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Just Get Vlad
2003-12-30 14:10
by Jon Weisman
Note: The Dodger Thoughts blog has moved to the Los Angeles Times.

Hey look over there - All-Star free agent available, almost no takers.

Vladimir Guerrero, Montreal (free agent), OF
Age: 28 in February 2004
Bats: Right
Salary: Free agent. Reportedly offered $65 million over five years by Baltimore, counter-offer pending?
Mainstream stats in 2003: .330 BA, 25 HR, 63 BB, 53 K
OPS in 2003: 1.012 in 112 games (1.295 vs. LHP, .936 vs. RHP)
EQA in 2003 (park-adjusted): .328 (6th in the National League)
Win Shares in 2003 (park-adjusted): 18 (54th in NL, 18th among NL outfielders)
Trend: Because of injuries, missed 50 games - had played at least 154 games each season since 1997. OPS and EQA were second-highest of career.
Worth acquiring in exchange for Odalis Perez or Guillermo Mota? Not applicable.
Worth acquiring in exchange for Odalis Perez and Guillermo Mota? Not applicable.

The Dodgers show no apparent interest in signing Guerrero, who is great.

The Dodgers clearly have the need. And, with Kevin Brown traded, they clearly have the salary room: more than $30 million if their projected 2004 payroll limit is as high as it was in 2003.

Dodger 2004 Salary Commitments

PlayerSalary
Shawn Green$16.0 million
Darren Dreifort$11.0 million
Hideo Nomo$8.0 million
Todd Hundley$6.5 million
Jeff Weaver*$4.75 million
Paul Lo Duca$3.9 million
Paul Shuey$3.8 million
Juan Encarnacion$3.5 million
Kazuhisa Ishii$2.6 million
Brian Jordan**$2.5 million
Tom Martin$1.65 million
Wilson Alvarez$1.5 million
Alex Cora$1.3 million
Robin Ventura$1.2 million
Total$68.2 million

*$6.25 million minus Yankee contribution of $1.5 million
**Buyout of 2004 option

Additional Dodger 2004 Salary Estimates

PlayerSalary
Eric Gagne$6.0 million
Adrian Beltre$4.5 million
Odalis Perez$4.0 million
Guillermo Mota$1.0 million
Jolbert Cabrera$0.5 million
Dave Roberts$0.5 million
Cesar Izturis$0.5 million
Dave Ross$0.4 million
Total$17.4 million


That's 21 players at a cost of $85.6 million, leaving the Dodgers more than $30 million to spend on four players.

That they haven't pursued Guerrero led me to join in the speculation that ostensible new owner Frank McCourt is going to slash the budget limit starting in 2005. However, given how much the Dodgers have reduced their payroll already, plus the fact that they'll gain about $9 million for 2005 just by taking Hundley and Jordan off the books, McCourt could knock the payroll well under $100 million and the Dodgers could still afford Guerrero (not that I'm sanctioning McCourt or these speculative payroll cuts to begin with).

Starting in 2006, the expiration of Dreifort's contract gives them eight figures more free money.

Realizing now that Guerrero is really only being pursued seriously by one team, the Orioles, and that the danger of a bidding war is greatly reduced, I find myself almost completely at a loss as to why the Dodgers are letting slip this opportunity to sign such a great player.

Is it concern over his 2003 back injury?

Or could it possibly be the rumor that says that Guerrero himself will never sign with the Dodgers, because of their lack of faith in him as a teenage ballplayer in the Domincan Republic?

I asked Jonah Keri (an expert on both the Expos and the Dodgers) of Baseball Prospectus if he could provide any explanation for the Dodgers' inaction. Here's his reply:

I'm not big on rumor-mongering, Jon, but Vlad's agents did come out this off-season and say that the story's false ... that while it may have bugged Vlad back in the day, he's open to signing anywhere now. Obviously, that could very well be a leverage play, but you see why trying to speculate on such things becomes pointless.

The Dodgers (and any other team) would be nuts not to pursue Vlad. Will Carroll says his back condition is identical to Pudge's, and you saw what Pudge did last year. Vlad looked great once he was a couple weeks removed from the injury, down the stretch last year, to boot. Playing off the Big O turf will help too.

Given the golden opportunity for the Dodgers to sign him, they're crazy for not trying. I think you can blame a combination of Evans' inability to be aggressive or creative and the specter of McCourt. But yes, you're 100 percent right that they could make room, on top of which we both know the revenue to be had when a team...you know...WINS.

Unless they're super good at keeping super secrets, the Dodgers need to get it into gear now. A de facto offseason trade of Kevin Brown for Vladimir Guerrero would be a dream come true. And it's a dream they can do.

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