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Dodgers figure to have star power on the bench

Club doesn't appear interested in parting with any of four outfielders— Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford and Yasiel Puig — and one of them would be out of the starting lineup, depending on matchups.

December 03, 2013|By Dylan Hernandez
  • Dee Gordon's versatility as an infielder and outfielder are an advantage that could help him make the Dodgers' roster.
Dee Gordon's versatility as an infielder and outfielder are an advantage… (Erik S. Lesser / EPA )

The Dodgers' bench figures to have a new look next season.

Matt Kemp could be on it. So could Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford, or Yasiel Puig, depending on how they're playing and who's pitching for the other team.

A person who met with Dodgers officials at the general managers' meetings last month was convinced they have no plans to trade any of their four high-profile outfielders. If that person is right, Manager Don Mattingly could have a dangerous late-inning option in reserve next season, provided all four outfielders remain healthy.

The addition of a player of Kemp or Ethier's caliber could significantly enhance a bench that must be rebuilt after the losses of veteran utilitymen Nick Punto and Skip Schumaker to free agency.

Of Punto and Schumaker, General Manager Ned Colletti said, "They were very important for us last year. But I think we'll find people who can replace them."

The process could take some time. The Dodgers might wait to see what their starting infield looks like, as well as for the free-agent market to settle down.

The Dodgers project Alexander Guerrero to be their second baseman, but the Cuban defector has never played in a major league game. Guerrero sat out nearly three weeks of the Dominican Republic's winter league because of a hamstring injury, which prevented the Dodgers from gauging his readiness.

The Dodgers are even less certain about their situation at third base. Jhonny Peralta's four-year, $52-million deal with the St. Louis Cardinals has altered the market for infielders, which could result in the departure of Juan Uribe. The Dodgers would like for Uribe to play third base next season, but not if they have to sign him to a three-year deal.

The free-agent market has rewarded not only everyday players such as Peralta, but also utilitymen such as Punto and Schumaker, who each of whom drew base salaries of $1.5 million last season.

Punto signed a one-year, $3-million deal with the Oakland Athletics. If Punto is on the disabled list for fewer than 30 days, his contract will be guaranteed for a second season, raising its total value to $5.5 million. Schumaker received a two-year, $5-million contract with the Cincinnati Reds.

Willie Bloomquist, a utilityman who played only 48 games with the Arizona Diamondbacks last season, agreed to a two-year, $5.8-million deal with the Seattle Mariners. Bloomquist, like Punto, is 36.

The dollar figures are less of a concern to the Dodgers than the length of the contracts. The Dodgers already have eight players signed through the 2017 season or beyond.

As teams' rosters start filling up, prices of players will presumably come down. By waiting, the Dodgers might be able to get an experienced utilityman similar to Punto or Schumaker on a one-year deal.

Landing high-character utilitymen at reasonable prices has been something of a specialty of Colletti, who in recent years has signed the likes of Jamey Carroll, Jerry Hairston Jr., Aaron Miles and Mark Loretta.

Brendan Harris, who was signed to a minor eague contract, could be that type of player for the Dodgers next season. Harris played in 44 games for the Angels last season and has above-average power for an infielder.

If the season were to start next week, Dee Gordon would probably make the team because of his increased versatility. Once considered the shortstop of the future. Gordon played 20 games at second base and was an outfielder in the Dominican winter league this off-season.

Scott Van Slyke could make the club as a backup first baseman and outfielder. Mike Baxter, who has a non-guaranteed contract, and Nick Buss, who is under club control, could also figure into the team's outfield plans.

Tim Federowicz was the team's backup catcher last season and remains under club control.

Ronald Belisario becomes a free agent

Ronald Belisario became a free agent Monday night, when he wasn't tendered a contract for next season.

The Dodgers' three other arbitration-eligible players were tendered contracts: Clayton Kershaw, A.J. Ellis and Kenley Jansen.

If tendered a contract, Belisario would have been in line for a significant raise from his 2013 base salary of $1.45 million. Belisario pitched in a team-leading 77 games, but had a 3.97 earned-run average.

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

Twitter: @dylanohernandez

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