) also went 1-0 with a 0.00 era in 6 innings this post-season. In fact he only allowed one run the entire regular and post seasons combined. Though as good as resigning Wilson is enjoy it while you can because this is probably the last year he’ll be in a Dodgers’ uniform.
The first thing I asked myself is, why only a one year deal? The only logical answer I could come up with is this. The 31-year-old Wilson still believes he’s good enough to close for a team and in reality probably wants to close again. If Wilson can stay healthy, and repeat last years performance for the entire 2014 season, there is no way I can see him exercising his player option. He will test the free agent waters again, and most likely try to get one more big pay-day, by trying to get a long-term deal as a closer for another team. As deep as the Dodgers pockets are, I find it hard to believe they would pay a long-term closer contract for a set up man, no matter how good he is. Although its hard to tell with the Dodgers and stranger things have happened (remember Brandon League?) with the teams spending, I find it highly likely that this will be the last season we see Wilson in a Dodgers uniform.
By Dalton Brown
The Los Angeles Dodgers’ struggles this season have been well chronicled – and how could they not be? The team has a payroll of $217 million, good for the second largest in the game (it’ll be the largest next year unless anything major changes), and the big name talent you’d expect with that kind of money. And yet, here we are, on May 27, looking at a 21-28 ballclub struggling offensively and failing to pitch when they occasionally score some runs. Matt Kemp, expected to be the catalyst of an offense that on paper looks as good as any in the league, has struggled to a mid .250s batting average, 2 home runs, and is slugging .333 through 49 games. Between the injuries, inconsistency, strange coaching decisions, and general ineffectiveness, anybody who has followed the Dodgers this season is well aware of the struggles.
Before I lay out my thoughts on how to fix the 2013 Dodgers, however, I’d like to put out one disclaimer: tonight may have been just what this team needed. For the first time this season, the Dodgers showed some competitive fight. They took good at bats when they needed to, moved runners into scoring position, and found a way to get them in. They hit with runners in scoring position, picked one another up when something went wrong defensively, and looked more like a contender than they have all year (after the first two innings, of course). Hopefully tonight wakes them up a bit and builds momentum in a positive direction.
But if its not, and Joe Blanton throws seven scoreless innings and the Dodgers inconceivably lose 5-0 to the Angels tomorrow night, what can be done? Here are a few tips/options to help the Dodgers from here on out.
1. Fire Don Mattingly. I know it seems like this is being said everywhere, but there is a reason for it. While I don’t think Mattingly is a bad guy or even really a terrible manager, when the talent the Dodgers have isn’t producing the results it should, this is where blame falls. Besides the fact that many would agree his decision making has been faulty on a number of matters this year. I attended my first Dodger game (of many) on the season on Sunday, an incredibly frustrating and yet incredibly pedestrian 2013 Dodgers loss to the Cardinals. One situation really infuriated me, however. In the bottom of the 7th inning, the Dodgers trailed St. Louis 4-3 with 2 outs and the bases loaded, with Skip Schumaker coming to bat (starting in place of Matt Kemp that day). Now I know Kemp hasn’t produced this year. Trust me, I’ve been frustrated by him as much as anyone else. But if I’m Don Mattingly, how do I not give one of the most talented players in the game a chance to do big time damage when we need it most? No offense to Skip Schumaker, who has certainly helped the Dodgers fill voids this season, but Kemp has to hit there. As if to add insult to injury, Mattingly then proceeds to pinch hit Matt Kemp the next inning in the pitcher’s spot… with two outs, nobody on, and trailing by 2 runs. Add that to the fact that Brandon League is the Dodgers’ closer while Kenley Jansen continues to have some of the most electric stuff in the league, the team looks nonchalant on the field, and the losses are piling up… if things don’t change in a hurry, Mattingly will likely be out of a job.
2. Trade Andre Ethier. There are a number of ways this could be effective. The Dodgers are a team with a surplus of outfielders, but a shaky bullpen and tons of issues on the right side of the infield. Nick Punto is having a great year filling in, and while I don’t intend to take anything away from what he’s done, there is little chance of him finishing the season hitting .340. Why not flip Andre Ethier to a team for prospects, let them eat his salary, and use those prospects to lure the San Diego Padres into trading 3B Chase Headley when they inevitably fall out of contention? Who knows, depending on how far the Padres fall, Huston Street could end up being added to a package deal. Furthermore, dealing Ethier would open a spot in the outfield for Scott Van Slyke, Joc Pederson, and Yasiel Puig to fight over, the result of which should be one hell of a young player any way you slice it.
3. Move Matt Kemp down in the batting order. The Dodger slugger has been struggling mightily, and doing so in a position where he is constantly batting with runners on base. By moving Kemp down in the order, the Dodges would both improve their production with runners in scoring position in the short run and give Kemp confidence in the long run after he begins to see more pitches to hit. The downside: who can protect Adrian Gonzalez in the middle of the lineup?
4. Getting a healthy Hanley Ramirez back in the lineup. With Hanley potentially on the verge of a rehab stint, The Dodgers could gain a ton with his bat. I could see a lineup of Crawford-Ellis-Gonzalez-Ramirez-Ethier-Kemp-Ellis-Punto looking awfully productive before long. And if they take my advice with the Ethier moves mentioned above? Try Crawford-Ellis-Gonzalez-Ramirez-Headley-Puig-Kemp-Ellis on for size. Hanley adds a lot of depth to a team in desperate need of help on the left side of the infield.
Despite the beginning the Dodgers have endured to this point, it’s still far from panic time for a team sitting only 7.5 games out of a division lead. The Dodgers are still afloat, and primed to make a run if things start falling into place like they can. Tonight may have been just the push the team needed.
And remember, the Angels are not from Los Angeles. They are from Anaheim.