Matt Kemp said he actively recruited Prince Fielder over the winter and was convinced he would be in the same lineup as the former home-run champion in the upcoming season.
“I was getting real confident in our chances of getting him,” Kemp said.
Kemp said he spoke to Fielder several times.
“I knew we were getting pretty close,” he said. “I didn’t know Detroit was in.”
The Detroit Tigers responded to a potentially season-ending injury to Victor Martinez by sweeping in with a last-minute, nine-year, $214-million offer that Fielder accepted. The Dodgers had offered Fielder a seven-year deal worth around $160 million.
Tony Gwynn Jr. jokingly said he would accept responsibility.
“You can blame it on me, for sure,” Gwynn said.
Steve Dilbeck and The Times' Dodgers reporters
give you all the news on the boys in blue
Newcomers Adam Kennedy and Jerry Hairston Jr. will be part of the community outreach effort, as will former players such as Fernando Valenzuela and Tommy Davis.
One stop on the two-day tour will be open to the public: lunch on Tuesday at a South Los Angeles location that will be revealed at the Dodgers’ Twitter account (@Dodgers) at 12:30 p.m. that day. The lunch will from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.
On the caravan that day will be current players Gordon, Kennedy, Tony Gwynn Jr., Kenley Jansen, Josh Lindblom and Ramon Troncoso; former players Davis, Shawn Green, Al Ferrara and Dennis Powell; and broadcaster Eric Collins.
-- Dylan Hernandez
It is the Dodgers’ bench, such as it. And as it is, it’s wholly unimpressive.
Presenting your 2012 Dodgers in reserve: catcher Matt Treanor, infielders Jerry Hairston Jr. and Adam Kennedy, and outfielders Tony Gwynn Jr. and Jerry Sands.
There’s some versatility and some nice defensive elements, but offensively there just isn’t much there. The power hitter is Sands, he of the 194 career at-bats? The left-handed bats are Gwynn and Kennedy?
This is all as currently scheduled, of course. And these things almost never go as scheduled. Which would explain why the Dodgers started last season with Xavier Paul, Hector Gimenez and Ivan DeJesus Jr. on the roster.
General manager Ned Colletti said he thinks this year’s bench can be superior to last season’s, before quickly asking which Dodgers’ bench he should reference.
"Unfortunately our bench ended up playing," Colletti said. "The bench was really the second bench."
Which is why the 2012 edition is so scary. Chances are, some of them are going to have to play more than expected. And this is what manager Don Mattingly will have to choose from based on last season’s numbers:
Player Avg. OBP SLG
Treanor .214 .338 .291
Hairston .270 .344 .383
Kennedy .234 .277 .355
Gwynn .256 .308 .353
Sands .253 .338 .389
And as a group, it’s not like it’s a bunch of kids approaching their prime. Kennedy is 36, and Treanor will be in March and Hairston in May.
Plus you have to remember the Dodgers’ regular everyday lineup is already going to have its risks. Rookie shortstop Dee Gordon batted .304 last season but in only 224 at-bats, so we’ve yet to see if pitchers adjust to the slight Gordon. And A.J. Ellis is going to be the main catcher, and has a career .262 average with zippo power in 206 career at-bats.
There’s not a strong pinch-hitter in the group, either. Career averages as pinch-hitters: Treanor .200, Hairston .174, Kennedy .223, Gwynn .288, Sands .000 (only four at-bats). There's not really a reserve shortstop.
Last year the Dodgers wanted to start the season with a bench of Dioner Navarro, Jamey Carroll, Aaron Miles, Tony Gwynn Jr., Marcus Thames/Jay Gibbons. Navarro and Thames were busts, and Gibbons couldn’t overcome vision issues. Yet they still might prove a better group.
The Dodgers 25-man roster is basically set. If everyone makes it through spring healthy, there are no position openings.
``If it goes the way it’s planned, the team has some flexibility to it but not a whole lot,’’ Colletti said.
On days when Juan Rivera or James Loney don't start, the bench will get a boost but it could use plenty more. It could have used a Coco Crisp, but Colletti denied an interest in the outfielder before he re-signed with the A’s.
``Never had a conversation,’’ Colletti said.
Colletti is operating under budget constraints unworthy of a team playing in the second-largest market in the country, but such are the times when your team is in bankruptcy court.
And such is the bench.
