Free Agency

There has been a lot of discussion on the state of free agency.  Many consider the system broke.  Very few teams can be considered as realistic in offering the likes of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.  But the problem is that many of the non “generational” type players wait until the top players sign and then hope that those that miss out on the Harper’s and Machado’s may be in a position to overpay for their services.  I think that may have been true in the past, but I believe most of today’s FO decision makers have already decided what their ceiling is for each FA.  If the FA is willing to come in below that ceiling they will be considered. Ken Rosenthal wrote a fantastic analysis regarding the opposing consideration that both teams and players experience during FA.   Per his article in the Athletic:
“The luxury-tax Catch-22, though, benefits neither player nor club.The track records of most long-term contracts are not good, discouraging teams from wanting to go 10 years even for a Harper or Machado. The way for those players to get their true value, then, should be to receive higher salaries on shorter deals. But a player on say, a $40 million average annual salary over four years would command nearly 20 percent of the luxury-tax payroll for a team trying to stay under the $206 million threshold in 2019 – more than 20 percent in the view of one club official, considering that player benefits account for $14 million to $15 million. The elite player, then, is in a bind. But so are the clubs that would prefer short, expensive deals to reduce their long-term risk. The threshold incentivizes behavior that runs counter to that logic, forcing clubs to stretch out deals in an effort to create as much flexibility as possible under the threshold.”

Like many many many other baseball journalists, Rosenthal posed yet another question, one that needs to be asked more often.

