Editorial Note– This was written before the massive Russell Martin deal went down, and I did not want to consider this post to be like Kemp, Puig, Wood, and Farmer and just dump it.
The written word is a strange thing. One reader will read comments one way and another reader another way, and yet the writer had a totally different reason for the comment. The most recent example is Brian Dozier.
Brian Dozier signed a one-year deal with the Nationals for $9MM. The comments were more along the lines of he isn’t worth $9MM and were glad that Freidman didn’t pay $9MM for Dozier. I was not on the Brian Dozier bandwagon. I never have been. But $9MM for one year for a 2B who was arguably the best power hitting 2B in all of MLB as late as 2017 isNOTtoo much. That is how FA works. A player gets paid more for when they are less productive. GM’s (or as some are now called President – Baseball Operations) look at WAR to determine if the contract is worth the dollars. 1 WAR is considered comparable to about $8MM in salary. I do not consider 32-years-old to be too old to compete and perform at a 1.1 WAR level. Now is he a fit for the team is the real question, not is he worth $9MM, because he truly is (IMO).
It is certainly arguable that Dozier was a fit for the Dodgers. It was a one-year contract for a potential 20 HR former GG 2B who played hurt last year. If you believe that Gavin Lux is a year away from competing for the everyday 2B job in 2020, then one year at $9MM for an everyday position player is not out of lineUNLESSyou have better options. Most think that CT3, Kike’, or Max are better options. One could make a solid argument for such a case. I see CT3 and Kike’ as utility guys like Marwin Gonzalez or Ben Zobrist. So, I would feel much more comfortable making those comparisons than to a permanent 2B. I wouldn’t even make a phone call to Marwin Gonzalez’s agent, not because he is not a good player, but because the Dodgers already have 2 of him.
So, while I may not think that Dozier is the right fit for LAD, I do think the Dodgers would be better with a full time GG defensive 2B. Someone say… like DJLM. But that is now moot. The Dodgers will be going with Kike’ or CT3 at 2B. Some will be happy. Others will not be. But NYY is stronger today than they were Thursday, and the Dodgers are not.
Where many of us get frustrated is not that Friedman did not sign Dozier, but that another team did to get better, and Friedman thus far has not. He still may. I have been advised that there are still a lot of days between today and March 28, but the options are running thinner. And someone please remind me of the last significant player personnel the Dodgers acquired in ST. Contrary to some, I can be frustrated with Andrew and still believe he has done a great job to get the Dodgers to where they are. Mark likes to say do not look at what a player has done in the past but look at what he may do in the future. Good theory, and something to follow. But that also goes for FO management. Yes, Friedman has done a fantastic job at rebuilding the minor league system while staying in contention, including back to back WS. In 2017, FAZ put together a team that should have won the WS. However due to their stars, including a future HOF LHSP, the team crashed and burned on the big stage. That is not on Friedman, that is on Kershaw/Jansen/Doc. I include Doc because of how he handled (mishandled) the pitching. He still has not figured Hill out. That is not a knock on Doc. Even if Doc does not consider it one, we all make mistakes. That is why God created erasers. I have a bunch. The hope is that we all learn from them. But I digress.
For the record, I am not as frustrated with Friedman as much as I am with the ownership group. I believe they are advising Friedman as to what his budgetary ceiling is. Friedman is trying to put the best team on the field with his budgetary constraints.
Instead of getting better for 2018, Friedman stood pat. Oh, he did trade for Scott Alexander to make up for the loss of Brandon Morrow. How did that work out? And he was able to get under the luxury tax threshold. Does that make the 25-man roster better? The two players I wanted most last Winter were Gerrit Cole (#1) and Christian Yelich (#2). I have said it so many times that most are sick of hearing it, but the Dodgers absolutely could have put together better packages for both players, and neither one would have presented a CBT threshold problem with some very easy maneuvering. But they stood pat and went backwards; unless you do not consider going from 104 wins to 91 as going backwards. They may have tried to make those trades but were unsuccessful. We will never know for sure. What we do know is that they were fortunate to win the NL West and they were fortunate that they were in a very lackluster NL, and still almost lost to a Milwaukee Brewers squad without great starting pitching, but a solid offense and a tremendous bullpen. The Dodgers were overmatched in the WS. No it is no longer important for me just to get to the WS. I want to win it.
I know some will say that the Dodgers lost because of the loss of Seager. I have certainly alluded to that. But with the addition of Machado, during the season most on here believed that the Dodgers should have pursued him on a permanent basis and moved Seager to 2B to make room for the great Manny Machado. Would Seager have made the difference in the WS? NO! The Red Sox were a better team. Would the Dodgers have been better with Cole and Yelich? Would they have been better with Cole OR Yelich. Would they have been better had they signed JDM instead of Boston? The answer to all three is yes. There was no chance of the Dodgers signing JDM because of the CBT threshold, but Cole and Yelich were in play.
