2019 or 2020

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. 

This article has 29 Comments

  1. We are going to have a better idea soon on how much Zaidi influenced the makeup of the team. I think the Dodgers will not exceed the AAV tax threshold again but if they did in 2019, they would again get below it in 2020 when the Kemp, Puig, Wood, Hill contracts expire.
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    I will guess that Freidman covets depth and that will keep the Dodgers from trading payroll and related multiple players to add more than one key player.

  2. I totally agree that the Dodgers will stay under the Luxury Tax Threshold… however, unlike last year, they do not have to stay under it. If they exceeped it by a $1 last year, they would not owe much, but the Tax Trhreshold would stay at 50%. This year, if they go over by $10 million, the Tax is 20% of the $10 million, but then it goes up to 30%, 40%, 50% each of the next years. So, if the right offer presented itself, they COULD go over…. but I really doubt it.

    Who would you rather have JD Martinez or Bryce Harper? Martinez or Machado? For me, I would take Martinez (even with his poor fielding) over either one. So, unless Martinez opts out… and he may… he is the better player and VALUE in my opinion. I absolutely would not give Manny Machado a big contract, or any contract.

    FAZ got Manny who was the best FA available, but he was exposed outside of Camden Yards (which also scares me about Arenado) and hit .273 as a Dodger. When JD Martinez was traded to the D-Bags he carried the team, hitting .302 with 29 HR’s. The look what he did in Boston… AND HIS ENTIRE DEAL IS $110 MILLION!!!!

    Bryce Harper has had some amazing years… and some so-so years. He’s no Mike Trout, who always has a good year. I would give Harper a good deal, but $300 million when Martinez got one for $110 million? No way! Of the hitters who will be available next year, Scooter Gennett would interest me, as would Arenado and Rendon. Goldy will be 32 (do you want another A-Gon?), Gregorius will not be the hitter he is outside of Yankee Stadium. Ozuna and Bogarts are both interesting.

    I do think a healthy Corey Seager will make everyone around him better, and you guaranteed Seager would be fine. We got that in writing! 😉

    A couple of things:

    1. It will take another Charlie Culberson Miracle Trade to get rid of Kemp. I think they are stuck with him and a platoon of Kemp and Pederson in LF might be pretty productive… if Kemp shows up in shape again. He put some of those pounds back on after the All-Star Break.

    2. I think it’s different with Wood – They won’t give him the QO, like they did Ryu, so it makes sense to trade him now rather than not get a draft pick.

    3. The same is true with Puig – I can’t see him getting the QO, because (1) his defense is slipping; and (2) his body is going to be injury-prone going forward (my opinion). That, and Alex Verdugo could be Tony Gwynn… or not!

    4. The question is: What are they worth? Could the Dodgers get a power bat for them? What if the deal was sweetened? The Dodgers really need a power bat… who that is….. I have no clue. I just believe DJ Peters is Kyle Russell re-incarnated!

    Friedman is looking at everything, but I can’t see Harper or Machado… Final shot: Could Verdugo learn to become a power guy?

    1. Making Verdugo into a power guy would ruin him.
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      I don’t like Machado mainly because he is another big swing guy but for the lack of a righty power bat, I could live with him for two years. Here is an alternative: I still like making Puig an off-season conversion project. Convert to what you ask? Third base I answer. He can handle it and it makes room for Verdugo in RF. Turner moves to first base and Bellinger goes to CF.
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      I don’t like trading a Dodger to just any team. That is why I keep coming back to Puig to Miami. He would like it there regardless of Mattingly. His home is in Miami. He would not like Cleveland or Cincinnati.
      .

    2. Kyle Russell is an excellent comparison to DJ Peters.
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      Russell – 6’5″ 220 pounds Left/Left – 3rd round 2008
      .267/.361/.508/.869 – 30.97 K % – 1 HR per 24 PA
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      DJ – 6’6″ 225 pounds Right/Right – 4th round – 2016
      .276/.366/.519/.884 – 30.89 K % – 1 HR per 21 PA
      .
      Kyle Russell was out of baseball as a 27 year old in 2013.
      .
      Let’ s hope that DJ learns from Kyle Russell or he might not sniff the LAD clubhouse either.
      .
      And Yes – My guarantee of Corey Seager being fine is still gold.

