Mailbag #18: Rotation Depth, Arruebarrena, SNLA, Spring Training

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Kirk: I am not too concerned about the #4 & #5 starters and spot starters during the year. The Dodgers should hold up through some patchworking. I am more concerned of a shortage in the play-offs. Perhaps that is too early to be an issue. The old theory of getting 3 top starters to get you through the playoffs is faulty. The last two years, the Dodgers needed that 4th “Go To Guy” in the playoffs and the lack of confidence in Haren, Nolasco even Ryu for playoff starts and the resultant overworking of Kershaw was fatal. Do the Dodgers get a top starter now (Scherzer) take a chance on Shields and his playoff losses or wait and mortgage the farm in July for Hamels or Lee from Phills or Zimmerman. Sign a bunch or question marks (Bills, Vogelsong, Beachy) and hope one comes through?

This is an interesting viewpoint on the rotation, but not one I’m sure I agree with. If there’s concern about Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson holding up through the full regular season, then that seems totally valid. We’ve talked about that a few times, and whether or not guys like Joe Wieland, Zach Lee, Chris Reed, Mike Bolsinger, Carlos Frias, etc., are enough to fill in as needed during the season is a real question.

But this question seems to be saying that McCarthy and Anderson, if healthy, wouldn’t be sufficient in the playoffs, and I can’t agree with that. My concern with them is health, not talent. (Also, I don’t believe that Clayton Kershaw was “overworked” because of questionable fourth starters so much as he was by an atrocious bullpen that demanded Don Mattingly try to push him for one more inning.) If McCarthy is healthy and starting a Game 4 in October, I don’t have a problem with that at all.

As for additions: I’m not a big fan of James Shields, though I don’t think his playoff performance plays into that in the least. I could see the Dodgers as a “mystery team” on Max Scherzer, but more likely these five starters are who we’ll see to begin the season. If they need to supplement during the year — in addition to the names you mentioned, don’t forget Johnny Cueto, entering the final year of his contract on a mediocre Reds team, or Jeff Samardzija, also in his walk year if Chicago’s “go for it plan” doesn’t work — they certainly have the means to do so.

Steven: Hello you brilliant, beautiful people. I was somewhat surprised that no team claimed Arruebarrena. Yeah, his bat is no good, but his good defense (despite still being a little unpolished) seems like an asset a lot of teams would like to have. But you wrote that a team claiming him was “very unlikely” and that the Dodgers trading him was “somewhat unlikely”. So my question is why would a team be “somewhat” more likely to trade for Arruebarrena rather than claim him off waivers? What does a team give up when they claim a DFA’d player? Or are you suggesting that he’s overpaid and that a trade is more likely because the Dodgers would eat some of that delicious green? “I still like him better than Steinbrenner”

Good question, and one with a simple answer. If a team had claimed Erisbel Arruebarrena off waivers, they would have had to take on the entirety of the remaining contract, which is $16 million over four years, assuming all of his $7.5 million signing bonus was paid up front. That simply wasn’t going to happen. But if a team had shown interest in trading for him, perhaps they could have talked the Dodgers into eating part of the money, which the Dodgers might have done to get out from under at least part of the $16 million. That didn’t happen, of course.

14hodges: I am a Dodger fan in NC. I went to spring training a number of times when the Dodgers were in Vero, but this spring will be my first time in AZ. Do you have any advice for me? In Vero Beach, I found that I enjoyed the times that a game was not going on more than the games because the access was so great. I enjoyed watching Maury Wills doing instruction and listening to guys chatting while shagging flies — experiences that were really different than a regular game experience. Is this type of thing still possible? Is it a good environment for hanging out and watching on a morning before a night game? Thanks!

