Diving into the depths: Los Angeles Dodgers

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This is part of a 30-article series looking at each team’s depth chart headed into spring training.

Rotation
1. Clayton Kershaw
2. Chad Billingsley
3. Ted Lilly
4. Hiroki Kuroda
5. Jon Garland
6. Vicente Padilla
7. John Ely
8. Blake Hawksworth
9. Carlos Monasterios
10. Dana Eveland
11. Tim Redding
12. Chris Withrow

I realize I like the top five more than most, but this is the obvious strength of the Dodgers, and they even have plenty of depth here even though most of their prospects took step backwards last season. Padilla is probably the game’s best sixth starter, and Ely is another nice arm to have in reserve.

Bullpen
1. Jonathan Broxton
2. Hong-Chih Kuo
3. Matt Guerrier
4. Kenley Jansen
5. Ramon Troncoso
6. Vicente Padilla
7. Blake Hawksworth
8. Travis Schlichting
9. Ronald Belisario
10. Carlos Monasterios
11. Scott Elbert
12. Josh Lindblom
13. Jon Link
14. Tim Redding
15. Oscar Villarreal
16. Roman Colon
17. Jon Huber

The bullpen should also be very good, though it’d help plenty if Broxton returned to 2009 form. If that doesn’t happen, they’re going to need Kuo to stay healthy again and take over the closer’s role. … Belisario, who was so effective in posting a 2.04 ERA in 70 2/3 innings as a rookie in 2009, seems unlikely to make the team and could be part of a trade this spring.

Catcher
1. Rod Barajas
2. Dioner Navarro
3. A.J. Ellis
4. Hector Gimenez
5. J.D. Closser

First base
1. James Loney
2. Jay Gibbons
3. John Lindsey
4. Marcus Thames

Second base
1. Juan Uribe
2. Jamey Carroll
3. Ivan DeJesus
4. Justin Sellers

Third base
1. Casey Blake
2. Jamey Carroll
3. Juan Uribe
4. Russ Mitchell
5. Justin Sellers

Shortstop
1. Rafael Furcal
2. Juan Uribe
3. Jamey Carroll
4. Ivan DeJesus
5. Juan Castro

Given that it’s always easy to find a cheap second baseman, it looks like the Dodgers really blew it by spending big on Uribe over the winter. Only Furcal from this group projects as anything more than an average regular and he’s missed big chunks of two of the last three seasons. Uribe is supposed to offer help there, since he can slide to shortstop if Furcal gets hurt. However, he’s not much of a defender there these days.

Left field
1. Jay Gibbons
2. Marcus Thames
3. Tony Gwynn Jr.
4. Xavier Paul
5. Gabe Kapler
6. Jamie Hoffmann
7. Trent Oeltjen
8. Eugenio Velez

Center field
1. Matt Kemp
2. Tony Gwynn Jr.
3. Eugenio Velez
4. Trayvon Robinson

Right field
1. Andre Ethier
2. Xavier Paul
3. Gabe Kapler
4. Jamie Hoffmann
5. Trent Oeltjen
6. Tony Gwynn Jr.
7. Eugenio Velez

The Dodgers have given themselves plenty of options in left field, but none of them are very attractive at all. If Gibbons can post an 800 OPS against right-handers, then a platoon of him and Thames wouldn’t be too bad. However, putting those two in left would leave the Dodgers with one of the game’s worst defensive outfields. Ideally, Paul would step up and win the job. If not, the team might just be better off sticking Gwynn in center and putting defense first.

Yadier Molina will not enter contract negotiations during the 2017 season

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Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Cardinals’ catcher Yadier Molina is still open to extension talks during the last week of spring training. Once Opening Day rolls around, however, Molina has preemptively nixed any contract negotiations until the end of the 2017 season, when he’s scheduled to hit free agency.

Molina wants to stay with the Cardinals, or so he’s telling reporters, but he’s also “not afraid” to test the free agent market this fall should a deal fail to materialize. Via Goold:

I would love to stay, but at the same time I’m not afraid to go to free agency. I’ve still got many years in the tank. Believe me. I feel great. I feel like a 20-year-old kid. I’m not afraid to go to free agency.

The 34-year-old backstop is entering his final year under contract, though Goold points out that he has a $15 million option for 2018 that he can choose to decline in the event that it’s exercised by the team. He’s reportedly searching for a figure closer to those made by other top catchers like Buster Posey and Russell Martin.

The 2017 season will mark Molina’s 14th year in the Cardinals’ organization, building on a career that has spanned seven All-Star campaigns, nine postseason runs and two World Series championships in St. Louis. He batted .307/.360/.427 with eight home runs and a .787 OPS for the club in 2016.

Colby Rasmus could start 2017 on the disabled list

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Colby Rasmus isn’t ready to take outfield reps just yet. According to Rays’ manager Kevin Cash, that’s a red flag, one that could potentially postpone Rasmus’ debut as the club’s designated hitter and outfielder in 2017. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that Rasmus will need to prove he can play a defensive position before getting cleared for the active roster, something which the veteran outfielder has yet to do this spring.

Rasmus, 30, signed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Rays following his two-year run with the Astros. He batted a meager .206/.286/.355 with 15 home runs and a .641 OPS in 2016 and was shut down in late September with an unspecified hip/groin issue. Entering the 2017 season, he’s expected to work his way back to a full-time role after undergoing surgery to repair his core muscle and left hip labrum last October.

The Rays also finalized their one-year, $1.2 million deal with catcher Derek Norris on Saturday and will need to clear room for him on the 40-man roster. Topkin speculates that the move could send Rasmus to the 60-day disabled list, though the outfielder is not projected to miss more than a couple weeks of the regular season.