- The Dodgers look to be a driving force in the outfield market, Olney observes on Twitter. Not only could the Dodgers trade any of Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp or Joc Pederson and pursue Bryce Harper, Olney notes, but he also connects them to free-agent center fielder A.J. Pollock. Needless to say, of Puig, Kemp and Pederson, the latter would warrant the highest return in a trade. The soon-to-be 27-year-old Pederson’s coming off the most effective season of the trio and is the only one controllable beyond 2019. Further, he’s projected to earn an eminently reasonable $4.7MM next year, his penultimate season of arbitration eligibility.
- The Dodgers are also “all in” on the catcher market, as are the Astros and Mets, Olney reports. Any of those teams could find its answer with Pittsburgh’s Francisco Cervelli, for whom the Pirates are willing to consider offers, according to Olney. Cervelli is coming off an impressive 2018, but as a soon-to-be 33-year-old who’s expensive ($11.5MM), down to his last season of team control and has a startling history of concussions, the low-budget Pirates may be willing to go in another direction.
- With Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig possibly on the outs in Los Angeles, the Mets figure to at least inquire on the 28-year-old, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Puig would give the Mets another right-handed outfielder, which is on general manager Brodie Van Wagenen’s wish list, without having to make a long-term commitment. He’s only under control for another year, at a projected $11.3MM.
Yasiel Puig has been popular in trade rumors dating back to 2016, but the Dodgers have nonetheless retained the outfielder to this point. However, it’s possible that will change this offseason – perhaps as early as the upcoming week’s Winter Meetings. The Dodgers limited Puig’s playing time against left-handed pitchers in 2018, which has left him “disgruntled,” “distrustful of management” and “open” to playing for another team, Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times writes. While the right-handed Puig has offered above-average production versus lefties over his career, he has struggled against them since 2017, leading to diminished at-bats last season. Still, it’s not certain the Dodgers will trade the 28-year-old Puig, Hernandez suggests, adding that he likely wouldn’t bring much back in a deal. And the Dodgers aren’t interested in dumping Puig’s projected $11.3MM salary for the sake of doing it, per Hernandez. Rather, it seems they’d want a legitimate return for Puig’s last year of team control. Consequently, despite Puig’s current dissatisfaction with the Dodgers, he could end up remaining in their uniform in 2019.
- More on the Dodgers, who will attempt to trade outfielder Matt Kemp this winter, Ken Gurnick of MLB.com reports. The Dodgers reunited with Kemp last December in an unorthodox, luxury tax-based trade with the Braves, and the 34-year-old went on to enjoy a productive season in Los Angeles. Kemp faded during the second half of 2018, however, and is due $21.5MM in 2019 – the last year of his deal. The former MVP candidate will be extremely difficult for LA to move, then, though perhaps it could swap him for another team’s unwanted contract.
The Dodgers have decided to take their time in filling the position left open recently by former GM Farhan Zaidi, president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman told reporters including Pedro Moura of The Athletic (Twitter link). A hiring search will not take place during the current offseason.
Friedman, of course, remains the top baseball operations decisionmaker in Los Angeles, so it’s hardly as if this is a rudderless ship. And the organization continues to employ former GM Josh Byrnes in a senior capacity. Another former GM, Gerry Hunsicker, remains on hand in addition to the remainder of the club’s baseball ops staff.
Still, it’s notable that the Dodgers have seen the departures of several well-known figures of late. Zaidi left to become the president of baseball operations of the Giants. Alex Anthopoulos departed to run the baseball side of the Atlanta Braves as their general manager. And Friedman’s predecessor, Ned Colletti, is no longer with the organization.
The news will allow other organizations to breathe easier, as their top non-GM execs won’t be lured by the L.A. behemoth — at least, not just yet. It seems likely that the Dodgers will, before too long, seek to bring in another voice to assist Friedman in assessing opportunities and engaging with agents and rival ballclubs.