Go early! Camelback isn’t laid out in exactly the same way as Vero was, but there’s still pretty easy access to the back fields, if you don’t mind a bit of a walk. Last year, I found myself sitting behind home plate on a side field as a recovering Matt Kemp took at-bats in an intrasquad game against low-level prospects (and also, I believe, Stephen Fife). Tommy Lasorda sat feet away in his golf cart watching. Other young prospects sat in the bleachers behind me, some manning the radar gun, some just watching.  On another field, the big league pitchers were pretending to care about fielding practice. On yet another, Julio Urias was warming up.

In many ways — as you say — the actual game is the least interesting part of the experience. Go early, explore, enjoy.

Noel: Has there been any interest from teams in picking up Wilson? If not, at what point do we accept that the Dodger’s are going to pay his contract in 2015? If we were to ship him to say, Japan, would the Dodger’s still be on the hook for his contract?

That ship has already sailed. Brian Wilson was released on December 19, days after having been DFA’d. If some team had claimed him following the DFA, the Dodgers would have saved some money, but that was never going to happen. Now he’s a free agent and no matter what happens — whether he signs elsewhere or never pitches again — he’ll still get his $9.5 million from the Dodgers in 2015. I imagine he’ll find a non-roster invite from someone, though interestingly enough, there hasn’t been a single reported rumor about him at all since the Dodgers let him go.

Omid: Is it within any realm of possibility that the Dodgers could deal Ethier and get back any kind of piece or pieces that could reduce the cost it would take to get Cole Hamels? I believe it was mentioned in a post here that to get Cole Hamels the Phillies asking price is 2, if not all three of Pederson, Seager, and Urias. If the Dodgers ate most or all of Ethier’s contract could that return anything that would make the Phillies interested in just 1 or 2 of the big 3 (plus other less notable pieces)? 

The problem with Andre Ethier is that he has zero value. Negative value, really. He’s 33, he’s owed $56m, and he’s coming off an awful season. The Dodgers would have to eat an overwhelming majority of that in any move, and they couldn’t expect anything valuable in return. Back in October, I looked at how difficult it would be to even sell low on Ethier, and clearly it hasn’t happened.

Which is to say, this isn’t a usual trade where you ask the other team to pay you for your asset. The Dodgers need to pay someone else just to take him off their hands, and that’s not a situation where you are likely to get back anything that would interest the Phillies in giving up one of the better pitchers in baseball.

Drew: When is the appropriate time to renew the panic about the lack of a deal between Time Warner and the all of the other (much better) providers? The season is right around the corner and by all indications, the chatter about the dysfunction of the Time Warner deal seems much quieter than this time last year. Any updates?

Betty: Has anyone heard any updates about SportsNet LA vs. Dish/DirectTv/Comcast? Can’t go another season, can it?

We’ll finish with these two similar questions, and man, it really has been quiet on the SNLA front, hasn’t it? Bill Shaikin finally gave us an update this week, and it’s not good news:

Getting the Dodgers’ SportsNet LA channel into the 70% of local homes without it has been complicated by the federal government’s lengthy review of two mega-media mergers — and there is no sign that a resolution will come any time soon.

“I’m very concerned,” Dodgers Chairman Mark Walter said Thursday, at the conclusion of baseball’s owners’ meetings.

The Federal Communications Commission has until March 30 — six days before the Dodgers’ season opener — to approve or reject a merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable. The FCC has delayed the proceedings twice and could do so again.

What that means is that it’s not just about the usual players here — SNLA and Time Warner and DirecTV. Put another way:

The two corporate consolidations — Comcast-TWC and AT&T-DirecTV — were expected to be completed during the first quarter of this year. But both mergers have been delayed by a host of issues in Washington — none related to baseball.

With the companies focusing on their mergers, there have been no negotiations to widen the reach of SportsNet LA in Southern California, according to people close to the companies.

No new negotiations are scheduled.

So as if this wasn’t a big enough mess in the first place, now it’s also contingent on the federal government approving two of the biggest mergers in American history. Sorry to say, don’t hold your breath. Fortunately, there are plenty of easily-available and moderately-legal alternatives to get Dodger baseball. I wouldn’t judge you at all for taking advantage of them.

About Mike Petriello

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