“Why are clubs so worried about the luxury tax in the first place?By staying under the threshold in 2017, the Red Sox reset their penalty rate to the minimum 20 percent for every dollar they spend above it — then went more than $40 million over last season. The cost of such egregious behavior? Nearly $12 million in penalties and the loss of 10 spots with their first draft pick. A small price to pay, it would seem, for a World Series victory.The Yankees and Dodgers went under the threshold in ’18, enabling them to be among the clubs this season that will pay only the minimum 20 percent up to $226 million, when the first surcharge kicks in. The penalty at that level would be $4 million — utility-infielder money. Even at nearly $12 million, in Red Sox territory, how much should a high-revenue team care?The vast majority of clubs never even approach the threshold, so as rationales go it’s something of a ruse, a distraction from the greater issue — the various reasons teams offer for their reluctance to spend.”
Many agents seem to hint at teams colluding to keep salaries down.  With respect to the C Word, Rosenthal notes that:
“while the union filed a grievance to baseball last February, saying four clubs — the Athletics, Marlins, Pirates and Rays — are not spending their revenue-sharing money properly, it has not filed a complaint alleging collusion.”
 Rosenthal summarizes:
“The clubs, it appears, have simply figured out how to take advantage of the system, much as the players took advantage of the system in the past. Change is needed — change that would enable players to receive their highest salaries during their 20s, when they are at their most productive.”
 Keeping that in mind, we are less than 5 weeks from reporting to ST.  While I recognize that players can change teams or sign during ST, most team rosters are set by mid-February.  Minor league contracts have been offered with ST invites for some of the hangers on to get one last chance at the ML.  FO personnel are trying to fine tune their organizational rosters during ST, so very few significant trades or FA signings occur at that time. There are currently 28 remaining FA from the MLB TradeRumors top 64.Generational (2)
  1. Bryce Harper (OF)
  2. Manny Machado (SS)
 LHSP (5)
  1. Dallas Keuchel
  2. Gio Gonzalez
  3. Derek Holland
  4. Wade Miley
  5. Drew Pomeranz
 RHSP (1)
  1. Clay Buchholz
 LHRP (3)
  1. Justin Wilson
  2. Oliver Perez
  3. Tony Sipp
 RHRP (8)
  1. Craig Kimbrel
  2. Adam Ottavino
  3. Cody Allen
  4. Bud Norris
  5. Brad Brach
  6. Ervin Santana
  7. Ryan Madson
  8. Adam Warren
 Catcher (1)
  1. Martin Maldonado
 OF (Not named Bryce Harper) (3)
  1. AJ Pollock
  2. Nick Markakis
  3. Adam Jones
 3B (1)
  1. Mike Moustakas
 Infield (Not named Manny Machado) (3)
  1. Asdrubal Cabrera
  2. Josh Harrison
  3. Jose Iglesias
 Super Utility (1)
  1. Marwin Gonzalez
 Of that group, how many are the Dodgers seriously considering for a ML contract?  Other than Harper and Pollock, I cannot see any others that will be considered.  If I had my sleeper pick it would be Jose Iglesias. He is a fantastic defensive SS and last year in 97 PA hit .318/.365/.500/.865 against LHP.  He is strictly a bench player, but I would not be upset at all to see him at SS to spell Corey every once in a while.  Won’t happen, but I wanted to make a plea for him. Both Harper and Pollock will cost LAD the overall #31 pick in June’s amateur draft.  I think both qualify as a player that should be considered without that loss in mind.  Will Dodgers FO agree?  We know what Harper is asking.  He so much wants to pass Giancarlo Stanton’s $325MM contract.  But Pollock was looking for Lorenzo Cain money.  But he is not the player Cain is when he is healthy, and he isn’t healthy enough of the time to warrant that level of a contract. I am somewhat surprised to see the number of back of the rotation LHSP still available and not signed by NL West teams.  Pitchers like Wade Miley (last year) and Gio Gonzalez (career) have been tough on LAD. I think a relief pitcher like Cody Allen could be of some interest.  He is certainly a bounce back candidate, but I cannot see the Dodgers offering him a ML contract.  I still like the idea that Singing the Blues threw out…Greg Holland on a minor league contract.  Boras will never let him accept one, but I like the low risk and very high reward opportunity there.  With the number of relievers available, I cannot see Kimbrel getting his money.  He originally wanted $100MM+ for 6 years.  That was unrealistic, and that could have cost him.  He is now down to Aroldis Chapman money, and I cannot see where he is going to get that from.  Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Boston seem to be the only three that are interested in spending on Kimbrel, but it will be nowhere close to what he thought it would be.  He is really going to need to come down for Boston to get motivated.  I know he likes Boston, but Atlanta may offer him the most to go back to his original team.  The Braves need both a closer and RF.  They currently have $114.6MM in CBT salaries, which is about $11.5MM less than last year.  Where will they spend their dollars. I do not know where Adam Ottovino’s market is going to be.  He was counting on NYY, but with their signing of Britton and now DJLM, they are over the CBT threshold, and I think Ottavino is going to be out of consideration by NYY.  NYY was deemed the frontrunner, and the only other potential team was back with Colorado.  Boston could be interested if Kimbrel moves on. Of the remaining 8 listed relievers, I can see only one potentially getting a two-year contract, and that would be Brad Brach, but I think his chances are very slim right now.  Those willing to put multi years into relievers will be out after Kimbrel and Ottavino. I still believe the Dodgers are looking to make a trade for Corey Kluber.  The Indians want an OF and young pitching in return.  The Pads think they can make it work with their current bevy of young OF (Manuel Margot, Hunter Renfroe, Franmil Reyes, and Frenchy Cordero) and young pitching both at the ML level and top prospects.  The Tribe likes Adrian Morejon, but only as a complimentary piece.  They still want one of the top pitching prospects. If the Dodgers do make an unexpected trade, one player I would like to see them look at would be RH hitting OF from St. Louis, Tyler O’Neil.  I do not see what kind of trade package St. Louis would be interested in, but he could be someone to watch take off this year. There are around 130 remaining FA in total, with many “names” still available in addition to the 28 named above.  Some of the above listed FA will only be offered minor league contracts with an ST invite.  Many not listed will get minor league contract offers, but probably very few major league contract offers.  There are going to be a lot of previously solid players who will not get offers, major league or minor league.  I think the Dodgers will tap into a few of the SP as a “just in case” but more importantly to play at OKC and Tulsa.  Chris Tillman, Marco Estrada, Nate Karns, Josh Tomlin, James Shields, and Jason Hammel should get consideration for minor league contracts if still unsigned by ST.  Of course not all of them. I can also see a few more OF type players who will get a chance at OKC and Tulsa.  If not signed to ML contracts, I think they may take a look at Gerardo Parra or CarGo.  But I think both will get ML offers. While I would not offer a ML contract, I could see the Dodgers looking at a minor league contract with an invite for relievers Hunter Strickland and Erasmo Ramirez.  They probably believe they still should be getting ML offers, and maybe they will.  But just in case they do not, those are two that you may want to keep close. I still believe that the Dodgers remain in trade talks with a few teams.  I still believe the Dodgers are looking to make a trade for Corey Kluber.  The Indians want an OF and young pitching in return.  The Pads think they can make it work with their current bevy of young OF and young pitching both at the ML level and top prospects. I think that JTR is still a target, although nowhere near their price.  Castellanos is also a consideration, but the deal would need to include Joc and his $5MM.  I do not know how receptive the Tigers would be. Players that need to make the 25 man roster out of ST or will be lost are:
  • Brock Stewart
  • Yimi Garcia
  • JT Chargois
 A player that should be considered in a potential trade is Josh Fields.  He has just signed for $2.85MM and even though he has an option, I cannot Freidman keeping a pitcher with that level of a contract at AAA.  Will he make the 25 man out of ST?  He is very much on the bubble.

