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Los Angeles Dodgers Information
Los Angeles Dodgers : 2008 Preview
LOS ANGELES -- To rebound from their fourth-place disappointment, the Dodgers went for quality over quantity in the offseason, hiring Joe Torre as manager and signing free agents Andruw Jones and Hiroki Kuroda.
"Our promise and commitment to the fans is to provide a team that can compete and I'm quite confident with the moves that have been made this offseason, we will compete," said owner Frank McCourt. "We had an objective of making the team better, but not trading our young players who possess so much promise."
For all of the rumored Matt Kemp trades, ultimately, management kept its vow of staying the course with the youth movement. General manager Ned Colletti bolstered the lineup and starting rotation without dealing Kemp or James Loney or Jonathan Broxton or Chad Billingsley or Clayton Kershaw.
Jones is viewed as the feared bat the middle of the order has desperately needed, even though he's coming off the worst season of his career. Kuroda was arguably the best starting pitcher available in an admittedly thin free-agent market, and even though he's unproven against Major Leaguers, the Japanese right-hander is only being asked to slot in behind Brad Penny, Derek Lowe and Chad Billingsley in the rotation.
With those two acquisitions, Colletti essentially repaired what went wrong last offseason. Jones is an upgrade in center field from either J.D. Drew or Juan Pierre, while Kuroda picks up innings the Dodgers expected Jason Schmidt to throw.
The signing of Jones does give the Dodgers four outfielders for three positions. Colletti has already said he's not trading Kemp, so that means his prime chip is Pierre or Andre Ethier. Pierre's contract not only has $36.5 million left but also a limited no-trade clause, so most inquiries from other clubs start with Ethier. Otherwise, Pierre and Ethier would share left field.
Until Kuroda's signing, the Dodgers were looking for Schmidt and Esteban Loaiza to fill two starting slots, without knowing whether either would be physically capable. Schmidt (recovering from major shoulder surgery) and Loaiza (knee and back surgery last season) now can compete for the final spot.
In the respected Torre, the Dodgers believe there will be no repeat of last year's clubhouse turmoil that broke down along the lines of age. Of course, Torre's job has already been made much easier than that facing predecessor Grady Little because most of the sour veterans have already been cut loose through the departures of 13 free agents.
Aside from the uncertainty in left field, the position of greatest interest in the spring should be third base, where a competition shapes up between veteran Nomar Garciaparra and youngster Andy LaRoche. Garciaparra showed an alarming lack of power in 2007, while back and shoulder problems nagged LaRoche during his Major League stints.
Grading on a curve: The offseason has been focused, targeted and successful. The Dodgers' interest in Jones and Kuroda dates at least a year, but Jones was unwilling to waive his no-trade clause a winter back and Kuroda decided to delay his free agency another year. On a scale of one to 10, Colletti bounced back after last winter's mess for an 8.
Arrivals: CF Jones, RHP Kuroda, C Gary Bennett.
Departures: OF Luis Gonzalez, LHP Mark Hendrickson, RHP Roberto Hernandez, 3B Shea Hillenbrand, C Mike Lieberthal, INF Ramon Martinez, C Chad Moeller, INF Olmedo Saenz, RHP Rudy Seanez, INF Mark Sweeney, RHP Chin-hui Tsao, LHP David Wells, LHP Randy Wolf.
The Road Ahead: The outfield surplus could lead to a deal. While some would like the club to upgrade at third base, a deal for bullpen depth is more likely. There also are holes for veteran bench help.
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