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The Dodgers have the highest payroll in baseball and some big holes to fill on their roster. They also have the necessary financial resources to retain their own free agents and bid competitively for the top players on the free agent market. And, if they choose to explore the trade market, they have the elite young talent necessary to acquire an impact player or two. At the very least, the Hot Stove talk surrounding this team will be very interesting this offseason.
- Clayton Kershaw, SP: $139.3MM through 2020. Kershaw can opt out after the 2018 World Series.
- Adrian Gonzalez, 1B: $44.7MM through 2018.
- Scott Kazmir, SP: $35.3MM through 2018.
- Brandon McCarthy, SP: $23MM through 2018.
- Kenta Maeda, SP: $21MM through 2023.
- Andre Ethier, OF: $20MM through 2017. Contract includes a $17.5MM club option in 2018 with a $2.5MM buyout.
- Yasiel Puig, OF: $17.4MM through 2018. Puig can opt in to arbitration during the 2016 offseason. He is on pace to become a free agent after the 2019 season.
- Hyun-Jin Ryu, SP: $15.6MM through 2018.
Arbitration Eligible Players (service time in parentheses; projections via MLB Trade Rumors)
- Yasmani Grandal, C (4.115): $5.3MM
- Louis Coleman, RP (4.018): $1.5MM
- Scott Van Slyke, 1B/OF (3.151) : $1.3MM
- Luis Avilan, RP (3.146): $1.5MM
- Chris Hatcher, RP (3.146): $1.4MM
- Alex Wood, SP/RP (3.123): $2MM
- Josh Fields, RP (3.092) – $1.2MM
- Non-tender candidates: Coleman, Hatcher
Other Financial Commitments
- Yaisel Sierra, SP: Owed $28MM through 2021 (removed from 40-man roster in 2016)
- Carl Crawford, OF: Owed $21.8MM through 2017 (released in 2016)
- Hector Olivera, OF: Owed $18.7MM through 2020 (traded in 2015)
- Erisbel Arruebarrena, SS: Owed $12MM through 2018 (removed from 40-man roster during 2015-16 offseason)
- Matt Kemp, OF: Owed $10.5MM through 2019 (traded during 2014-15 offseason)
- Alex Guerrero, IF/OF: Owed $7.5MM through 2017 (released in 2016)
- Dian Toscano, OF: Owed $3.6MM through 2018 (removed from 40-man roster during 2015-16 offseason)
- Brett Anderson, Joe Blanton, Jesse Chavez, Rich Hill, J.P. Howell, Kenley Jansen, Josh Reddick, Justin Turner, Chase Utley
Andrew Friedman (President of Baseball Operations) and Farhan Zaidi (general manager) have maintained a conservative approach in free agency since taking over prior to the 2014-15 offseason, focusing on building a team that can compete year in and year out as opposed to a high risk “win-now” approach. Four consecutive division titles says that they’re on the right track. But they’ve also been knocked out of the playoffs in each of those seasons and haven’t been to the World Series since 1988 while the division-rival Giants have won three World Series championships since 2010. The Dodgers are also in danger of losing two players who have been integral to the team’s recent success.
Third baseman Justin Turner and closer Kenley Jansen, who rank No. 4 and 5, respectively, in our Free Agent Power Rankings, would not be easy to replace if they were to sign elsewhere. There are no internal options ready to step in. Luis Valbuena is the only other free agent who can be viewed as a starting third base option. There are two other elite closers—Aroldis Chapman and Mark Melancon—but as many as four other teams (Cubs, Giants, Nationals, Yankees) are expected to pursue them.
If Turner does not re-sign, the Dodgers could be scrambling to find his replacement. Despite entering his age-32 season, he’s in line for a huge payday after slashing .296/.364/.492 while playing terrific defense at the hot corner in his three seasons with the Dodgers. While he’d certainly be an upgrade for many teams around the league, there doesn’t appear to be a team that comes remotely close to the Dodgers in terms of need and payroll flexibility. MLBTR has predicted that he’ll return on a five-year, $85MM deal.
Even if they can hang on to Turner, who struggled badly against lefties in 2016, adding another right-handed hitter to balance out a left-handed heavy lineup would seem to be a priority. The heart of the order includes lefties Corey Seager, Adrian Gonzalez and Joc Pederson. Switch-hitter Yasmani Grandal is a better hitter with much more power from the left-hand side. Darin Ruf, acquired from the Phillies in the Howie Kendrick trade, has a .921 OPS in 321 career plate appearances against left-handed pitchers, although he’ll likely be relegated mostly to pinch-hitting duty.
