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Los Angeles Dodgers Rumors
Before the offseason even got underway, the Dodgers managed to make an impact signing that sent shockwaves through the baseball world. With a record-setting five-year, $35MM deal, Los Angeles convinced former Rays architect Andrew Friedman to head west and discover what it’s like to work with a seemingly limitless budget. With years of success in Tampa Bay on a consistently league-dwelling payroll, it’ll be fascinating to watch what Friedman can do with a Brinks truck at his disposal.
- Clayton Kershaw, SP: $193MM through 2020
- Zack Greinke, SP: $94MM through 2018
- Matt Kemp, OF: $85.5MM through 2019
- Adrian Gonzalez, 1B: $85MM through 2018
- Carl Crawford, OF: $62.25MM through 2017
- Andre Ethier, OF: $56MM through 2017
- Hyun-jin Ryu SP: $25MM through 2018
- Yasiel Puig, OF: $24MM through 2018
- Erisbel Arruebarrena, SS: $16M through 2018
- Alex Guerrero, 2B: $14MM through 2017
- Dan Haren, SP: $10MM through 2015
- Brian Wilson, RP: $9.5MM through 2015
- Brandon League, RP: $7.5MM through 2015
- Juan Uribe, 3B: $6.5MM through 2015
- J.P. Howell, RP: $4.25MM through 2015
Arbitration Eligible Players (service time in parentheses; projections via Matt Swartz)
- A.J. Ellis, C (4.151): $3.8MM
- Kenley Jansen, RP (4.073): $8.2MM
- Darwin Barney, 2B (4.053): $2.5MM
- Justin Turner, IF (4.045): $2.2MM
- Drew Butera, C (4.018): $900K
- Scott Elbert, RP (3.086): $800K
- Dee Gordon, 2B (2.154): $2.5MM
- Hanley Ramirez, Chad Billingsley, Kevin Correia, Roberto Hernandez, Chris Perez, Jamey Wright, Paul Maholm
Other Payroll Notes
- Will receive a $3.9MM payment from the Red Sox in 2015 as a condition of their blockbuster trade.
- Billingsley will receive a $3MM buyout after the Dodgers declined his $14MM option for 2015.
When it was learned that Friedman would be joining the Dodgers, there was immediate speculation that longtime Rays skipper Joe Maddon could follow. When Maddon opted out of his contract with the Rays, the rumor mill started churning once again with many wondering if the Dodgers could fire Don Mattingly to replace him with the two-time American League manager of the year. However, the Dodgers were quick to release a statement making it clear that Donnie Baseball would be back in the dugout for 2015. Maddon, meanwhile, signed on with the Cubs.
Joining Friedman in the front office will be former A’s exec Farhan Zaidi and former Padres GM Josh Byrnes. Zaidi will serve as the club’s GM while Byrnes has been named the senior vice president of baseball operations. There are now a number of fresh faces in the Dodgers’ front office that have supplanted mainstays Ned Colletti (who remains in an advisory capacity), Logan White, and De Jon Watson, and the roster could see some similar turnover.
Hanley Ramirez and the Dodgers discussed an extension earlier in the year and the shortstop made it known that he wanted to be a “Dodger for life” and ink a long-term deal. Those talks were tabled in August as Ramirez was sidelined with an oblique injury and the two sides agreed to pick things up after the season. Now, it would appear that they’re more focused on replacing his .283/.369/.448 batting line than re-signing him to a new multiyear deal.
Ramirez rejected the Dodgers’ QO, so they’ll receive draft pick compensation if he goes elsewhere. Despite Ramirez’s injury history and his subpar defense at shortstop (-15.6 UZR/150 in 2014), he still figures to be amongst the most hotly-pursued free agents of the winter, especially given a willingness to play a position other than shortstop. Even if Ramirez’s future is at third base or in the American League where he can be a part-time DH, he will draw lots of attention. Recently, I profiled Ramirez and looked at his potential market this winter.
