Why Chad Billingsley’s deal is a good thing

It’s pretty rare when spending $12 million a year on something can be called a bargain. But even though most Dodger fans are having a hard time agreeing, that’s exactly what Los Angeles got when it inked starter Chad Billingsley to a three-year, $35 million extension.

Say what? Chad Billingsley? The same Chad Billingsley who has made just one All-Star team and averaged just under 12 wins a season through his first five campaigns?

Yep. That guy.

After you’ve had a chance to sample some fine Farmer John meats and stop hyperventilating (although that second part may not happen until sometime after the Giants leave town after the season opening series), it may become clear how exactly Ned Colletti has done the organization a favor.

But while we’re waiting, I’ll do my best to lay it out.

First off, have you seen the list of potential free agent starters for 2012? The two most enticing names on the list – Chris Carpenter and Roy Oswalt – both have club options for 2012. The next most intriguing name is Mark Buehrle, who in the past three years has a nearly identical win total to Billingsley, but trails in just about every other relevant stat – including age. (Billingsley will be 27 in July. Buehrle just turned 32 earlier this month.)

After that, it’s a grab bag of mystery that includes Kyle Davies, Zach Duke, Edwin Jackson, Joel Pineiro and C.J. Wilson. It’s telling that Billingsley’s agent, Dave Stewart, wanted to wait until after the season to negotiate a new deal. With that list of free agents, Billingsley could have gone onto the open market and leveraged the Dodgers into a much larger number.

Billingsley’s deal also means one less ulcer for the front office as the season wears on. It’s very possible that this could be the last hurrah for the young, dynamic Dodger core as we know it. The team has decisions to make at the end of the year on Andre Ethier, Clayton Kershaw, Matt Kemp and James Loney, who are all eligible for arbitration. It’s also a make-or-break year for Jonathan Broxton who will be a free agent after the season. That’s all before you get to veterans like Rafael Furcal and Hiroki Kuroda, whose contracts also expire at season’s end.

Meanwhile, the team has locked up a quality starter on the front edge of his prime. And with names like Matt Cain, David Price and Carlos Zambrano among those whose services could be up for bid in the next couple of seasons, the Dodgers really may have gotten themselves a bargain.


Dressed up with nowhere to go? – For some reason, Andre Ethier doesn’t believe he’ll be wearing Dodger Blue much longer. He recently told reporters that this year “might be my last one here with the Dodgers. You never know. A lot of signs are pointing that way, so we’ll have to see. Six years for a Dodger is a long time, in the era that we’re living in.”

Unless he knows something he’s not telling us (which certainly isn’t impossible), it’s hard to imagine the Dodgers voluntarily parting ways with the 28-year old, third-place hitting outfielder. But considering the instability of ownership, maybe the most important part of Ethier’s quote was “you never know.”

What have you done for me lately? – With Kendrys Morales set to start the season on the disabled list, you’d think that Mark Trumbo‘s monster spring would be good enough to lock up the starting job at first base for the Angels. Think again.

Mike Scioscia says that while Trumbo’s .314/6/20 (with nine doubles) during the spring is certainly worthy of strong consideration, he’s seriously looking at platooning Trumbo with Howie Kendrick. Kendrick’s more consistent defense helped win the day, along with his ability to put the ball in play more consistently. Trumbo struck out 19 times in 70 at-bats during Spring Training.

On the Mat – The spring hasn’t been very kind to Mat Latos. Just when it looked like he was going to lock up the job as the Padres’ top starter, he ran into a major speed bump. A speed bump in the form of an 0-1 record with a 9.00 ERA. He hasn’t pitched in more than a week, and the team announced on Tuesday that he would begin the season on the disabled list. The good news is it’s retroactive to March 22nd, making him eligible to return on April 6th. Just in time to face the San Francisco Giants. So far, manager Bud Black has been optimistic about what he’s seen from Latos. The team can only hope that optimism translates into reality.

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