Well, I was going to continue with my analysis of the NL West competition, but I thought that I would comment on the this past week and what the future may hold. Most Dodger fans got caught up in all of the Bryce Harper sweepstakes (including me), but as many of us said at the beginning of the Hot Stove League, a long term deal for Bryce Harper is not an Andrew Friedman & Co. move. I even noted early on that I will come back and apologize to 59inarow if the Dodgers did sign him, and I was getting my apology blog post ready to publish when he took the 13 years and $330MM contract with no opt outs, no trade, and no deferrals with Philly. His contract is very straight forward:
Year One – Age 26 – $10MM salary + $20MM signing bonus
Years Two – Ten – Age 27-35 – $26MM salary
Years Eleven – Thirteen – Age 36-38 – $22MM salary
There is no way AF was going to go there. I am somewhat embarrassed that I allowed even a thought of belief that Harper could be a Dodger. Admittedly I got caught up in the hype. I am not in the camp that believes that AF is going to offer something he is not willing to pay just to drive up the price, or to placate a fan base. I believe he was willing to pay $180MM for the next four years , but not go beyond 4 years. To justify that salary, Harper would need to average 5.6 WAR for the four years, and he has exactly 1 year with a WAR greater than 5.6, and only one other greater than 5.0. So all of the Harper pundit fans from Plaschke to Nostler can argue that the Dodgers blew it, but IMO they came out the winner on this one.
I am not anti-Bryce Harper. I think he improves any team he is on, including the Dodgers. But not at the cost he is getting from Philadelphia. He has never been a difference maker in the playoffs with a very good Washington Nationals team. He played in 4 NLDS, and advanced to the NLCS exactlyNEVER. In 19 games, 89 PA, Harper batted .211/.315/.417/.801, with 23 strikeouts, 5 HRs, and 10 RBIs. Not exactly stellar or clutch. During the 162 game season, he does have good numbers WRISP and WRISP w/2 outs.
I do not think the Nats are upset. I think they believe they are fine with Victor Robles and Michael Taylor replacing Harper. Taylor almost carried the Nats to the NLCS in 2017 with games 4 and 5. In the 2017 NLDS, Taylor hit .333/.444/.733/1.178 with 2 HRs and 8 RBIs, while Harper batted .211/.304/.421/.725 with 1 HR and 3 RBIs.
What does Harper mean for Philly? The Phillies have the makings of a decent offensive team, but certainly not monstrous.
C – JT Realmuto
1B – Rhys Hopkins
2B – Cesar Hernandez
3b – Maikel Franco
SS – Jean Segura
LF – Andrew McCutcheon
CF – Odubel Herrera
RF – Bryce Harper
It is a good lineup, with a probable bench of Andrew Knapp (C), Nick Williams (OF), Aaron Altherr (OF), and Scott Kingery (IF). It is not nearly as impressive as the Nats offensive lineups have been. Plus, there is no depth if anyone gets hurt.
Pitching is going to be very questionable. After Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta the next three figure to be Nick Pivetta, Zach Eflin, and Jared Eickhoff, with Vince Velasquez figuring in there as well. The bullpen is a total unknown after Seranthony Dominguez (R), David Robertson (R), and James Pazos (L). They are going to need to cull the balance of the pen from Tommy Hunter (R) (if he ever gets healthy again), Pat Neshek (R), Juan Nicasio (R), Hector Neris (R), Edubray Ramos (R), and Jose Alvarez (L).
The Phillies will be better, but still not as good (IMO) as the Nats or Braves. Nola and Arrieta are going to need to battle for CY if the Phils are going to be contenders.
Now that AF has shown us all again that he is not going to be an active pursuer of long term FA, what does that mean for the likes of Corey Seager (2022), Cody Bellinger (2024), Julio Urias (2024), and Walker Buehler (2025). Those FA years are per the current CBA, but who knows what they may be after 2021. The first three Dodger players are clients of Scott Boras. Boras is not an advocate for his clients contracting out of FA years, but he has done it. Stephen Strasburg and Jose Altuve are the most widely known. Strasburg’s is a labyrinth maze, but Altuve’s is pure vanilla compared to Strasburg’s. Altuve wanted to stay in Houston and Strasburg wanted the flexibility, and both got what they wanted.
Urias will be a FA in his 27 year old season, while Seager and Belli will be 28, and Buehler will turn 30 in his FA year. I can see Boras advising his three clients to hold off and wait for FA, but with Buehler’s injury history and turning 30 in 2025, it is certainly possible that if Buehler has a stellar year, AF will reach out to Buehler’s agent to work on an extension. At one point Excel Sports Management was his agency (same as Kershaw), but he currently does not list one in any of the publications’ agency databases. I would not rule out a Scott Boras relationship.
