Dodgers Finished Christmas Shopping Early

Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reported that at baseball's winter meetings reporters surrounded super-agent Scott Boras in a serious question-and-answer session. But when asked about the Dodgers he said, "Normally, they're in the steaks sections and I found them in the fruits and nuts category a lot."

The Dodgers have signed seven free agents to major league contracts, of which the most expensive was with the $12 million spent on Aaron Harang the high figure and that pretty much finished their shopping.

The 2012 roster is set.

Their premier players are obviously outfielder Matt Kemp, MVP in the non-steroid division, and pitcher Clayton Kershaw.

Outfielder Andre Ethier and either Juan Rivera of Jerry Sands will fill out the outer garden. Ethier, at one time considered Kemp's equal, was hobbled by injuries and hit only 11 home runs, his fewest since his rookie year.

The infield includes first baseman James Loney, second baseman Mark Ellis, shortstop Dee Gordon and third baseman Juan Uribe. Loney big second half salvaged a miserable season, and probably his job, by driving in 28 runs over the last 35 games.

The key to the infield will be young Gordon, who had a remarkable, if erratic, season in 2011. He hit .304 ad stole 24 bases in limited appearances while struggling as rookies sometime do in the field.

Good field-no hit A.J. Ellis and Matt Treanor will handle the catching but should contribute little to the offense, making a veteran pinch-hitter a necessity. Perhaps Manny Mota could make a comeback.

Bench players include Jerry Hariston, Jr., and Adam Kennedy, plus Tony Gwynn, who had a better than average season last year. All in all, a less than fearsome group.

Kershaw, who claimed the best pitcher in the league title in 2011 and enigmatic Chad Billingsley, who has yet to harness his remarkable talents, will anchor the starting staff. Ted Lilly, who when he was good he was very, very good but when he was bad he was awful, claims the No. 3 slot. A pair of retreads, Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang fill out the cast.

Harang posted a 3.64 ERA but that was in San Diego where home runs go to die. His road numbers were 4.70. Capuano (4.55) will be the innings eater.

The bullpen is young with lefty Scott Elbert (26) and right handers Javy Guerra and Josh Lindblom (all 26) and Kenley Jansen (24) mixed in with Matt Guerrier (33) and ...pick one or more... Ron Belisario, Blake Hawksworth, Vicente Padilla, Mike MacDougal or Ramon Troncoso.

Some fifteen non-roster invites have been invited to spring training. A handful more will probably be invited before camp opens. Those with major league experience are outfielder Cory Sullivan, left-handed relievers Wil Ledezma and Alberto Castillo and catcher Josh Bard.

Ned Colletti says the last piece to the 2012 puzzle will (hopefully) be a veteran out of the pen. That will leave just pocket change left in the club's treasury to purchase the necessary balls and bats needed for spring training.

Kemp Defends Braun Despite Positive Drug Test
--CF Matt Kemp wasn't joining the group of people looking for a re-vote in the Most Valuable Player award. Kemp finished second to Ryan Braun, who reportedly failed a test for performance-enhancing drugs. Kemp said that Braun was "a good dude" and "that's my homie," while stressing it's important to wait for all the details to emerge. Braun appealed the positive test, and results on a second test are pending.

Kemp won the 2011 Greatness in Baseball Yearly trophy (GIBBY) based on votes by the fans, media, front-office personnel and MLB alumni.

--OF Tony Gwynn Jr. signed a two-year, $2 million contract with the Dodgers. After getting non-tendered by the Padres the previous offseason, Gwynn was excited to get two guaranteed years. It's a financially smart move for the Dodgers: They get a speedy bench option with a great glove for not much more than the minimum.

--LHP Hong-Chih Kuo was non-tendered by the Dodgers, but his tenure with the team might not be over. The Dodgers remained interested in signing the Taiwan-born reliever for a time, then went a different direction when a deal could not be struck. He has been courted by a number of teams, including the Diamondbacks.

--C Josh Bard was signed to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. Bard has NL West experience with the Padres. A J Ellis will still go into spring training as the starter, and Matt Treanor will be the backup. Prospect Tim Federowicz is the catcher of the future. Bard provides depth at the position in case of injury or if Federowicz is not ready for the majors.

--OF Coco Crisp, a free agent, is rumored to be a possible target for the Dodgers although it wouldn't appear they have any room in their outfield for him.

According to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Frank McCourt must divest himself of the Dodgers and their stadium by April 30 but has sole authority to decide whether he keeps or sells the parking lots surrounding the stadium although for the life of me I cannot believe that any individual or group would cough up a billion bucks in a deal that didn't include the parking lots.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "At that point, my thought process changed. I hadn't considered that at all. I'm willing to take less than I might have made next year to get the extra year. A guy in my position, playing year to year since I've been in the big leagues, that's a big deal. On top of that, I enjoy playing for the coaching staff to a man." -- OF Tony Gwynn Jr., on signing a two-year contract to remain with the Dodgers.

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