Mailbag #14: ‘Unlimited’ Payroll, Friedman Worry, Yoan Moncada, Greinke Out

The mailbag of panic?

Jonas Sparkennugen: Why is it that the Dodgers have a seemingly unlimited budget to acquire players, but seem to be quite parsimonious about eating salary by cutting unproductive players (League is the obvious example, but Crawford or Ethier seem to be trending that way, too)? If we take the team at their word that they are committed to building from within, then why not allow those prospects to actually play at the major league level?

Milo: I think we’ve run into a flaw of the “UNLIMITED MONEY” strategy we sort of have been operating under where we take on these huge contracts, and when the player is awful, can’t trade them to anyone and won’t cut them because it’s too much money to swallow. What’s to be done?

These two questions are old, but I thought they were best saved to be addressed in the off-season.

Basically, there is no such thing as an “unlimited payroll” and there never was. I said this back when the Dodgers started spending like crazy and everybody was delirious, and maybe I’m just cynical, but it seemed logical that at SOME point there would be consequences for using the payroll inefficiently. While I thought the money gave the Dodgers an advantage in overpaying for stars like Zack Greinke, the team also started to overpay mediocre role players, and I’m not sure why that was ever considered acceptable.

Additionally, and people scoffed at this at the time as well, but as Jonah Keri pointed out, even if the Dodgers DID have unlimited money, they would still be limited by roster spots. Teams still find it hard to cut bait on ineffective players if they’re under contract, and thus those players still take up space on the roster and prevent the team from improving.

If this all sounds familiar in terms of the Dodgers, it should. The current roster crunch and inability to improve drastically is the result of dubious decisions at the margins as well as the core, and I’m hoping that the margins is where Andrew Friedman can do better until he’s afforded payroll flexibility.

Or the owners could be bluffing and they’re about to splash out like $50 million per year in contracts during the off-season, but that seems less and less likely with every quote on the future of the payroll.

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DINGERS!: Certain bloggers has been panicking about what Friedman MIGHT do, like trade Puig, Kemp, and Gonzalez for pennies and minor prospects. Is this fear unfounded, or the truth to terrifying to consider? And is Buster delusional in proposing a bad contract swap of Ubaldo for Milk Carton Ethier?

I don’t think it’s unfounded. Friedman has certainly shown he’s willing to deal his stars away if he feels it’ll make the team better. That said, will it be as necessary to do that as much with the Dodgers? No.

Like it’s hard to see him dealing away an ideal player (high production, team control) like Yasiel Puig unless it’s some kind of blockbuster trade. But yeah, I could see him trying to sell high on Matt Kemp and Dee Gordon or something. The fan reaction would be terrible, but is the IDEA bad? Not really.

As far as Ubaldo Jimenez goes … pass. Dan Haren and John Danks and the likes might be mediocre rotation options, but at least I can sort of guess what I’m going to get out of them in a given season. Jimenez is seemingly unpredictable and is locked down for three more seasons. He’s also coming off five seasons of velocity decrease, but unlike most who drop by 2-3 mph, Jimenez has gone from 96 mph to 90 mph, which is horrifying. Unless the Dodgers scouts or pitching coaches see an easy fix for Jimenez, I’d rather not touch him. Hell, even if they do see a fix I’m on the fence. Ubaldo’s mechanics have been “corrected” before, but he commonly goes right back into the problematic stuff. Sort of like Carlos Marmol and/or Edinson Volquez in that regard.

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Brian: What are the chances that Grienke opts out of his contract in 2015?

If he’s not hurt and performing the same? 100%.

Zack Greinke would have three years and $77 million left on his deal after 2015, and I can’t see any way he makes less money by opting out after he has posted a few more years of rock-solid #1/#2 starter performance AND dispelled whatever concerns teams had about him pitching on the road or in big games.

Not sure if fans will actually be mad at him or whatever, but it’s going to happen if all goes right, and it makes total sense. Zack is predictably pragmatic, so even if he loves the Dodgers and has no intention of leaving, there’s no reason not to opt-out and extort them for more money/years.

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Gary: With Yoan Moncada on display on the 12th, how much do the Dodgers have left to spend without hamstringing future international signings? I want him.

Won’t matter how much the Dodgers or anybody else have to spend given that the speculated price tag on Yoan Moncada at the moment is going to be well into the eight-figure range (probably ~40 million, according to this). Whoever signs him will be essentially sacrificing signing big ticket international free agents for the next two signing periods, and they’ll have to essentially pay double whatever the contract ends up being due to the overage tax.

Would it be worth it? I think it’s a no-brainer if everything said about him ends up being true. There’s probably not gonna be another teenage talent like this to become available in the next two years, if ever, so why not go get him rather than worry about not being able to sign the next 16-year-old lottery ticket?

MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo spoke to multiple scouts who were on-hand, with one scout giving Moncada a 60 hit-tool, 60 power, 70 speed, a 60 arm and a 50 in terms of fielding (on the 20-80 scouting scale). A scouting director told Mayo that Moncada is “worth going way over your international spending pool,” adding that the game is ultimately about talent, and Moncada “is the kind of talent worth the investment.” Another touted his five-tool potential and said he was in great shape. Mayo hears that Moncada looked better at third and second than shortstop, though he has the arm to play any infield position. The Yankees, Red Sox, Braves and Cubs all had four or more scouts in attendance, per Mayo.

Sold.

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Anon: Is Sweeney someone who could help the Dodgers in 2015? If the Dodgers decide to sell high on Dee Gordon and give Guerrero the second base job, could Sweeney be a solid backup option?

Well, they may sell high on Dee, but I would be floored if Alex Guerrero is given the job at second.

As far as Darnell Sweeney is concerned, I doubt he helps the Dodgers in 2015 unless you count being traded for relief help or something. I do think he could be a decent regular for a second-division team or end up as a bat-first utility guy at some point, but I’m not convinced he’s a first-division regular. That said, the upside with Sweeney is probably worth the risk for a team trading away a reliever or back-end starter or something of that nature.

So in that sense, as a good but not great trade piece, I think he has a lot of potential value to the Dodgers.

About Chad Moriyama

Chad Moriyama
"A highly rational Internet troll." - Los Angeles Times