Although many Dodgers fans have concerns about tying up Clayton Kershaw and Hanley Ramirez to long-term contracts, neither can become free agents until after the 2014 season. The Dodgers have more pressing concerns for this offseason than extending contracts for players who are already under their control.
Early last season, the Dodgers appeared to be one of the worst teams in baseball, partly because their bullpen was highly ineffective. It usually is difficult to rebuild a bullpen during the season, but general manager Ned Colletti accomplished it. He doesn't want to have to do that again in 2014.
Even though Wilson has had two Tommy John elbow surgeries during his career, he has proven that he's still one of the premier relievers in the game. After signing with the Dodgers in late July following a long rehabilitation after his second elbow surgery, Wilson was a nightmare for the opposition. Working in an unaccustomed setup role for closer Kenley Jansen, Wilson excelled and helped his new team to breeze to the NL West title and into the NL Championship Series.
Most successful former closers refuse to accept a setup role after they've proven that they are healthy and able to pitch effectively. This offseason, Wilson reportedly received lucrative offers to be a closer for several American League teams, but he chose to return to the Dodgers, knowing that he would be a setup man for Jansen. Colletti gave Wilson closer money.
If everything goes according to plan, the Dodgers should win many games when they have a lead after the seventh inning. The signing of Wilson might be the most important for the Dodgers to ensure another winning season in 2014.
Right now, Colletti needs to find a left-handed reliever to go with Paco Rodriguez. Last year, J.P. Howell -- now a free agent -- provided the Dodgers with an excellent left-handed reliever to supplement the work of the rookie Rodriguez, who wore down and became ineffective in September and during the playoffs.
Now, Howell is looking for a three-year contract. Colletti gave Brandon League one last year, and League has been the biggest busts in Los Angeles, so Colletti is leery of giving any reliever a three-year deal.
Colletti bolstered the starting rotation when he signed Dan Haren. Even though Haren has struggled since leaving the D-backs in 2010, he's still an experienced starter. The Dodgers have Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu in their rotation. Josh Beckett, recovering from a surgery during which he had a rib removed to alleviate a pinched nerve in his arm, should be ready for Spring Training, but no one knows how effective he will be. No one expects Chad Billingsley, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, to return to the starting rotation before May.
The Dodgers also need a second and third baseman. Even though Colletti signed Cuban infielder Alexander Guerrero, who has been trying to play Winter League ball despite having a strained hamstring, the Dodgers don't have enough infielders. After having a superior 2013, Juan Uribe wants a multiyear contract, and the Dodgers don't want to give a long-term deal to a 34-year-old infielder who has a history of injuries. Mark Ellis, at 36, doesn't seem to be a good investment for the Dodgers.
There aren't a lot of strong free-agent infielders available this winter. There are rumors afloat that the Dodgers are considering signing shortstop Stephen Drew, who played a vital role for the World Series champion Boston Red Sox.
The Dodgers can move Ramirez to third base. Although Ramirez's natural position is shortstop, he will never win a Gold Glove Award there for his defense. He has played third before, and it might prevent some of the disabling injuries that made him miss over half the games last season.
Drew, despite having a broken ankle during the 2011 season that probably has diminished his range, is a much better shortstop than Ramirez, and he would give the Dodgers an adequate sixth-place hitter.