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The Los Angeles Dodgers, fresh off of a second consecutive NLCS Championship (and second consecutive World Series loss), have a surplus of talent on the farm and would figure to have the capacity to add payroll if need be. With two consecutive trips to baseball’s grandest stage galvanizing the tail end of six straight playoff berths, it’ll take a championship to truly satiate the fans this time around. It’s a good thing the Dodgers are as well-positioned as any team in baseball to bring one home.
- Clayton Kershaw, SP: $93MM through 2021 (extension signed 11/2/18)
- Matt Kemp, OF: $21.75MM through 2019
- Justin Turner, 3B: $39MM through 2020
- Rich Hill, SP: $18MM through 2019
- Kenley Jansen, RP: $56MM through 2021
- Hyun-Jin Ryu, SP: $17.9MM through 2019 (accepted qualifying offer)
- David Freese, 3B: $4.5MM through 2019
- Kenta Maeda, SP: $15MM through 2023
- Tony Cingrani, RP: $2.65MM through 2019 (guaranteed arbitration salary)
Arbitration-Eligible Players (projections via MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz)
- Yasiel Puig (5.102) – $11.3MM
- Alex Wood (5.123) – $9.0MM
- Joc Pederson (4.028) – $4.3MM
- Enrique Hernandez (4.054) – $3.2MM
- Chris Taylor (3.037) – $3.2MM
- Josh Fields (5.083) – $2.8MM
- Corey Seager (3.032) – $2.6MM
- Pedro Baez (4.059) – $1.8MM
- Yimi Garcia (3.149) – $900K
- Manny Machado, Yasmani Grandal (declined qualifying offer), Ryan Madson, Daniel Hudson, Brian Dozier, Tom Koehler, Zac Rosscup, John Axford, Eric Goeddel, Cesar Ramos, Justin De Fratus, Zach McAllister, Logan Ondrusek
The Dodgers came within one win of a World Series victory back in 2017 and returned for an encore last year before ultimately falling short again. Fans and front office alike will be hoping that third time’s the charm as they work to plug the gaps on an already-formidable roster. Make no mistake: while the Dodgers saw the contracts of over a third of their 40-man roster expire at the end of the 2018 season, they’ve got some heavy hitters still in place and figure to be aggressive in supplementing that core in order to remain among the elite National League clubs come Opening Day.
Two of those players whose contracts expired in November made up the top half of the club’s playoff rotation, which would have made for a concerning hole on the roster in another universe. But in this realm, Andrew Friedmann & Co. swiftly and decisively took the suspense out of the club’s would-be pitching need by re-upping with Clayton Kershaw on a three-year, $93MM contract and issuing Hyun-Jin Ryu a one-year, $17.9MM qualifying offer he’d ultimately accept. The two alone will combine to take Los Angeles to the cusp of the luxury tax ceiling (indeed, more if Kershaw meets some of the start-based incentives in his contract), but they’ll continue to have one of the more enviable one-two punches in the NL. For the Dodgers, the convenience of solving such a dilemma with money alone allowed them to get a leg up before the winter even began.
While they’ve got an advantage at the top of their rotation, the depth they have in that area is perhaps even more unique. Beyond Kershaw and Ryu, rookie sensation Walker Buehler will return to the club and will continue to represent a huge value as a pre-arb performer. As for rounding out the starting five, they’ve got no shortage of options. Alex Wood, Ross Stripling, Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda and even Julio Urias are all talented pitchers that most teams would be happy to slot in as mid-rotation guys, but who’ll instead be competing for back-end starter and long relief roles for a pitching-wealthy Dodgers ballclub. While a great number of these players have significant injury concerns, the depth alone should easily carry the club through all but the most extreme of health-related misfortunes. If there’s an area of need on this team, it’s certainly not in the rotation.