If Ramirez leaves, the Dodgers could look into a temporary solution at shortstop that would allow them to build a bridge to Corey Seager down the line, possibly in 2016. There are options on the open market, but not particularly glamorous ones: Stephen Drew, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Jed Lowrie stand as the best available shortstops beyond Ramirez. Looking in-house, shortstop Erisbel Arruebarrena is a defensive wizard and could be plugged in as the starter with help from Miguel Rojas, but that will require the Dodgers to make a significant offensive upgrade elsewhere.
The Dodgers’ best internal option offensively could be turning to Alex Guerrero at shortstop. Guerrero was signed to a four-year, $28MM deal in October of last year to play second base before something funny happened along the way: Dee Gordon emerged as a highly-productive second baseman for the Dodgers, earning his first All-Star nod in 2014. So, putting Guerrero on the opposite side of the bag from Gordon would be a no-brainer move if Ramirez leaves, right? Not exactly. Guerrero has previous experience at shortstop, but the Dodgers focused on getting him up to speed at second base last season, where he apparently wasn’t blowing observers away defensively. In theory, Gordon would be a very attractive trade candidate in an offseason where there isn’t much available on the free agent market at second base, and that would clear a path for Guerrero to play what might be his best position. Still, that would require a significant package for Gordon and a whole lot of faith from the Dodgers’ front office in Guerrero’s abilities. On the plus side, Guerrero is said to have recovered well from the incident with Miguel Olivo which cost him part of his ear.
The Dodgers’ outfield glut has been a topic of discussion for a long time now and they still have quite the logjam. Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford, and Joc Pederson are all in the fold and it stands to reason that they would want to trade at least one of those players for help in another area. Ideally, the Dodgers would probably look to move Ethier and/or Crawford, allowing them to focus on a starting outfield of Kemp, Pederson, and Puig with Scott Van Slyke in support. Friedman, in fact, confirmed that a trade of at least one outfielder seems likely this offseason.
Ethier is owed an eye-popping $56MM after this season and that number could increase even further thanks to an attainable $17.5MM vesting option for 2018 that is tied to plate appearances in the preceding year. Trading Ethier, who once carried so much promise, would require the Dodgers to eat a significant portion of his salary. The 32-year-old (33 in April) slashed just .249/.322/.370 in 2014 with a very pedestrian 0.7 WAR.
Moving Crawford, 33, could be even tougher. Crawford gave the Dodgers a .300/.339/.429 slash line in 2014, an improvement over last season, but it’s a far cry from the work that Friedman got to witness up close for years in Tampa Bay. He also played in just 105 games and that won’t help ease his perception as an injury-prone player. Just like with Ethier, trading the four-time All-Star will mean picking up a good chunk of the check. That won’t necessarily be a problem for the cash-flush Dodgers, but finding a fit could still be tricky.
The Blue Jays could have vacancies to fill in left and center field if they lose both Colby Rasmus and Melky Cabrera to free agency. The Rangers, meanwhile, have a corner outfield vacancy after declining Alex Rios‘ $13.5MM club option. If the Dodgers pick up a very significant share of the check, teams like the Reds or White Sox could have interest. Ethier and Crawford have their flaws, but if the Dodgers can throw in enough cash, they could have appeal to clubs who are looking at a flat free agent outfield market. From a pure talent perspective, the Dodgers would certainly like to trade those two before Kemp, but he is the most expensive of the trio and has drawn significant trade interest in the past.
While the Dodgers have a surplus in the outfield, it appears that they have a good amount of work to do in the bullpen. Kenley Jansen (2.76 ERA, 1.93 xFIP, 13.9 K/9, 2.6 BB/9 in 2014) was stellar, but the bridge to him was anything but. On paper, a ‘pen featuring the likes of Brian Wilson, Chris Perez, and Brandon League (who admittedly did improve from a rough 2013) looked serviceable, but the Dodgers actually wound up with one of the worst bullpens in the majors in 2014. Injuries to Chris Withrow and others didn’t help matters. They’ll have J.P. Howell back in the mix, to serve as a reliable arm, but the Dodgers will make some changes this winter.
