Free agency begins tomorrow. Just ahead of it, I have attempted to come up with a plan for the offseason that I’m sure the front office is laughing at as we speak. Some folks will like this, some folks will hate it. I’m ready for any response.
There will be other free agent signings, but they’ll likely be of the minor-league/non-roster invitee variety. Here, the Dodgers retain their prize from the 2016 trade deadline in Hill, whom they are betting holds up enough for at least two seasons and continues to produce as a top-of-the-rotation kind of pitcher. On top of Hill, Holland is also a gamble. A once-elite closer, he’s coming off Tommy John surgery, but if he can get back to where he was before the injury (or even close to it), he’d be a fine replacement for Jansen. He won’t be as dominant, but could be good enough, considering the cost.
Net Dollars: +$35.8 million
The Tigers might be looking to unload some salary (they’ve already traded Cameron Maybin‘s $9 million salary), and the Dodgers are in a great position to help out while also getting better. The big prize is Kinsler, who is signed through next season if the Dodgers exercise his $10 million option (seems like a no-brainer). To lessen the cost in prospects, the Dodgers will also take back Sanchez, who is two years removed from being a really good pitcher in the American League. He made nine relief appearances in 2016 and could be in line for a hybrid role with the Dodgers — if they decide to keep him — and he also has a $5 million buyout for 2018 the Tigers will pay.
In return, Detroit gets a guy who can perhaps flourish in the American League in Van Slyke (especially if they end up trading J.D. Martinez) and a cheap, young left-hander in Wood. Despite his injury-riddled 2016, he still has plenty of talent and ability — either in the rotation or out of the bullpen. They also get a high-risk, high-reward outfield prospect in Mieses. Most importantly for the Tigers, they save almost $36 million on their payroll over the next two seasons.
Net Dollars: +$46.3 million
Braun was almost a Dodger at the waiver trade deadline (by most accounts), but the deal fell apart. A few months later, the two teams revisit it and come to an accord. The Dodgers get a guy who mashes left-handers (and pitchers, in general), which is something they sorely missed last season, and while his contract status isn’t great, $19 million a year for four years is hardly crippling to the Dodgers’ payroll.
The Brewers rid themselves of Braun’s contract while taking on a little salary in the form of Kazmir and Kendrick — both of whom will be mid-season trade candidates for them. The immediate prize is Puig, who might benefit from being out of the limelight of Los Angeles and still possesses All-Star upside. Additionally, they also get two unanimous Top 50 prospects in De Leon and Verdugo, which is exactly what that organization needs right now.
Net Dollars: -$20 million
The Dodgers have a glut of starting pitching, and if there’s any higher-priced veteran who is going to get moved without much fuss, it’s going to be McCarthy. He had great success with the Yankees in his half-season stint there and they might be willing to gamble on him for the next two years. Their rotation currently has one guy named Chad Green and one guy named Bryan Mitchell, and I don’t suspect Brian Cashman will want to go into the 2017 campaign with those guys backing up Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia. Adding McCarthy could give that rotation a bit of legitimacy, provided he can stay healthy and is over his control issues.
The Dodgers get back a guy who I liked in the 2013 draft but hasn’t fully reached his potential. Basically, he’s on the level of a guy like Chase De Jong — a solid pitching prospect, but not much more. He’ll need to be added to the 40-man rosters next offseason.
Net Dollars: -$3.4 million
This is a trade that has actually already happened. The Dodgers sent Ruiz to the Mariners for a soft-tossing left-handed reliever. Nuno isn’t much, but he’s only due about $1.1 million, while Ruiz’s option was for $4.5 million. This also shows a commitment to Austin Barnes as the backup catcher, which is exciting and long overdue. Nuno has an option, so he’s a candidate to begin the season in Triple-A.
Net Dollars: +$15.75 million
Not exactly the Chris Archer trade you were expecting, right? It’s not for a lack of trying, but I just couldn’t figure out a way to make it work. Make no mistake, I really want the Dodgers to acquire Archer, but I don’t see it happening this offseason. Instead, they get a potential closer replacement in Boxberger, who was good for most of 2015 and outstanding in 2014. He dealt with injury issues in 2016 that limited him to just 24 1/3 innings, but there’s back-end potential there. They also land Forsythe, and while he has been predominantly a second baseman in the majors, the Dodgers would have thoughts of him trying to replace Turner at third base. He actually once said he prefers third base, but with that Evan Longoria guy in Tampa Bay, it was hard to see Forsythe getting much time there. In his limited time at the hot corner (336 1/3 innings), he has been an above-average defender (6 DRS, 32.0 UZR/150), while at second base he has been about average (3 DRS, -5.7 UZR/150). He also has experience at first base, shortstop and the corner outfield spots, so he can be a utility option, but he should settle into third base as Turner did when he became a Dodger. If Forsythe’s bat continues to be as productive as it has been the last two seasons, he’ll be just fine to take over at the hot corner.
For the Rays, they don’t have much use for Boxberger and will replace him with Baez. As for Forsythe, the Rays get a couple of good prospects in Calhoun (Forsythe’s replacement at some point) and Sheffield (an intriguing power arm), as well as a young catcher in Farmer who doesn’t have a lot of pop but is a high-contact kind of hitter. Farmer’s also solid behind the plate after transitioning from being a shortstop in college, so they could get a backup catcher type as a throw in.
So there you have it, that’s my grandiose plan to improve the Dodgers prior to the 2017 season. I’m sure almost none of this will happen, but I tried to think outside the box a bit.
As much as I wanted Archer to be a Dodger, I couldn’t realistically make it happen. I lost Jansen and Turner and admittedly replaced them with inferior players, but I also upgraded in other areas and acquired two first-round draft picks. While the rotation didn’t get much of a bump on the surface, having Hill for a whole season is an improvement and there’s still the trade deadline to improve. More importantly, the Dodgers hold onto Stewart and Urias, so perhaps these youngsters can take another step forward. They also ended up holding on to coveted prospects like Yadier Alvarez, Cody Bellinger and Walker Buehler, even though prospect capital does end up being spent.
I think this team, on paper, is better than the team that was two wins away from the World Series. While they’re down Turner, they gain Braun, Forsythe and Kinsler. The rotation could use one more pitcher capable of an innings-eater, but if Hill can stay healthy, he could give 150 quality innings with the other MLB-ready starters fitting in if he predictably picks up an injury. Maeda could also improve in his second season and give the Dodgers even more after adjusting to the workload. The bullpen is lacking at the back-end, as this front office is relying on guys who have been good in the past (Boxberger and Holland) but have their own issues. However, Boxberger and Holland both have back-end potential, Dayton could take a step forward, and so could Fields. Mostly, the bullpen is less on Pedro Baez, which is an automatic improvement overall.
The best part is that other than Braun, the Dodgers don’t add any long-term commitments to their payroll. Not that they can’t afford those contracts, but it would limit flexibility come the insane 2018-19 free agent class. That is, in all likelihood, the end game for most of the payroll shedding. Additionally, it allows them to take on salary come the trade deadline and next offseason while also remaining highly competitive. Maybe a guy like Zach Britton becomes a target at the deadline if the bullpen falters.
What say you? Am I crazy? What do you like? What do you hate? Let me know.