This article has 45 Comments

  1. 1. If Friedman could trade the players he was willing to trade for Realmuto, Kluber, Haniger those trades would have been made by now.
    2. If Friedman wants to not wait for a deal to come together and do something yesterday if you will, he would have to overpay.
    3. Some here have been impatient and unwilling to overpay.
    4. The Dodgers can either keep their depth or use it to make the team stronger in one or maybe two positions. The former says future years are more important than current years.

  2. Thanks AC, for putting together this uninspiring list of options. Thanks to LA Dodger Talk for giving us something to read every day. I’m hoping that the Marlins are waiting for us to sign an outfielder so we can put together a package with one of our current outfielders, May and Barnes for JTRM. Ideally, we sign Pollock and Harper.

    CT3 – 2B – R
    Seager SS – L
    Turner 3B – R
    Harper RF – L
    JTRM – C – R
    Bellinger CF – L
    Pollock LF – R
    Munchy 1B – L

    Is this lineup so unrealistic? All it takes is $$ and a few prospects. This team would be World Series worthy for sure.

  3. I agree that Pollock could be very valuable to us, especially if we put him in LF and give him a few days off to keep his body fresh. A 3 year deal for a talent like that to me is worth the 31 pick.

    Now let’s go Chargers!!

    1. Embarrassingly, I’ve been a Raiders fan for most of my life making it extremely hard for me to root for the Chargers. Now that the Rams moved back home, and the Raiders have sucked for so long, I’ve moved on from the Raiders. Last year was the first year I didn’t watch any Raiders games and this year has been the same. With the thought and real possibility of an all LA Super Duper bowl, I will be looking forward to rooting for the Chargers this morning. I think I’ll be going to one of the bar / breakfast places in Downtown Huntington Beach after church this morning to watch the first half. Back home for the second half. Let me see your Lightening Bolts!!!

          1. I am a little concerned about the Rams, because sometimes I don’t think they have the killer instinct like some teams do.

            But they are a young team so that may change.

  4. I would not characterize the FA Systems as broken. I think “really dumb” is a better description. It took the teams a while, but the have figured out that many FA contracts end up being bad… especially ones that exceed 5 or 6 years! Whoever signs Harper for $360 million (what I heard today on MLB.Radio) is likely going to have 4 or 5 bad years at the end… even though he is 26.

    I would never sign a guy like Pollack who costs a pick and is frequently injured. Friedman was not going to give a big long term deal to an aging starting pitcher, so he gave smaller deals to injury-riddled pitchers like Anderson, McCarthy and Kazmir… he learned from that although it wasn’t the disaster some other single deals were, he won’t be doing that again anytime soon.

    Mitch Haniger was one of those compensatory picks. So was Aaron Judge, Trevor Story, Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Michael Fullmer. If you draft smart, you may be getting an injury-riddled player who costs you a player like the aforementioned.

    Harper costs them a pick and the only way the Dodgers get him is if Guggs and Company tells Friedman to do it. I just can’t see that happening. Friedman is bent on keeping the Farm System strong and productive. They are currently at #8 and I think he would like to be Top 5.

    A RH Power bat is what he is seeking. AC mentioned O’ Neil… he may be emerging. That’s what Friedman is looking for. I think the Realmuto ship may have sailed, but the Dodgers may be able to pull of a 3-way deal for Castellanos with Pederson and a couple of prospects.

    All this goes out the window though if Guggs says “Go over this year and sign Harper!” What are the odds of that?

    1. It is a which team blinks first thing with Realmuto. Will the Padres or other teams give in before the Dodgers do or will Miami give in before the teams interested in Realmuto.
      I would love Casty’s righty bat but not his defense. Also, I don’t like rentals and one year of Casty is a rental.

