Coming off a relatively rough season, the Dodgers have a decent-sized class of arbitration eligible players. Los Angeles definitely has one of the more interesting classes we'll cover given the number of legitimate non-tender candidates they have, so we'll probably find some more disagreement here than with most teams.
For those of you who missed earlier installments or simply need a refresher, here are some quick explanations of the arbitration system, non-tenders, service time, and "Super Twos" for those who aren't totally familiar, courtesy of MLBTR.
We're going to jump back to player-by-player blurbs here, so once again they'll be going in order of 2010 salary. As we await Game One of the World Series, let's go.
C Russell Martin - 3rd season of arbitration (Super Two) - Tender, raise from $5.05M
The 27-year-old has slowly become less and less of a bargain as his salary has increased and his production has decreased, but I still wouldn't non-tender the catcher yet. Even with the complete loss of power and somewhat low BABIP marks, he's still a solid defensive catcher and everyday player. He's got very strong on-base skills for a premium defender, and you can't ignore that he's averaged 3.5 WAR per year over the past five seasons. Even if he's leveling out as a 2.0-3.0 WAR player going forward, he's still worth a small raise through arbitration. It's highly unlikely that LA would be able to find a decent replacement for his production.
LHP George Sherrill - 4th season of arbitration (Super Two) - Non-tender
As good as Sherrill was in 2009, he was absolutely awful this year. His peripherals weren't much better than his 6.69 ERA, including a 6/14 K/BB against right-handed hitters. He saw his ability to induce infield flies disappear, so he failed to benefit from a lower flyball rate. This is just another example of why you can't buy into non-elite relievers too much- the lefty's ERA multiplied by nearly four from 2009 to 2010.
RHP Chad Billingsley - 2nd season of arbitration - Tender, raise from $3.85M
An obvious tender, although Billingsley often gets overshadowed by his left-handed counterpart, Clay Kershaw. But the right-hander is a pretty damn great pitcher in his own right, averaging over 4 wins per year in the past three seasons. He gave up some more contact in 2010, but with a strong groundball rate and the lowest walk rate of his career, he's proving to be a very solid No. 2 starter for LA.
1B James Loney - 2nd season of arbitration - Non-tender
I just don't know how long the Dodgers can keep waiting for the 2007 Loney to show up again. It's just really hard to get away with middling power and an 8% walk rate when you're a first baseman. I'm sure that some teams will have interest in seeing what the 26-year-old could do with a change of scenery, but the Dodgers have given Loney the first base job for three full seasons and he's averaged only 1.1 WAR per year. That's simply not acceptable from first base on a contender, especially when his salary is starting to climb as well. Maybe the Dodgers can find a trade partner before the deadline to offer arbitration, but bringing him back to play everyday in 2011 would be a mistake.
2B/SS Ryan Theriot - 2nd season of arbitration - Tender, raise from $2.6M
A big part of this is the weakness of the middle infield market. I know Theriot had a rough 2010 campaign, but he batted a combined .289/.357/.370 from 2006-2009 and is a solid defender at both shortstop and second base. The power will always be borderline non-existent with Theriot, but he's a good contact hitter that's flashed a strong walk rate before, and he got back to walking more in LA after walking just 4.6% of the time with the Cubs this year. The Dodgers do have Jamey Carroll on board for 2011 as well, but having Carroll's versatility on hand is really nice, and having a solid back-up shortstop for Rafael Furcal would be a good thing, too. The only way that I could see the Dodgers deciding to non-tender Theriot is if they decide that they want to see what Chin Lung Hu or Ivan DeJesus Jr. can do.
Hong-Chih Kuo - 2nd season of arbitration - Tender, raise from $0.9M
Considering his 1.20 ERA and 1.81 FIP marks from 2010, it's probably going to be easy for the Dodgers to overlook Kuo's injury issues. Since moving to relief full-time in 2008, Kuo has put up a 1.96 ERA with 201 strikeouts and 52 walks in 170 innings, making him one of the most dominant relievers in the game. He's lost time the past two seasons to injury, but he's already put up 2+ WAR twice in the majors. He's one of seven relievers to have multiple 2+ WAR seasons in the past three years, joining Heath Bell, Brian Wilson, Jonathan Papelbon, Jonathan Broxton, Matt Thornton and Mariano Rivera. So, yeah, he's really good.