The offseason is officially under way. All 30 of baseball’s general managers are gathered in Nashville this week for the annual Winter Meetings. It’s only been two days and there has been a flurry of moves, including the signings of former Dodgers Shane Victorino and James Loney.
Personally, this is one of my favorite times of the year because it allows for all sorts of speculation as to who your team could land.
For the first time in many years, the Dodgers are poised to be big spenders this offseason.
Team President Stan Kasten and GM Ned Colletti are in Nashville with a fully loaded bank account, and it appears as though the perennial big spenders like the Yankees, Red Sox, and Phillies, will not be in on any of the big free agents, making the Dodgers the premiere free agent destination of the offseason.
Here’s a breakdown of some potential free agents that the Dodgers could target at the Winter Meetings:
Zack Greinke – Greinke is the prize of this year’s free agent class, and pundits are saying he could command a record contract anywhere in the neighborhood of 6-years/$140 million. The Dodgers front office knows that pitching wins championships, and they are looking to stockpile arms.
Greinke gives the Dodgers the perfect right-handed compliment to Clayton Kershaw, and teamed with Chad Billingsley and Josh Beckett, the Dodgers would have one of the most formidable starting rotations in the National League, rivaled only by the Giants and the Nationals.
The Dodgers and Rangers appear to be the early frontrunners to land Greinke.
Greinke just turned 29 and has been one of baseball’s best and most durable pitchers over the past five seasons, pitching no less than 200 innings in four of the last five seasons. He also had nearly a 4:1 K/BB ratio last season with the Brewers and Angels.
Greinke would cost the Dodgers a lot, but he is the best player available in free agency this offseason.
James Shields – The other name that has been linked with the Dodgers has been Shields. Shields is due $9M in 2013 with a 2014 team option at $12M or $1M buyout. Tampa Bay is expected to try and sign David Price to a long-term deal, making it unlikely they could afford both Shields and Price.
However, Tampa Bay has been active at the Winter Meetings, signing former Dodger first baseman Loney to a one-year deal and acquiring shortstop Yunel Escobar from the Miami Marlins, making them an unlikely trade partner for Dee Gordon.
The Rays recently extended all-star third baseman Evan Longoria through 2022, so the Rays are showing a willingness to spend more money. A trade for Shields seems unlikely.
Kyle Lohse/Anibal Sanchez/Ryan Dempster – If the Dodgers don’t land Greinke, they would most likely turn their attention to the next tier of starting pitchers. All are veteran arms.
Sanchez is 28 and has the most upside of the group, and is a guy that the Detroit Tigers would like to keep as he was key to their World Series run.
Lohse and Dempster are both control pitchers and in their mid-30′s, and would both shore up the back end of the Dodgers rotation.
However, they would not command the long-term deal that Greinke would.
This group of pitchers probably won’t make any moves until after Greinke signs and sets the market.
The Dodgers actually have a solid core of starting infielders, as well as some versatile gloves they can use off the bench. The Dodgers’ ideal pickup in the infield is a right-handed corner infielder with some pop.
Kevin Youkilis – Youkilis is probably the best available infielder available. Youkilis provides gold glove defense at both corner infield positions and is a proven clubhouse leader.
Youkilis is a three-time all-star, however, Youkilis has been injury prone over the past four seasons and hit a career low .235 last year.
Youkilis appears likely to stay in the American League, the New York Yankees have expressed interest in him.
Brandon Inge – Inge is an intriguing option for the Dodgers. After spending his entire career with the Detroit Tigers, and struggling during his last year-and-a-half there, Inge was traded to the Oakland A’s, where he was a key contributor to their AL West title run.
Inge is a career .234 hitter, but would give the Dodgers a right-handed bat with pop off the bench. Inge is also an outstanding defender who can play any spot on the infield. Inge will be coming off of shoulder surgery and could be a good candidate for a short, incentive-laden deal.
Ty Wigginton – Wigginton would bring similar qualities to the Dodgers as Inge. Wigginton is a better all-around hitter than Inge and would provide the Dodgers with a right-handed pinch hitter off the bench with some power.
Wigginton can also play any spot on the infield, as well as some outfield. Inge, would seem to be a better candidate for the bench than Wigginton, who could start somewhere else.
The Dodgers’ outfield is all signed long term and is comprised of all-stars Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford. Much like the infield, the Dodgers will be looking at a versatile backup, preferably right-handed with some power.
Josh Hamilton – At the beginning of the 2012 season, there was no question that Josh Hamilton was the best hitter in the American League. Through the first two months of the season, Hamilton was batting .368 with 21 homers and 57 RBIs.
However, Hamilton hit just .244 the rest of the season. Hamilton has had a troubled personal life and has dealt with drug and alcohol addiction in the past. Most teams seem reluctant to sign Hamilton long-term.
When healthy, Hamilton is arguably the best hitter in the game, however, he hasn’t stayed healthy since his MVP campaign of 2010.
Because of the support system the Rangers have provided Hamilton, they seem destined to stay together.
Scott Hairston – One Hairston deserves another, right? Much like brother, Jerry, Scott has generally been a career backup, thrust into a starting role with the New York Mets last season, with whom Hairston had a career year, belting 20 homeruns.
Hairston would provide the Dodgers exactly with what they need, a versatile backup outfielder and a right-handed bat with some pop off the bench. Safe to say, both Hairston brothers would probably have a lot of fun playing together like they did for the Padres in 2010.
Reed Johnson – Much like Hairston, Johnson is the ultimate backup outfielder, capable of coming off the bench and playing superb defense at any outfield spot.