  5. I don’t know the defensive metrics but how about Muncy in left if he is not acceptable at first or second? He hits rh and lh while hopefully reducing strikeouts. If we could play kemp out there surely he could do as well. I don’t know how this could help. It may not be needed if he is an average second basemen and they can play Taylor or kike in left. If verdugo, bellinger, and Muncy are not going to be platoonedthen what does the lineup look like? Against rh: verdugo rf, seager ss, turner 3b, bellinger cf, Muncy 1b, Taylor lf, kike 2b, Barnes c against lh: Taylor lf, seager ss, turner 3b, Muncy 2b, freese 1b, bellinger cf, verdugo rf, Martin c. That is close as of today.

    1. The Dodgers have a lot of flexability, but they still need a RH Power bat. To me, that is their most glaring need.

      1. Agreed. Left handed pitching is their kryptonite. At least, that was the case last year. JTRM / Pollock / Casty / Harper / Hanniger / O’Neil (Nice Find) will all help out there. The question is how many of these can we realistically get? How many of them are actually available? Why is it that we can’t seem to find any right handed power? Maybe we should trade for Puig or Kemp.

      1. My family is originally from Detroit. They moved to LA in the Koufax Drysdale days before I was born. I went back to visit Uncles and Cousins only once, the year they closed old Tiger Stadium. It was an awesome experience going to that ancient park before it closed. When Casty was in the minors, I kept hyping him up to my cousin and every year he would tell me how much he sucked. So, it my frame of reference it’s funny that everyone is talking about him so much. He may be a breakout candidate, but he is a rental and he is a guy that took a very long time to develop. To me, he is a prime candidate for stage fright under the bright lights of LA and the pressure associated with a deep playoff run. IMO of course. But, I would be really stoked if they were able to trade for him if it doesn’t cost too much. I can’t see how he would be much more valuable than Puig. I’m wondering if we could flip those two prospects for Casty.

      1. Watford

        I don’t like the thought of the Astros getting JTRM either.

        Last year was Cole, please no JTRM too.

  6. I read so much talk about the owners colluding, but don’t hear it mentioned for the players or players union. It seems the owners have realized that long contracts are usually a bad deal for the team. Guaranteed contracts are the problem. A partial guarantee would be fair for players and owners. NFL & NBA don’t seem to have this problem.

  7. I read on some other page that Wil Myers would be the right handed batter that we need, someone propose a trade Myers for Maeda…

  8. I was watching the MLB Network ranking show for 2nd basemen this morning. What a joke, they had CT3 ranked in the top 5 at 2nd base. The Dodgers were running Kiki out there in the playoffs and not CT3. Harold Reynolds at least made the case that CT3 had only played 12 games at 2nd base last year so how could he be in the top 5 at 2nd base? For 3rd Base, the Shredder had Justin Turner ranked 2nd only behind Rameirez of Cleveland. The ranking shows from these experts have become a joke in my opinion.

    1. Not a joke at all. Harold Reynolds says stupid stuff all the time, it’s almost like he’s the second coming of Joe Morgan. Forget his small sample size DRS at 2B and use your eyes, or look at his DRS at SS as a predictor at 2B if given enough innings. Recall that CT3 was a glove first shortstop coming up, he can play second if given some reps. He had a DRS of 5 at SS in only 600+ innings last year. For comparison’s sake, Brandon Crawford had a 6 DRS in twice as many defensive innings and he’s considered an above average defensive shortstop. So, if you think a good defensive SS can’t handle 2B, then that’s on you. Look at his offensive stats, 775 OPS last year and 850 the year before, the number 5 qualifying second baseman last year had an OPS of 806. It’s really easy to make the case that CT3 could be a top 5 second baseman. That’s exactly why they passed on all those other second basemen on the market. Hell, you can make a case that CT3 and Kike are both top 5 second basemen if given the opportunity to play that position day in and day out. For me, Kike is more valuable as a super util and bat off the bench.

      1. I like Taylor but 178 Strikes outs along with almost striking out 35 percent of the time, when runners were in scoring position, is not good offensive production.

    2. BTW, it was a joke that Kike was playing at all in the postseason considering the slump he was in.

  9. Mlbtraderumors reporting sources saying Phillies clear cut favorite to sign Harper. If the money is comparable the nationals lose to somebody. The nationals like to defer money and boras and the nationals ownership are rumored to be close so who knows. Could the cubs or Atlanta jump in?

    1. The Cubs are dead in the water. They can’t take on any more payroll.

      Atlanta could…

      I still think Harper ends up back in Wash.

