This is a series of unknown duration, and it’s based on the premise that not all offseasons are created equal. Some teams will acquire a player or two, and some teams have the potential to melt our faces off. This is an exploration of the face-melters. If you would like to read about the first team in this series, the Phillies, you can do that here.
We’re almost five years removed from the Los Angeles Dodgers becoming the biggest financial bullies in baseball. For years, they were a big market team being managed like a medium market team, with an owner who was more interested in using the team like a personal slush fund. Then they were bought by an investment firm that decided the real money would come from turning the franchise into an unstoppable behemoth. They decided to out-Yankees the Yankees.
It all started with the Nick Punto trade, remember.
But since then, they’ve slowed down and made moves that hinted there was a limit, that they would have to be content to field the largest payroll in professional sports. They erred on the side of prudence with Zack Greinke, letting him walk to a division rival and making up the difference with Kenta Maeda, Scott Kazmir, Brett Anderson, Hyun-jin Ryu, Brandon McCarthy, Alex Wood ...
[eight minutes pass]
... Nick Tepesch, Jose De Leon, Joe Wieland ...
[eight minutes pass]
... Robinson Checo, Rick Gorecki, and Brock Stewart. Even before it was time to trade for Rich Hill, they traded for Bud Norris. They operated under the assumption that 47 different raffle tickets were worth more than one hot stock tip. Considering they made it to the NLCS and Greinke stumbled, it’s hard to argue they made a mistake.
They’re here now, though. And with another pennant-free season, there’s even more urgency. While it’s possible that there’s too much bargain hunting in the Rays-spliced DNA of the front office, this would seem like the offseason where they go back to their free-money roots of spit-take transactions.
And they have a lot of work to do with the roster.
Why are they compelling?
The Dodgers have more than $60 million to spend, according to FanGraphs. But there’s a catch. First, three of their best players — Justin Turner, Kenley Jansen, and Rich Hill — also happen to be three of the best players on the free agent market. Just retaining the players that got them to the NLCS will suck up a lot of that budget.
And second, the free agent market is a pile of partially chewed licorice and dog fur. This is not the best market for a shopping spree, and it isn’t even close. The Dodgers will have to get creative.
What could they do?
They could play it safe, re-sign Turner, Jansen, and Hill, make an impact addition like Yoenis Cespedes, and return for 2017 as strong as they were last year. Stronger, if you consider them to be the victims of poor luck on the health front.
Or they could use their deep prospect pool to be the talk of the offseason, regardless of what goes on in free agency. This is but a taste of what’s likely to come.
Justin Verlander trade “brewing” between Tigers, Dodgers
It’s a deal that makes so, so much sense. Verlander has a no-trade clause, and he gets to pick where he goes. Verlander also spends a lot of time in Beverly Hills. He makes enough money to scare away the poor teams, but he’s also something of a bargain compared to what teams could get on the open market, so he would need to go to a rich team with a bounty of prospects. There are a couple teams that fit that description, but the Dodgers might fit it best.
And it’s not like they would trade for Verlander, let their other free agents go, and invest the money in municipal bonds. They would use that extra payroll to get the players they want, whether by brute financial force or creative trading. They have a flow chart on a whiteboard that’s 40 feet by 40 feet, and it starts with “free agency” and ends with “court orders.” They have everything it takes to improve the roster, and they’ll just have to figure out the most efficient way.
They could simply re-sign Turner, or ...
Yep. They could get Verlander, Longoria, and Andrew McCutchen, probably. I don’t know if their minor-league system is that deep, but you can be sure that’s one of the permutations that’s being tossed back and forth during the strategy sessions. Something like this:
Anyway, as I was lying in the puddle, I think I may have found a way for us to get Bonds and Griffey, and we wouldn't have to give up that much.
The Dodgers are all lying in the puddle right now. It’s where they do their best thinking.
What should they do?
I can’t answer that. The Dodgers have so many paths available to them that it’s silly to tell them to pick just one. Sets myself up to look like a doofus later on. More so, even.
My one piece of advice? Make it so that starting Clayton Kershaw on short rest in the postseason is a “SURPRISE, SUCKERS!” move instead of the culmination of a year-long strategy. There’s no way to know if the Kershaw-’n’-Jansen, Then We’ll Be Dancin’ plan was going to work all the way through the World Series, but we saw what happened to Corey Kluber and Andrew Miller. They were pooped by Game 7 of the World Series.
Julio Urias will probably help with that and emerge as a great complement, I’m guessing, and they could always re-sign Hill. One more pitcher, though, one more co-ace with Kershaw, even if there isn’t a real co-ace for him, would fit the blueprint more than anything else.
Chris Sale might be available. Not sure what it would take and if the Dodgers would part with it, but this is the offseason to dream a little bigger than the last one.
Chances of winning the offseason?
Oh, that’s a solid four-and-a-half Prellers.
It would be a surprise if the Dodgers lurked in the shadows and let the offseason come to them. The Verlander rumors are an indication of what’s to come. And this is a team that doesn’t have to wait until the Collective Bargaining Agreement to know where they stand financially.