Why the Dodgers Don’t Have to do Much

A year ago, Dodger fans were wondering whether Adrian Gonzalez had anything left. I stated that if he didn’t, the Dodgers had an option at 1B who was ready to take over – one Cody Bellinger.  I had watched Cody and Corey Seager progress and grow through the ranks of the Dodger farm teams, and I knew he was ready.  I have only been that sure with two other current Dodgers:  Seager and Kershaw!

In 2013 Cody hit .210 in rookie ball, but had a .340 OB%, to go with 1 HR (195 AB’s).  Even at a young age, he had an eye like a hawk. In 2014, Cody hit .312 in Rookie ball across two levels of rookie ball  but with just 3 HR (233 AB’s).  In 2015, he changed his launch angle and hit .264 to go with a .336 OB% and launched 30 bombs (544 AB’s) in High-A Ball.

The next stop in 2016 was Tulsa and  OKC, where he hit .271 with a .365 OB% and 26 HR.  He followed that up by hitting .314 with a .424 OB% (.981 OPS) in the AFL.  I watched him a few times during the course of the season and a couple of times in the AFL and it just seemed to me that he was ready.  It turned out that A-Gon had nothing left and Cody was as ready as a player can be.

I’d like to tell you I feel the same way about Alex Verdugo, but I don’t! Alex was lacking just a little “something” that I could not identify… maybe it’s something he learned in his cup of coffee last season.  Maybe the word is “hunger” – maybe Alex isn’t as “hungry” as Cody.  Maybe he wasn’t as hungry as Cody, but after seeing how it is done at the MLB level, maybe he is developing that “hunger” needed to be great.

This Hot Stove League has seen little movement so far and I think it’s fairly obvious as to why:  No one is going going to pay $200 million for JD Martinez.  Yu Darvish is not going to get $150 million and Jake Arrietta is not going to get $125 million.  So far, GM’s have shown a willingness to overpay for bullpen help only in 2 or 3 year deals.  JD Martinez will be lucky to get $120 million.  FAZ would probably re-sign Darvish for 4 years/$100 million, which means they might have to jettison some salary. So far, these GM’s have been showing admirable restraint because it has become painfully obvious that signing big-name free agents to exorbitant contracts is a dope-fiend move and not the path to success.

The Dodgers could yet trade Matt Kemp, trade for Yelich or sign Darvish, but none of us are holding our breath.  If you don’t comprehend the dynamics, then you might think the Dodgers are cheap.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The Dodgers have spent on the Stadium, the minor leagues, coaching , Front Office staff, and have the finest facilities of any team.  Their new Dominican Academy shows their level of financial commitment. However, like the Yankees who have paid the luxury tax for 14 years straight, they are re-setting the luxury tax clock.

The long and the short of it is: The Dodgers will not pay the luxury tax in 2018!  PERIOD! No way, no how.  End of story. That doesn’t mean that they will sign Harper or Machado next off-season, but if they are not under the tax threshold there is no way they can be involved in the process… at least the process of seeing that other teams don’t “steal” one of those players for a song.  If the Dodgers don’t sign Harper or Machado, they will make sure that whoever does, feels the wrath of the Luxury Tax Devil.

Who Is Ready in 2018?

While I do not see any “sure things” like Bellinger, Seager or Kershaw in 2018, there are a few players that could be huge assets to the team. Some are rookies, some are not rookies.

Matt Kemp – Unless he is traded, there is no reason not to give him a shot at making team, unless it’s his attitude and I think he had been duly chastened and humbled with all that has happened.  I have no expectations or predictions. He’s just a possibility.  That’s it!

Andrew Toles – I think it was the end of June in 2016 that I was having dinner with my friend, Scott Andes of LaDodgerReport.com and I told him; “Watch this Toles kid – I think he’s ready and will be called up soon.”  Well, he was called up shortly after the 4th of July and it turns out he was ready.  His 2017 was derailed with injury, but he is in the mix for 2018.  I like him a lot, but he does not have the pedigree of this next guy.

