Yesterday Mark wrote, “this Dodger Team, right here, right now, is better than the 2018 version.” I will stipulate that the Dodgers may be better just for the loss of Farhan Zaidi and Turner Ward. That may be cruel, and they may do wonderful things for their new respective clubs, but they were a disconnect for this team. Friedman wants more of his fingerprints on the roster and approach, and RVS is quickly growing on me to where I am now an advocate. CHANGEis good (or it can be). In this case, I am going with that it will be good bordering on very good. But let me play devil’s advocate. Signing MG Kelly is a good start. As an aside, when I hear the name Machine Gun Kelly, my mind immediately goes to the radio DJ and sometimes actor. Another story for a much different time and place. But in order for the team to be WS Champions, they must go further. Too many starting pitchers, too many relievers, too many OF. And while each has too many, the position can also be improved. Right here, right now, the rotation is (per Doc):KershawBuehlerHillRyuMaeda While not necessary, who can argue that adding Corey Kluber to the rotation (for a potential three years) makes the team better. The Dodgers lose Hill and Ryu after 2019, unless Ryu is extended which is also a possibility, except for Scott Boras being his agent. Will he take 3 years for $33MM with an option with vesting? Or is Boras counting on a big year for some big bucks next year? OK I digress. What would it take to get Kluber? Before everybody simply says Verdugo is expendable for Kluber, what happens if Puig and or Kemp and or Joc are moved for salary relief and prospects. Who plays OF? Andrew & Co. has to think longer term. Who plays OF in 2020 when Puig and Kemp are gone. If Puig is an extension candidate, it would have been offered by now. Puig may have already played his final game in Dodger Blue, but if not, 2019 will be his last. The same is true with Kemp. So, before the Dodgers trade Verdugo to get Kluber, the plight of Puig and Kemp must be finalized. I am okay with moving Puig and Kemp for prospects. But please no more relief pitching prospects. And no to Homer Bailey. See what RH OF bat might be available. I still think Austin Hays is a prospect the Dodgers should pursue. Trey Mancini? Horrible year last year, but maybe RVS can help him. TheyDO NOT HAVE TO BE ALL STAR PLAYERS. A J Pollock/Michael Brantley/Nick Markakis? I feel another potential article on outfielders coming. The point is the OF situation must be dealt with before the Dodgers can deal Verdugo in a potential Kluber acquisition. There are too many unknown variables. And unknowns scare Andrew which is why he needs his depth. Without adding more confusion to the rotation with the addition of Kluber, the Dodgers still have a dilemma withTOO MANYstarters as it is. With the rotation currently set as indicated above, that leaves two former All Stars out of consideration; Alex Wood and Ross Stripling, not to mention young Julio. Julio is the easiest to deal with initially. He goes to AZ for extended ST, then to RC and OKC for live action, and then to LA. But as a starter or as a reliever? I am projecting that he will be lengthened out as a starter so if a starter is needed, he will be ready. He can always go back to relieving thru the end of the season. The season will dictate what happens with Urias. What about Wood and Stripling? Wood has a healthy price tag estimated at $9MM for one year. He could go to the bullpen, but there is also a logjam there. It appears more than likely that Alex gets traded. But to who, and for what return? I am fine with Wood moving on, but now what about Ross Stripling who is pre-arbitration with 4 years of team control? Strip is 29 and will be FA available at 33. 2020 is easy, he slots right in for either Hill or Ryu, but what about 2019. Mark projectsBIGthings from Ross in 2019, but not if he does not start. The Dodgers could keep him and put him in the bullpen, but as with Wood, the bullpen has a logjam as well. So, is Stripling more valuable to the team as a potential starter and current year reliever, or as a potential trade chit for something much more needed? I floated a proposal of Stripling for Jose Leclerc. Both have 4 years of team control. One is a starter while one is a closer/setup. The Rangers really do not need a closer right now so why not Stripling and Stewart (or Sborz) for Leclerc? Yes, it hurts the Dodgers to lose Strip, but Leclerc makes the bullpen not just good, but elite. . To the bullpen. As I see it, right here, right now (as opposed to Doc and Andrew):Jansen – CloserKelly (R)Alexander (L)Baez (R)Cingrani (L)Floro (R)Stripling (R)Fields (R) Sorry Mark, but this is good, but not elite. Adding Leclerc or Kela makes it elite. That leaves Ferguson going back to OKC as a starting pitcher. It also means the release or trade of Brock Stewart, Yimi Garcia, and JT Chargois. I am purposefully leaving Wood out because I cannot see any way he stays, but if he were to stay, he would replace Fields who has an option remaining. Fields is another trade potential which would put Ferguson back in play as a reliever. The Dodgers still need to do something at catcher. Is Austin Barnes going to be the starter or the backup? I do not see how the Dodgers can get Realmuto with the prospects they are willing to trade. Bellinger is a non-starter. Next up. If Pittsburgh is willing to do a Wood for Cervelli straight up, that could work for LA. I am not sure how Pittsburgh feels about