This year’s free agent reliever market features plenty of notable veteran names that will see big paydays, but that has never been Friedman’s style for building a bullpen in the past. And, after all, there’s already a great deal of money committed to the bullpen for 2015 with Wilson, League, Howell, and Jansen combining for roughly $30MM in salary. I would expect Friedman to scour the market for value options while keeping an eye out for quality relievers via trade, but then again, maybe he wants to take his new Ferrari convertible out for a spin after years of driving a sensible four-door sedan. If he wants to spend big, David Robertson and Andrew Miller would both look pretty nice in Dodger blue. Meanwhile, guys like Pat Neshek, Joba Chamberlain, and Jason Frasor would be a bit more sensible.
The Dodgers rotation will feature Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-jin Ryu, and Dan Haren but the fifth spot is a bit unclear at this point. Prospect Zach Lee might be a candidate to fill the role, but his 5.38 ERA with 5.8 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 in Triple-A last season says that he’ll need some more seasoning before making his debut.
The free agent market is littered with older middle-of-the-rotation types, but Friedman’s newly-found deep pockets should lead him in a different direction. Someone like Justin Masterson, who will turn 30 in March, could make sense for the Dodgers. He’s one year removed from his best season ever (3.45 ERA with 9.1 K/9 and 3.5 BB/9), the advanced metrics say that he was better than the core stats would have you believe in 2014, and he is hopeful that he’ll be back to 100% health after an offseason of rest and rehabilitation. Want to go even younger? Japanese standout Kenta Maeda will be 27 in April and while the bidding for him should be fierce, it’s not out of the realm that the Guggenheim group could green light that signing. Recently, Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com heard that the Dodgers were unlikely to go after any starter that would cost them a draft pick, which would rule out QO pitchers like Max Scherzer and James Shields. On the trade market, names like Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, and maybe Cole Hamels could make some sense for L.A. if they’re willing to part with prospects like Seager, Pederson or Julio Urias.
One more area to keep an eye on for the Dodgers is at catcher, where Ellis may have fallen out of favor as the team’s starter after hitting .191/.323/.254 last season. The Dodgers have already been connected to old friend Russell Martin — the clear prize of the free agent market. The price tag there is climbing by the day, but he’d make a great pitching staff even better and give some more offense behind the plate. If he’s too expensive or not keen on returning to his old stomping grounds, the Dodgers could look to the trade market where Jason Castro and Miguel Montero are said to be available.
With a whole lot of money and an executive at the helm who knows how to stretch a dollar, the possibilities for the Dodgers are endless this winter. Whatever path they take, they’ll return an elite rotation that should keep them firmly in the mix in next year’s NL West.
Speculation that the Dodgers will move one of their outfielders this winter is nothing new, and president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman acknowledged the likelihood of that outcome today. As Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles writes, Friedman told reporters this morning, “I think it’s most likely the best course of action to move one of those players,” referring to Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford. Saxon writes that the belief is that Ethier is most likely to be moved, followed by Crawford, but Friedman wouldn’t rule out listening to offers for Kemp, nor would he rule out trading two outfielders and opening the season with Joc Pederson in an everyday role. He did imply that Kemp would be the most difficult to move, however: “Obviously what Matt has done, what Matt’s capable of doing, is significant, especially in this day and age with the run-scoring environment the way it is. His ability in the batter’s box is different.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, Kemp has already drawn some interest, per Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.
More on the Dodgers…
- Heyman tweets that the Dodgers are looking to upgrade at catcher but feels the team has to keep A.J. Ellis around despite a down year at the plate due to how much ace Clayton Kershaw likes working with him (Twitter link). He wonders if the team might pursue an upgrade and use Ellis as a personal catcher for the 2014 Cy Young winner.
- The Dodgers aren’t likely to pursue free agent shortstop Jed Lowrie, tweets Saxon. Los Angeles is potentially losing Hanley Ramirez to free agency, so some have speculated that free agent shortstops may be of interest. The team does, of course, have internal options such as the defensively gifted Erisbel Arruebarrena and the more offensive-minded Alex Guerrero.