So of course it was easily predictable that one of the club’s most notable pursuits so far has been an improvement in the starting rotation. They’ve reportedly discussed multiple trade scenarios with the Indians already, most notably one that would send two-time Cy Young Award-winner Corey Kluber to Los Angeles. While the Dodgers’ pitching depth is certainly impressive, Kluber would present a gargantuan upgrade over anyone in that group without a Cy Young Award to his name. Some might argue that he’s even got the edge over Kershaw himself at this stage of their careers in terms of sturdiness and reliability. Any real pursuit of Kluber (or even his teammate, Trevor Bauer) wouldn’t seem to be made with the regular season in mind, but rather with the goal of improving the playoff rotation to extraordinary heights. It’s not clear who they’d be willing to ship to Cleveland in such a deal, though it’s worth pointing out that the Indians have a long-term need at catcher and outfield, both of which are perceived areas of prospect depth for the Los Angeles organization.
Speaking of catchers, the Dodgers would appear to have a need behind the dish for the 2019 season after watching longtime backstop Yasmani Grandal reject their qualifying offer. The club owns two of MLB Pipeline’s top ten catching prospects, so it’s possible that one or both of Keibert Ruiz and Will Smith could be given the opportunity to win the job (in tandem with incumbent Austin Barnes) right out of spring training. Ruiz in particular would figure to be a fine long-term solution there if his development plays out as predicted by several prospect pundits across the industry. Of course, if the club was comfortable with that as their plan A, they probably wouldn’t have already committed so much focus to finding an upgrade at this early juncture of the offseason. They’ve been connected to J.T. Realmuto of the Marlins, for instance, and appeared to be in play for former Tribe catcher Yan Gomes before he was ultimately dealt to the Nationals. A reunion with Grandal is certainly within the realm of possibility, though it seems somewhat unlikely based on his postseason difficulties along with the team’s payroll outlook (more on that later) and other potential priorities.
Whether or not the Dodgers will use any of their available resources to fortify the bullpen behind franchise closer Kenley Jansen is anybody’s guess. One could make a strong case that it’s an area of need; a mass exodus of depth pieces and an offseason heart procedure for the resilient Jansen point to a need for some further padding. Yet an equally strong case could be made that the ’pen is actually an area of strength for Los Angeles, given the track record of Jansen (and optimism that he’ll be ready for Opening Day) coupled with the upside of relievers like Dylan Floro, Tony Cingrani and Caleb Ferguson. Further reinforcing the latter argument is the likelihood that the starting rotation depth will bleed over into the relief corps; pitchers like Wood, Maeda, and Urias could serve as strong multi-inning weapons out of the bullpen.
If the Dodgers elect to pursue relievers on the free agent market, there’s a wealth of talented, proven arms to choose from; they wouldn’t have any trouble enticing one or more of them to join their storied franchise. But if they opt not to pay up for any major additions (or trade prospect capital for a reliever under contract), the way they deploy their pitching staff in 2019 would be a fascinating story to follow. The pitching landscape has been evolving rapidly for the past few seasons, and the 2019 Dodgers would be a prime candidate to utilize their wealth of twice-through-the-order-type starters and upside relief pitchers to mix and match pitchers and get outs in a creative manner. They were already one of a few teams to toy with the idea of using an “opener” last season. Recently-extended skipper Dave Roberts has all the right tools in place to take another bold step forward as far as creativity, and while that’s nothing at all resembling a guarantee that he’ll do so, it’s at the very least an intriguing potential storyline to follow and definitely a small item for fans to keep tucked away in the back of their minds as they watch the club’s offseason news and rumors.
When imagining all possible outcomes of the Dodgers’ 2018-2019 offseason, it’s impossible not to consider the fates of free agent juggernauts Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, each of whom is expected to sign a contract larger than any player to date. Machado, who spent the latter half of the season in Los Angeles and contributed significantly to their postseason run, now seems like somewhat of an unlikely fit due to the presence of Justin Turner at third base and the expected return of Corey Seager to shortstop. On the other hand, one could envision a scenario in which Seager shifts to the right side of the infield to play at the keystone, clearing room for Machado at short and pushing Enrique Hernandez into his accustomed super utility role. In other words, while Machado doesn’t seem like a perfect fit, it wouldn’t be wise to entirely rule the Dodgers out, either.
