With the Winter Meetings set to start tomorrow (tonight, technically), the Dodgers are already moving on to other targets.
— Dustin Nosler (@DustinNosler) December 9, 2017
The Dodgers are indeed talking to the Marlins about All-Star outfielder Marcell Ozuna. After their talks regarding Stanton never got to the point where they were serious, Ozuna now appears to be the immediate target.
Ozuna, 27, just turned in his best season as a pro. He hit .312/.376/.548 with 37 home runs, which was good for a 142 wRC+, and put up a 4.8 fWAR. He saw his power output increase substantially — 50 points of ISO, to be exact — which led to some career-best marks. He’s entering his prime and, while he might not best his 2017 production, he should be a productive player for the next handful of years.
He’s predicted to make $10.9 million via arbitration, his second year going through the process. If the Marlins trading of Stanton is any indication, they might not be keen on paying Ozuna almost $11 million, which would represent an opportunity for the Dodgers.
The talks are in the early stages, and I suspect if anything ever comes to fruition, it’ll be at the Winter Meetings. There’s also an extremely high chance nothing will materialize out of this. Such is the nature of rumors.
In terms of fit, Ozuna makes a lot of sense for the Dodgers. He’s a right-handed power-hitter who plays strong defense in left field (11 DRS last season), and the Dodgers aren’t locked into any player at the position. Most importantly, he doesn’t have $295 million owed to him for the next 10 years. That was the biggest obstacle in trying to acquire Stanton, which Chad mentioned yesterday in his article about Giancarlo heading to the Yankees. Eric Stephen at True Blue LA also wrote about losing out on Stanton, and he said the Dodgers missed an opportunity.
“There is certainly risk in Stanton’s contract, and legitimate baseball reasons for not wanting to assume 10 years of any player, even as attractive as Stanton might be. After all, nobody claimed Stanton when he was placed on waivers in August, when he could have been had for nothing other than assuming his entire contract. But there is also risk in signing pitchers like Scott Kazmir and Brandon McCarthy to $48 million contracts, too. That pair, as an example, have combined for 293 innings and 0.4 total WAR in the five pitching seasons with the Dodgers to date. Both have one year remaining on their contracts, and both were names speculated to have been discussed as potentially headed to the Marlins in any type of Stanton trade to ease the Dodgers’ luxury tax burden for 2018. The Dodgers paid $113.5 million in luxury tax from 2013-16, and will likely owe at least $30 million for 2017. They will probably be over the $197 million threshold in 2018 as well, so the concern is real. It is completely reasonable for the team to at some point want to get their payroll under the threshold, even if only to reset the tax from 50% to 20% the next year they go over. But it’s also reasonable to expect fans to be able to watch Dodgers games on television, especially when the team owns the very network that televises the games. Good luck getting the benefit of the doubt on that one.”
“This was a salary dump by the Marlins, plain and simple. And the Dodgers didn’t pounce. In theory, there is still a way for the Dodgers to take advantage of the Marlins’ self-inflicted sorriness. If the new ownership group in Miami is fully committed to the fire sale of their new $1.2 billion toy, there is a chance they could also deal one or both of Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich, the other two thirds of the group that, with Stanton was probably the best outfield in baseball in 2017.”
I couldn’t agree more on all counts, but the Dodgers did have some concerns. A source said the team didn’t think Stanton’s deal was worth the risk. That’s a valid concern, as he’s set to make at least $96 million in the last three years of his deal when he’ll be on the wrong side of 35. The Yankees ended up taking on $22 million annually for Stanton. That seems affordable enough, but the Yankees were only able to jettison Starlin Castro (making at least $22 million total the next two seasons) and get $30 million back from the Marlins. The Dodgers, presumably, wanted to dump at least one of Adrian Gonzalez, Scott Kazmir or Brandon McCarthy, and likely two of them. That didn’t fly with the Marlins, and with the Yankees willing to take on more risk, well the Dodgers didn’t really stand much of a chance.
Another reason the source gave for the Dodgers not wanting to take on Stanton’s deal is that his contract might hinder their ability to land a front-line starting pitcher at some point. Again, that is a valid concern. However, a relatively “easy” solution to this issue could’ve been to trade for Chris Archer. Seriously, if the Dodgers were that concerned about Stanton’s deal interfering with them acquiring a front-line pitcher, why not acquire a front-line guy who has an incredibly team-friendly contract (owed at least $33.75 million) through the 2021 season? Having that minuscule salary tied up in a No. 1/2 starting pitcher could have allowed the Dodgers to take on Stanton’s deal, and it would have been a lot cheaper in terms of prospects to have acquired Archer (whom the Rays might very well trade this week) and Stanton as opposed to Archer and Ozuna or Yelich. Plus, I’ve been trying to get Archer for a couple years now.
While I’m still a little salty about the Dodgers passing on Stanton, it was clear they didn’t feel comfortable adding his contract. That’s fine. And moving on to his former teammate in Ozuna makes sense because at some point the Dodgers are going to have to decide what to do with all these prospects. Some won’t make it to the majors. Some won’t live up to expectations. But there will be a logjam before too long. Sometimes it gets worked out, but sometimes a trade is the only way to do that, and perhaps that’s why the Dodgers might be more willing to deal prospects rather than take on massive contracts.
The Dodgers don’t necessarily need Ozuna either. Joc Pederson had a strong World Series performance that has rekindled some of the optimism folks had in him. Andrew Toles is scheduled to come back from a torn ACL. And Enrique Hernandez is primed to take a step forward in his development next season. That’s a solid left field trio. Of course acquiring Ozuna is clearly superior to that platoon, but the Dodgers are far from desperate to make a move.
In the end, Ozuna would be a fine consolation prize to Stanton. He’s not the “omg 59 homers, NL MVP, sexy af” option, but he makes more sense in a lot of different ways.
Bring on the Winter Meetings!