As it stands now, the Dodgers 2019 salary is projected anywhere from $175MM to $180MM. If both Grandal and Ryu accept the QO, the Dodgers will be well past the tax threshold of $206MM. The Dodgers can pick up about $20MM by trading Puig and Wood. Another $4MM to $5MM for Joc. They do not need both CT3 and Kike’. Pick one. Both are arbitration eligible and are projected to be at $3.2MM.
Much has been written about how deep the Dodgers pockets are. How FAZ worked so hard to get the team under the luxury tax threshold just so they could go big with this year’s group of free agents. But what is being slightly ignored are potential financial pitfalls. The case of Ogles v Security Benefit Life Insurance Co et al, U.S. District Court, District of Kansas, No. 18-02265 is still pending. There is still turmoil between Todd Boehly and Mark Walter & Guggenheim Partners. And there are still the issues involving the pending litigation regarding the practice of signing international players, principally the Cubans. The Dodgers are very much being scrutinized in this ordeal. I have no insight as to what the Dodgers finances might be, or how that might impact the free agency signings. Therefore, I am going to give my analysis of what the team may look like without any financial considerations. Today I am going to focus on pitching and catching, while tomorrow I will look at infielders and outfielders.
The Dodgers currently have 39 protected on their 40-man roster. Chase Utley is still listed, but he has stated that he will retire and when that becomes official Chase would be removed from the 40 man, dropping it to 38. There are 22 pitchers, 3 catchers, 6 infielders, and 7 outfielders.
Starting pitching: 2019 will be the year that the opening day starter will not be Clayton Kershaw for the first time since 2010 (Vincent Padilla). Walker Buehler will (should) get that honor. Clayton drops down to #2. Rich Hill should be the #3, and after that it is anyone’s guess. Current Dodgers who will be vying for #4 and #5
This does not include the possibility of Hyun-jin Ryu returning. FAZ has advised each of the above to approach the 2019 season as if they were starters. Urias will be limited to 100-120 IP and will probably be moved to the bullpen when he reaches 80-90 just so he is available for the stretch run and October. I fully expect Alex Wood to be traded regardless if Ryu returns or not. Ross Stripling has earned the right to start, and Kenta Maeda should either be the #5 starter or traded so that he is not hurt by his incentive laden contract. Dennis Santana will start the season in OKC, which brings us to Caleb Ferguson.
I think the Dodgers have a lot of options for starting pitching, but most are back of the rotation types. Unless Kershaw can come all the way back, the Dodgers have 1 legit top of the rotation type starter…Walker Buehler. I felt the Dodgers missed out big when they did not acquire Gerrit Cole last winter. I do not know who will be available to be Co #2 with Kershaw, but it will not be Jacob deGrom or Noah Syndergaard. Both of those pitchers were Brodie Van Waganen’s former clients and he is not about to trade either one when he needs them both to justify his getting the NYM GM position. Zach Wheeler may be available. He has one year before becoming a FA, but that is who I would target if Van Waganen is willing to deal. I get the impression he wants to ride the big three as long as he can. I am not as excited about Corey Kluber or Carlos Carrazco, but I would certainly listen. A potential ‘out of the box” possibility is the Marlins’ RHSP, Jose Urena.
Outside of Ryu, I cannot think of a FA starting pitcher that interests me. I like Patrick Corbin but not at the price he is projected to get, and he will take less to pitch for the Yankees. Dallas Keuchel is losing it faster than Kershaw. Eovaldi feels more of a late inning reliever than starter.
Relief Pitching: Caleb is 22 years old and has been a very successful starting pitcher. But he was an exceptional reliever for LAD in 2018. There is no question that starting pitchers are paid more handsomely than relievers, but Ferguson has a chance to be an Andrew Miller type pitcher who will face the tough part of the lineup in the 5th, 6th, and/or 7th, and will get paid. Right now, he relies way too much on his fastball, but if he fully develops his secondary pitches (curve and change), he could be unhittable. If I were King of the Dynasty, I would send Caleb back to OKC to start. He should really concentrate on commanding his curve and change. He should not worry about winning or losing, only on improving his secondary pitches. He will never be a 4-pitch pitcher as his slider is next to non-existent. But there is enough velo separation with his fastball (94-96), curve (75-77) and change (85-86) for him to work with to become at best a mid-rotation starter or a weapon out of the bullpen. There is not much difference in pay for those two types. I like him better as a relief weapon.