it. But Strip for Cervelli is a non-starter as well. There were multiple trade proposals bandied about with Cincinnati that discussed Tucker Barnhart coming to LA. I may be wrong, but I see Barnes doing better offensively in 2019. Maybe not at the 2017 level, but better than 2018. Therefore, I do not see Barnhart as much of an upgrade over Barnes. At $4MM AAV he could certainly share with Barnes, and either Barnes or Barnhart could be traded when Smith or Ruiz is ready. Barnhart is not available unless the Reds get Realmuto, and the Reds are not willing to include Nick Senzel (nor should they for two years of Realmuto). It seems more reasonable that the Dodgers should look for that backup on the FA market…Nick Hundley/Martin Maldonado/Jonathan Lucroy/Caleb Joseph/Matt Wieters/AJ Ellis. James McCann just signed with the ChiSox taking another option away. While none of those stand out much more than the others, the Dodgers have time to wait for the Marlins to get a little more realistic about Realmuto. The longer the Fish wait to try to make up for the poor trades they did last year with Stanton, Ozuna, and Yelich, the higher the risk that they will wait too long to get a fair return much less an overpay for Realmuto. The Dodgers are discussing salary dumps, and I assume for a chance at Bryce Harper. Word is that the Dodgers may be in but not for 10 years. They may be willing to front load the contract with a higher AAV and opt out for an overpay for his productive years, but they are not going to be tied up for 10 years. If ChiSox want to meet his asking price, so be it. But if he drops like JDM, the Dodgers could be in a position to pounce. With the MG Kelly contract, the current CBT salary is at $198,158,333, leaving a “cushion” of $7,116,667. If the Dodgers consummate the reportedly proposed trade of Wood and Kemp for Homer Bailey that would represent a 2019 CBT salary reduction of $11,500,000. If they move Puig and his forecast $11,300,000, then those moves would take the “cushion” up to $29,916,667. With Homer Bailey, Josh Fields is probably gone freeing up another $2.3M, and making the cushion $32,216,667. Now what to do with that? I see no path to both Kluber and Harper and a backup catcher for $30MM. As it currently stands, Harper is only available if the Dodgers are willing to go above the CBT Threshold. Let’s say that Harper is willing to accept a front loaded 6 year $210MM contract ($35MM AAV) with 2 opt outs after year 2 and year 3, and they can sign a catcher for $3MM. That would place the Dodgers $5,783,333 over the threshold. One more possibility is to convince Ryu (Boras) to accept 3 years $33MM with one option with vesting and a $3MM buyout. If Ryu wanted, you can include an opt out after year 1. That drops the Dodgers below the CBT threshold by about $1.1MM. It can be done with someone smarter than me and with knowledge as to whether LAD is willing to go above the threshold pulling the trigger. Let’s continue this make believe fantasy and look at the potential 25 man roster: SP – Kershaw, Buehler, Hill, Ryu, and MaedaRP – Jansen, Kelly, Alexander, Baez, Floro, Cingrani, Stripling, BaileyC – Barnes, TBD1B – Muncy, Freese2B – CT3, Kike’, Muncy3B – JT, FreeseSS – Seager, CT3, Kike’LF – Harper, CT3, Kike’CF – Bellinger, CT3, Kike’RF – Verdugo, CT3, Kike’Reserve OF – Joc or TolesThe all LHH OF would be an issue, and Andrew would undoubtedly frown on that. Plus, the White Sox may come in and blow Harper away with a monumental and historic offer leaving the Dodgers out of the Harper sweepstakes. Harper looks more and more unlikely. If the Dodgers want Harper, it may be best to do whatever else they want to do personnel wise, free up a lot of salary, and wait for Harper to fall into their laps as JDM did with Boston last year. I am still on board with the Dodgers going after Corey Kluber (Verdugo, Maeda, and prospects White and Kendall), moving Stripling/Stewart (and ???) to Texas for Leclerc. That would make the Dodgers rotation and bullpen elite. Last year the Dodgers let Cole slip away. That should not happen again with Kluber. Wood and Fields to Pittsburgh for Cervelli. Roster could look like:Starting Pitchers – Kershaw, Kluber, Hill, Buehler, RyuRelievers – Jansen, Leclerc, Kelly, Alexander, Baez, Cingrani, Floro, Garcia/ChargoisC – Cervelli1B – Muncy2B – CT3SS – Seager3B – JTLF – JocCF – BellingerRF – PuigReserve – Freese, Barnes, Kemp, TolesFerguson to OKC as a starting pitcher. No Homer Bailey. If no Leclerc, then Stripling goes to the bullpen. CBT salaries at $201.3MM with a potential to drop additional if Ryu agrees to extension (which he should). I like that second roster much more than the 1st and it is achievable. That not only prunes the ML roster making it more potent even with less depth, but it also prunes some of the minor leaguers allowing some of the younger prospects to move up faster. But with a little tweaking: Extend Ryu to three years $33MM – Save $6.9MM AAV. Trade Puig for prospects – Save $11.3MM. Sign Harper 8 years $240MM. That takes the CBT salaries to $213.33 which I believe the Dodgers can make up with Harper merchandise sales and other advertising featuring Harper. Put Harper in right instead of Puig, and there is no team that can match up with LA. LA would be having a downtown parade in November, and I will make my reservations early. I think it is all doable. However, there are still waaaaaaay tooooooo many moving pieces, so we need one of Mark’s blue dominos to fall to get this Winter going.