- The Dodgers today announced a trio of international signings (Twitter link): Frank Sanchez (the nephew of Dodgers third baseman Juan Uribe), Edwin Reyes and Jerson Dometilla. Each is 16 years old, and SB Nation’s True Blue LA has more on each player.
Kershaw was a unanimous winner, with Johnny Cueto and Adam Wainwright finishing second and third, respectively. Madison Bumgarner finished in fourth place (obligatory caveat: votes were due before the postseason commenced), while Jordan Zimmermann, Cole Hamels, Zack Greinke, Doug Fister, Jake Arrieta, Craig Kimbrel, Stephen Strasburg and Henderson Alvarez rounded out the ballot. The award marks Kershaw’s third Cy Young in four seasons.
Kluber, a breakout star with the Indians, edged out Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, who finished second. Kluber received a total of 169 points in the voting, while Hernandez received 159. Rounding out the ballot were Chris Sale, Jon Lester, Max Scherzer, David Price, Phil Hughes, Wade Davis and Greg Holland. Kluber posted an 18-9 record with a 2.44 ERA, 10.3 K/9, 1.9 BB/9 and a 48 percent ground-ball rate in 235 2/3 innings.
The front office shuffling of the NL West continued today with another pair of moves. The Dodgers will hire Scott Bream away from the Tigers to be their new pro scouting director, tweets Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles. Meanwhile, the Padres announced that they’ve promoted regional supervisor Mark Conner to director of scouting. The 38-year-old Conner joined the Friars in 2010 as an amateur scout and was the scout responsible for signing the highly touted Matt Wisler.
Here’s more from the NL West…
- New Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi declined to give a firm answer when asked by Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times whether or not the team will tender a contract to A.J. Ellis. However, Zaidi offered strong praise for Ellis’ leadership and relationships with the pitching staff. “…it’s clear he’s a big part of this team and a big part of the preparation and comfort level for the pitchers,” Zaidi told Hernandez.
- In a second tweet, Saxon notes that Brandon Morrow is a name to keep an eye on for Dodgers fans. As Saxon points out, president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman has had success turning starters with dynamic arms and transitioning them to the bullpen. Of course, it’s not clear if he is open to ‘pen work. Morrow indicated late in the season that his preference was to be a starter.
- Rockies GM Jeff Bridich tells Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post that the team “absolutely, 100 percent” needs to upgrade its rotation. Bridich said the club is keeping all avenues open to acquire pitching talent. One possibility that may intrigue Rockies fans is Jeremy Hellickson, whom the Rays are said to be discussing with an NL club. However, Saunders hears from a Major League source that the Rockies aren’t targeting Hellickson at this time, although they have shown past interest.
The latest from Joel Sherman of the New York Post…
- Sherman notes that in the past, A.J. Burnett signed close to his Maryland home because his wife hated flying. However, agent Darek Braunecker says this is no longer a restriction. Sherman mentions previous interest from the Angels and Rangers. Burnett is wise to expand his market, since teams like the Orioles, Mets, and Nationals are not generally looking to add starting pitching.
- The Padres are working to re-sign Josh Johnson. They already declined a $4MM option on the righty, who had Tommy John surgery in late April. No deal is close for Johnson, tweets Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish.
- The Dodgers have let teams know they prefer to trade Andre Ethier and/or Carl Crawford and will listen on Matt Kemp. The Dodgers are willing to kick in cash or take a bad contract back, and will pay more down for a better return in players. This is one of the few ways teams can still use financial clout to purchase young talent, in my opinion. Sherman says the Dodgers feel their current outfield situation is untenable, which fits with Ken Rosenthal’s report from Sunday. In a poll of 28 baseball industry insiders by ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick, Ethier was considered the most likely to be traded.
- The Dodgers are also looking to add to their rotation and bullpen and are among the more interested suitors for Russell Martin. The Dodgers were one of four teams recently revealed to have a meeting in place with Martin’s agent.