When it comes to Harper, there’s been some confusion as to the organization’s level of engagement to date. There’s a clear logical fit there, to the point that MLBTR predicted Los Angeles as the landing spot for the former MVP. He’d provide a sizable upgrade in production over Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp and Joc Pederson, even before weighing the fact that the former two are set to depart after the coming season, while the latter will be a free agent at the end of 2020. Top prospect Alex Verdugo is ready for a full run at the majors, but the club may not be willing to rely on him fully and could also dangle him in trade scenarios. Put more simply, a long-term commitment to Harper would provide a significant upgrade in the near-term while answering long-term questions about the organization’s outfield picture and providing stability there for over a decade.
The caveat to all this, and to any other pursuits the Dodgers might make in free agency, is that they could potentially be facing significant financial restraints in contrast with years past. As MLBTR’s own Rob Huff outlined in his recent payroll projection piece, a document prepared by someone within the Dodgers organization suggests that they intend to remain below the luxury tax threshold every year between now and 2022. Indeed, the payroll target for 2019 outlined within said document is only $185MM, which is eight figures south of Roster Resource’s current projection for the club with arbitration salaries taken into account. Huff doesn’t believe that the Dodgers will actively move to shed payroll (a sentiment I imagine echoes throughout the industry), but as he said in the above piece, if their plans haven’t changed, it’s difficult to see them adding any sort of marquee free agent at all, let alone either of the top two players on the market. They’ve also yet to guarantee a free agent more than $50MM under Friedmann’s tenure. It’s reasonable to question how much to read into that leaked document, though clearly the current iteration of club leadership will continue to prioritize efficient spending.
Of course, there are plenty of ways in which the Dodgers could clear payroll space that could be repurposed. Just last winter, the club was involved in one of the offseason’s most surprising swaps, which essentially amounted to an exchange of future dollar commitments (or at least, it seemed that way before Kemp’s surprising resurgence). That they’ve shown a willingness to get creative in the past leaves open the possibility that they’ll explore multiple avenues of gaining some financial flexibility this year as well. While there’s no realistic way to recoup any of the nearly $18MM owed to Scott Kazmir, Hector Olivera and Yasiel Sierra combined for the 2019 season, MLBTR’s Jeff Todd listed Kemp among LA’s potential contract swap candidates. We’ve already seen contracts moved around the league this winter, and there are endless possibilities for money-shifting swaps that could make better use of salary space. In addition, trading relatively expensive players from areas of depth (such as Hill, Puig or Wood) for MLB-ready prospects or minimum-salary players who can fill an area of need would be another method of reallocating financial resources, even if the club ultimately needed to pay down some of the money owed to those players in order to get a deal done.
If they’re unable to find any financial wiggle room to pursue players on the free agent market, and/or are unwilling to spend much past the competitive balance tax line, the Dodgers have more than enough prospect capital in the farm system to address any needs via trade. They’re one of the few teams with both a need at catcher and enough assets in the farm system to swing a trade for Realmuto, so that’ll be one pursuit to pay close attention to. But it’s not difficult to imagine them pursuing upgrades at first base, either. Paul Goldschmidt would be the prime target there, though he’d likely come at a premium given the division rivalry between the Dodgers and Diamondbacks. Jose Abreu and Justin Smoak present alternative options, and it’s not out of the question that the Mariners could look to unload the recently-acquired Carlos Santana (who spent several years in LA’s farm system) onto another club, either. Adding a corner piece would allow the Dodgers to utilize Cody Bellinger more often as an outfielder, which would change the complexion of the unit discussed above. He has lined up there quite a bit over his first two seasons in the majors already. Those are all just speculative fits, obviously, but the overall point being made here is that Friedmann & Co. have some creative ways to upgrade and more than enough minor league talent to get a deal done if that ends up being their goal.
