Dodgers Will Have Different Look in '09

The Dodgers mix of veterans and young players finally seemed to have melded into a team, thanks in no small part to manager Joe Torre. And while there is always a sense of urgency during playoff competition, the 2008 club that has rumbled down the stretch so successfully could have a vastly different look next season.

A look at the playoff roster that handled the Cubs so well will reveal how tenuously a major league squad is constructed in this day of free agency.

The hallowed memory of the splendid Dodgers teams of the 1950s changed during their remarkable stretch of National League pennants, climaxed with the 1955 World Championships. But those days are long gone.

Among the starters you can count on include Russell Martin behind the plate, James Loney at first, Blake DeWitt at second, Andre Ethier in right field and Mat Kemp in center. Chad Billingsley, Jonathan Broxton, Clayton Kershaw, Hong-Chih Kuo, Hiroki Kuroda, Ramon Troncoso and Cory Wade will return.

Among the valuable veterans, some who are growing a bit long in the tooth and may resist signing for a] a shorter period of time and/or b] less money. Great budget control must be exercised. Particularly with the bulging contracts of Andruw Jones, Jason Schmidt and two more years of Juan Pierre still to be taken into consideration.

Among the free agents are Manny Ramirez, Rafael Furcal, Casey Blake, Jeff Kent -- all of whom might be hanging their hats in a different clubhouse next year, along with Derek Lowe, Greg Maddux, Takashi Saito and perhaps Brad Penny.

The superb Manny Ramirez turned down two years with Boston at $20 million a year to play in Los Angeles. If you are interested in signing him, and it seems most of you are, how many years must you offer at the same or higher rate to convince him to stay? He turns 36 next year in May.

Rafael Furcal? An All-Star shortstop who unfortunately has a bad back. Can you sign him to a conditional contract to insure his back is OK, or must you take the plunge, at 30, and give him another three-year deal? He made $13 million a year on his first contract.

Derek Lowe has again proved what a warrior he is down the stretch, and with a bit more run support he could have won 20 games the last two seasons. He has talked about going back to Boston but would stay if properly compensated. He is 35.

Casey Blake did an exceptional job of plugging the third base hole after arriving from Cleveland. He fit in nicely with the glove and added some pop with his bat. He is 35.

When healthy, Nomar Garciaparra is still the versatile, hard-hitting infielder he has always been. But he's 34 and comes with a long list of injuries over this season and the seasons past.

Will Brad Penny be the pitcher he once was by next year? He has a $9 million option for the 2009 season. Would you pick that up? He is 30.

Greg Maddux will have the opportunity to move on unless the Dodgers can re-sign him. He's 42 and nearing the end of the trail but he's still Greg Maddux.

Jeff Kent has a date with the Hall of Fame about five years after he finally hangs up his glove. At 40 he isn't what he once was but his 2008 season would be acceptable to over half of the second basemen in Major League baseball.

Chan Ho Park, who blossomed during the season after being left for dead by most of the other Major League teams, wants to be a starter.

Other free agents include Danny Ardoin, Joe Beimel, Gary Bennett, Angel Berroa, Yhency Brazoban, Jason Johnson, Scott Proctor, Mark Sweeney and Delwyn Young.

This is, to some extent, a team that may be taking it's last shot at the gold ring for a while. The younger players will be a year better, to be sure, but there are many and varied holes to be filled when Bart Giamatti's "chill rains come and leaves you to face the fall alone."

LA Dodgers Insider Top Stories