-- Steve Dilbeck
Photo: Dodger Stadium. Credit: Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times.
And it didn’t go down to the absolute wire or anything.
The Dodgers did right Monday, signing outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr. to a two-year, $2-million contract only hours before the deadline to tender him or lose him to free agency.
That’s probably a year more than most might have expected, but General Manager Ned Colletti has been on something of a two-year contract binge this off-season.
Gwynn, 29, will receive $850,000 next season and $1.15 million in 2013. Gwynn told The Times' Dylan Hernandez that the Dodgers approached him Thursday and the deal was completed over the weekend.
"The first offer they made me was a two-year deal,'' Gwynn said. "I hadn’t even thought of that. When they came with a two-year deal, my ears immediately perked up.''
The two-year contract will carry him through his arbitration years. He can become a free agent at the end of this deal.
Gwynn was not tendered a contract by the San Diego Padres after hitting .204 in 2010, enabling him to originally sign with the Dodgers.
"I was a lot more calm with the whole process [this year],'' Gwynn told Hernandez. "I was coming off a much better season. I was comfortable going through the whole process. I knew I was going to have a job somewhere. But I wanted to stay here. I really enjoyed the coaching staff. I enjoyed being with the players.''
Averaging $1 million per year is hardly an unreasonable amount for a reserve outfielder as versatile, and who was used as much last season, as Gwynn.
in his first season with the Dodgers, Gwynn appeared in a career-high 136 games, batting .256 with 37 runs and 22 stolen bases in 312 at-bats.
The Dodgers' starting outfield is set with Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Juan Rivera, though Gwynn could still play a reasonable amount of time in left field for Rivera, who also plays first, and as a late-inning defensive replacement.
Colletti has tried to add strong defensive players this season, and Gwynn continues with that trend.
"That suits me really well,'' Gwynn said. "That’s not just a Dodger thing. If you’re able to go out and get some of the bigger hitters, that’s nice. But a lot of times, games are won on defense and pitching. I’ve been on teams where the offense wasn’t very good, but the defense was, and when it came down to one run, it gave us an edge.''
-- Steve Dilbeck
Photo: Dodgers outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr. slides safely into second base with a steal as Braves second baseman Dan Uggla tries to handle the throw during a game last season at Dodger Stadium. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times
The hours are ticking away and Tony Gwynn Jr. waits.
Can we do away with the suspense? Do the Dodgers really need to play this game of contract chicken with Gwynn? Make the deal, or tender him a contract and go to arbitration. Seems simple enough.
Unless, of course, the Dodgers could be playing another game — how low can you go?
Gwynn is the one Dodger who is uncertain whether the Dodgers will officially tender him a contract prior to Monday’s 9 p.m. deadline. I’ll go out on a thin limb here and say I’m pretty sure Clayton Kershaw gets tendered. Andre Ethier and, yes, James Loney, are going to be offered contracts. Hong-Chin Kuo, sadly, is not expected to receive an offer.
And that leaves Gwynn, who went through this last season with the Padres, who non-tendered him. Which made him available to sign with the Dodgers, which he did at what proved to be a bargain price at $675,000.
Gwynn played more than expected (a career-high 136 games) and better than most anticipated. He was as strong as advertised defensively, a little better than expected offensively and stole 22 bases.
In most ways, he was the ideal extra outfielder. And still would be.
So don’t risk losing him over a comparatively small amount of dough. If the bankrupt Dodgers are really planning on playing Juan Rivera in left most days, they’ll need Gwynn just as much this season as last. And although Jerry Hairston Jr. could play center if — deep breath here — injury were to befall Matt Kemp, Gwynn is the better defensive outfielder.
In a text to Dodgers.com's Ken Gurnick, Gwynn said he was uncertain how it would all play out. Bring him back and end the suspense.
— Steve Dilbeck
Photo: Tony Gwynn Jr. gets ready for batting practice last season. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times
Final 2011 stats: .256 batting average, .308 on-base percentage, 37 runs, 22 steals in 28 attempts, 312 at-bats, one error.
Contract status: Arbitration eligible.
The good: Gwynn delivered pretty much what the Dodgers hoped he would – excellent defense, speed on the bases and a .250-ish batting average. Played mostly left field, where he had seven of his eight assists. His steals were third-highest on the team.