Alex Verdugo – Alex has an incredibly quick bat and amazing ability to almost always make contact.  Chris Taylor and Cody Bellinger changed their launch angles almost overnight. Who’s to say Alex can’t do the same? According to several sources, Alex Verdugo is working on gaining strength this offseason.  Alex said:

“The biggest thing for me is to take my offseason seriously and gain weight. I want to put on muscle and come back bigger and stronger. I think with that, physically, on the field, I think I’m ready. I just want to physically get bigger.”

It’s no secret that Alex may have had a sense of entitlement and has not taken everything as seriously as necessary.  Doc Roberts, Rich Hill, Chase Utley, and Cody and Corey have had talks with him.  Sometimes, a light just goes on.  Alex Verdugo has a Tony Gwynn-esque bat.  If he can achieve his potential, the Dodgers don’t need Christian Yelich.

Alex has all the tools.  If he has the hunger, then the Dodgers may have found their corner outfielder for the next six years.

Kiebert Ruiz – Most of last season, I had Kay-Bear Ruiz ahead of Will Smith.  Ruiz is still only 19 (a switch-hitter) and hit .316 with a .361 OB % across Low-A and High-A last season. Like Cody, he will develop power, but is even more advanced as a hitter than Cody at that age.  He will start the season in AA and I expect him to destroy AA pitching.  Ditto for AAA.  This kid is precocious and could be ready later in 2018.  I stop just short of Cody, Corey and Clayton in proclaiming him the next “great Dodger.”

Will Smith –  He will be 23 in March and 2017 was largely a waste.  He did display some power at High-A while hitting .232 with a .355 OB% but was promptly injured when promoted to AA.  He broke out in the AFL and I think he could be a solid backup, as soon as this year.  His glove and arm are not in question.  If Grandal is traded in a salary dump, he could be the solution.

Brock Stewart – This is short and sweet.  He wants to start, but I think he’s a lock-down reliever. He put up “set-up man” numbers in relief last season. He will be 27 next year and has two great pitches.  He has “reliever” written all overt him.  All someone has to do is change his mindset and the Dodgers have high-leverage arm in the pen.  At best he’s a #4 starter.  Move him to the pen – do it now!

Dennis Santana – Right now, the Dodgers see him as a starter, but he could be “lights out” in the pen immediately. At some point, the Dodgers have to say “we have enough starters.”

Walker Buehler – He was shelled in his callup.  Don’t be fooled.  He has filthy stuff – control is what he has to work on.  He could make the team out of the box or go to OKC to work on his command.  It’s not a question of “if”… only “when.”

Julio Urias – I hear he is re-habbing with a vengeance.  This guy is hungry and the doctors say there is no reason the surgery should impact his career – there was no structural damage.  I expect to see him in June or July.  He’s a force to be reckoned with. As a rookie, he was amazing.  Look at his stats.

Yimi Garcia – The “spinmaster” could really lengthen the pen if he is healthy and all indications are that he is.

There are other candidates to step in and step up in 2018:  Wilmer Font (98 MPH heat), Tom Koehler (this could be an incredibly bad signing or an amazingly good signing – actually with the price tag, there is almost no risk), Trevor Oaks and Tim Locastro.  The electric arms in the system are too numerous to mention, but there are 3 or 4 other pitches who have a shot at making the big team this year if things go south.

I do expect for FAZ to make some moves, but if they don’t, there is no reason to be discouraged.  With what in in the hopper, the Dodgers are not standing pat – they are moving forward… even if they do nothing!

 

Posted by Mark Timmons

We started LA Dodger Talk in 2001. This site is about giving another perspective outside of the average day-to-day reporting. We don't do game recaps or such things -- lots of sites do that well. I value sabermetrics, but don't think they are the "end-all-be-all.". This is where you should start your day as a Dodger Fan. Welcome! We'd like to hear your voice.

