All Quiet on the Western Front

All Quiet on the Western Front was a popular novel about World War I, but Dodger fans are starting to wonder if, as they say in the movies, "Yes, it's quiet ... too quiet." But few of the other clubs are making any moves either but free agency starts Friday, so maybe with the economy in the dumper there will be a price reduction sale on free agents. Yea, right.

To paraphrase Betty Davis, "Hang on, it's going to be a bumpy off-season."

Let's see now: The Dodgers have a catcher (Russell Martin), a first baseman (James Loney), a second/third baseman (Brad DeWitt), more outfielders than they can use (Chad Billingsley, Andre Ethier, Juan Pierre, Jason Repko and, ugh, Andruw Jones) and their starting pitching starts and ends with Hiroki Kuroda, at least for six or so weeks while Chad Billingsley, who apparently forgot he wasn't in Los Angeles any more and broke his leg on the ice outside his Pennsylvania home.

They have shortstop Angel Berroa who underlines the old phrase, "Good Field, No Hit" and had a .230 average last season to show for it. Shortstops Chin Lung Hu hit about his weight (.181) and Ivan De Jesus will turn 22 next year early during spring training and is the heir apparent to the job.

Gone are 50% of the infield (Rafael Furcal, Casey Blake), 80% of the starting five pitchers (Brad Penny, Derek Lowe, Greg Maddux plus Billingsley), as well as their long man, Chan Ho Park.

Billingsley's bad break (pun intended) put the club in a pickle. The baseball fraternity has all the sentimentality of a Somalian dictator. If you are in trouble, say in your pitching department, they will be glad to help you out by offering one of their fourth or fifth starters for, say, Martin and Loney. And the agents will replace the price tags on their stable of players, knowing your needs are great.

The club is saying Billingsley will be able to begin rehabilitation within four weeks, and will be ready for spring training. That may be so, but clubs are notoriously optimistic about injured players, i.e. Schmidt is starting to look ready, Jones will find his groove if we just keep playing him and it looks like Jayson Werth's wrist is completely healed (but he's with the Phillies).

However, players who have had bad seasons or injury troubles during their tour of duty with the Dodgers are suspect. Brad Penny got hurt, then went home when he wasn't going to be used as a starter, Rafael Furcal had a bad back, Greg Maddux is a five-inning pitcher and Adrian Beltré was ... well, I don't really know why he wasn't asked to re-sign after a near-MVP season.

So Colletti is apparently sorting through options that could include an offer to free agent CC Sabathia, renewing trade talks for Jake Peavy, putting Juan Pierre into a deal for a starter (or anything), and possibly offers to other free-agent starters.

But a chilling quote popped up recently, in which Colletti said it would be nice to add a top-of-the-rotation arm but he wouldn't be overly concerned if the Dodgers went into spring training with the Billingsley as their ace. He also mentioned that there has been "no real movement" in the Dodgers' pursuit of CC Sabathia, who is, in many GM's thoughts, the first prize in the free-agent market.

The Dodgers have leaned heavily on starting pitching since they hopped a plane from the right coast to the left coast, and manager Joe Torre tap-danced around questions about signing Manny Ramirez while advocating the addition of a first-line pitcher.

Torre was also quoted as saying he was anxious to retain Furcal. "Raffy can't take a back seat to anyone as far as I'm concerned," Torre said. Anyone seems to mean Ramirez, CC Sabathia or Jake Peavey.

  Apparently the Dodgers won't offer Furcal the four-year deal that he desires, although his agent Paul Kinzer said he has already received from another club, rumored to be Oakland who were offering $12 million per year, although both the As and Furcal's agent deny that.

Of the Dodgers, Kinzer told the Los Angeles Times, "Things will clear up with them in the next few days."

The Dodgers are said to be thinking about pursuing veteran free agents such as Orlando Cabrera or Edgar Renteria in hopes of signing them to a short deal that could buy them time until prospects Ivan DeJesus or Chin-lung Hu are ready to take over the position.

Dodger Blue Notes-- In interesting rumor is circulating that the Dodgers were concerned enough about Russell Martin's regression behind the plate this year that they at least inquired about the asking price for Boston;s Jason Varotek. Had the price been somewhat reasonable, the rumor goes, they might have been interested. They wouldn't have traded Martin if they'd signed another catcher. They would have moved him back to his original position, third base. ...The Reds have signed 31-year old righty catcher Ben Davis, who formerly played in the Dodgers minor league system, to a minor league contract -- as a pitcher. Davis hit .205 in the minors last season, then pitched in independent ball, and last played in the majors in 2004 with the Mariners and White Sox. ...The Rockies named Don Baylor (hitting), and coaches Jim Tracy, former Dodgers manager, (bench), Rich Dauer (3B), Jim Wright (bullpen) and Brian Jordan, who played with the Dodgers 2002-03, (strength and conditioning).