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Only one direction to go from fifth place... er, unless we aren't going anywhere

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I'm trying to work on a Rockies season review/ moving forward type of piece for Beyond the Box Score, but in the meantime, I did want to start taking a look at our divisional rivals to see what they are up to this offseason, and what news is good or bad as far as the Rox are concerned. I guess I'll start off with the team which finished closest to us, and work my way up from there.

Los Angeles Dodgers:
2005 Wins above the Rockies: 4

Hot Stove News: With the front office in disarray, (registration required) the Dodgers' key moves this offseason figure to be getting that side of the operation in order first before moving to on the field corrections. This delay/turnover should be a net plus for the Rockies, particulary early into the season as the new staff gets its bearings. The Dodgers, under Logan White, have developed one of the most packed farm systems in the league however, so while they may lose out on the best outside free agent help, they will be able to fill holes from within or at the very least make some trades to shore up things once the management team is in place.

As far as on the field losses, the Dodgers will likely have to cope with at least two fairly substantial subtractions, Milton Bradley in centerfield (via cheap trade, as he's worn out his welcome in LA) and Jeff Weaver (via free agency) in the starting rotation. Olmedo Saenz, Jose Valentin and Darren Dreifort also have filed for free agency, and while the Dodgers will try to re-sign the three, their returns to LA are far from certain and they would represent substantial depth losses off the bench and in the pen. The smooth season of rookie catcher Dioner Navarro means losing Paul Bako is less of an issue behind the plate as Mike Rose will prove an adequate back-up. First base remains a concern, Hee Seop Choi and Saenz split duties there this year, and the lack of production has the Dodgers looking for a stop-gap (possibly Jim Thome) before prospect James Loney is ready.

Free-agents the men in Blue have expressed interest in include Kevin Millar at third, and Nomar Garciaparra as a fill in at short until Cesar Izturis recovers from Tommy John surgery, and in a super utility role thereafter. Of course with this being LA, the media expects a run at the the major names (LA Times, registration required) on the market, including Brian Giles and Johnny Damon, but really I find this unlikely. The Dodgers have already re-signed Jose Cruz Jr., and he will be a potent fourth outfielder, but should they not get an adequate replacement for Milton Bradley, Cruz will be a liability in a starter's role.

Rockies odds of passing in 2006: Pegging the Dodgers season right now is tricky as none of the moves the club needs to take to improve have been made at this point and the front office trouble makes me doubt that any major advances will fall in place in time for next season, but I admit there's still a lot of offseason left to change my opinion on that. Still, the Dodgers would be really hard pressed to duplicate last season's misery, and should gain a few wins just by virtue of better luck with injuries/playing time (stars Bradley, Izturis, JD Drew and Eric Gagne all missed significant time in 2005). Right now, I would say the Rockies need to gain at least ten wins to catch the Dodgers in '06 and the odds of that happening I'm placing at about 55/45 in our favor. Once the Dodgers start to take some action, our odds of catching them are going to drop depending on the quality of said actions. For instance, as soon as the Dodgers hire Bobby Valentine as manager, I would reverse those odds to be against us by the same margin.