- Johan Santana is “hellbent on coming back,” agent Chris Leible tells Sherman. Santana, 36 in March, was close to returning to the Majors with the Orioles last summer after April 2013 shoulder surgery, but he ruptured his Achilles tendon in June. Santana is currently jogging and playing catch.
Could a clause regarding Pablo Sandoval‘s conditioning be written into his next contract? ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick addressed the question, noting that a Sandoval contract could include bonuses rewarding him for staying at or under a certain weight. Similar clauses have existed in other players’ contracts in the past, though the CBA doesn’t allow a team to reduce salary (or halt it altogether) if a player is over a set weight limit.
Here’s some more from around the National League West…
- The Dodgers haven’t been having any internal discussion about bringing back Hanley Ramirez on a new multiyear deal, ESPN Los Angeles’ Mark Saxon reports. President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said the team is looking at shortstops in free agency and the trade market, and the Dodgers aren’t necessarily looking at short-term players to fill the position until prospect Corey Seager is ready. “The limited supply at the position makes it hard to put a lot of rules on it,” Friedman said. “We’re going to try to acquire the best player we can and, if we wind up having depth there, that’s a good problem to have.” As Saxon notes, Seager could eventually end up as a third baseman.
- The Diamondbacks probably aren’t the ones “moving closer” to acquiring Jeremy Hellickson if the Rays are indeed approaching a trade with an NL team, Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic tweets.
- Both Carlos Quentin and the Padres seem to “recognize what would be in their mutual interest” in regards to a trade, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune writes. A deal to an AL team would allow Quentin to rest his knees in a DH role, while the Padres can get at least a bit of Quentin’s $8MM salary for 2015 off their books. While Quentin is probably open to waiving his no-trade clause, the greater question will be if a trade partner can be found given Quentin’s injury history. Padres GM A.J. Preller recently said that the club wasn’t looking to move offensive players until some new bats were acquired, so releasing Quentin isn’t yet an option.
Last Monday, 12 players received one-year, $15.3MM qualifying offers. Max Scherzer, Victor Martinez, Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, James Shields, Russell Martin, Nelson Cruz, David Robertson, Ervin Santana, Francisco Liriano, Melky Cabrera and Michael Cuddyer were all on the receiving end of the offer. The deadline to accept or reject the offer is today at 4pm CT.
A quick primer for those who are unfamiliar: Baseball’s newest collective bargaining agreement did away with the old Type A/B designations for free agent draft pick compensation. The newer system, which is now in its third year, allows teams to make qualifying offers to a player that has spent the entire season with that organization (i.e. players traded midseason are ineligible). That offer is set at the average salary of baseball’s 125 highest-paid players. Should the player reject, a new team will be required to forfeit its top unprotected pick to sign that player (the top 11 picks of this year’s draft are protected). His former team then receives a comp pick at the end of the first round. To this point, none of the 22 players to receive a QO have accepted.
The expectation is that most of the players who received the QO, with the possible exception of Cuddyer, will reject. We’ll keep track of the players that reject the QO here…
- Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio tweets that no player has accepted this year’s qualifying offer.
- MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes reports that Martinez has rejected the qualifying offer (Twitter link).
- Robertson has turned down the Yankees’ qualifying offer, reports Jack Curry of the YES Network (Twitter link).
- Cuddyer, of course, has essentially rejected his qualifying offer by agreeing to a two-year deal with the Mets.
- Ramirez has rejected the Dodgers‘ QO, Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times tweets. As perhaps the top position player on this year’s open market, the move comes as little surprise. Ramirez figures to seek a contract north of $100MM+ as a free agent.
- Santana will reject the Braves‘ qualifying offer and search for a multi-year deal on the open market, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The move was widely expected after Santana enjoyed a solid season with the Braves. As he showed last winter, even if the market doesn’t materialize for him in the form of a multi-year deal, a one-year offer at or near the value of a QO is still attainable, so there’s little downside in trying to cash in.
- Both Sandoval and Martin have reportedly rejected their QOs prior to today’s deadline. Sandoval rejected his in the middle of last week, while news of Martin rejecting came last night.
