Many have posited (including me) that the depth the Dodgers have generated were critical in their march to 104 wins. I have also written that the depth needs to be pruned at times so that the organization will continue to grow by clearing the way for new prospects or ML 25 man roster help. That is why I had no problem with sending Jharel Cotton, Grant Holmes, and Frankie Montas to the A’s for Rich Hill and Josh Reddick. Hill remains a key component of the Dodgers rotation, something Cotton would not be and would instead probably be wasting away in the Dodger minor leagues. Holmes still has potential, but he is probably two years away from joining the A’s rotation, and probably at the back end where the Dodgers have a surplus. I am also just not convinced that Montas was healthy enough to hold on to. He would be a formidable reliever if he was healthy, which is why I believe the A’s took a chance. Just like most Dodger fans, I continue to wish these former Dodgers well, as long as they do not face the Dodgers.
In the business world, we continue to look for operational assets that we can exploit to create a better return than if the asset had remained unchanged. In baseball (sports in general), sometimes teams need to evaluate their depth to determine if one of their assets can be traded to generate a better return than what that player would generate if he were to remain with the team. In the business world, we measure return based on income generated. In baseball, that investment is measured on wins. Before the 2017 season, Dodger management recognized that they had a logjam of RHP but no perceived every day 2B either on the ML roster or in the immediate pipeline. That is what prompted the Jose De Leon trade for Logan Forsythe. While the return was not what we Dodger fans expected, it was certainly better than what JDL provided the Tampa Bay Rays in 2017. The Dodgers were looking for a short term return, while the Rays were looking more long term. The Dodgers have just extended their investment for another year on Logan, while the Rays have a longer term to evaluate their return.
That was also the premise for the trade of a potential star in Willie Calhoun for a rental in Yu Darvish. The expected return was a legit #2 for a WS run. Just like in the business world, not all projected returns come to fruition, and the Yu Darvish investment did not provide the Dodgers the return that they were looking for. But the reasons for the investment were sound, and there was no clear path for Calhoun in the Dodgers lineup. Decisions are made with the best information at the time. Certainly at the time of the trade, the Dodgers would not have moved forward had they envisioned a complete collapse of Darvish in two WS games. It was just a bad return on the investment.
Now comes 2018, and what should the Dodgers do? In the business world, we look for assets that are producing or are just about ready to produce, and they are not touched. Who are those “Untouchables” with the Dodgers? IMO, current Dodger untouchables include Clayton Kershaw, Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger, Justin Turner, and Kenley Jansen. Untouchable prospects for me include Walker Buehler, Will Smith, and Keibert Ruiz, with Mitchell White almost there. From a prospect standpoint, pitching and catching prospects are probably the toughest to find, and when you find some that may be special, you hold on to them. Before 2015, there were no catchers anywhere near or at the ML level. Now the Dodgers have Grandal, Austin Barnes, Kyle Farmer, Smith, Ruiz, and Connor Wong. There are also 3-4 others that could become serviceable backups in the future.
Where are the assets that might be turned for a better return? Catching for one. Either Farmer is ready or it is time to move on. I think the Dodgers like Farmer as a backup at least until Smith and Ruiz are ready, making Yasmani Grandal a prime candidate to be moved. He is one year from FA, and Grandal is not that good that you would block Smith, Ruiz, and Wong with a long-term contract. So the best return might be to trade for an area of need. The FA catchers this year include Jonathan Lucroy, Alex Avila, and Wellington Castillo. Grandal should be favorably compared to each of those FA, and would come at only one year with the option of extending if the fit is right, or waiting until their prospect is ready for promotion. Orioles (Chance Sisco) and Indians (Francisco Mejia) have their long term catchers ready to go, but could use Grandal to mentor and be a “just in case” catcher for one year with a projected $7.7M investment for teams that believe they will contend. Angels, A’s Blue Jays, Brewers, and Mets may also be interested.
Another area of strength is back end starting pitching and/or long relief. On the current roster these include, Ryu, Maeda, McCarthy, Stripling, Stewart, and reluctantly Kazmir. Waiting to come on to the ML roster is Walker Buehler and Trevor Oaks. White is a potential 2019 rotation add. Do the Dodgers really need Stripling and Stewart with Oaks on the cusp, or can one be moved? At $10M, McCarthy could help some contender as a #5 (NYY/Baltimore/Seattle). Is Maeda more valuable as a starter or reliever for the Dodgers? He is a longer term team control with a fair contract who might provide a better return on a trade, and at the same time be fair to Maeda to ensure that he can maximize his contract.
The Dodgers are getting a lot of mileage from their bevy of utility players…Chris Taylor, Kike’ Hernandez, Logan Forsythe, Charlie Culberson, and Tim Locastro. I include Taylor because he really is an infielder playing CF because he is a gifted athlete. He could be an “untouchable” because he is the starting CF, could be the starting 2B, could be a more than adequate backup SS, and is long time team controlled. But do the Dodgers need all of them?
The Dodgers have multiple LH hitting LF…Joc Pederson, Andrew Toles, and Alex Verdugo. All three can play CF if necessary, but only one can play at a time. This is also an area where the Dodgers will look to improve. Can Alex Verdugo provide enough offense without the power to be a corner OF? Defensively, he can play now. Is Trayce Thompson ready to return, and is he more than a platoon RH hitting OF? I think switch hitting Henry Ramos is a possibility as well for 2018. Or is this an area for a potential trade or FA signing?
The Dodgers have multiple assets that may generate a better return than remaining in the organization. FAZ has done a good job of maximizing the return on these assets. Not without some unsuccessful trades or FA signings, but overall they have done a remarkable job. I feel confident that they will again make moves that will benefit the 2018 ML season without gutting the farm system or over-extending the luxury tax. I look forward to critically reviewing the roster moves FAZ makes, making my own recommendations, and commenting on others as they are presented.