The Dodgers will have potentially $72MM coming off the AAV charts after 2019, and then another $16MM (JT) after 2020, and $16MM (Jansen) after 2021. Kershaw’s comes off after 2022. While it is unlikely with $18MM salary due in 2020 and $20MM salary due in 2021, Jansen could opt out after 2019.
The Dodgers have a lot of flexibility and options after 2019. But what about 2019? We have already seen a potentially crushing injury to Clayton Kershaw. The Dodgers do not need Dallas Keuchel or Gio Gonzalez, and the ship has sailed on Kluber. So they are going with what they have. Yes Urias could fit in for Kersh, but he was already going to be on an innings limit, so what will that mean? I know so many of you are very high on Ryu, but he accumulated ALL OF 82.1 IP in 2018, and has had a significant shoulder surgery, and yet some think he is a better option than Corey Kluber. Why? Because of all the innings Kluber has pitched and because at 33 he is getting at that age where everything starts to go south. Makes sense, except when you recognize that Ryu is exactly one year younger than Kluber. So 32 is gold, but once you hit 33 you are done?
I also heard arguments against DJLM because of how he hit outside of Coors. Fair argument. But why cherry pick against DJLM and ignore Ryu’s Home/Away metrics? Last year, at Home batting against him .212/.234/.296/.530 with a SO/W ratio of 10/1. However, Away the numbers were .240/.307/.490/.797 with a SO/W ratio of 3.22. Now you cannot complain about DJLM’s numbers away from Coors and ignore Ryu’s away from Dodger Stadium. I guess you could, but it would show an extreme bias.
I am not anti-Ryu, but the money spent on him could have been spent on Wood and Puig, and with Kemp and Bailey being a wash, IMO, the Ryu signing created the necessity of the Farmer trade. With Ryu being a Boras client, I honestly do not believe that AF expected Ryu to accept the QO. If AF has a kryptonite it is the QO. He blew it with Anderson and Ryu, and almost blew it with Kendrick. Kendrick should have accepted the QO as nobody looked to sign him, and the Dodgers got him back at a bargain rate. I should add Kazmir because it was expected that he would opt out after that first year.
Now this team is primed to win the NL West as that is not some monumental task as three of the teams look to be somewhere between #12 and #14 in the NL. Only the Fish look to be worse than the Padres, DBacks, Giants. It is very arguable that both the Pirates and Reds will have better records than those three.
The Dodger starting pitching is solid, for a 162 game schedule. But what happens if Kersh is gone and Urias has a innings limit, and Ryu cannot stay healthy. I am not convinced that rookies or pitchers with 2 pitches (Ferguson, Santana, and Stewart) can be counted on in the playoff pressure cooker. And while the bullpen looks to be sharp with a lot of competition, I am always skeptical because this has been such an overlooked facet of the game the last few years. I agree that when the young guns start to come up they will have a formidable bullpen, but there is a difference between MLB and MiLB, so to expect that to happen in a pennant run is a little ambitious. This year, the pen is going to need to rely on Jansen, Kelly, Baez, Cingrani, Stripling, Floro, Garcia, Alexander, Fields, and Chargois for 8 spots. That may sound good, but it did not get the job done last year, and many were on a failed WS bullpen in 2017. I agree that potentially the pitching can be very good, but potentially not so good.
The position players are solid as well, but need to prove that they can become clutch hitters this year. RISP and RISP w/2 outs has been horrendous the last few years. Does it change this year? It doesn’t just because one thinks it will. History says that it does not. Maybe Verdugo goes off. Maybe Belli, CT3, and Barnes get back that 2017 mojo. Maybe Muncy has another .900+ OPS year. Hopefully Seager is fully healed for a great run. JT absolutely should have a monster year. I predict him to be the MVP winner every year, so why not 2019. Unless Seager beats him out.
The team will be in a great position come trade deadline, but who is available at that time is anybody’s guess. I do not see an Ace available or a JDM. Mark sees a potential in Castellanos, and he might be, but he is still no JDM. There will no doubt be a plethora of relievers available, and hopefully AF will not whiff this year on relievers.
So I absolutely see the positives and the reason to be so optimistic this year, but health is still a concern, and clutch hitting needs to get better (much better). Getting to the playoffs should not be a concern, but winning the final game of the year has been a problem the last two years. Maybe 2019 will beTHE YEAR,