Here’s the latest from the Dodgers.
- The Dodgers are aggressively marketing Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford, and Andre Ethier, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports in a series of tweets (one, two, three). The club is swimming in depth with Yasiel Puig, Scott Van Slyke, and Joc Pederson also in the mix for big league reps. L.A. is willing to kick in significant money depending on the return. Some teams are interested in the left-handed bats, while Kemp is drawing wide interest. Puig is “not in play.”
- While the Dodgers are known for their big market bullying, the new sheriffs in town – Andrew Friedman, Farhan Zaidi, and Josh Byrnes – will be focused on reining in payroll, writes Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register. The roster has inflexible components, which is why the club is continuing to shop their outfielders. If payroll comes in around $240MM again, the Dodgers will have a luxury tax bill in the $20MM range. With fans excited about the team and the TV contract with Time-Warner Cable finalized, the era of blank-check spending is probably at an end.
Earlier today, we learned that free agent catcher Russell Martin will meet with four teams – the Cubs, Pirates, Dodgers, and Blue Jays. In fact, he’s already met with Chicago. Other clubs may become involved in the bidding, but this is the initial group upon which to focus. Martin’s price is expected to soar due to a dearth of catcher talent on the market.
Initially, it appeared that the Pirates might pull out all the stops to re-sign Martin. The club is thin at catcher with Tony Sanchez and Chris Stewart occupying the top of the depth chart. While the need for Martin is obvious, the ever-increasing rumored cost might push them out of the market.
The Cubs and Dodgers are a better financial fit, since we know both teams can afford Martin at any reasonable cost. They have a decent internal options – Wellington Castillo for the Cubs and A.J. Ellis for the Dodgers – so they’re not desperate for a backstop in the same way as the Pirates. The Cubs recently dismissed a well-regarded manager to hire Joe Maddon, so a similar move at catcher is easy to picture. The Dodgers are supposed to be more financially responsible with Andrew Friedman at the reins. We’ll see if and how that affects their pursuit of Martin.
From the outside, the Blue Jays look like a dark horse candidate, although catcher has been an area of concern since they traded away prospect Travis d’Arnaud. Dioner Navarro and Josh Thole are currently under contract to man the position, but neither player is close to Martin’s talent level.
Of course, the infamous mystery team could rear its head. A few clubs who could conceivably join the fray include the Angels, Tigers, Rangers, Mariners, White Sox, and Nationals.
The Dodgers‘ new front office led by Andrew Friedman is perceived as likely to be statistically driven, but new GM Farhan Zaidi says the Dodgers need to excel at all methods of evaluation, Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reports. “We need to be the best at everything,” says Zaidi. “I don’t think we’re in a position to make trade-offs of saying we’re a stat organization or a scouting organization.” Zaidi adds that he expects decision-making in Los Angeles to be collaborative. He, Friedman and senior vice president Josh Byrnes will all engage in talks with agents and with other teams. Here are more notes from the West divisions.
- On Thursday, Diamondbacks president Derrick Hall chatted with fans on Twitter, and the results are available in a single document at MLB.com. Hall says starting pitching will be the team’s top priority this winter, and he adds that the Diamondbacks hope to retain infielder Jordan Pacheco despite outrighting him this week. Arizona claimed Pacheco from the Rockies in June, and he hit .272/.298/.321 in 85 plate appearances down the stretch.
- Ian Kennedy had a bounce-back season in 2014 with the Padres and now is a top trade asset, writes Jeff Sanders of the San Diego Union-Tribune. A move out of Arizona and into a friendlier ballpark was one factor (particularly given Kennedy’s fly ball tendencies), but Sanders feels pitching coach Darren Balsley’s work with Kennedy might have been just as crucial. Balsey’s mechanical changes helped Kennedy boost his velocity — Kennedy’s average fastball increased from 90.3MPH to 91.8MPH last season. Sanders suggests that one alternative to a trade might be for the Padres to extend the reliable Kennedy rather than Andrew Cashner, who had neck, shoulder and elbow issues in 2014.