The bad: At the plate, he was less than consistent. He had two excellent hitting months (June .309, July .303), two mediocre months (April .264, August .257) and two dismal months (May .067, September .214). No power, but none was ever expected.
What’s next: The Dodgers have to decide whether to offer him arbitration. He made $675,000 last season, so he figures to be in line for a raise to something a tad over $1 million.
The take: Considering the unknown circling the team and its owners, there are precious few certainties on this club, but bringing him back as an extra outfielder for another year seems a fairly easy call. And comparatively inexpensive. If he believes he's earned a multiyear contract, then the game changes.
Of course, the Dodgers hope they identify an everyday left-fielder that would diminish Gwynn’s role. If he's getting over 300 at-bats again next year, something is wrong.
Ah, yes, but change where? So many decisions. So many that are interwoven.
Do the Dodgers tender James Loney? Try to bring back Juan Rivera? Tony Gwynn Jr.? Keep Jerry Sands?
It all has to start somewhere. And take a wild guess what has to be the first domino to fall?
That’s right, kiddies, if you truly believe the Dodgers are going to make a run at Fielder or Albert Pujols, that piece needs to be in place before the Dodgers can make plans elsewhere. Which is just one more reason why you should doubt they’re seriously going after either one of the big first basemen.
Bid a fond farewell to the nine Dodgers who can become free agents at the end of the season? The five Dodgers who are arbitration eligible and could be non-tendered? The two whom the Dodgers hold options on that they’re not expected to pick up?
That’s almost half of the 38 Dodgers currently in uniform or on the disabled list. Some will be back; some won’t. But which, and in what roles?
The free agent list: Aaron Miles, Jamey Carroll, Rod Barajas, Juan Rivera, Hiroki Kuroda, Vicente Padilla, Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo and Mike MacDougal.
The arbitration five: James Loney, Tony Gwynn Jr., Eugenio Velez, Blake Hawksworth and Dana Eveland.
The options not expected to be picked up: Casey Blake and Jon Garland.
That’s a lot of moving parts. For sure, several appeared on the field at Dodger Stadium for the last time Thursday in the Dodgers’ final home game of the season.
The glamour guys in the outfield are Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. The surprising run-producing addition is Juan Rivera. The hot prospect is Jerry Sands.
He’s given the Dodgers just about all they hoped for when he signed a one-year contract in the off-season: great outfield defense, speed on the bases, a respectable .257 batting average, and on a damp Thursday as a bonus, a game-winning double.
In the first game of a doubleheader, Gwynn lined his ninth-inning double into the right-center gap to drive in two, break up a tie game and lead the Dodgers to a 7-4 victory over the Nationals in Washington.
Rain had started to fall when the Dodgers started their one-out rally against Washington reliever Drew Storen after he hit Sands with a pitch and Rod Barajas singled.
The one Dodgers prospect with power who just might be ready to produce for the Dodgers next season, Jerry Sands, has returned.
Anyway, it would be really nice for all concerned –- the team, the bankrupt ownership, the fans and, of course, Sands –- if he did appear ready.
Sands was up earlier this season, and although he certainly didn’t it tear up like some unstoppable phenom, he certainly had his moments.
Not enough of them to stick –- he hit .200, with two homers, 17 RBI and 33 strikeouts in 125 at-bats –- but enough to keep the interest level high.
Back at triple-A Albuquerque, he completed a very productive season, which the high altitude can inflate. Still, he finished there with a team-high 29 homers and 88 RBI in 370 at-bats, with 86 strikeouts. His average, however, was only .278.
He was called up Tuesday along with right-hander John Ely and catcher Tim Federowicz. Of the three, however, Sands is the one who needs to play. Whether in the outfield or at first base, the Dodgers need to give him a long look.
Happily, Manager Don Mattingly told the media in Washington, D.C., he does want to play Sands, even at the expense of sitting Juan Rivera and Andre Ethier. Tony Gwynn Jr. and James Loney also figure to sit more with Sands in the fold.
The Dodgers will go into the offseason the same way they started the season -- still lacking an everyday left fielder. And there is still uncertainty about whether they want Loney back. How Sands performs the final month could seriously affect the direction they go.
So they need to pretty much find a spot in the lineup for him every day. They’re trying to win, sure, but everything now is about the future. And Sands is supposed to be a big part of it.
-- Steve Dilbeck
Photo: Jerry Sands. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times.