In addition to third base, the Dodgers could possibly be searching for a new second baseman. Enrique Hernandez, Micah Johnson and Chris Taylor represent internal options, but the team could pursue a reunion with Chase Utley or explore the trade market. Los Angeles may also look at adding a corner outfielder if they’re still ready to move on from Yasiel Puig and/or are not comfortable going with some combination of Andre Ethier, Trayce Thompson, Scott Van Slyke and Andrew Toles at the other corner.
Brian Dozier and Ian Kinsler, both under team control through 2018, are logical trade targets. By acquiring a leadoff hitter who plays second base and crushes left-handed pitching, the Dodgers would be able to check off three boxes on their offseason shopping list. Yoenis Cespedes, as MLBTR has predicted, would be the biggest splash possible in free agency, while Ian Desmond and Dexter Fowler are others who are capable of making a big impact while filling multiple needs.
Puig will once again be one of the more interesting names being thrown around in trade rumors, although it wouldn’t be a big surprise if he stayed put. After being sent to Triple-A Oklahoma City for the entire month of August, the 25-year-old returned to post a .900 OPS over his final 65 plate appearances. Zaidi recently expressed that Puig did everything asked of him after the demotion and that the organization felt “really good about where he is”.
While his comments could be posturing in an attempt to boost Puig’s trade value, Zaidi might not want to trade the team’s most productive hitter against left-handed pitching. Puig’s .784 OPS versus lefties was best on a team that was, by far, the worst in baseball against them (.622 OPS).
Starting pitching depth does not appear to be a problem, but adding a legitimate frontline starter to pair with Clayton Kershaw could conceivably be in the Dodgers’ plans. Re-signing Rich Hill, who has pitched like an ace in 24 starts since September 2015, would likely suffice, but the expected bidding war could push his asking price well above what any team should feel comfortable giving a soon-to-be 37-year-old with a checkered injury history. They could also swing a trade to bolster their rotation. Chris Sale, Justin Verlander, Jose Quintana and Chris Archer are amongs the most notable starting pitchers who might be available this offseason.
There is no shortage of candidates to compete for a rotation spot after Kershaw, Kenta Maeda, Scott Kazmir and, potentially, Hill or another acquisition. Julio Urias will have the edge after posting a 1.99 ERA in the 2nd half while Brandon McCarthy, Alex Wood, Jose De Leon, Ross Stripling and Brock Stewart could also be in the mix, as might Hyun-jin Ryu if he can ever get healthy.
Whether or not Los Angeles will beat the market for a top relief arm remains to be seen. The current front office has not invested big dollars in the pen as yet, but it could be that Jansen will represent a special case. And the organization is said to have interest in Chapman, who was nearly acquired last winter before news emerged of a domestic violence incident. There are a variety of trade possibilities, too, but the Dodgers can’t be counted out to pursue a creative option — even one that spurns a typical closer role.
Closer’s job aside, the Dodgers’ bullpen could remain mostly intact. Luis Avilan, Pedro Baez, Grant Dayton, Josh Fields and Josh Ravin were all very good in the second half as the Dodgers pulled away in the NL West. A few of the aforementioned starting candidates, particularly Wood, have the potential to fill bullpen roles. While it’s unlikely to happen from the onset of the 2017 season, Urias and De Leon have the ability to dominate out of the ’pen. Middle and late-inning relief is not expected to be a priority unless, for some reason, they are unable to acquire a closer and are forced to fill the role internally.
Between Avilan, Dayton (2.05 ERA, 4.8 H/9, 2.1 BB/9, 13.3 K/9 in 25 appearances), Adam Liberatore (0.55 ERA, 10 holds in his first 42 appearances before an elbow injury derailed his season), newly-acquired Vidal Nuño and Wood, the Dodgers aren’t short on reliable lefty options for manager Dave Roberts. Baez, despite being a painfully slow worker, is capable of stepping into free agent Joe Blanton’s eighth inning setup role. Yimi Garcia, who was terrific as a rookie in 2015 before missing most of last season with biceps and knee injuries, could also factor into the mix.
After the 2018 season, the only guaranteed contracts remaining on L.A.’s books belong to Kershaw ($34.5MM in ’19 and $33.5MM in ’20), if he doesn’t exercise his opt-out clause, and Maeda ($3MM per season through ’23). Even if their inability to advance to the World Series, the success of their biggest rival and the potential loss of Jansen and Turner hasn’t changed their thinking on how they’d like to operate, it’s clear that the Dodgers have a whole lot of financial flexibility in the near future. Not only can they begin to explore contract extensions for young stars Grandal, Pederson and Seager, they are set up to make a huge splash this offseason.