Once the World Series concludes, the Dodgers will have plenty of decisions to make. Some of which will be whether to re-sign pending free agents. In my opinion, while a few merit pursuit, most should be shown the door. Let's look at who the Dodgers should or shouldn't bring back.
Long Beard, Long Shot
At first, it irked me to know that Brian Wilson would eventually don a Dodger uniform. But, after the initial nausea, I became a fan. And it's hard not to appreciate what he did for the club down the stretch and in the playoffs.
Thru 19.2 innings, between the regular and post seasons, Wilson allowed just a single earned run while striking out 21 batters. More importantly, he added stability to a pen that saw two of its more reliable reliever (Paco Rodriguez and Ronald Belisario) fade down the stretch, giving Don Mattingly a surefire setup man to precede Kenley Jansen.
So here's the problem: Brian pitched too well. I see little chance of him coming back as a setup man when he should have plenty of offers to close elsewhere (I hear Mariano Rivera is retiring...). I wouldn't be opposed to a short term (1 or 2 year) deal, even if the price is fairly high, since the Dodgers can apparently afford to just throw money away nowadays (see Ted Lilly as an example).
Redemption for Papi
Nearly everyone I've heard from lamented the Juan Uribe signing when it happened, and for the first two years of the deal, it looked like a complete bust. But, then, something wonderful happened. Uribe decided to be a baseball player again and went on to have one of the best seasons of his career in 2013. His 5.1 WAR ranked 7th in baseball among third basemen, ahead of guys like Chase Headley, Ryan Zimmerman and Pablo Sandoval.
Is he going to do it again? I doubt it. However, he displayed Gold Glove worthy defense and an excellent rapport with his teammates (specifically Hanley Ramirez and Yasiel Puig). Plus, with the offensive firepower the Dodgers have, they don't need everyone in the lineup to hit. A one year deal with an option should be enough.
Not Just a LOOGY
Another low-risk, medium-reward signing, J.P. Howell proved to be more than just a specialist in his 2013 campaign. While Howell did hold lefties to a .164 batting average, righties OPS'd just .608 against him and, more importantly, he surrendered only two home runs all year.
If Paco Rodriguez doesn't regain form, Howell's presence in the pen would be even more important. Another short term deal, possibly two years with an option, should get the job done.
Too Little, Too Late
The Dodgers acquired three other pitchers during the season, who had varying degrees of success. While giving up on them in less than half a season may seem rash, none figure to have had a lasting impact on the club.
Ricky Nolasco was brought over from the Marlins and seemed like he was pitching himself into an extension with the club. A stellar 1.64 ERA in August included back to back eight inning shutout performances leading into the final month. However, Ricky struggled in September and gave up three runs in four innings in his only postseason start. The organization's reluctance to use him in the postseason may have sealed his fate.
Edinson Volquez was once a hot commodity. However, lack of command has doomed him and caused the Padres to release him late in the year. L.A. figured they'd take a flier on the once-prized flamethrower but he didn't show much to give them hope. In 28 innings, he allowed a 4.18 ERA but served up five home runs. After being left off the NLDS roster, he was added to the NLCS roster but never pitched. Still just 30, he may be worth an NRI as his peripherals, spare his homers allowed, were solid, and he can still bring the heat.
Finally, the Dodgers cut bait with Matt Guerrier in midseason and ended up sending him to the Cubs for Carlos Marmol. Formerly an ace closer, Marmol has seen his control abandon him and destroy his ability to pitch in high leverage situations. In 21.1 innings with the Dodgers during the regular season, he walked 19 batters. However, he managed to mitigate the damage and ended the season with a 2.53 ERA. Another young guy with a track record and a hard fastball, the NRI route may once again be the best course of action.
Veterans: Bench or Unemployment Line?
The remaining four free agents to be are all veterans with unsure futures. Of the four, only one produced a positive WAR according to Fangraphs. Are any of them worth bringing back?
The strongest case I can make is for Nick Punto. While the bat didn't play much (.296 wOBA), he graded extremely well defensively at shortstop and third base. With his skillset, he should play strictly up the middle and only in case of injury or to provide an off day for the starters. I'd offer him a one year deal.
The other three? Not so much. Jerry Hairston Jr. and Skip Schumaker were the team's two worst players, according to Fangraphs. Hairston provided a paltry .540 OPS to go along with negative defensive value, while Schumaker was better (but still below average) with the bat and horrendous with the glove. Neither should warrant a roster spot next spring.
The final name is Michael Young. Acquired down the stretch run for pinch-hitting purposes, Young ended the regular season hitting .314/.321/.392 in 53 plate appearances. This is the definition of an empty batting average, as his oOBA was below average at .309 and he failed to provide any defensive value. I'm sure there's a team out there who believes he can still play, but hopefully it's not the Dodgers.
Up next: free agent and trade targets!
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