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1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity
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The 2004-05 Offseason: A Preview
2004-10-12 08:24
by Jon Weisman

Here is the status of the Dodger 40-man roster (which is actually 43 men because of those on the 60-day disabled list) as the team's offseason begins. The contract information is the best I could find via the Daily News, ESPN and Dugout Dollars, but please, please e-mail me if I have any errors:

Looking to 2005, I've divided the players into four categories – definitely back, likely to return, maybe/maybe not, and unlikely to return. Keep in mind, though, that even the "definitely back" players could be traded.

Although starting pitching is the Dodgers' most pressing concern, the outfield/first base situation is their most confusing.

Definitely back (barring trade)
Yhency Brazoban, RHP (pro-rated $300,000 in 2004, team option): He’ll be counted on as a setup man next year, but his limited service time should keep his salary below $400,000. Full-time shortstop Cesar Izturis earned $360,000 in his second year.

Joel Hanrahan, RHP (minor leagues in 2004, team option): Will have a chance to win a job. Probably will start 2005 back in Las Vegas, but could be in the rotation midseason.

Darren Dreifort, RHP ($11,000,000 in 2004, $13,000,000 in 2005): Dreifort will start the season on the disabled list in the final year of his contract, then perhaps assume a short relief role down the stretch. His heart will be praised, especially because it’s his only working body part.

Eric Gagne, RHP ($5,000,000 in 2004, eligible for arbitration): Gagne suffered a decline in performance in 2004 … to truly fantastic. The past season revealed the limits of his ability, however far out to the edge of the solar system they are. There’s a lot of angst over the long-term contract status of a player not eligible for free agency until November 2006. Perhaps he won’t retire a Dodger, but there is plenty of time for a solution to come. Though Gagne is more important to the Dodgers than vice-versa, both on the field and off, there will be few teams better positioned than the Dodgers to pay him what he wants with Shawn Green and Dreifort’s contracts off the books in 2006.

Kazuhisa Ishii, LHP ($2,800,000 in 2004, $3,230,000 in 2005): General manager Paul DePodesta could look to trade Ishii to a team that values his won-loss record and believes they can heal his mental approach - say, Atlanta. Barring that, Ishii figures to start the season in Los Angeles in the back end of the rotation and try to work his magic.

Edwin Jackson, RHP (pro-rated $300,000 in 2004, team option): Growing pains for Jackson in 2004 render a little more doubt about his future, but he’s still a 21-year-old babe in the woods with potential. He has a place in the 2005 starting rotation as the offseason begins.

Brad Penny, RHP ($3,725,000 in 2004, eligible for arbitration): Hoping for the best ...

Orlando Rodriguez, LHP (minor leagues in 2004, team option):: Listed on the 40-man roster but appears not to have pitched last season.

Duaner Sanchez, RHP ($305,000 in 2004, team option): Pretty straightforward case of an inexpensive, durable and efficient young reliever coming back.

Jeff Weaver, RHP ($4,750,000 in 2004, $7,750,000 in 2005): Weaver’s salary figures factor in the $1,500,000 that the New York Yankees are chipping in each season. His built-in raise probably moves him into the overpriced category, but at least he provides innings and perhaps is still learning. Turns 29 next August.

Hee-Seop Choi, 1B ($310,000 in 2004, team option): He’ll get some stories written about him in March. Choi has a key role in the Dodgers’ offseason confusion. Anything the Dodgers do with Milton Bradley and Steve Finley will reflect the confidence they have in Choi, because Choi’s presence in the lineup would move Shawn Green back to the outfield. Choi has begun the past two seasons as a starter and worked his way to the bench. Perhaps the opposite will occur in 2005.

Cesar Izturis ($360,000 in 2004, eligible for arbitration): Turning just 25 just before Spring Training, his improvement offensively to adequacy and his prowess defensively ensures him a job. The only change will be whether the Dodgers can find a leadoff hitter that allows them to drop Izturis down the lineup.

Antonio Perez (pro-rated $300,000 in 2004, team option): With better on-base and slugging credentials than Joe Thurston ever had, Perez may be the Dodgers' second baseman of the (near) future. Las Vegas' first 20 homer-20 steal man is 15 days younger than Izturis.

Shawn Green, 1B-OF ($16,000,000 in 2004, $16,000,000 in 2005): Kevin Brown taught us that as the end of a rich contract looms, a trade becomes more of a possibility. The Yankees, for one, might want a first baseman, though they could be loath to deal with the Dodgers in the aftermath of the disappointing Brown-Brazoban-Jeff Weaver trade. Of course, in all likelihood, Green will play out his contract in Los Angeles. There still have to be concerns about his health, since the shoulder problems that hampered him at least part of this season could recur.

Cody Ross, OF (minor leaguer in 2004, team option): Injuries marred his 2004 season, but still hit 14 homers in 238 at-bats with Las Vegas. Factor in that hitter-happy environment and his mediocre walk totals (18), and you realize you can't count to heavily on Ross at this point, but he'll have at least a chance to be next year's Jayson Werth.