  3. 1 – Totally agree. No one is going to take Kemp off our hands and that is a very productive platoon.
    2 – Totally agree. Wood is trade bait, but I’m not sure he has a ton of value. Maybe we can swap him for a reliever.
    3 – I think you know how I feel about Puig. He will be ready to play for a new contract and he will get a qualifying offer. He put up gold glove defense two years in a row, one down year isn’t a pattern, it’s an outlier. He only gets traded if someone is going to give us something to really improve the team. He’s already injury prone, but when he’s locked in, he’s special.

    Verdugo isn’t Tony Gwynn, he’s Todd Hollandsworth. Maybe he’s Jason Heyworth. He may develop power, but it looks to me like he is what he is. Above average, speed, defense, contact, eye, but not elite except for arm.

    I’m trying to be optimistic about DJ Peters, but that dude is gonna put up 200 K’s if he keeps doing what he’s been doing.

    Arrenado is the big target to me. Unlike all those other Rockies, he’s the one that hits on the road. I also like his leadership and his passion. He’s the man, a boss.

  4. Mark:
    Agree with much of what you say, except on Seager. Be great if he returns strong, but we won’t know till he starts making throws to first.

    News Roberts might be poached, I’m not a great Roberts fan, but the Dodgers need to stop the management bleeding (although glad Zadi is gone).

    https://www.yardbarker.com/mlb/articles/report_dave_roberts_could_move_on_to_the_giants_after_next_season/s1_12680_27786374

    Every time I hear Freidman speak it sounds like the Dodgers are going low budget. Meanwhile Boston, Houston, NY, Atlanta, and the other main players are going in another direction trying to get better.

    It all sounds like wait till next year (Cubs story prior to 2016). It sounds like Guggenheim is in firm control of this ship. Where do they steer it before bailing, and selling?

    1. If that is the case why not have a three team trade of Managers with Bruce Bochy to Cubs, Maddon to Dodgers, and Roberts to Giants and get it over with now?

      1. That’s a 3 way trade that makes so much sense it probably won’t happen. Make it so! I would rather have Bochy out of the 3 but he has never had to deal with saberball. I like Scioscia too but he’s probably out for the same reason.

    2. That’s not NEWS that he might be poached.
      `
      That’s a fan taking idle speculation and repositioning it as a potential reality.
      `
      STOP.
      `
      For my sanity and others.
      `
      Never quote YardBarker as news or legitimate.

  5. Just curious if Freidman ever reiterates his desire to win a WS. He seems more preoccupied with the bottom line, which I don’t disagree with, than the all out desire to win it all. Most of the winning GM’s and mgrs/coaches, have that sindle mindedness about winning. When the owners join this mentality, watch out. I saw this with the Warriors and how everything changed when the new ownership kept vowing to win it all. Many fans, at the time, thought it was just a PR ruse to get the fan base back and put butts in the seats. It wasn’t just hollow words. These guys actually did it.

    So far, the Dodgers have made one change that I wanted above all others, letting go of Grandal. They knew he wouldn’t take the QO. But the work is only half done. We know they will have to replace him, but with who? I’m sure they have their ideas. They also let Turner Ward go which I thought was a smart move, too. When you have a team in a batting spin for most of the season, something’s gotta give.

    Getting Seager back will give much more balance to the team and hopefully, there might be a tweak or two that will take us by surprise, but I think they are going mostly with what they’ve got. If that’s enough to get to the WS again, then these guys know something most of us fans don’t know. All I really want to see is some kind of demonstration of the ownership coming out with some real desire to win it all, not just have a profitable team for years and years. I haven’t seen this from the Dodgers since Magic J. fronted the group that took over some years ago.

    1. I always like to use the Jerry Buss, Phil Jackson combo with the Lakers. Both not only wanted to win, but expected to win, and did not care about the cost. At least with Magic more in control, they went out and spent on Lebron.
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      I think John Henry is that owner, and it appears that Alex Cora might be that manager. At least Boston is my 2nd favorite team.

  6. Bringing back Ryu tells me they will ride him and Hill for 1 more year while Urias and other young starters develop. Maeda and Wood seem to be the odd men out but maybe keep one in case of injuries. Stripling is cheap and is good out of the bullpen so he stays.