    2. I don’t know how long a leash Brody has in NY, but if I’m the Mets, knowing how Machado loves NY, I make an offer. Sign Machado for something like 10/250, then trade Conforto and others for Kluber, then trade Thor for something special and make them take Frazier’s 9 mil contract. Problem is, the Mets probably can’t afford an AAV of 25 mil for Machado, but you never know what BVW might pull off.

  10. Alright, Saints or Eagles? I like both teams and like the Rams more. I think I’m rooting for the Eagles since we lost to the Saints 3 times this year counting pre-season. Or, maybe I’m rooting Saints for sweet, sweet revenge next week. What to do, what to do? Now I know how Roberts feels when he looks at his lineup card.

    1. I hate all teams Philly, but rooting for them today so I can be at next week’s NFC title game in LA.

      1. Eagles looking pretty good so far…like a Rams home game next week as well. Have to root for the Chiefs against the Pats also-that would be an epic SB!

  11. Living in New Hampshire I have already endured one Boston team beating a LA team. Win it all Rams, especially if its Boston in Super Bowl.

  12. Sadly, here’s a recent Friedman quote…

    “We like the team we have in place right now, but that doesn’t mean we’re not focused on ways to continue to improve it. And whether that’s before the season starts or as the season’s in progress, it’s too difficult to say right now. But it’s absolutely our mindset as it is every year.”


    I failed to complete what I set out to do so far. I’ve replaced one of the best offensive catchers in baseball with one of the worst, who is also much older. I’ve given up on a gold glove quality right fielder with steady production for a rookie that I hope has a high floor, but unfortunately has a low ceiling. But hey, I at least added to an already strong minor league system.

  13. 59,
    You seem like a fan who looks at the off-season as a “glass 7/8 th’s empty” type situation.
    Here’s my take on the quote you mentioned.

    The Dodgers can afford to not jump to make a bad decision at this point which could adversely effect the team for a long time because our division is likely to be weaker than the East or Central which should enhance our ability to achieve the best overall record in the National League and home-field advantage. This will increase our ability to reach the WS again. Likewise, by keeping approximately $ 20M below the “soft cap” we will be in a better position than most of our opponents to acquire needed or desired talent at any point prior to the trade deadline. This is my duty, to give the Dodgers the best chance to win year after year without putting the franchise in an abysmal position in the future.

    1. Ha! you very funny. I never saw you suggest that we trade away our two expensive outfielders, pick up a reliever and stand pat everywhere else. Pretty sure no one on this site has suggested that.

      As far as the off season goes. I’d say we’re probably a little underwater, break even at best. So, more like somewhere between 1/2 empty and 1/3 full. Maybe 5/16th? Obviously this must be a shock for you. After all, everyone on this site pretty much agreed that we needed a 2B, C and Right Handed Power. Which of those goals did we accomplish? You must be so pleased that he’s holding the purse strings tight so he can ship off half a dozen prospects to acquire someone instead of just paying money. Just like you drew it up, eh?

      But I still think we’re gonna sign Harper and trade for JTRM until we don’t. I’ve said that repeatedly. So, overall I’m fairly optimistic. But, so far we haven’t done crap to make the team better, and any fan should be disappointed because everyone starts the offseason like a kid at Christmas dreaming of what can be. If you’re fine calling it an offseason and waiting for the break, you are in the minority, sir!

  14. I just try and comprehend English. When you try and attach hidden meaning to words, you can start wars. I have enough trouble with comprehension that attributing meaning is impossible.

  15. I am all in on Dodgerdenny, perfect take. With a very weak NL West, Freidman is not under the gun so much to make big moves. If you check his history, he is a very patient poker player. Us blog guys are losing our Sh&$@#t wondering why he is letting all these free agents go by this offseason, just like last year. We can hee haw and throw stats at each other all we want, and trash Freidman for inactivity, but the results are there. Three NLCS appearances in a row, two World Series appearances in a row. Yeah, we lost, but I came from the Fox and McCourt mid-evil days, so I am in hog heaven. Gonna borrow a Markism here, the team you see starting the season will be way different than the one you will see in September, especially this year. Freidman is going to wait out some of the free agents so he doesn’t over pay, and if you check out espn and mlb, they still talk about our amazing depth, even after the Puig trade. Not even stressing, we are in good hands. Once again, don’t underestimate Freidman.

    1. Another disciple of the Church of Friedman. Praise Friedman! He can trade off all of the good players and get nothing in return, but it will all work out.

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