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2003-08-06 08:34
by Jon Weisman

See Dan.

See Dan's hand.

See Dan's hand tied behind his back.

Dan has one hand tied behind his back.

Let's see if Dan can keep the second hand free.

Dodger 2004 Salary Commitments

Shawn Green$16.0 million
Kevin Brown$15.0 million
Darren Dreifort$11.0 million
Hideo Nomo$8.0 million
Todd Hundley$6.5 million
Paul Lo Duca$3.9 million
Paul Shuey$3.8 million
Paul Quantrill$3.1 million
Kazuhisa Ishii$2.6 million
Brian Jordan*$2.5 million
Total$72.4 million

*Buyout of 2004 option

Source: MLB Contracts

That's $72.4 million that the Dodgers and general manager Dan Evans are paying for four starting pitchers, two relievers, a right fielder, two catchers, and Brian Jordan's going-away present.

Eric Gagne will return - he made $550,000 this season, but is in line for a huge raise. With about four seasons of service time under his ample belt, I'm going to pencil him in for at least what Adrian Beltre made this year, rounding up for his fan appeal to put him at $4 million. I think that's conservative.

Though he's trade bait, it's hard to imagine that Odalis Perez won't begin the season with a team that has three fragile starters in Brown, Dreifort and Ishii, not to mention Hideo Nomo turning 35 this month. Perez made $3.4 million after a great 2002; I'm going to give him a baseball cost-of-living increase after his up-and-down 2003 and put him at $4 million.

The rest of the pitching staff can probably come in for about $4 million. Guillermo Mota ($675,000 in 2003) will probably approach the $1 million mark after his sharp 2003, and some combination of guys like Tom Martin, Steve Colyer, Wilson Alvarez, Victor Alvarez and Troy Brohawn to fill the final four spots on the 11-man staff should come to under $3 million total.

We're at $84.4 million. Since I'm estimating now, let's round it to an even (well, odd) $85 million.

From the existing Dodger talent pool, I forsee the following guys returning, though more likely as reserves than as starters: Dave Roberts, Dave Ross and Jolbert Cabrera. I also think the team is so sold on Cesar Izturis defensively that he will return as a starter. (Even if the Dodgers signed a big-time free-agent shortstop, they would then simply move that newcomer or Izturis to second base.) Combined, Roberts, Ross, Cabrera and Izturis made approximately $1.5 million in 2003. Let's bump them up to $2 million for 2004.

The Dodgers now have 18 players at a cost of $89 million.

Nothing's certain while team ownership remains uncertain, but let's round up the Dodgers' $117 million budget for 2003 to $120 million for 2004. That leaves $31 million to fill seven spots:

  • a first baseman
  • a middle infielder
  • a third baseman
  • a left fielder
  • a center fielder
  • two reserves

    Let's finish out the bench with a player at the minimum salary and a small extravagance for a reserve power hitter, since Hundley, Ross and Cabrera could use some pop. A combined $2 million for the two players-to-be-named later who bring the roster up to 20.

    The Dodgers are now paying $91 million, and have this as a starting lineup:

    Lo Duca, C
    Green, RF
    Izturis, SS
    Brown, P

    Let me restate this again for emphasis. The Dodgers are committed to spending $91 million toward 2004 without filling five starting positions.

    The good news for the Dodgers is that in this post-dot-com economic downturn, the team might get two great players for what they're paying Green. Consider that the contract Jim Thome signed in the past several months will pay him $10.5 million in 2004, and that Scott Rolen signed an eight-year deal that pays him only $7.625 million next year.

    Or, if a superstar is your demand, imagine how far $15 million will go.

    The bad news is the massive uncertainty.

    Here's one scenario for the team:

    $4 million player
    Lo Duca, C
    Green, RF
    $13 million player
    $9 million player
    $2 million player
    $1 million player
    Izturis, SS
    Brown, P

    Here's another:

    $6 million player
    Lo Duca, C
    Green, RF
    $9 million player
    $5 million player
    $5 million player
    $4 million player
    Izturis, SS
    Brown, P

    Look, either of those lineups could be plenty. If the Dodgers make some smart decisions, if these players perform at or above their salary level, if there's a clever trade, they have a contender again.

    But Dan Evans faces a lot of uncertainty. Last offseason, the Dodgers were only trying to fill one hole in the lineup - first base - and it did not turn out well. Imagine the pitfalls that Evans faces trying to fill five holes.


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