    Verdugo has nothing left to prove at AAA, either make a spot for him or trade him while his value is high. Rios would have value in the AL as a DH, he gets protected along with Ruiz and Alvaraz. I think they handle 2B internally but pick up a good defensive and framing C for a 1 year deal.

    Muncy and Puig are the 2 chips that have some real value but they better get back something quite tasty in return. This team is soooo boring that moving guys like that is problematic. If they need a RH bat why trade Puig? Muncy was their most productive hitter and is cheap. Both of these players suffered from the pull happy approach and are more effective using the whole field. Whoever the new hitting coach is will be huge next year-and will show the direction Freidman wants to go in. If they move Muncy then Cody takes 1B full time but they need a CF. Taylor or Kike could do it and would improve with more time out there but neither will ever be elite. Also who bats leadoff? I would love to see more consistent lineups and batting orders.

    That leaves the bullpen and I am tired of not addressing the setup role. A proven bridge who can also close when Kenley is not available or they go to Coors is a priority the team has not fixed and Morrow was a wild card that filled an inside straight. Go get a difference maker who won’t break the bank. Wood for a setup guy?

  7. AC nice post,agree with everything.
    Friedman said when hired the Dodgers would not be in on FA in their 30’s who were looking for large long term contracts. He said building from within, and bringing up players when the Dodgers had openings that could be filled by prospects, but if the prospect weren’t ready then a trade would be the way to go. I don’t think Harper was ever in the Dodgers plans and the Dodgers have Seager and no need for Machado. Staying under the CBT for 2019 is fine, they can accomplish their goals and still stay under.

  8. Maybe my math is wrong but with Kemp, hill, ryu, freese, wood, and Puig free agents after 2019, that subtracts about $80 mil from the payroll. Not to mention cingrani, fields, and Kohler who will also be free. We’re gradually turning over the roster. A new catcher and some marginal signings could be all see other than trades.

  9. AC

    Another thorough and sound analyzation!

    I didn’t realize the free agent class was so much better in 2019, because most baseball people made this current class, sound like the ultimate free agent class.

    But I guess that is because Harper and Manny are not only so talented, they are also unusually young free agents, too.

    Signing Harper to a long contract has always scared me, because Mark is right, Harper is not Mike Trout, even though that has been the narrative, since they both came up.

    And that is because Harper has not been consistent every year, like Trout has.

    I think it is good that we have two good options to go after in the next free agent class, for third base.

    Because I don’t think we can go wrong with either Arrenado or Rendon at third, and Turner will be toward the end of his contract then too.

    I think it would be nice if we got a good bat from the right side, but I am not talking about only a power bat, because that is the problem with this line up we have had, in the last few years.

    We don’t have enough good all around hitters, on this team.

    And Seager alone, as good of a hitter as he is, won’t be able to remedy this inconsistent offense, that this current line up of players are responsible for.

    We need balance in this line up next year more then anything else, because non of these average and below hitters with pop, are going to be different hitters next year.

    And that was very apparent in these last two World Series, especially this last one.

    Pitchers can easily pitch through this line up, because almost everyone in this line up, are all or nothing hitters.

    And because of that, when we are facing decent pitching, we see a lot more of nothing, then anything.

    This is the same reason that some said this team, wasn’t fun to watch.

    It isn’t fun to watch hitter after hitter, not being able to get a runner in, when runners are constantly in scoring position.

    And to score some of these runners, it doesn’t always take a hit, but most in this line up have trouble even putting the ball in play, in these situations.

    This bad situational hitting is not
    exciting in the least, it is a constant feeling, of frustration.

    And there are not enough HRs hit to take this frustration away, because most of these player’s HRs come when no one is on base, or in games that are blow outs, that are over before the fourth or fifth inning.

    And I don’t think this was lost on Friedman, because not only does he watch every game, the front office finally got it right, when they traded for Freeze.

    And Friedman blamed our loss in this last World Series on this team’s lack of offense, so hopefully he sees this line up, needs much more balance, and he makes the right adjustments, or trades, to make this team better.

    Because these same bunch of players are not going to get the job done!

    The only reason we made it all the way to the World Series this last year, was because the National League was so unbelievable weak, not because we had such a good team.

    And we saw this weakness against the Brewers, in that second series.

    We all knew here, we were pretty lucky to make it as far as we did, considering how in consistent this team’s offense was, all year.

