Barring injury, the Dodgers will have Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp and Manny Ramirez in their Opening Day outfield. All of these players are super. The Dodgers will have difficulty winning without them. Each brings the team a different ability that is hard to replace.
The Dodgers have three outfielders competing for two positions. Competition is good during Spring Training because it encourages players to work hard and doesn't let them get bored. I know every spring has a deserving player kept off a Major League roster, and I know this is no different for the Dodgers. Manager Joe Torre and GM Ned Colletti will have many difficult decisions to make before the season begins, but I hate to see another outfield that will have no room for players who could make the team stronger.
Everyone knows about Juan Pierre. He is a decent outfielder who can run like the wind. He doesn't have power, so the Dodgers wanted another outfielder to play regularly. He has asked to be traded, but in these difficult economic times, I doubt Pierre will be traded. He will be a good fourth outfielder for the team.
For many years, I have been writing about Jason Repko, but he hasn't improved. In 2005, Repko was one of a few bright spots for the Dodgers during a dismal season. His enthusiasm made us root for the young man. He did strike out a lot, but with maturity and more coaching, he should have learned the strike zone better. He hasn't. In 2006 and 2007, he had serious injuries that severely limited his play.
After missing most of the previous two seasons, it wasn't surprising that Repko didn't make the team out of 2008 Spring Training. The Dodgers promoted him when Pierre injured his knee. In 22 games, Repko had 18 at-bats and struck out nine times. This is lousy, and the Dodgers don't need that kind of offensive help.
Before the Dodgers re-signed Ramirez, most people thought Repko would be their fourth outfielder. His offense is questionable, but he can play everywhere in the outfield. His throwing arm is the strongest in the Dodgers organization. Although he has had many leg injuries, he hasn't lost his incredible speed. This spring he has hit .190. Repko is still young at 28, and many teams need a superior defensive outfielder who has incredible speed. I would like to see the Dodgers trade Repko for something that they need, like pitching.
Every Spring Training, every team has a surprise. This year the Dodgers have Xavier Paul, an outfielder who is tearing up the Cactus League. Dodgers fans didn't hear about Paul last year, though he hit .316 in Triple-A. He played winter ball in Mexico, so when Spring Training began, he was ready. In his first 32 at-bats this spring, Paul racked up a .406 average and 10 RBIs, which led the Dodgers. Defensively, he has improved, according to Torre. I would like to see Paul make the Major League roster, but where will he get an opportunity to play? I think he would help the Dodgers.
Since Colletti has been the general manager, he has had a tendency to collect outfielders. I understand that the Dodgers need depth there to be successful. There is a thing called too much depth. I think the Dodgers should trade an outfielder. I don't mean trade Ethier, Kemp or Ramirez. I'm not sure they want to trade Pierre because he can play when or if an outfielder is tired or hurt. Either Repko or Paul should go.
This spring it has been clear that the Dodgers need pitching. They don't have five quality starters, and not many teams can have too many starters. Lately, many other writers have recommended the Dodgers sign Pedro Martinez. In the past, Martinez was a great pitcher who had the killer instinct. His arm has had many injuries, and he might not be effective now.
Though Martinez's experience might help the Dodgers, they will be better off getting another starting pitcher. According to Colletti, the likelihood of signing Martinez is slim.
The Dodgers and the national media must stop focusing on Ramirez. They have an overcrowded outfield, and they need starting pitching. It will be interesting to see what Colletti decides to do about the pitching problems.