Dodgers avoid arbitration with Elbert, Butera, Baxter, so they’ll probably be with the team in 2014

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The news today is that the Dodgers avoided arbitration with Scott Elbert, Drew Butera, and Mike Baxter, which isn’t really significant in itself. However, it’s noteworthy because it means they’ll all have contracts for 2014 and they were prime non-tender candidates.

With the deadline to tender contracts on Monday night, the Dodgers on Friday signed left-handed reliever Scott Elbert, backup outfielder Mike Baxter and third-string catcher Drew Butera.

Elbert missed the entire 2013 season after undergoing three operations on his left elbow. He had scar tissue removed Sept. 19 last year, debridement of cartilage in a different area of the elbow Jan. 23, and Tommy John reconstruction June 7 that will keep him out through the first half of 2014. He earned $505,000 last season and has a $575,000 Major League salary for 2014.

Baxter was claimed off waivers from the Mets on Oct. 17. The 28-year-old is a left-handed hitter who played in 74 games with the Mets in 2013, hitting .189. He is a corner outfielder and was a fourth-round pick of the Padres in 2005, then was claimed off waivers by the Mets in 2011. His Major League salary will be $700,000.

Butera was acquired by the Dodgers for insurance on July 31 from Minnesota for Minor League pitcher Miguel Sulbaran, but spent August at Triple-A, hitting .135, and played in only four games with the Dodgers during a September callup. He earned $700,000 last season and has a $700,000 Major League salary for 2014.

As far as I’m concerned, all three were non-tender candidates due to them being among the least likely to make an impact on the 2014 team, but these moves show the Dodgers believe they could all play a role.

Elbert is surprising because he’ll miss half the season with injury due to what seems like a millionth arm surgery, but the Dodgers STILL choose to keep him over Shawn Tolleson, which is amazing. I’m in favor of keeping Elbert, but he’s obviously a huge question mark for next year and beyond.

Butera is a fine third-string catcher, but really nothing beyond that. Defense is important, but not if you can’t even OPS .500.

As for Baxter, I still have no idea why the Dodgers took him, but I suppose they see him as a sixth or seventh outfielder to hold as depth. At least, that’s what I hope, because if he’s the fourth outfielder option in 2014, the bench will have gotten even worse.

Primarily I’m looking forward to how Elbert bounces back, because he has a ton of upside as a lefty reliever if he can regain his stuff after surgery. I just worry about how he progresses after so many arm problems.

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