    1. Agree about the NL. Braves and phillies should be better. Nats might finally put it all together too.

  10. This management team isn’t going to sign any high end free agents next season either. I have posted on this before. 2020 won’t be different than 2019 or 2018 or 2017. Forget the Nolan Arenados of the world. And if they wanted JD Martinez, they’ve had plenty of chances to trade for him or sign him. it’s not happening. And forget Goldschmidt. He’s too old to interest the Braintrust.

    I sure hope that Cory Seager is ready next year but it isn’t a sure thing. How many SS can you name that have had Tommy John surgery and have had successful comebacks? (I can think of 1.) And if you add hip surgery to that? If he does come back, how can you possibly compare his impact on a lineup to that of JD Martinez? Seager is a good hitter, especially for a SS. He’s not JD Martinez.

    Forget Harper or Machado or any other high end free agent. Forget trading for Realmuto too – the Fish want way too much for him. They will sign or trade for a placeholder and hope that Ruiz or Smith solve the catcher issue in a year or 2. Same with 2B. If Seager is able to come back and play SS, then Lux could be the answer at 2B in a year or 2. So they go with a combo of Taylor, Kike and Muncy at 2B or get a placeholder. And forget any possibility that Machado will take a 2 year contract for $27MM /year – that’s not happening. Why should he do that?

    Unless the Dodgers are willing to take on an equally bad contract, Kemp’s not going anywhere.

    I can see Joc, or Puig, or Wood or even Maeda being trade bait for a 2B, a C or a RP or some combination. Trade from your surplus to get what you need.

    1. Also, we are likely deadlocked until at least Tuesday when 40 man rosters need to be set. The last thing we can do right now is add players (aside from a catcher). I agree that positions and payroll could be opened up by trades.

      1. I agree that there will be nothing done until at least Tuesday. They have one spot available on the 40 man. Friedman will wait until he sees what catcher will be non-tendered before he earnestly looks at filling the catcher position. But if something did come up and a decision had to be made before Tuesday, I do not think finding a DFA candidate will be a problem.

    2. Rick, I would agree with you about Nolan Arenado or JDM (and I would include Rendon), but the Dodgers will have $74MM AAV coming off the books in 2020. That would allow the team to sign Arenado, Rendon, or JDM. They do not have a RH bat ready for ML, and they do not have a 3B ready for ML. They can sign a significant FA and not go over the CBT threshold. If the Dodgers do not win the WS in 2019, and this current roster does not give me a good feeling that they will, then they are going to have to go in a different direction, and maybe that will mean they will spend. It is just a hypothesis.
      .
      Of course if Mark is correct and CT3 can become a MVP candidate, then who knows about 2019 (emoji wink).

      1. I have no visions of that (although it would be nice), but how about just improving 10-15%? I think that’s a reasonable goal for a player still in his mid-late-20’s.

        In 1490 PA, CT3 has a .331 OB% and .766 OPS.
        In 2964 PA, Inciarte has a .337 OB% and .727 OPS.

        To me, they are roughly the same player… although they go about it differently. Inciarte’s game is built on speed – no power. Taylor is power and speed. I just happen to believe CT3 will be more like the player we saw in 2017 than in 2018. Time will tell…

    3. With Seager, the sample size of SS returning from TJ surgery is extremely small. Until proven otherwise, I am going with Seager and his doctors that say he will be ready for ST.
      .
      With Goldy, I am going with him heading to Houston with Josh James the prospect headliner coming back to AZ (Yordan Alvarez??). It will not be Kyle Tucker or Forest Whitley…absolute untouchables.

  11. The Astros lose Marwin Gonzalez but waste no time in getting that super utility player. They trade a mediocre AAA RHSP, Trent Thornton, for Aledyms Diaz. Diaz is a 28 year old whose primary position is SS, but will be used all over as was Marwin Gonzalez. He has experience (albeit not much) at 2B, 3B, and OF. Diaz at one time was a highly regarded SS in the Cardinals organization. He does not become eligible for FA until 2023. I do not think Luhnow did not like not having a SS when Correa went down last year.
    .
    If that is what a team can get for a very mediocre AAA pitcher, what can the Dodgers get for Brock Stewart? Probably nothing. Very real potential of DFA or PTBNL.

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