On Tanaka and the Dodgers Bench


The after Christmas fog is upon us, and it’s deep into winter now. Spring seems so far away, yet it’s closer than we think. In February, pitchers and catchers will report to Arizona, and the quest for a 2014 championship begins for the Dodgers and the other 29 MLB teams. The Dodgers have been relatively quiet this offseason, and they have been focusing on retaining the integral free agents while letting those go who were bound to be headed elsewhere. The Dodgers relative frugalness this offseason (and I say frugal with a sarcastic twinge when referring to the free spending Dodgers of course) has really been refreshing.

The Dodgers signed Alexander Guerrero, Dan Haren, Juan Uribe, Jamey Wright, and Brian Wilson. They have let go Skip Schumaker, Nick Punto, Mark Ellis, Ronald Belisario, and Ricky Nolasco. There hasn’t been any blockbuster trades for David Price, and we have yet to hear any official word on a contract extension for Hanley Ramirez or a long-term deal with ace Clayton Kershaw. The Dodgers haven’t traded one of their four star outfielders even though the rumors surrounding that scenario have been whirling for two years now. This Dodger team, one who knocked on the door of the World Series last season, doesn’t need too many tweaks or changes.

The moves Ned Colletti have made this winter have been cost effective and smart. Colletti hasn’t handed out any Brandon League

The Dodgers will probably sign a veteran infielder like Michael Young. Photo: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

type contracts thankfully, and the pickups he has collected have been strategic to fill needed holes in the roster. There are still places where the Dodgers can improve of course, but they don’t need another starting pitcher. Their bullpen is set and looking fantastic with Kenley Jansen, Brian Wilson, J.P. Howell, Paco Rodriguez, Chris Perez, and Brandon League (he’s not going anywhere). The outfield is of course filled, and I can’t complain about having four solid outfielders if all shall stay healthy. The catching is fine with A.J. Ellis and Tim Federowicz, who I’d like to see make more starts this year behind the plate. The spots where the Dodgers could use some help is in the infield and the bench.

The Dodgers will most likely pick up another infielder, probably a veteran like Michael Young, to spell relief for the infield and for a bench position. The Dodgers may go with Dee Gordon as a shortstop backup, but I doubt they open the season with Justin Sellers again. With Punto and Schumaker’s departure, I’m positive that Colletti couldn’t field a team without a gristly veteran presence off the bench. Preferably one who can play second base to backup the rookie Guerrero would be first choice.

Other than another infielder, the Dodgers are pretty well set. With Masahiro Tanaka being posted finally, the Dodgers may or may not throw their hat in the ring for the Japanese star. The Dodgers rotation is exceptionally strong as is, and they still do have Zach Lee, Ross Stripling, and Stephen Fife available to start this season. While I’d just about fawn over a rotation which reads Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-jin Ryu, Masahiro Tanaka, and Dan Haren, the Dodgers will not be that much weaker without a Tanaka signing.

Josh Beckett is going to be given the opportunity to pitch. The Dodgers are paying him $15.75 million next season. It’s unclear how long Beckett will continue to pitch if he isn’t able to bounce back after thoracic outlet syndrome, but he will be pitching for the Dodgers. Then there’s Billingsley who will also be back sometime in mid-summer. The Dodgers will have to make big decisions once Billingsley comes back especially if they should sign Tanaka.

The Dodgers absolutely should go after Tanaka, but they shouldn’t over pay due to other teams shooting the price up. Teams have until 5 p.m. on January 24 to attempt to reach an agreement with the right-hander. The new deal struck between the MLB and Nippon Professional Baseball caps the posting fee at $20 million which would go to Tanaka’s team the Rakuten Eagles. Excel Sports Management will represent Tanaka during negotiations.

The 25-year old Tanaka had this to say to the Associated Press about the process:

"“I’m grateful to the team for allowing me to try. Now, I’ve made a first step. I hope I would receive offers from as many teams as possible so I have a wider option.”"

The Cubs seem to be all-in on Tanaka, and the Yankees, Mariners, Angels, and Rangers could all possibly go for Tanaka along with the Dodgers.

Tanaka went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA in 212 innings for the Rakuten Eagles last season. The Dodgers could assemble the best rotation in baseball by signing Tanaka, and by doing so could avoid any big trade for David Price which would deplete the Dodgers farm system further. The Dodgers will still have an excellent rotation without Price or Tanaka, but by adding the Japanese pitcher the Dodgers would have the priciest and most talented rotation in the Majors.