Off-Season Budget Review

It adds up to over $31 million to play with. If you add the $15 million our owner says he would have spent, but Paul DePodesta didn't, that jumps the figure to $46 million. With rookies already aboard and more on the way, even a quick look at the books show the Dodgers have sufficient funds to upgrade both offense and pitching for 2006.

The list--
$13.4 million -- Darren Dreifort (contract over)
$9.35 million -- Jeff Weaver (free agent?)
$7.5 million -- Shawn Green (salary share) $5.25 million -- Scott Ericksen
$3.5 million -- Jose Valentin (wont be back)
$2.5 million -- Milton Bradley (may be moved)
$ 2 million -- Wilson Alvarez (retired)

The trick will be not to take overpaid stars on the downhill, the ones everybody are more familiar with. We'd rather have, say, a Kevin Mench than an injury prone Jim Thome. Tampa Bay, with Johnny Gomes breaking out and another swifty breaking into center, have outfield talent to burn.

Heck, the Mariners offered to trade Adrian Beltré even before his first season was over. A return to the National League and the Dodgers could be in order. Even Ichiro might be available. Would the Dodgers be interested in Alfonso Soriano, who the Rangers keep wanting to move? Cleveland has good young hitters and is looking to upgrade their bullpen. There are possibilities galore.

Now with money freed up from last years deals and this years pending changes, Paul DePodesta finally has some of shackles off he inherited from previous doings (start that with Darrin Dreifort). This could be an exciting fall.

Earlier this year, we mentioned what a great interview Atlanta Braves hitting coach Terry Pendleton had with the Phillies a year ago. It's probably too late to stir DePodesta's thinking -- if Pendleton isn't already on his list -- but the guy is going to get a chance someplace and soon. He's grown with the Braves on-field management over the years and is full of winning ways.

If there was any doubt Jim Tracy would be moving on, it evaporated when one report said one Dodgers faction (read that Tommy Lasorda) was pushing Orel Hershiser. That was the clincher.

Tommy rode his minor league talent -- Bill Russell, Ron Cey, Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes et al to the big leagues, to victory, and to the Hall of Fame.

The guy in the minors now who has been the shepherd is Terry Collins. He knows what's there, who can be brought along, how quick, who not to push too fast, etc.

If the Dodgers stay inside, he has to be the heads up choice, particularly since his relationship with the GM already is more than anything Jim Tracy enjoyed. We'd love to see Dave Wallace back as pitching coach, but that probably isn't going to happen. The Dodgers could do worse than Orel, as close a clone to Wallace as there is. But as this is penned and printed, we look for the decisions already to have been made.

For years, the LA press gave the Dodgers kid glove treatment.

No more.

One of the best, Bob Nightengale, was hustled out of town for not being passive enough. Too slow to criticize in the past, now the tendency may have swung to the other end of the pendulum.

Look at the "great" players moved elsewhere. The Marlins want to move Guillermo Mota who turned out to look more like Yhency Brazoban than Eric Gagne. There's even talk that aging catcher Paul LoDuca might be moved to Arizona. The Marlins also want to move Juan Encarnacion, the other player in the mega deal the writers bemoan and bemoan and bemoan.

Steve Finley did even worse than labor all year. Adrian Beltré had a tough time adjusting in Seattle and as mentioned earlier could be had if some team would most of his contract.

If they all had been with the Dodgers in 2005, they may not have lost 91 games, but it still would have been a losing season. And an ever aging team at that.

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