The countdown has begun, kids. Opening Night (well, American Opening Night) is fast approaching as the Dodgers take on the Padres down in San Diego on March 30th. Leading up until then, MAMBINO will tackle 20 of the most important–and some not so important–questions that will get you set up for a season of almost unparalleled expectations. Let’s get it going:
What’s an early season candidate for the front office’s biggest offseason blunder?
Without question, turning down Mark Ellis’s $5 million dollar option looks like a staggeringly bad move by the organization’s head decision makers.
As I’ve written this spring, the second baseman’s lack of production has led to a domino effect of disaster for the Dodgers. Perhaps in anticipation that Cuban import Alexander Guerrero would be Major League-ready, LA turned down Ellis’s option for the season. Instead, the Dodgers found that Guerrero was not at all prepared to man second, leaving potential utility player Justin Turner as the starter. This wouldn’t be such a problem if the team had anyone else to take hold of that utility spot. Instead, Dee Gordon and Chone Figgins–both who may not belong in the Majors at this point–are going to be the back-ups around the diamond.
It’s a very worrisome situation for a team with several injury concerns, including the overall health of Hanley Ramirez and a 35 year-old Juan Uribe, who was on the verge of being cut just one year ago. This would rank as a related, #1A offseason blunder, as the team doesn’t have much in the way of utility players. With Turner starting, the team’s versatility is a shadow of the plethora of effective utility players last season. Nick Punto and Skip Schumaker weren’t retained, while both Michael Young and Jerry Hairston, Jr. retired. The Dodgers never really got any feasible replacements for those players, save Turner, in signing Figgins to a minor league deal, along with the offensively flaccid Brendan Harris and Miguel Rojas.
Overall, the infield lacks a ton of depth, especially compared to last season, when guys like Punto, Scott Van Slyke, Hairston and Schumaker were able to come in and spell the starters for sometimes long stretches. I don’t see the composition of the starting nine changing that much and thus, I can easily see another injury situation like last season’s coming back to haunt the team this year. It looks to me like declining Ellis’s option was already a mistake, even this early in the season.