So now we are on to 2019, and what has Friedman done thus far? Sign Joe Kelly to help the bullpen. I love this FA signing, and I believe the cost is fair. But the trade of Puig/Kemp/Wood/Farmer does not make the Dodgers better unless they replace them with ML players who can play better than that trio did. Some say that it was a salary dump. I say nonsense. It was a player dump. The trade turns out to be Puig/Kemp/Wood/Farmer to Cincinnati for Jeter Downs, Josiah Gray, and $5.45MM. That’s right, the Dodgers have saved in actual payroll a total of$5.45MM. When the Dodgers agreed to send $7MM back to the Reds for Kemp, that brought the total Dodgers payroll cost in the deal to $35MM: $23MM Bailey 2019, $5M Bailey option 2020, and $7MM for Kemp. They saved $40.45MM ($21.75MM Kemp, $9.7MM Puig, $9MM Wood). So, this deal looks more like ridding the team of three potential headaches vs. saving dollars. One positive thing that it did do is to save approximately $14.2MM in current year AAV. But that means nothing if it isn’t spent. Just think the Dodgers are paying Kemp $10.5MM to play for the Reds. So if this does not convince you that staying under the CBT threshold is important to this ownership group, then consider the Russell Martin deal on Friday. Bluto made a comment yesterday that made me scratch my head. It wasn’t JUST that the Dodgers were paying Martin $3.6MM plus trading two prospects, but the $3.6MM turns out to have a zero impact on AAV. Martin’s AAV is $16.4MM and that is what Toronto is including in the trade. It is okay to overspend on a player, as long as it does not impact AAV? Tell me again that the CBT threshold is not a factor in Dodger decisions.
While the Dodgers stand pat (and that is being generous), the Nationals have gotten much better with the addition of Patrick Corbin (LHSP), Anibal Sanchez (RHSP), Yan Gomes (C), Kurt Suzuki (C), Trevor Rosenthal (RHRP). They did lose Tanner Roark but did pick up a hard throwing RHRP in Tanner Rainey. They are also the favorite for Harper. They are certainly not one bit afraid of exceeding the CBT threshold.
The Cardinals traded for Paul Goldschmidt without hurting the 2019 team, and signed Andrew Miller. Andrew Knizner is a better backup catcher than Carson Kelly, so their catching is better. If you believe the Dodgers SP is deep, take a look at the Cards…Mikolas, Flaherty, Martinez, Gant, Gomber, Poncedeleon, Hudson, Reyes. That leaves former Ace Adam Wainwright in the bullpen with a full year of Chasen Shreve, and Jordan Hicks, and any of the SP not in the rotation. Many believe Flaherty is as good as Buehler. Dodger fans may not agree, but Cards’ fans believe he is.
The Braves have gotten better with Donaldson at 3B and McCann at catcher. They will find a replacement for Markakis, if not Markakis himself. They are also in on Realmuto, and they are in a much better position to meet the Marlins’ demands than are the Dodgers. They are also one of the favorites to land Kimbrel, making their biggest weakness a strength (at least for the next 2-3 years).
The Phillies have gotten better with Jean Segura (SS), Andrew McCutcheon (LF), David Robertson (RHRP), Juan Nicasio (RHRP), James Pazos (LHRP), and the loss of Carlos Santana allowing Rhys Hopkins to move to 1B. They already had a strong bullpen with Seranthony Dominguez as closer, and Hector Neris, Pat Neshek, and Tommy Hunter to handle middle relief. They have always been the favorite to land Machado. Now it appears to be a 2-team race…Machado and ChiSox. ChiSox will not go 10 years, but Philly will. They are also meeting with Harper on Saturday. They are bound to get one of them, if not both.
The Brewers are better because of the maturity of Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnes in the rotation. Plus, the return of Ace Jimmy Nelson. Grandal helps that pitching staff. Ben Gamel is a better situational OF than is Domingo Santana. They are counting on Alex Claudio returning to his pre-2018 seasons when he was at times dominant for Texas. They are also in on Keuchel and Moustakas.
NYY – Re-signed Zach Britton, JA Happ, and CC Sabathia. Signed Troy Tulowitzki. Signed DJLM. Their offense was already solid (better than solid) and got better. Sanchez cannot get worse, and has proven that he can be much much better. Their bullpen is the best in MLB. They should be the favorite in the AL. With the DJLM signing, they are now $12.5MM over the CBT threshold. So, neither the Yankees or Red Sox seemed to be hampered by the luxury tax, but it seems to be a significant strategy for LAD. Now Andujar is a trade potential, making the signing of DJLM a luxury and not a need.
I could include the Mets, but with their improvements, I still do not think they are a legit contender in the NL East much less the NL. But they could certainly surprise with a rotation of deGrom, Thor, Wheeler, and Matz, and a bullpen of Diaz and Familia.
Again, it’s not that the Dodgers did not sign Dozier (or DJLM or Lowrie), it is that they have done nothing to improve while their competition (especially in the NL) has gotten better. It could be argued that the team is not as good as the one that took the field in 2018. I know that is refuted by those who think that the all of the Dodgers will have career years, while the other teams will go backwards. Dozier may not have helped the Dodgers, but he will the Nats. Ramos would certainly have helped the Dodgers, but instead he is helping the Mets. I am convinced that DJLM would have helped the Dodgers. Keuchel will not help the Dodgers, but he will the Phillies or Brewers or Reds. Corey Kluber would have helped the Dodgers.
So for those who advise that there is still plenty of time to spend that $24MM, please let us know who might be a target. Realmuto or Kluber? Not likely since neither the Tribe or Fish seem to want to come down on their asking price. There may be more urgency for JTR, but there are a lot of potential trade partners, several of whom will certainly be in a position to outbid LAD. I see another Cole/Yelich scenario. Pollock? Don’t think so since he would cost the Dodgers the #31 overall pick next draft. Harper? I still cannot see that happening, but you may be right. Castellanos? It will not be Verdugo because Andrew is not about to trade a 6 year controlled OF or a 1 year controlled OF. The Braves are also in on Castellanos. Kimbrel? Don’t think so. So while there still may be several weeks between now an Opening Day, the number of options to improve the team are dwindling.