Why do I think that there is virtually no chance that the Dodgers will sign Bryce Harper this winter? Primarily because I do believe the leaked report that the Dodgers will not go over the CBT threshold for the next four years. I believe the Dodgers are looking at next year’s salaries and next year’s FA class and saying that it makes much more sense to wait one year before they even consider signing a top FA. There are only two elite offensive players in this year’s group of FA; Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. What makes them especially elite is their age. But that becomes a problem for the signing team because of the required guaranteed years and the number of opt out clauses it will take to sign either player. The rest of the group is good but not elite, and in comparison, is not as good as the 2019-2020 group. Next year’s group will include elite offensive players such as, Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, Xander Bogaerts, Didi Gregorius, Anthony Rendon, and possibly JDM. Scooter Gennett and Marcel Ozuna are just out of that range. Yasiel Puig would be considered on par with the top two OF from 2018-2019 FA group (AJ Pollock and Michael Brantley), and better than the #3 (Andrew McCutcheon). 2018-2019 top FA non-pitchers:Bryce HarperManny MachadoYasmani GrandalAJ PollockMichael BrantleyAndrew McCutcheon Compare that group to the 2019-2020 top FA non pitchers:Paul GoldschmidtNolan ArenadoAnthony RendonXander BogaertsDidi GregoriusScooter GennettMarcel OzunaYasiel Puigand possibly JD Martinez (who can opt out) IMO the 2019-2020 class is a better group than the 2018-19 group. As it currently sits, the Dodgers have a 2019 $199MM AAV salary, not considering Kenta Maeda incentives (assume $3.5MM), or the cost for a backup catcher (assume $2MM). That leaves the Dodgers about $1.5MM shy of the projected 2019 CBT threshold. That does not leave much for any trade deadline acquisitions, or any upgrade for the bullpen. There are certainly current Dodgers who can be traded that will alleviate some of that AAV: Yasiel Puig ($11.3MM), Alex Wood ($9.0MM), Joc Pederson ($4.3MM), CT3 or Kike’ ($3.2MM), and Kenta Maeda ($6.125MM in 2018). If they moved all five, they would save $34-$35MM. That would be the savings if the team did not pick up any existing contracts, which is not likely. I cannot see Andrew Friedman ridding his team of those five players, not picking up any players with existing contracts or arbitration obligations, and spending the entire savings on Bryce Harper. That will take them right up to the CBT threshold. Anyone thinking that Harper will not get an AAV of at least $30MM is not being realistic. This is as much about Scott Boras as it is Bryce Harper. Boras is pushing for the largest contract in total dollars, years, and AAV. While that is very unlikely, they are going to be in excess of $30MM for at least 10 years with 2-3 opt outs. If he does not get that, you can bet the hated C word (collusion) will be screamed out by the agents and their puppet Tony Clark. Why did I not include Matt Kemp in any potential contract savings? Kemp would be best utilized as a DH/LF in the AL, and only playoff contenders will consider him at $20MM. That means, IMO, only the Red Sox, Yankees, Astros, Indians and A’s will consider one year of Matt Kemp. The Red Sox already have JDM. The Yankees are not interested in another RHH OF. If they are going to spend dollars, it will be for pitching and/or Machado. The Indians are trying to lose salary. The A’s are a non-starter. That leaves the Astros. It is rumored that the Astros may be interested in pursuing Paul Goldschmidt. He went to high school in the area and would seem a likely extension candidate. Could you imagine the damage Goldy could do in that ballpark? That would put Yuli Gurriel as the likely DH. But Houston’s biggest problem appears to be pitching. The Astros need to replace Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers, and Charlie Morton. It is conceivable (likely?) that Morton will re-sign with Houston, but that leaves two huge holes. So, do the Astros go with Forest Whitley and Josh James, two highly respected pitching prospects, or do they try to sign pitching and let Kyle Tucker and Yordan Alvarez work themselves into the lineup. I do not see the Stros trading for Kemp when they have Tucker and Alvarez available. I am of the opinion that Friedman and the Dodgers are looking for 2020 to make a splash. The Dodgers will lose $54MM in AAV salaries from Matt Kemp ($20MM), Hyun-jin Ryu ($17.9MM), and Rich Hill ($16MM). For this exercise let’s assume that they will also lose nearly $20MM in projected arbitration numbers for Yasiel Puig and Alex Wood. That is nearly $74MM less than projected 2019 salaries. Besides the elite offensive talent previously identified, there could be four elite pitchers available; Gerrit Cole, Chris Sale, Zack Wheeler, and potentially Stephen Strasburg. If he has an injury free year, he will have 4 years remaining at $100MM. It is entirely conceivable that Boras will have Strasburg opt out. Who could the Dodgers target? We know that Nolan Arenado grew up a Dodger fan and would love to play 3B in Dodger Blue. Anthony Rendon would be a terrific back up plan. That would require JT to move to 1B for his final year. Gavin Lux should be ready to break into the lineup in 2020 so Bogaerts, Gennett, or Gregorius do not seem logical fits. I think the Dodgers will see what their young pitchers will do, but Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg are both west coast guys, while Chris Sale is an East Coast guy. Zack Wheeler is a Dallas kid, and the Rangers will be going into a new stadium, and may want Wheeler to be a part of the inauguration. It is more logical to believe that if the Dodgers want a top of the rotation pitcher to partner with Buehler and potentially Kershaw and Urias, either Strasburg or Cole will be logical targets, and the Dodgers will have the funds to work with. The Dodgers have a couple of critical Boras clients coming up…Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger. Could Boras convince the Dodgers to sign Strasburg as a goodwill for Seager and Bellinger. I doubt that Boras or Friedman think like that, but who knows for sure. It therefore seems more practical to me that the Dodgers will try to stay competitive in 2019 without spending, but will be in better position to spend in 2020 with a better group of elite players to choose from.