Plenty to resolve as Dodgers look to 2011

Plenty to resolve as Dodgers look to 2011

LOS ANGELES -- In contrast to the handful of teams that don't know the identity of their manager for 2011, the manager is about the only thing the Dodgers do know as they look toward next year.

The roster, the payroll, even ownership is anybody's guess. But the lineup card has been ceremonially passed from Joe Torre to Don Mattingly, who is new to the responsibility of managing, but not to the core of the club he will manage.

General manager Ned Colletti has said there will be roster changes over the winter, but he's not blowing up the nucleus of a club that reached the League Championship Series in 2008 and '09.

"A year like this makes you look at every aspect of the team and makes you more apt to listen [to trade overtures], but it won't make me aggressively tear it up," Colletti said Saturday. "I am more apt to listen."

Colletti acknowledged that outfielders Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier and first baseman James Loney had poor second halves that dragged down the offense, but said he hasn't given up on any of them.

"If I hadn't seen them perform well the previous two years, I'd be more concerned," Colletti said. "Whatever the reason, they all leveled off. Whether it was nagging injuries or focus or whatever. That's really the group we highlighted to be sitting in the middle of the lineup. As of right now, I still have a lot of faith in them. But they all need to be better next year for us to be successful."

From early in the season, Colletti was annoyed as much with the style of play as the results.

"Besides any roster changes, we need to be sharper, we need to play with more edge and focus than we did this year right from the beginning," he said. "We need to have a relentless passion to succeed and win games."

The Dodgers' needs are no secret. Colletti said he wants to add a productive left fielder to replace Manny Ramirez, bolster the depth at starting pitcher and resolve the catching and bullpen situations.

The biggest name on the free-agent market will be Carl Crawford, but it's a leap to think the Dodgers will have the resources to bid for him. Nor do they have anyone in the farm system qualified to make that kind of impact in the near future.

The catching is a question mark because it could be months before Russell Martin can demonstrate he can still catch and run after suffering a broken hip. And at age 37, it might be time for Casey Blake to transition from everyday third baseman to utilityman with some pop.

Colletti said his biggest disappointment this year was the bullpen, and the most disappointing reliever was Jonathan Broxton, who will make $7 million next year but lost the closer role in August. Broxton, like Kemp and Ethier, received a multi-year contract last offseason.

Colletti said Clayton Kershaw's "advancement was one of the year's highlights" and Chad Billingsley "reclaimed his ability," but an offseason priority will still be adding starting pitching.

Of the Dodgers' nine free agents, the club is expected to make first runs at pitcher Ted Lilly, catcher Rod Barajas and outfielder Jay Gibbons. The team also is expected to have interest in bringing back starters Hiroki Kuroda and Vicente Padilla, depending on salary demands and, in Padilla's case, health issues.

Colletti wouldn't discuss next year's anticipated payroll or how current ownership uncertainty will impact it. There is as much as $38 million coming off the 2010 payroll from free agents and players that have already left.

Contract issues
Free agents: Rod Barajas, C; Jay Gibbons, OF; Reed Johnson, OF; Hiroki Kuroda, RHP; Ted Lilly, LHP; Vicente Padilla, RHP; Jeff Weaver, RHP.
Eligible for arbitration: Chad Billingsley, RHP; Hong-Chih Kuo, LHP; James Loney, 1B; Russell Martin, C; George Sherrill, LHP; Ryan Theriot, 2B.
Club options: Scott Podsednik, OF.
Mutual options: Brad Ausmus, C (announced retirement);
Non-tender possibilities: Russell Martin, C; George Sherrill, LHP; Ryan Theriot, 2B.

Russell Martin: Hip injury has career in jeopardy
Rod Barajas: More productive than typical waiver claim
A.J. Ellis: Good defender with improving bat

The club must make decisions without knowing if Martin's broken hip will allow him to catch and run. Even if it does, his bat was disappointing when he was healthy. For those two reasons and a $5.05 million salary, he'll be non-tendered and possibly signed to an incentive-laden deal. Barajas proved to be a pleasant surprise, and his re-signing became an early priority. Ellis has always been a sound catch-and-thrower, but his bat was showing life in September. Ausmus retired.