As far as MLB clubs go, the Dodgers are a major wild card this offseason. They could spend tens of millions or nothing at all; they could make a blockbuster trade for a star-caliber player or largely stand pat; they could make upgrades at multiple positions or begin the year mostly with the cards already in hand. Regardless of what happens, one thing is certain: there will be no shortage of Dodgers rumors to follow as the hot stove begins to flare up. Expect them to be connected to several high-priced free agents and big-name trade targets as the winter wears on. But even if they don’t ultimately make a big splash, fans can sleep easy knowing that their team is already built to make another serious run at a championship this coming season.
TODAY: Johnson has denied any recent meetings with Harper, leading to a significantly revised Yahoo report. It’s not entirely clear from the current version of the story whether the Dodgers have or will send a contingent to meet with Harper at all.
YESTERDAY: The Dodgers have held a sit-down with free agent superstar Bryce Harper, according to a report from Tim Brown and Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. It’s a must-read update on the still-developing market for one of the winter’s marquee free agents.
Of particular note, the Los Angeles behemoth has now made a notable foray into the Harper market — a possibility that was never quite clear but always tantalized. Minority owner and NBA legend Magic Johnson led a delegation to Harper’s home town of Las Vegas, suggesting at a minimum that pursuing Harper is a serious consideration for an organization that has not generally chased top free agents under president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman.
At the outset of the offseason, we did predict that Harper would land with the Dodgers, and score a massive contract in the process. But that was anything but a high-probability prediction, as the outfielder’s market was then and remains difficult to assess in the usual manner. Harper, after all, is a rather unique commodity. Like fellow free agent Manny Machado, he’s an established star who only recently turned 26 years of age. Both players also have their blemishes, to be sure, but the talent ceilings and volume of potentially prime seasons are, in both cases, immense.
Thus it is that, as the Yahoo duo report, “upward of a dozen” organizations across the league have or likely will follow Magic in a Vegas road trip to chat with Harper. The Yankees are among them, despite a litany of reports suggesting they won’t pursue this particular opportunity, while the Phillies are an unsurprising club in the market as well.
We’ve heard plenty about the White Sox to date, of course, but the seriousness of their pursuit has been tough to gauge. According to Yahoo, the South Siders have dispatched Jim Thome and others to help woo Harper to a rebuilding situation. Other possibilities abound, with the Cubs, Padres, Astros, and Cardinals all tabbed as teams with at least speculative potential interest. (That’s all in addition to the incumbent Nats, of course.)
The report cautions that these early visits don’t necessarily signal an all-in commitment to chase the market on Harper. Certainly, it’s worth bearing in mind that the teams are still assessing their respective levels of interest. Still, it seems promising for Harper that he has drawn this much focus from nearly half the teams in baseball — particularly given that they’re all already aware that he reportedly turned down a $300MM offer to stay in DC.
There was never any doubt, of course, that he’d be heavily pursued. But there are relatively few big-spending teams with clear-cut needs in the corner outfield, making it tough to guess at interest based upon team need and even historical spending patterns. It seems, though, that there are at least quite a few teams that are willing to assign significant resources to assess whether Harper is enough of an asset, on and off the field, to warrant not only an enormous outlay but also some roster maneuvering to fit.
The Dodgers announced that they’ve reached an agreement with manager Dave Roberts on a contract extension that runs through the 2022 season. Los Angeles had previously exercised Roberts’ option for the 2019 season, but he’ll now be under contract for an additional three guaranteed season. That it was announced as a four-year contract may indicate that Roberts was also given a raise for the upcoming season.
“Keeping Doc as our leader on the field was a top priority this offseason and now that we’ve accomplished that we are excited to collectively shift all of our focus to doing all we can to bring a World Championship to our passionate fans,” said president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman in a statement announcing the move.
