The Dodgers “have shown interest” in Brewers shortstop Willy Adames, MLB.com’s Juan Toribio reports. The depth of the interest isn’t known, though it does reflect how Los Angeles is keeping tabs on the shortstop market beyond incumbent free agent Trea Turner.
Of course, there also isn’t any guarantee that the Brewers are even open to trading Adames, given how the club has had at least some interest in retaining the slugger on a long-term extension. However, such an extension would be quite costly for the Brew Crew, and for a lower-payroll team, trading Adames for a bounty of younger players might be a more efficient way for Milwaukee to reload its roster. The Dodgers have one of the sport’s better farm system, and could offer the Brewers some prospects who could contribute at the MLB level as early as 2023.
Adames has two years of arbitration control remaining, and he is projected to earn $9.2MM in 2023. Another good season would push his 2024 price tag up into the $13MM range, unless an extension was worked out to overwrite what Adames might earn in his final arb-eligible year. Since Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff are also going to be free agents after the 2024 campaign, it seems likely that the Brewers will be moving at least one of Burnes, Woodruff or Adames before they hit the open market, barring a huge change to their spending approach.
In fact, the Brewers have already increased spending in recent years, as their Opening Day payroll of just under $132MM was the largest in club history. However, with Christian Yelich’s salary taking up a big chunk of that payroll, the Brewers have largely stuck to their usual tactic of moving on from certain players once their arbitration numbers get too high. For recent examples, Milwaukee just traded Hunter Renfroe to the Angels earlier this week, and Josh Hader was dealt to the Padres just prior to the August trade deadline.
As former president of baseball operations David Stearns noted in a statement announcing the Hader deal, “this mix of present Major League talent and high-level prospects furthers our aim to get as many bites of the apple as possible and, ultimately, to bring a World Series to Milwaukee….We also recognize that to give our organization the best chance for sustained competitiveness, to avoid the extended down periods that so many organizations experience, we must make decisions that are not easy.”
Moving Adames could be a similarly tough decision for the Brewers and GM Matt Arnold, who is now the top decision-maker in Milwaukee’s front office. On the one hand, the Brew Crew are surely hopeful of returning to contention in 2023, and having Adames in the lineup (as well as Burnes and Woodruff in the rotation) would give the team a clearer “bite of the apple,” so to speak. On the flip side, it could be argued that Adames might be just about at the peak of his trade value this offseason, and given how the Hader deal left several Brewers players openly disappointed at the club’s direction, the front office might want to avoid another midseason trade of a key player if the Brewers are anywhere close to contention.
Though the Dodgers will keep talking to Turner’s camp, Toribio feels that “the more realistic option…is that the Dodgers don’t sign any of the top four free-agent shortstops,” referring to Turner, Xander Bogaerts, Carlos Correa, and Dansby Swanson. This would either put Gavin Lux in line for the everyday shortstop job in 2023, or L.A. could address the shortstop position via trade, whether for Adames or another player.
Since Adames is only controlled through 2024, he might not necessarily be a longer-term answer either in Los Angeles, though he should still have some prime years remaining since he only turned 27 in September. The Dodgers could conceivably look into extending Adames themselves, or perhaps instead use him as something of a high-level placeholder. That would give L.A. time to decide on Lux’s ideal role, or more time to evaluate whether or not shortstop prospects Jacob Amaya or Eddys Leonard can be MLB-caliber players.