Jansen, Baez, Alexander, Floro, Cingrani should all be back with the MLB team. But there is one reliever that very few other than me seem to like:
45 Games – 41 IP
4 HRs allowed
9 inherited runners – ZERO scored.
I recognize that most do not like Josh Fields, but I am in the minority who think he is a valuable middle reliever who can dominate at times and struggle at others. He is not the late inning setup guy and should not be judged as one. Just my opinion. One other name to keep an eye on is RHRP Jesen Therrien who signed a two-year minor league contract last year. I can see Jesen on the big-league club by June 2019. With his fastball, if he even comes close to replicating that changeup from his pitching mentor, Eric Gagne, he could be devastating. I am very high on him…as much as I was with Brandon Morrow. If he can be as good as Morrow was, wouldn’t that be special. Plus he would be under team control for several years.
I am not a fan of paying huge dollars for previously successful relievers in FA. Besides Jose Leclerc (RHRP – Rangers), I could see the Dodgers targeting Taylor Rogers (LHRP – Twins) or Kyle Crick (RHRP – Pirates). If the Astros want to make Ryan Pressly available, I would think the Dodgers would check in. If the Padres want to trade with LAD, I can see discussions around Craig Stammen, Matt Strahm, and Kirby Yates.
FAZ will look at a lot of possible relievers, including many already on the roster. Tom Koehler did not pitch this year, but still has one year of arbitration remaining. I can see FAZ offering Koehler the same deal he signed last year. If he says no, then he is DFA candidate. Other DFA candidates might be Yimi Garcia, Zac Rosscup, Erik Goeddel, Pat Venditte, JT Chargois, and Brock Stewart. Only Venditte has an option. It would depend on how many 40-man spots are needed for Rule 5 draftees retained or FAs signed. Do not expect any big-name relievers, including Adam Ottavino. He would be the only “name” reliever that I would be interested in. It is going to be another bunch of pitchers on the OKC – LA shuttle.
Marshall Kasowski, Jordan Sheffield, Yadi Alvarez, Josh Sborz, and Daniel Corcino are all potential minor league relievers that may be called up during the year. Joe Broussard and Shea Spitzbarth will get a chance to showcase in ST, but they would not be high on my wish list. Besides Therrien, the one I will be watching closely will be Tony Gonsolin. He has a chance to be the 2019 version of Caleb Ferguson.
Catcher: Austin Barnes is a decent backup catcher, but not a starter for a championship team. Kyle Farmer’s reign as a Dodger may very well come to an end. He is a utility infielder who can catch. At 31, Rocky Gale will be insurance and a good mentor for Will Smith and Keibert Ruiz but is most certainly a DFA candidate. I do not expect Grandal to accept the QO, so the team will need someone to fill in before Smith or Ruiz are ready. If Wilson Ramos will accept a 2-year contract, I would expect that he will get an offer. If he wants a three year deal, the Dodgers may still look at that and then include Will Smith in a trade. I am sure the Dodgers will be in on any discussion for JT Realmuto, but I would expect that other teams will be in a position to offer more. Realmuto would be my number 1 target, I just do not think FAZ will match what the Braves and or Nationals may be offering.
Realistically, look for the Dodgers to sign a fill-in type catcher: Kurt Suzuki, Martin Maldonado, or Jonathan Lucroy. Of those three, I would choose Suzuki because he is good offensively, but more importantly it reunites him with his former CS Fullerton teammate, JT. I would also think that FAZ will check in with the Braves for Tyler Flowers if they trade for Realmuto or sign Grandal.
One other option I have been reading about…Will Salvador Perez be made available as has been rumored? He is not the offensive player that Realmuto is, but he is a better defensive catcher. He has three years remaining on a very reasonable contract. There is 3 years with $36MM remaining with a $10.5MM AAV. This would be a fantastic move if the Dodgers could pull it off.