Since Roberts was hired in the 2015-16 offseason, the Dodgers have gone 287-199 in regular-season play, won three NL West Division titles and won two National League pennants en route to consecutive World Series appearances. Despite the glowing results, Roberts has drawn the ire of some Dodgers fans — as is the case with most postseason managers who ultimately fall short — particularly with regard to bullpen management and a rather rigid reliance on platoon-based lineup construction. Of course, it’s easy to zero in on relatively isolated incidents in a short series and lay blame on any manager when those moves don’t work out. Sticking with Enrique Hernandez throughout a prolonged slump in the postseason, for instance, was a particular point of contention among Dodger fans, but Roberts was surely more focused on Hernandez’s generally strong numbers against lefties over a much larger sample.
Regardless of which side of that type of issue on takes, it’s tough to dispute Roberts’ results in terms of the team’s performance in getting to the World Series in two straight years. While he undeniably had plenty of star power on his side, Roberts also at times had to lean heavily on rookies and relative unknowns while dealing with injuries to high-profile talent. Clayton Kershaw has missed time in each of the past three seasons. Corey Seager was a non-factor in 2018 due to Tommy John surgery early in the year. Players like Chris Taylor, Max Muncy and Ross Stripling have emerged from obscurity to play prominent roles in the team’s success, while veterans such as Brandon Morrow and Matt Kemp have enjoyed career renaissances in L.A. in recent seasons.
To that end, Roberts has also done well to manage what has, at times, felt like an overcrowded roster — one with numerous high-profile players who have been accustomed to much larger roles than they found on a deep Dodgers roster. By all accounts, Roberts has done well to maintain a strong clubhouse environment and to get veteran players to buy into more limited roles with an eye toward the bigger picture. That’s no small task, and while a pair of crushing World Series losses has made Roberts a polarizing figure for Dodgers faithful, the front office is clearly more than confident that he’s the right person to return the Dodgers to another Fall Classic and take care of unfinished business.
“When I was hired to lead this team three years ago, I said at the time that managing the Dodgers is truly the opportunity of a lifetime and I feel the exact same way today,” said Roberts in a statement of his own. “We’ve worked hard to develop a team and culture that will put us in position to win the World Series every season, but we still have yet to achieve our ultimate goal and that is what drives me each day. I want to thank Andrew, Stan Kasten and our outstanding ownership group for believing in me and keeping me in Dodger Blue, a uniform I’m so proud to wear.”
After a busy day of arbitration decisions, it’s worth taking stock of some recent developments in the broader market. We’ve already touched upon some major storylines today, with looks at Patrick Corbin (link), Zack Greinke (link), and Carlos Carrasco (link). Here’s more …
- Though Corbin seems to be captivating the market at present, chatter on Nathan Eovaldi is also “heating up,” per MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand (Twitter link). Unsurprisingly, the Red Sox and Astros are presently seen as prime contenders to land him. With the American League shaping up to be another clash of titans, those organizations are positioned t stake some dough on Eovaldi’s upside.
- The Yankees are a major player on Corbin, of course, but also some other arms — and not just as a backup plan. Indeed, per Jayson Stark of The Athletic (via Twitter), the club could even add another significant starter if it does get Corbin. That’d be quite a surprise, given that the team would appear to have a clear starting five if Corbin signs, but perhaps there’s a way to pull something off that would still make sense and leave the club with immense rotation depth.
- Meanwhile, southpaw J.A. Happ is said to have “ten teams chasing” him at this point, per Jon Heyman of Fancred. One of those is the Brewers, who’d presumably like to bolster their rotation but also don’t appear to have an immense amount of money to use. Of course, giving up on Jonathan Schoop clears a big piece of payroll, so long as the club finds a way to address its infield needs without using all the savings.
- There’s also a “strong” market for Japanese hurler Yusei Kikuchi, Heyman tweets. Unsurprisingly, west coast clubs — the Dodgers, Padres, Giants, and Mariners, at least — appear to be lining up for the 27-year-old. It’s still hard to know what kind of salary and duration he’ll be able to command. But as this particular list of clubs shows, Kikuchi’s unusual youth will play a major role in his market by opening the door to quite a few organizations to pursue him.