This article has 24 Comments

  1. Some think the Dodgers can be improved with bringing up the kids, and I disagree. They are not ready, but they will be for 2019-2020. IMO, FAZ was caught off guard last year. Nobody thought that CT3 and Belly would turn out to be the players they were last year, nobody expected Wood to go 16-3 with a 2.72 ERA, and nobody thought that Morrow would come on to become the best setup in MLB. But they did, and that is why FAZ traded for Darvish, Watson, and Cingrani at the deadline. Come on Mark, even you could not have thought that Belly would hit 39 HRs and 97 RBIs. They traded for Granderson because they could not count on Joc, and that kept CT3 in LF where he was producing. The Dodgers did not have a LF other than CT3, and now he is the CF. Therefore, if you do not believe the Dodgers need a LF, then you are counting on lightning to strike again with Toles. Okay, I can live with that.
    .
    But reality has set in again, and the one goal that FAZ had set for 2018 was to get below the luxury tax threshold. They are there now, and I do not expect them to go over the threshold again. They are not getting under the $197M this year so they can spend $$$ on Harper or Machado or Keuchel or Donaldson next year. They will not spend more than $5M AAV on a reliever except for an elite closer which they have. They will try to extend Kershaw & Puig, and maybe Wood. They will look to extend Seager and Belly, but with Boras as their agent, that will not happen. They will look to sign (or trade for) a 2B in 2019, and they will be set, until JT can become a FA in 2021, and Seager in 2022. By the time JT’s contract is up, Cristian Santana will be ready. 2019-2020-2021 is exactly what FAZ has been building for, and I am more than okay with that.
    .
    But now they got to Game 7 of the WS and did not get their parade, and I do not want to wait another year. I want to see the Dodgers win in 2018. They cannot improve through FA, but they can through trades for inexpensive controllable players. Just like they always have, FAZ can establish the untouchable list, and the others can be available for the right price. I am not for an overpay for any player, but IMO there is more of a chance for an overpay at the trade deadline than in the offseason.
    .
    Buehler did not do well as a reliever last year at the AAA or MLB level. He has all of 92 professional innings as a pitcher. He will not get better by pitching out of the bullpen. He will go to OKC to start and to try and lengthen his game. But no, the likes of Oaks or Buehler, or White, or Santana coming to ML before September to be relievers is not going to happen. They may come as a spot starter, but not as a reliever. The Dodgers have Baez/Cingrani/Stripling/Fields/Garcia/Avilan/Font/Koehler/Liberatore/Owens/Paredes before considering Stewart, who I agree should go to the pen beginning in ST and try to become the RH version of Andrew Miller. Many do not like Baez or Fields, but Doc and FAZ do, so Dodger fans should just get used to it. So exactly how does a starting pitcher fit in with that group that will relieve before them? I do believe that Urias will be back by the trade deadline. But pitchers with shoulder surgery are not good at coming out of the pen because it takes them more time to warm up. Maybe young Julio will be different.
    .
    Nobody wants Kemp, including the Dodgers. He will either start for LA in LF or be DFA. They cannot afford a malcontent in the clubhouse. Kemp is no Chase Utley. I do not block Toles for Kemp, so I see him as a DFA. And make no mistake, if the Dodgers keep Kemp, Toles is back in OKC. At this point Joc and Kike’ are role players and will stay with the ML team. I think if I were Doc, I would only let Joc bat against LHP in ST and Kike’ only against RHP. If they cannot, there is no reason to try it during the 162 game season or playoffs. Verdugo is part of the 2019-2020 blueprint.
    .
    I try to think of ways the Dodgers can improve. Yelich/Cole/Archer do make them better. But in all honesty, I am not certain as to how much. Some days I am bullish on them, but mostly not. However, they are young, inexpensive, and more than a rental. But none of them will be Dodgers. I have resigned myself to the idea that the Dodgers will do nothing. Realistically, they will look for other AAA players who can act as depth (I agree with that strategy), they will look for more reclamation projects like Henry Owens, and they will bring Max Muncy to ST to give him the opportunity to be the LH hitting infielder. Actually I am really pulling for Max to get that job. I would say Locastro, but he does not bat LH. They will also have the three headed left fielder, and hope that they are enough. They will see where they are in July and decide what prospect capital they can move without hurting 2019. Get to the playoffs and hope that Kershaw can find a little MadBum in his locker, and that Seager can stay healthy.