Likely to return
Wilson Alvarez, LHP ($1.5 million in 2004, free agent): Alvarez has said that 2005 might be his season. Given that last year he showed more creaks in his physique, his salary should remain reasonable, and given that his requests to relieve were usually granted, it’s hard to imagine there’s another team he would want to pitch for.

Adrian Beltre, 3B ($5,000,000 in 2004, free agent): Carlos Beltran will be the No. 1 free agent on the market. Certainly, the Dodgers will take at least a token run at the outstanding Houston outfielder, but it’s more likely that they’ll let him be the subject of the offseason’s top bidding war (led by the Yankees) and try to retain the infielder that they raised. As intimidating as agent Scott Boras is, he will not get Beltre the salary that Green currently makes. Certainly, the skeptics are entitled to their worries about Beltre being a one-year wonder, but that’s a risk the Dodgers should and will try to take.

Brian Falkenborg, RHP (pro-rated $300,000 in 2004, team option): Though he had a disappointing tryout with the Dodgers, Falkenborg only turns 27 in January. Unless he has minor-league free agent status that I’m unaware of, he should get a second shot at a long relief role.

Giovanni Carrara, RHP (contract status not avaliable): Like the situation with Alvarez, this seems to be a match for both parties. Similarly to 2003, he is not a lock to make the team out of Spring Training despite his contributions in the past season.

David Ross, C ($310,000, team option): The site of Ross bunting for base hits at the expense of his power potential was one of the saddest of 2004 for the Dodgers. Like German Rivera, Jeff Hamilton, Dave Hansen, Angel Pena and so many others before him - and unlike Paul Lo Duca – Ross was given the chance to cement a starting job but proved to need retrofitting. Now, he’ll try to figure out what went wrong and try to stick around for another year. If the Dodgers sign a right-handed starter, they could bring back Brent Mayne as a backup and send Ross back to the minors. (He first reached the majors in 2002, but doesn’t appear to have accrued the service time for arbitration.)

Tom Wilson, C (pro-rated $300,000 in 2004, free agent): Will compete for a backup job. At worst, Las Vegas will probably need a catcher. Turns 34 in December.

Willy Aybar, 2B (minor leagues in 2004, team option): Transitioned somewhat successfully from third base to second base in 2004 with Jacksonville. Will probably start 2005 in Las Vegas, pending what happens with Jose Flores and Antonio Perez. Question: Is his career at third base over?

Jose Flores, IF (pro-rated $300,000 in 2004, team option): Could start the season in the minors or fill a backup infield slot on the Los Angeles roster.

Olmedo Saenz, IF ($300,000 in 2004, free agent): Saenz was clawing for a job seven months ago; it's unlikely he wouldn't re-up for a small raise in 2005.

Jason Grabowski, OF ($301,000 in 2004, team option): Tailed off dramatically in the second half and turns 29 in May. But swinging from the left side, at his salary, with Robin Ventura gone, he will probably earn another shot.

Henri Stanley, OF (minor leaguer in 2004, team option): Acquired in the Dave Roberts trade, the soon-to-be 27-year-old Stanley will return to the minors in 2005 barring some sort of miracle.

Jayson Werth, OF ($303,000 in 2004, team option): Will continue to be the starting lineup's biggest bargain in 2005, unless Hee Seop Choi takes off. Might train at catcher some, but still figures at this point to be a third option there at best. Of course, it was only 2 1/2 months ago that Werth was rumored to be headed to Arizona.

Maybe, maybe not
Jose Lima, RHP ($950,000 in 2004, free agent): Most seem to think Lima’s return is automatic after Saturday night, and certainly both parties want to see it. But Lima has his pride and wants a rewarding, multiyear deal, which DePodesta may balk at - and perhaps rightly so. I don’t forsee a smooth negotiation here. (Wishful thinking: Sign Lima and configure the rotation so that he only pitches in Dodger Stadium.)

Hideo Nomo, RHP ($6,500,000 in 2004, free agent): Jim Tracy still loves his warrior. Taking a flyer on Nomo with a contract with a low base salary and incentives is not out of the question. He could be the 2003 Wilson Alvarez of the 2005 Dodgers.

Mike Venafro, LHP (contract status not available): Doesn’t figure to command much in salary, so he’s on track to return for Spring Training unless/until the Dodgers find better options.

Brent Mayne, C ($800,000 in 2004, free agent): Might have gone into the likely category as a backup catcher until he floated hints about following Robin Ventura into retirement. Even if he doesn’t retire, the Dodgers may elect to keep Dave Ross in the backup spot.

