Parting is such sweet sorrow, but so is losing in the playoffs.
Last year during Hot Stove time, I bemoaned the lack of action (possibly of a pulse?) from my Los Angeles Dodgers, who did basically nothing to improve the product that lost in the NLCS.
One thing is for certain: I'll have to find a new complaint this year.
Thursday marked the biggest move in a flurry of offseason action for the Boys in Blue. President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, who left the Tampa Bay Rays for the Dodgers in October, and new general manager Farhan Zaidi, formerly the sabermetric-centric mastermind in Oakland, are running amok, amok, amok during the MLB's Winter Meetings in San Diego.
San Diego is where ex-Dodger Matt Kemp will take his powerful bat and matinee looks next year. The Dodgers traded Kemp and backup catcher Tim Federowicz to the Padres on Thursday, receiving catcher Yasmani Grandal, pitcher Joe Wieland and right-hander Zach Eflin while addressing what may have been the team's biggest problem in 2014: too much talent for too few outfield positions. With Carl Crawford in left and Yasiel Puig entrenched in right, veteran Andre Ethier will now vie with ballyhooed prospect Joc Pederson in center.
I'll miss Kemp, no doubt. He had home run pop and star power on a team that needed both, but neither of these things made him a good candidate to be anything resembling the rotation player he became at times last year. With luck, the pitching prospects and backstop depth the Dodgers got in return will prove to be a good deal.
L.A. seems quite focused on pitching this winter, having signed former A's and Yankees starter Brandon McCarthy on Wednesday, the day Jimmy Rollins became a Dodger and Dee Gordon a Marlin. McCarthy, perhaps best known for the terrifying, line-drive hit to the head he took while in Oakland, is a Twitter virtuoso (upon his release from the hospital, he tweeted: "Well, if being discharged from the hospital isn't the best time to ask about a threesome then I'm fresh out of ideas"), but he went 10-15 with a 4.05 ERA for the Yankees last year. With the Diamondbacks in 2013, he suffered a seizure doctors said was related to his head injury, and he has made as many as 30 starts just once in his career.
This makes me a little leery, as does his four-year contract (for $48 million). I also wonder about signing all these starters to a staff that features three-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw and Zach Greinke, who had the most impressive second-fiddle season you may ever see in 2014. Pitching depth is always a good thing, but the Dodgers' therapy-inducing issue last year was their bullpen.
I haven't talked much about the way 2014 ended, and I don't intend to start now. Suffice it to say that said end, in the NLDS against the mo**$%#**@ing Cardinals, was not good, and the "performance" of the Dodgers' middle "relievers" was worse. (The use of sarcastic quotation marks twice in one sentence is not an encouraging sign for my own mental health.) So perhaps there are some middle relief arms out there - not for the multi-year deals and staggering sums such creatures commanded a few years ago, but some decent, three- or six-out, matchup-oriented souls who can get a team to the ninth. If there are, perhaps Da Bums want to take a long look at them.
It's just a suggestion. Well, it's more like a plea. Let's face it. I'm begging.
Back to the point: Whatever the long-term plan (which would seem to include Rollins holding down short for a year after the free-agent departure of Hanley Ramirez until Corey Seager is ready for his closeup), Friedman and Zaidi seem to have one, which is welcome and unusual news. Baseball guru Jayson Stark writes on ESPN.com that the 2015 Dodgers may be "unrecognizable, at least to Frank McCourt," and that can only be a good thing.
That plan is clearly still coming together, and while it has produced some short-term pain (love ya, mean it, and see you in Miami, Flash), this is the time of the non-season when I, and every fan of every team, can hope it pays off down the long and winding regular-season road. Friedman, part of a Tampa braintrust that did more with less for longer than any organization I can think of, has proven he knows what he's doing (as did Joe Maddon, who just may make Marty McFly a prophet), and for now, I'm willing to trust the vision - and its existence.
Loyalties evaporate, but hope springs eternal in winter. And pitchers and catchers report in 71 days.