- Elsewhere, the Yankees are still trying to offload an asset in Sonny Gray. Per Ken Davidoff of the New York Post, with GM Brian Cashman saying he has discussed a multitude of different scenarios involving Gray, including some larger deals. That suggests that the Yanks are comfortable hanging onto Gray for a while as they sort through the possibilities, rather than putting him on the market and taking the best deal then available.
- Gray is as good as gone from the team’s perspective, but that’s clearly not the same situation for Giants ace Madison Bumgarner. The burly southpaw is reportedly on the table. But that doesn’t mean he’ll be priced at a level that will lead to a deal. Indeed one organizational source tells Heyman (Twitter link) they “don’t see [Bumgarner] going anywhere this winter.” Certainly, the Giants have little need to dump Bumgarner if they aren’t getting something worthwhile in return. Teams with interest, though, will remain wary of a big price for one season of a player with recent shoulder woes and some performance questions.
Standard arbitration contracts are not fully guaranteed, so obviously something spurred the Dodgers to do so in this case. The salary does not fall far from the $2.7MM MLBTR projection, but his reps at the Bledsoe Agency may have been able to argue for more.
The 29-year-old Cingrani only managed to throw 22 2/3 MLB innings in 2018, and carried an unsightly 4.76 ERA. It sounds funny to say it, but he was otherwise quite impressive. Cingrani racked up 14.3 K/9 with just 2.4 BB/9 while drawing grounders on half of the balls put in play against him. And he drew swings and misses at a career-best 13.8% rate.
The Indians’ top three starters have seen their names hit the rumor mill this winter, and MLB.com’s Jon Morosi writes that the Dodgers are among the teams who’ve discussed various trade concepts with Cleveland in the past few days. Specifically, one iteration involves both Corey Kluber and Yasiel Puig, per Morosi, though it’s clear that there are still some gaps to be filled in with regard to that specific package, as there’s no logical scenario in which Puig is any sort of centerpiece to a Kluber trade.
In fact, while the Indians have obvious outfield needs, it’s difficult to see a player as expensive as Puig being a prime target to fill that need. The reported willingness to listen to offers on Kluber and others seemed to stem from a desire to create payroll flexibility and add controllable young talent. Puig checks neither of those boxes and is a clear downgrade from Kluber in terms of overall value. While Kluber will earn $17MM next season, Puig is projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn $11.3MM himself. Shedding a mere $6MM or so in payroll wouldn’t be of that much benefit to Cleveland unless the Dodgers were to add significant pre-arbitration talent and/or take on some additional money in return.
Morosi writes that the Dodgers would likely be willing to part with lefty Alex Wood and pitching prospect Yadier Alvarez, but that pairing, again, presents issues. Namely, Wood is projected to earn $9MM in arbitration and, like Puig, is a free agent next winter. He’d be a fine one-year replacement for Kluber, but it’s the idea of moving Kluber to acquire a pair of expensive veterans who have just one season of team control remaining isn’t logical on its surface, unless there are other moving parts at play.
Alvarez, meanwhile, was touted as a mega-prospect when he signed for $16MM out of Cuba (plus a matching $16MM luxury tax penalty), but he’s yet to top 100 innings in any of his three seasons in the Dodgers’ minor league ranks. Beyond that, the 2018 campaign was far and away his worst since signing; in 48 1/3 innings at the Double-A level, Alvarez posted a 4.66 ERA with 52 strikeouts against an alarming total of 43 walks. There’s still ample time for the 22-year-old to realize his potential, but he’s not the type of young player who’d headline a package for one of the game’s elite pitchers.
The Dodgers do have the type of young talent that Cleveland would covet in any deal involving Kluber, of course, and it seems likely that any talks centering around him, Carlos Carrasco or Trevor Bauer have involved several names. But a deal including any of Puig, Wood or Alvarez would require the addition of some prominent young, controllable players in order to sufficiently pique Cleveland’s interest. Furthermore, it’s hard to envision a scenario where Cleveland adds the salary requirements that would come with both Puig and Wood in the same deal without some additional financial considerations coming into play.