First base
James Loney: Clutch run producer until second-half collapse
John Lindsey: Needs a chance as a designated hitter

With first base traditionally a power position, the Dodgers have Loney, who has never hit more than 15 homers. They can get away with that if they acquire a masher at another spot, but Loney could be odd-man out if the best bat they find plays first base. Lindsey was the feel-good callup of September, but he needs to go to an American League team because of defensive limitations.

Second base
Ryan Theriot: Sparkplug in August, misfired in September
Jamey Carroll: Dodgers could use 24 more of him
Ivan DeJesus Jr.: First a broken leg, now he's in the doghouse

Theriot was acquired to be the everyday second baseman. He's in line to make more than $3 million coming off a late fade, which is why some teams would non-tender him. A team that just traded for him, however, might not. Carroll can handle the position and the bat, but might be more valuable as a super-sub. DeJesus, after breaking his leg, hasn't shown middle infielder range or the intangibles expected from the son of a former Major Leaguer.

Rafael Furcal: Played well when healthy
Chin-lung Hu: Viewed by club as Triple-A insurance

The Dodgers need to find a way to keep Furcal healthy. He plays hard and gets hurt. Injuries have limited him to fewer than 100 games in two of the past three seasons. When he's out of the lineup, it's like losing two players because he's also the leadoff hitter. Jamey Carroll is listed as the backup second baseman, but he doubles as Furcal's understudy too.

Third base
Casey Blake: Probably needs more days off
Russell Mitchell: Caught Joe Torre's eye for his versatility

Casey Blake is an invaluable clubhouse presence with a reliable glove and still has occasional power. But he's also at an age (37) where he needs more rest and it could be time to transition to a part-time role. The problem is, the Dodgers don't have any logical replacement ready. Mitchell is a candidate for a utility role.

Matt Kemp: Maybe he'll connect with a new manager
Andre Ethier: Played through too many injuries
Reed Johnson: Capable fourth outfielder
Scott Podsednik: Good season marred by foot injury
Jay Gibbons: Got a chance and revived career
Trent Oeltjen: Looked good in September callup
Xavier Paul: Neck injury ended Triple-A season

A year ago, the Dodgers thought they might have the most productive outfield in the league. But Manny Ramirez got old, Andre Ethier got hurt and Matt Kemp never quite got it. Management is hoping that Ethier and Kemp return to 2009 form and the focus will be to find a big-bat left fielder, preferably right-handed, or a pair to platoon there. Gibbons or Podsednik could come into play if the club goes the latter route.

Clayton Kershaw: First home-grown ace since Ramon Martinez
Chad Billingsley: Re-established credentials as front-line starter
Hiroki Kuroda: Stayed healthy and consistent
Vicente Padilla: Bulging neck disk is a concern
Ted Lilly: He's an innings-eater and stabilizing presence
John Ely: First-half sensation lost his command

The top two are a good place to start, but the Dodgers suffered in 2010 because they lacked rotation depth, and now face the possible free-agent loss of Kuroda, Padilla and Lilly. Management was interested in signing all three and is determined to infuse the organization with better starting pitching depth to withstand injuries and slumps. Aside from Kershaw and Billingsley, a decade's worth of pitchers picked in the first round hasn't yet made the desired impact on the Major League level.

Hong-Chih Kuo: Rare lefty that overpowers right-handed hitters
Jonathan Broxton: Nobody knows what's wrong with him
George Sherrill: Had season-long mechanical issues
Ronald Belisario: Personal problems overshadow nasty stuff
Kenley Jansen: The closer-in-training
Ramon Troncoso: Heavy workload took its toll
Jeff Weaver: Had a very tough second half
Carlos Monasterios: Better as a reliever than a starter.
Jon Link: Dodgers like his resilient arm

There were bullpen surprises good and bad. Kuo was healthy for five consecutive months and won the closer job, while Jansen looks like he has the right stuff for the role with barely any seasoning. But Sherrill couldn't duplicate his two lights-out months from 2009, so he's a likely non-tender and Broxton became a real head-scratcher who gets paid like a closer next year ($7 million) but has pitched like he'll have to fight for a job.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.