The Sunset Strip

Combining all the upheaval and absurdity around the Dodgers ownership sideshow with the team’s fourth place finish in 2010, it is easy to forget the incredible amount of success witnessed by Dodgers fans, God, and Vin Scully since 2007.

After consecutive division titles and trips to the NLCS in 2008 & 2009, the heart & soul of the Dodgers might get a serious overhaul in the next few years. Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLA reports that Jonathon Broxton, Andre Either, Matt Kemp, Chad Billingsley, and James Loney all head to free agency by the end of next season, ushering a new era of Dodgers baseball. With a new batch of young players waiting in the wings, this is the swan song for this group of players.

Dodgers GM Ned Colletti has a realistic understanding of who his players are at this point in their careers, dropping this very important knowledge bomb:

“At this stage of their careers,” Colletti said, “they’ve matured and they’ve grown into the players that they’re going to be…You learn every year, but we’re getting to the point that we’re going to have some difficult decisions that come up,” he noted. “Hopefully they’ll be easy decisions in a positive way.”

The Dodgers had a nice run with this group of players but keeping them together would be very, very costly. Even Crazy Ned Colletti wouldn’t be so mad as to pay market price for a well-worn closer like Jonathon Broxton. I expect the team attempts to retain Andre Ethier and Chad Billingsley but Broxton is a trade candidate this season while James Loney will be free to pursue his destiny as the poor man’s Lyle Overbay at the end of the 2012 season.

What becomes of Matt Kemp is anyone’s guess. An obviously talented player who may or may not belong in centerfield anymore, Kemp will either end up savagely overpaid or a terrific buy-low opportunity — no middle ground. Crazier things have happened on the free agent market before.

The Dodgers have Jerry Sands and an entire cohort of young players waiting in the wings, a group that would be that much stronger had the Dodgers not dealt stud catcher Carlos Santana for Casey Blake in 2008. But these are the risks contending teams run when they deal for the present. Exchange a secure future for the chance to take your shot in the present.

Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos speaks often about providing a steady pipeline of talent to the big leagues, hoping to avoid full scale changes like those facing the Dodgers – a complete revamp of the everyday lineup. This generation of Dodgers stars has two division titles to their name, something almost all fans would trade for distant prospects and contract year concerns of big league bean counters.

Faced with a need to graduate a whole chunk of their upper minor league talent, Colletti needs to focus on replenishing his entire system and trading some of these soon-to-be free agents is a great way to do it. The baseball world is a much more interesting place when the Dodgers have a prominent role to play, I pray they make another run before the unthinkable happens and Vin Scully retires.