Friedman presented with significant Hot Stove issues
Ramirez could return to play short -- one of few spots that needs to be addressed by new LA boss
LOS ANGELES -- What can Andrew Friedman (and his front office to be named later) do with Guggenheim Partners' payroll? We're about to find out.
Every Dodgers Hot Stove season is worth watching, and this one especially, as a new president of baseball operations sets out to snap a 26-year World Series drought.
Task at hand: The Dodgers have nine free agents -- shortstop Hanley Ramirez and pitchers Chad Billingsley, Paul Maholm, Roberto Hernandez, Kevin Correia, Jamey Wright, Josh Beckett (retired) and Chris Perez. Scott Elbert rejected an outright assignment to the Minor Leagues and elected free agency Monday.
Starting pitcher Dan Haren picked up a $10 million option on Thursday, and reliever Brian Wilson picked up his $10 million player option Monday. The team on Friday paid a $3 million buyout instead of picking up a $14 million option on Billingsley, who is trying to return from two arm surgeries.
The most pressing decision was whether to make a one-year, $15.3 million qualifying offer to Hanley Ramirez, and the Dodgers did so on Monday. That assures Los Angeles of a supplemental Draft pick between the first and second rounds if Ramirez rejects the offer and signs elsewhere, but it also gives Ramirez the choice of accepting the offer and committing to the Dodgers for one year.
Los Angeles could still use the bat, but not so much the glove. Ramirez's days at shortstop are probably behind him, and third baseman Juan Uribe played too well offensively and defensively to be jettisoned.
Ramirez, who missed 34 games in 2014 with an assortment of ailments, was looking for a big season to establish his value. When that didn't pan out, an impactful postseason would have set him up for a big payday. He wound up hitting .429 in the National League Division Series, going 6-for-14 with one double and two RBIs.
As a rare middle-of-the-order bat on the market, Ramirez should attract a multiyear offer greater than the $15.3 million salary.
Most clubs would prefer to move Ramirez to third base or first base. Uribe is signed through 2015, and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, the Majors' RBI champion, is signed through '18.
Of the six remaining free agents: Beckett retired; Maholm is recovering from knee surgery; the staff didn't use Perez much to save a $500,000 bonus; Hernandez was OK and Correia less than that after being acquired during the season; and Wright will be 40.
The Dodgers' needs are few but significant. They need to resolve shortstop. They need an eighth-inning setup reliever who has more left than Wilson. They need a fifth starter to take over for Beckett. A.J. Ellis showed in the playoffs he can still produce offensively, but the need for catching depth will probably bring an addition to the trio of Ellis, Drew Butera and Tim Federowicz.
If Los Angeles doesn't "need" to move an outfielder, the surplus should provide a trade piece, most likely Andre Ethier, if not Carl Crawford or Scott Van Slyke.
Of course, the real organizational need is a farm system to supply a steady flow of talent, but that will take years to rebuild. Friedman will begin by reorganizing the baseball operations department, now that top executives Ned Colletti, Logan White and De Jon Watson are in other roles or other cities.
It's standard operating procedure for the Dodgers to be rumored in play with every high-priced impact free agent on the market, as well as assorted international possibilities.
That, however, runs counter to Friedman's track record with the creative and thrifty Rays, where he was more willing to give homegrown Evan Longoria a six-year, $100 million extension than to outbid 29 teams for a free agent whose best years might be behind him. Where Friedman lands on the spending spectrum with the Dodgers remains to be seen.
Left-handed reliever Andrew Miller and catcher Russell Martin might be two of the most actively rumored candidates.
But if club president Stan Kasten's insistence on building internally is to be believed, Friedman & Co. won't be allowed to trade away the only crown jewels in the system -- Corey Seager, Joc Pederson or Julio Urias.
How long will it take Friedman to wonder just what he's gotten himself into?