    1. Strasburg is a Boras client and the Nats were able to sign him to a long term deal before he went to free agency. He did it because he felt the Nats were looking out after him when he had TJ surgery. So it’s not impossible for the Dodgers to do the same.

    2. AC, when I think a guy is “ready” I do not ten to think in terms if numbers. I was surprised as to how easily Cody adapted but not at how easily he made adjustments. 39 HR was a lot and he may or may not surpass it, but I do think he will continue to improve.

      Buehler has been through a lot= #1 pick, TJ, A-Ball to the MLB in one year. I have no clue what he will do now or when he will do it. I just know he has an electric arm.

      All of your points are valid and so are mine. That’s the fun part of baseball. Teams plan and the Baseball Gods laugh! I can’t wait to see what we never expected happen.

      1. I agree Cody will get better. He will be better than a 4 WAR in 2018. And he does not have to put up Giancarlo type statistics to make it. I guarantee you that Clay has been throwing the inside breaking ball to him all winter so that he will recognize it and pummel it when he thinks he can.
        .
        Buehler will be special. Just not out of ST. He is too special to put into a ML bullpen. He needs to start and lengthen his game. He does that at OKC not out of the LAD bullpen. Actually I would have zero problem moving Ryu and making Buehler #5 and let him develop with on the job training. I also would not mind moving Ryu and having Oaks as the #5.
        .
        We really are not that far off in our opinions. I think the kids will be special, but not until 2019 and 2020.

    3. I don’t believe they are going to make any moves that are not in our favor. There will be no overpays, they will not go over the luxury tax this year and routinely any other year. There is no way they get involved in free agency next year for Machado or Harper. They will try to sign Kershaw which is likely if Kershaw wants to and if he is healthy. They already have 35 million per year budgeted and a new team would have to be willing to add roughly 40 million per year new money. They will seek reclamation projects and hidden treasure but unless a trade comes along that they can’t pass on they will stand pat. However, my concern is how they continue to improve the farm. Thanks to the winning they are not going to have any high draft picks. They might be able to do another international overpay but I don’t know if that is possible. How effective was that anyway? Who can you point to that will help us? Alvarez, heredia maybe but it is going to be very challenging to have a strong farm system moving forward. I don’t know how they do it but I hope they continue to have a tremendous focus on the farm. Having said that I hope they prioritize winning this year without destroying the farm. I want to revise my statement they won’t get involved in the Harper, Machado chase because they might if Kershaw is not resigned but still unlikely.

    4. AC

      I agree with you, the Dodgers will probably not do anything drastic with the team.

      I do understand your point about leftfield being a whole, in our line up, for a few years.

      In fact , just before the trade deadline came along last year, I thought if we didn’t trade for someone like JD at the time, we might be sorry later, if Puig and Joc didn’t continue to produce, offensively.

      Dodger rick was big on JD at the time, and I totally understood why he was, because we hadn’t got much out of leftfield, in the last few years.

      And really, we hadn’t got much out of our outfielders in general, in the last few years.

      But Puig and Taylor, really stepped up last year, to there credit.

      But the team was doing so well as the trade deadline approached last year, so I understand why the front office didn’t trade for someone, then.

      I don’t think everyone is thinking we can win, with our young players.

      I think everyone is really saying, we really don’t know what we have, in our young players.

      Because that is to hard to predict.

      And I think Toles might have to start in AAA to test his knee, and to play himself back, on defense.

      Because he probably won’t get enough innings in, on defense, in spring training.

      And by the way, take credit for making the call about Morrow, even before spring training started, last year!

      And like I have already said, I think a player like Yelich, would make our line up much better, because Yelich is a consistent hitter.

      And because of that, he would help our line up, be more productive, like Bobby said.

