Dodgers Inside Pitch - December 12

Andruw Jones might be the solution the Dodgers need for their middle-of-the-order power outage, but the two-year, $36.2 million contract he signed might have created a lot more questions for his new team. Jones' arrival gives the Dodgers four everyday outfielders, meaning one will either be stuck on the bench or on another team's roster.

Juan Pierre signed a four-year, $36 million deal to become the Dodgers' center fielder prior to 2007, but his deficiencies surfaced, especially his subpar throwing arm, making Jones an attractive proposition. Pierre is expected to move to left field, leaving right field open for Andre Ethier and/or Matt Kemp.

The move also pushes Delwyn Young and Jason Repko further down the depth chart.

The Dodgers are still looking to add pitching and wouldn't pass up the chance to take an additional third baseman into spring training. The addition of Jones would make Kemp, one of many prospects whom general manager Ned Colletti didn't want to part with, expendable.

   Kemp could be used as trade bait to bring the Dodgers some pitching depth, or he could be packaged with Andy LaRoche to add an experienced third baseman to the mix. The Dodgers have expressed interest in the Cardinals' Scott Rolen, and the Tigers' Brad Inge is suddenly looking for playing time now that Detroit has acquired Miguel Cabrera.

Kemp's stock has gone up over the past two seasons, and LaRoche saw his value climb with a strong performance at the World Cup last month. Nomar Garciaparra made a successful return to third base last season, but his offensive numbers dropped off significantly.

Another uncertainty comes with Jones himself. The 26 home runs he hit last season were the fewest he's hit since 1999. His .222 batting average was his lowest since 1996, the season he broke into the big leagues.

Jones signed a two-year deal because no one would offer him anything long-term based on his numbers in 2007, and as a way to show that he still has what it takes to be one of the more feared hitters in the NL. If he is able to prove himself during his two seasons in Los Angeles, he'll probably be back on the free agent market in time for the 2010 season.

Notes and Quotes
--LHP Clayton Kershaw was ranked as the top pitching prospect (fourth player overall) for 2008 by a panel consisting of 20 scouts. Kershaw, a first-round pick in 2006, made the climb from low Class A to Class AA during the 2007 season. Kershaw ranked ahead of the Yankees' Joba Chamberlain and the Red Sox's Clay Buchholz, both of whom appeared in the majors last season.

--RHP Chan Ho Park, who was shelled in his only major league appearance last season, signed a minor league contract with the Dodgers. Park pitched for the Dodgers from 1994-2001, compiling a 80-54 record.

--RHP Jonathan Meloan recorded 20 saves between Class AA Jacksonville, Class AAA Las Vegas and the Dodgers last season, but the Dodgers are thinking about moving him back into a starter's role in order to add some depth to their rotation. Shortly after being promoted to the Dodgers in September, Meloan said that he would prefer to be a starting pitcher.

--SS Rafael Furcal finished second among National League shortstops in range factor. The statistic is based on the number of plays made per nine innings. Furcal made 4.96 plays per nine innings in 2007, and that was while playing the entire season with a sprained left ankle. Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki was tops among NL shortstops.

--LHP Scott Elbert was rated as one of the top pitching prospects for 2008 despite being limited to three games in 2007. Elbert, slated to be a late-season addition to the Dodgers' roster, was slowed by shoulder surgery. He should be ready to go by spring training.

By the Numb3rs: $80.7 million -- Amount the Dodgers have spent on two center fielders (Andruw Jones and Juan Pierre) the past two offseasons.

Quote to Note: "We're thrilled we've got a player of this caliber. We've been looking for somebody to hit in the middle of the order and also somebody who plays great defense." -- Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti on the signing of OF Andruw Jones.

Roster Report
The Dodgers went into the offseason singing a familiar tune. Whether the song has a happy ending remains to be seen. "Since I've been here, I've been singing the same refrain about a middle-of-the-order bat," Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said. "Everybody in the league looks for pitching. We're no different. I think we're in a better spot than most clubs. But if you go back to last spring, everybody was saying we had eight starting pitchers. We needed 10. Eight wasn't near enough." Colletti took care of the big-bat desire by signing free agent OF Andruw Jones.

ARRIVAL: OF Andruw Jones (free agent from Braves).

BIGGEST NEEDS: The Dodgers could go searching for an upgrade at third base now that they have a glut of outfielder.

FREE AGENTS: INF Olmedo Saenz, INF Ramon Martinez, OF Luis Gonzalez, RHP Roberto Hernandez, LHP David Wells, INF Mark Sweeney, RHP Rudy Seanez, INF Shea Hillenbrand, C Mike Lieberthal, LHP Randy Wolf.

Saenz and Martinez struggled in 2007, which may lead to their departure from Los Angeles. That could lead the Dodgers to retain Sweeney, who is second on the all-time pinch-hit list. The Dodgers declined options on Lieberthal and Wolf.

ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE: LHP Joe Beimel, LHP Mark Hendrickson, RHP Yhency Brazoban, RHP Scott Proctor, OF Jason Repko.

Beimel lost his arbitration hearing last winter but is in a much better position to come out ahead should things go that way this offseason. Beimel cut his hand and was unable to play in the 2006 postseason for the Dodgers, but he appeared in 83 games this year, becoming one of the more reliable components in the bullpen.

IN LIMBO: With Jones and Juan Pierre manning two outfield slots, the team has just one position left for Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp. One of them could find himself playing for another team next season.

INF Tony Abreu (sports hernia surgery in October 2007) will recover for six to eight weeks before re-engaging in baseball activities.

SS Rafael Furcal (slightly bulging disk in back) missed the final two weeks of the 2007 season but won't need surgery for that or his sprained left ankle. Rest and rehabilitation should have him ready to go by spring training.

RHP Jason Schmidt (shoulder surgery in June 2007) could begin a throwing program early in the offseason. Early indications were that he had healed from his surgery.

OF Jason Repko (left hamstring surgery in March 2007) missed all of the 2007 season. He was sidelined for a week in October in the Arizona Fall League due to a right ankle injury.

LHP Hong-Chih Kuo (left elbow surgery in July 2007) had begun a rehab program before the end of the 2007 season.