Alex Cora, 2B ($1,300,000 in 2004, eligible for arbitration): Despite flowering in many respects as a second baseman in 2004, I'm putting Cora in the maybe category because if the Dodger payroll is limited, his inconsistent offense may not justify the raise he will get through arbitration. When he's on his game, he becomes one of the top second basemen in the league, particularly when you factor in the successful platoon with Jose Hernandez. But Cora goes through long slumps as well, and DePodesta can't find the starting pitching to solve the team's rotation problems, he may look to find more offense here. Additionally, though the Dodgers probably aren't quite ready to hand the second-base job to Antonio Perez, they will allow him to compete.

Jose Hernandez, IF-OF ($850,000 in 2004, free agent): After hitting 13 home runs and slugging .540 in 211 at-bats, could you blame the guy for exploring whether a team might pay him to play every day, or at least pay him more? On the other hand, perhaps the 35-year-old Hernandez recognizes his own limitations, and will return to a place where Tracy used him so successfully. In any case, he'll want a raise.

Milton Bradley, OF ($1,730,000 in 2004, eligible for arbitration): Well, won't this be an interesting arbitration case if it comes? The Dodgers would be perfectly within their rights to bring up Bradley's suspensions in a salary-lowering effort. I believe the Dodgers want Bradley to succeed in Los Angeles, but as was discussed in the Choi comment, the Dodgers could commit to the Korean first baseman and move Green back to right field.

Steve Finley, OF (Dodgers' share of $6,750,000 in 2004, free agent): Is he the Brett Butler of the '00s? Is he the Karl Malone of Chavez Ravine? Came to the Dodgers late in his career but in tremendous physical condition (he played in 162 games this year) and made a series of memorable contributions. Again, the Dodgers have many options to consider, but he'll get a long look.

Unlikely to return
Elmer Dessens, RHP (Dodgers’ share of $4,000,000, free agent with $300,000 team buyout): Rehabilitated his career in the second half and likely to be worth more elsewhere.

Odalis Perez, LHP ($5,000,000 in 2004, free agent): A pitcher with talent, whose record is better than his ERA, but whose ERA is better than his strikeout rate. Despite the lack of starting pitching on the team, Dodger dollars may go elsewhere. This has been an uneasy relationship, and although it was only two games, Perez’s playoff performance is likely to represent the moment where Dear Abby tells her faithful reader, “You can’t marry this guy.”

Paul Shuey, RHP ($3,800,000 in 2004, free agent) More likely to retire than pitch in 2005. And buddy Tom Martin is in Georgia.

Scott Stewart, LHP ($850,000 with Indians at start of 2004, free agent): Not sure what the Dodgers ended up paying Stewart to use him as a band-aid. DePodesta will surely find better options for the coming year.

Todd Hundley, C ($6,500,000 in 2004, free agent): His retirement should be funded. Again, you never know when a player will sign a base-level contract with incentives for the chance to go out with some good memories, but we won’t hold our breath.

Joe Thurston, 2B (pro-rated $300,000 in 2004, team option): I believe Thurston is out of minor-league options. While the Dodger bench is in flux, Thurston would have to have a monster spring to earn a spot – and he might not get the playing time to do it.

Robin Ventura, IF ($1,200,000 in 2004, free agent): Announced his retirement Sunday, and doesn't seem likely to go back the decision. But you never know.

Chin-Feng Chen, OF (pro-rated $300,000 in 2004, team option): I need to confirm that Chen is out of options as well. Unlike Thurston, showed a little improvement in Las Vegas this year with a .943 OPS, and would have a better shot of sneaking onto the 25th spot of the roster than Joey Ballgame. But that isn't saying much. Chen turns 27 this month.

Roster summary
Starting rotation (5): Penny, Weaver, Jackson, Ishii, one vacancy. If Lima or Perez signs, Ishii more likely to be traded, though injury risks could force the Dodgers to hang onto depth. Approximate 2005 salary cost, not including vacancies: $16 million.

Bullpen (6): Gagne, Brazoban, Sanchez, Carrara, Alvarez, one vacancy. Approximate 2005 salary cost, not including vacancies: $9 million.

Starting lineup (8): Choi 1B, Cora 2B, Izturis SS, Beltre 3B, Werth LF, Bradley CF, Green RF, vacancy at catcher. (Whither Finley?) Approximate 2005 salary cost, not including vacancies: $34 million

Bench (6): Hernandez, A. Perez, Saenz, Grabowski, Ross, vacancy. Approximate 2005 salary cost, not including vacancies: $2.5 million.

Disabled list (1): Dreifort. Approximate 2005 salary cost: $13 million.

Las Vegas (among others): Hanrahan, Rodriguez, C. Ross, Falkenborg, Wilson, Aybar, Flores, Stanley, Venafro, Stewart.

Rough estimate of current and expected salary commitments, not including vacancies: $74.5 million

Yep, it's in owner Frank McCourt's hands now.

Top priorities, if Beltre signs
1) Fill out starting rotation, ideally at the front end but minimally at the back end.

2) Find a starting catcher.

3) Improve offense wherever possible and trade whomever is replaced.

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