With free agency well underway, Hanley Ramirez gone to the Red Sox, and fans buzzing about when the Dodgers are going to do something, it seems like as good a time as any to address what insiders think the Dodgers will do in free agency.
Unfortunately for those sitting on the edge of their seat waiting for the Dodgers to make a big splash this off-season, the overwhelming sentiment is to not even worry about anything because the Dodgers won’t be doing much in free agency besides trying to improve at the margins (#4/#5 starter, relievers).
MLB Trade Rumors has the Dodgers pretty active, but nothing that would be considered a significant splash (also had Hanley going to the Yankees).
35. Sergio Romo – Dodgers. Romo, 32 in March, was removed from the Giants’ closing role in late June. As a flyball pitcher, he can be prone to the home run, but even this year his strikeout and walk rates suggested the skills for the sub-3.00 ERAs he strung together from 2010-13. He should find a strong three-year deal somewhere, especially if he’s open-minded about pitching the eighth or ninth inning. If the Giants don’t re-sign Romo, the Red Sox, Blue Jays, White Sox, Astros, Cubs, Rockies, and Dodgers could be in the mix.
44. Casey Janssen – Dodgers. Janssen, 33, posted a 2.46 ERA from 2011-13 but posted a 5.65 mark in the final three months of 2014. He suffered a case of violent food poisoning over the All-Star break and wasn’t the same afterward. Given his track record, he could be a bargain buy for the many teams seeking late-inning relief.
46. Brandon Morrow – Dodgers. Morrow, 30, has been limited to 212 1/3 innings over the last three seasons due to an oblique strain, an entrapped radial nerve in his forearm, and a torn tendon sheath in a finger on his throwing hand. He still averages 94 miles per hour on his fastball, and he wants to continue as a starting pitcher rather than a reliever. The fifth overall draft pick in 2006, Morrow should battle Brett Anderson as this winter’s most attractive high-risk, high-reward starting pitcher. Those types generally draw a long list of bargain-seekers, though teams in pitcher-friendly environments should be more appealing to the player.
Sergio Romo (oh boy), Casey Janssen (reliever), and Brandon Morrow (interesting relief prospects)? You get the gist, right? They had Hanley going away and the Dodgers signing a bunch of relievers and/or a back-end starter.
Baseball Prospectus was thinking Hanley was coming back to the Dodgers, but other than that had them signing a couple of relievers as well.
20. Andrew Miller
Position (Bats): LHP
Age (as of 4/1/15): 29
Three-year average: 44 IP, 158 ERA+, 3.74 SO/BB
Observations: An aggressive rank, no doubt, but Miller is coming in hot after a big season and playoff run. It doesn’t hurt that he’s a tall lefty with dynamite stuff and a strong pedigree. Southpaws with mid-90s fastballs and lethal sliders usually get cracks at closing. Miller has only one save to his name, but a daring team could give him the opportunity.
Prediction: Dodgers. Miller heads to L.A. as another high-leverage option.
49. Luke Hochevar
Position (Bats): RHP
Age (as of 4/1/15): 31
Two-year average: 128 IP, 89 ERA+, 2.90 SO/BB (missed 2014 due to injury)
Observations: Following years of dismal starting and constant overthinking, Hochevar flourished after moving to the bullpen in ’13. The reduced responsibilities allowed him to thin his repertoire for the better, leading to a higher dosage of mid-to-upper-90s fastballs, cutters, and spike curves. Unfortunately, Hochevar missed last season due to Tommy John surgery. There’s no guarantee he’ll be as good as he was in his first stint in the bullpen, but his upside will generate plenty of interest.
Prediction: Dodgers. Small-market teams figure to target Hochevar, hoping he comes cheap amid a strong relief market. However, Hochevar signing with L.A. would give Don Mattingly another late-inning option, and beat writers some easy copy about how the Dodgers drafted Hochevar twice. Everyone wins.
Two relievers in Andrew Miller and Luke Hochevar, which isn’t exciting, but I think realistic as to the type of free agency period the team is likely to have.
Yeah, I know, they’re the new Dodgers, so they’re not just going to outspend everyone else. But they’re still the Dodgers, and Andrew Friedman does have some history with James Shields, so I wouldn’t expect them to pass if his market doesn’t evolve. It might not be their original plan, but I think they’ll scoop up Shields once his price falls to 4/$80M. They’ll also re-sign Chad Billingsley (1/$6M) and make a bunch of trades.
So they’ll get Shields if his market fails to develop and Billingsley as a low-risk investment for rotation depth, basically. They also had Hanley to the Rockies after said Rockies traded Troy Tulowitzki.
At CBS Sports, Jon Heyman only loosely ties the Dodgers to a few big-name free agents almost because it’s the Dodgers and they have money, but apart from that he certainly didn’t have them seriously in on anybody.
Similarly, Jim Bowden at ESPN mentions the Dodgers as suitors for about a dozen players, but only seriously lists them for Andrew Miller and Sergio Romo. Which, again, fits the media expectations for what the Dodgers are going to do.
The point of all this? Mainly to give you an idea of what the Dodgers off-season in the free agent market is supposed to be like. I’ve been noticing rumblings and grumblings regarding the team’s lack of action, and that’s probably because there will be a lack of action on the free agent market for them.
That’s not to say they won’t do anything, of course. But they’ll mainly be active in the trade market, and given the types of trades they’re likely to do (moving expensive contracts), none of the major moves are going to get done until most of the big-name free agents are off the board.