  2. Thanks for the update and predictions. I just want to thank you for making my Dodger experience so much more satisfying. This is the first site I go to every morning to feed my “hunger”. As a lifelong Dodger fan who was born in Brooklyn and now reside in Baltimore I need a fix to keep my emotions in check. I hope you and your family have a safe and prosperous year ahead. Keep up the great work.
    Ira the artful Dodger…………

  3. Still seems to me like the Dodgers are clearing the decks for a major FA push for the 2 youngest and most elite position players in 2018. Meanwhile….catchers and pitchers Feb 13.

  4. Priority one: Offload Kemp. If no one bites why not see if he has anything left? Or Not!
    Priority two: If Kemp is moved add 1 more bat and 1 more bullpen arm from the bargain aisle.
    Priority three: See what the kids bring in the spring and early part of the season.

    I like Yelich but don’t see a trade matching up, they will not overpay.

    At what point do the free agents lower their asking price? Could one of Hosmer, Moustakas or Cain go back to KC? Does Arrieta go back to the Cubs? What is Darvish worth? Who takes Martinez or Holland? The Dodgers are not in on any of these players but remember Desmond taking a 1 year prove it deal for $8 M to go to the Rocks last year? There could be some bargain signings around the leagues soon.

    Of course there could be a blockbuster brewing as we all speculate but I don’t see it. There are still some prospect candidates that could stand to be thinned but no one is in a hurry to deal with Faz. I expect a lot of moves in ST if they stand pat, just too many bodies for the 25 spots.

    In the West the Rockies have spent a lot of $ on their bullpen but Desmond won’t fully replace Cargo and Ianetta is a drop off from Lucroy. Their rotation will be their undoing (again) The Snakes have not done much and the Giants are a mess. The Padres have a good young team but are a year or two away. Winning the Division should be a breeze with what the Dodgers have now, just saying. I’ll take our chances in the post season with a few deadline moves. I trust in FAZ whatever they decide to do.

    1. i don’t expect it, but a short-term cain deal would be a nice surprise. they’d have to dump some salary, maybe grandal, baez, fields?

      this f.o. is hard to predict.

  5. It’s a pretty good time to be a Dodger fan.

    The team is pretty stacked and loaded. I think the only way to get Yelich is to move at least one and probably two OF in a deal.
    .
    Or to package an OF or two with Kemp to make him more palatable.
    .
    At some point the team owes it to Verdugo and Toles to have a chance, if not here somewhere. Pederson’s upside probably merits him a shot somewhere.
    .
    If Maeda won’t go to the pen, he and Ryu make only one spot available for Oaks or Beuhler.
    .
    I’m not really sure what people are pining for. The Dodgers have proven they will supplement the roster during the season.
    .
    Relax and be happy.

    1. I am!

      I’m like a hog in slop!

      OK, I’m done for the year!

      The wife and I are headed downtown for an early dinner at the Oceanaire and then a Pacer game. After that is over, who knows? Our son is dropping us off and we will Uber it home.

      The heck with 2017! It’s so yesterday!

      HAPPY NEW YEAR!

  6. 1. If FAZ gets Yelich the outfield starters will be Yelich, Taylor, and Puig. I still want Yelich.
    2. If the Dodgers trade Forsythe and get Yelich the outfield will be Pederson, Yelich, and Puig.
    3. Pederson needs to lose weight and Puig probably does as well.
    4. Kemp, Taylor, and Hernandez could be the outfield against lefties if Puig fails to hit lefties again.
    5. The Dodger bullpen is loaded for the playoffs and more than adequate for the season.
    6. One of Pederson or Toles should be productive enough. Which is still the question.
    7. Verdugo, unless traded, will spend half the season in OK.
    8. The rotation will get innings from Kershaw, Wood, Hill, Maeda, Ryu, Buehler, Urias, Stewart,.
    9. The Dodgers still do not have to do anything and still win the WS.

      1. Far from sabremetric thinking, I like the Dodgers having a center fielder that wears #3.
        .
        I also like a second baseman that is fast and can steal bases.
        .
        I like Taylor in CF as well as 2B.
        .
        I also like the idea of a CFer hitting 30 to 40 home runs. That is a ton of OPS for a center fielder. Get a CFer to hit 30 home runs and a shortstop to do the same and the offense would have two positions that has power that usually doesn’t have it.

