Adios ... Amigos.Footprints in the Snow is FanHouse's look at the paths to be forged by MLB teams this winter as they look ahead to 2009.
The funny thing about the Dodgers is that it's really, really easy to forget that before Manny Ramirez rode in on his dreadlocked donkey like a free-swinging Don Quixote, well, they were basically just your run of the mill mediocre baseball team.
dustballs on the bench, and despite some pretty good pitching, there wasn't enough offense to limp the team towards a .500 National League West-winning record and OMG JOE TORRE FAIL.
But Manny did show up, and he did play the role of hero. The Dodgers streaked into the playoffs, the fans started flocking back to Chavez Ravine in their imitation 'locks and then Los Angeles shocked the world by sweeping the Cubs in the NLDS. Nowhere to go up but, right? Um, actually, no.
Who May Leave?
Manny Ramirez, OF, FA
Derek Lowe, SP, FA
Rafael Furcal, SS, FA
Greg Maddux, SP, FA/Retirement
Brad Penny, SP, FA/Club declined option
Casey Blake, 3B, FA
Jeff Kent, 2B, FA/Retirement
Nomar Garciaparra, 1B/Etc, FA
Chan Ho Park, SP, FA
Joe Beimel, RP, FA
Jason Johnson, SP, FA
Pablo Ozuna, 3B/Etc, FA
Andruw Jones, Juan Pierre, OFs, Possible "Accident"
What Do They Need?
They need to replace the elite talent that could be leaving, they need to get some offense, they need a top of the rotation starter and they need to let that "accident" mentioned above happen. Reeeeeeeeal shame if 'Druw and Juan can't collect a paycheck. Seriously though, they need offense badly. If Furcal and Man-Ram both leave, things are going to get ugly.
What Should They Do?
So, yeah, this seems a touch contradictory now, what with them already doing things that I want to tell them not to do. (I have officially confused myself.) Additionally, they need to get another front line starter. Lowe's 2008 season -- and pitching skillz as a whole -- are vastly underrated and they'll miss him. Yeah, Clayton Kershaw and James McDonald are going to develop and be very good and Chad Billingsley is special, but all these kids need some sort of mentor (Maddux was perfect but he's old and not elite obviously) and call me crazy, but Jason Schmidt doesn't really seem to fit the bill. Additionally, Penny's departure really -- in theory -- thins out this rotation and if they end up whiffing on any of the big(ger) names out there in FA to help out this rotation, things could get awkward before they get prettier.
What Will They Do?
They should keep raising their offer to Manny until Friday morning and then suddenly act all offended that Boras and Ramirez wouldn't actually take them seriously and then pull out of the Manny Sweepstakes. Then, when he torches them in every game they play against the team he ends up with and they end up not making the playoffs by one game, well, you get the point. (It being: they won't re-sign him.)
However, they will probably sign an overrated outfielder and then maybe ink someone like Joe Crede, just so they can further hinder the development of their young talent. Oh, and maybe go after Mark Teixeira really strong, just because, you know, James Loney is too cheap and talented.
And pardon me for being pessimistic, but this is a team, as I mentioned, that wasn't exactly constructed to dominate, but got lucky when the Red Sox pawned off Ramirez on the cheap and looked superb late in the season. On the bright side, at least they missed a terrific opportunity to replace Colletti.