Did the Dodgers really try to trade for Roy Halladay?
-- Beth P., Tustin, Calif.
Actually, they did. Perhaps more interestingly, sources claim that the Blue Jays preferred the Dodgers as trading partners over the Phillies and pushed Halladay to accept a trade to the Dodgers. Possibly, Toronto believed it could pry loose Clayton Kershaw or Chad Billingsley from the Dodgers, even though general manager Ned Colletti made it clear he wasn't trading a pitcher out of the starting rotation to get one.
Maybe the Blue Jays just liked the Dodgers' prospects better. Not that it mattered. Ultimately, Halladay's destination wasn't determined by the Blue Jays or the Phillies. It was determined by Halladay, who demonstrated how powerful a no-trade clause is for a premier player. Halladay told Toronto he wouldn't accept a trade to any West Coast club that conducts Spring Training in Arizona. Halladay lives in Odessa, Fla., about 15 miles from the Phillies' training camp in Clearwater.
So, it didn't matter what players the Dodgers offered and it probably didn't matter how much money they could have committed in a contract extension -- Halladay wasn't coming to Los Angeles. The Phillies were at the top of his list.
Why aren't the Dodgers committed to Blake DeWitt at second base?
-- Tommy D., Los Angeles
Mainly, they aren't sure about his defense. From what DeWitt has shown, he's more natural at third base than at second, where you need extremely quick feet and a quick release of throws. That's why DeWitt recently spent time with infield instructor Matt Martin in Texas, working almost exclusively on the quickness needed to turn a double play as a second baseman.
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Orlando Hudson made it look easy while winning another Gold Glove. Jeff Kent gradually lost range while playing second base, but he was smooth turning the double play and as long as he could bat in the middle of the lineup, defensive shortcomings were an acceptable tradeoff.
If the club was expecting DeWitt to put up offensive numbers along the lines of Andre Ethier or Matt Kemp, you wouldn't be hearing about his defense and Jamey Carroll's acquisition would have been more about bench play than sharing the second-base spot.
Why don't the Dodgers lock up their young nucleus with long-term contracts before they are eligible for salary arbitration?
-- Joe C., Glendale, Ariz.
Because it doesn't always work. For example, you could make an easy argument that the club would have been better off signing Ethier or Kemp after the 2008 season, because now after breakout seasons they'll bury the club in arbitration. On the other hand, the Dodgers could have given a rich four- or five-year contract to Russell Martin after he was a back-to-back All-Star, and how would that look now that his performance has regressed each of the next two years?
When you are talking about arbitration years, the club risk for going year to year is money, but the player remains under club control. Once it gets into free agency, the risk is compounded by the pending loss of the player. A compromise is to go year to year through arbitration until the player has five years of service time, and if the club is then comfortable with the player, buy him out of free agency with a multiyear deal.
But there's also another school of thought that you never (or almost never) give multiyear deals, because some players seem to lose motivation when they have guaranteed security. That seems to apply to the Dodgers' current strategy.
There was talk after the season that Joe Torre would sign an extension through 2011. Did he?
-- Sam S., Las Vegas
No, and that's led to some speculation that Torre is uncomfortable with the current ownership uncertainty and how it might be impacting the roster. However, at the recent Winter Meetings, Colletti said the talks with Torre not only included a one-year extension as manager, but also a consulting role with the organization once Torre retired as manager, when he presumably would hand over the reins to Don Mattingly. Nobody has said anything to indicate that isn't still the plan.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.