  7. Thanks Mark, but you’d better keep that smartphone in your pocket on vibrate, or you might just miss that big signing news.
    Wishing you and all a very prosperous New Year, and welcome to the year the Dodgers end the drought.

  8. It is interesting as we discuss next year. Some of us think the bull pen is the issue and other think LF is the problem. If we can get Yelich at a reasonable price I would agree he is the best option. Won’ t happen. Who ever gets Yelich will have to over pay and FAZ will not over pay. The only option we have in LF is Toles or Verdugo. Kike is a bench player and Joc cannot hit left handlers. I want a full time LF, not platoon players.

    Now the bull pen. Yes we have a lot of guys but not that much talent. I do not like Fields. I like Baez only if he develops another pitch. I do like Cingrani. Now if you can convince Stewart, Maeda and Stripling they should pitch out of the pen, I am starting to like the pen much better. Let Fonts, Liberatore, Paredes, Oaks, Koehler, Garcia, and Avilan fight it out for the last 2-3 positions.

    The starters should be Kershaw, Wood, Hill, Ryu and Beuhler. I think Ryu is going to have a good year. It is his second year back from shoulder surgery. Beuhler just needs to pitch. He has some command issues, but let him work that problem out. Let ST begin.

  9. A few of my beliefs
    1 Kemp doesn’t belong or deserve to be on this team, and will be nothing but trouble if he is.
    2 A player that might be a real surprise and a big asset to the team this season, Tim Locastro
    3 I think Grandal will be traded at some point to at least get something before he becomes an FA.
    4 Buehler and Urias for this season, maybe, but both will be a force next season.
    5 Looking forward to seeing what Oaks can do in ST.
    6 Hoping FAZ won’t give Kershaw an extension if he is looking for more then 4 years.
    7 If Maeda is again a 4 or 5 innings pitcher through his first 6 or 7 starts then I hope Maeda is open to a move to the pen where he could be outstanding. If he isn’t then a July trade is the only answer for the Dodgers.
    8 I hope Verdugo comes to ST with the right attitude and shows he is the high contact and very low strikeout hitter the Dodgers are counting on him to be.

    1. I think the prevailing opinion of Kemp as the perpetually selfish, prima donna malcontent and clubhouse cancer are probably a little overstated, especially at this point in his career. Although I would like Mark to elaborate a little if he can about the drama years back with Kemp and Jeff Kent. Back then the prevailing opinion was that Kent was this grumpy old vet who couldn’t stand the young buck coming up an not showing proper deference to the old guard.

      I wonder, as bad a defender as Kemp has been, whether if he’s just brought in as the LF designated Lefty Thumper – a la Franklin Gutierrez and the guy (forgot his name) who the Dodgers picked up in August of 16 for the same role- that maybe in that limited role his defensive shortcomings aren’t so bad or impactful.

      It’d be interesting to see how the team uses Maeda. I think to keep him happy and just to give the starting arms enough rest, the team will use the rotating DL shuffle to have him start on extended rest, and then come playoff time he reverts to the super righty ROOGY…maybe even a setup.

      1. Molly Knight has a great article about Kemp:

        http://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/8036559/center-fielder-matt-kemp-taking-control-los-angeles-dodgers-espn-magazine

        I have no personal knowledge of the Kemp /Kent Feud, but Kent was grumpy and Kemp was moody, which did not make them instant friends. I know they avoided each other whenever possible, but lots of players stayed out of Kent’s way. Kent was Chase Utley on steroids with a mean streak.

        As I have said before, Kemp was often friendly and effusive and his teammates liked him, but he could flip and be the kind of guy you didn’t want to be in the room with. I think it was youth and immaturity and by now, he is certainly humbled. He knows FAZ will DFA him in a heartbeat, so I do not think he would be a cancer in the clubhouse. If the Dodgers can’t move him, they have to give him a shot… don’t they?

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