Baseball is back. Full-squad workouts for the Dodgers commenced at Camelback Ranch on Tuesday. We’re now only four days away from the Cactus League opener for the Boys in Blue, and it couldn’t come fast enough after an excruciatingly long and boring offseason.
The stalled free agent market finally showed some signs of life on Tuesday when reports of a deal between the San Diego Padres and old friend Manny Machado surfaced. It hasn’t been made official yet, but it looks like a doozy of a record contract to the tune of 10-years and $300 million with an opt-out after the fifth season.
The Dodgers traded five minor leaguers during last year’s All-Star break for Machado in order to fill the void at shortstop left by the injured Corey Seager. Although Machado struggled to maintain the same results he had in the first half of the season in Baltimore (.963 OPS) once he got to L.A. (.825 OPS), and his self-admitted lack of hustle branded him a villain in the eyes of many, he helped the Dodgers win their second straight NL pennant. He struggled in the World Series, but they all did. The Dodgers collectively slashed .180/.249/.302/.550 in the Fall Classic.
Along with Eric Hosmer, who garnered a eight-year, $144 million deal with the Friars last offseason, Machado is a talent in which San Diego can continue their rebuild around. It’s a significant acquisition for them, a franchise still looking to capture their first world championship. With notorious Dodger torturer Paul Goldschmidt out of the NL West and now in St. Louis, it would be fitting that Machado would slot right into a new role as Dodger killer this season with San Diego. Because of course he will.
“Anytime you’re in that echelon of player, with being that young, I don’t know if there’s necessarily a right number because, obviously, you’re trying to set the path for future guys that get to that point,” Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw said. “But there aren’t that many guys that get to free agency at that superstar level that are 26 years old. Ten years seems fair, for sure, and getting that 30 a year for him is great. Can’t say I’m happy for him — he’s with the Padres now — but it’s good to maybe get the market going a little bit.”
Machado has never faced Kershaw.
The Pads may have added Machado to their squad, but the Dodgers still have two-time All-Star and 2016 NL Rookie of the Year Seager back in the mix.
The Dodgers are ‘cautiously optimistic’ Seager will be ready for Opening Day. The 24-year old shortstop had Tommy John surgery in May and arthroscopic surgery on his left hip in August.
Roberts described Seager’s 10-month rehab process.
“He handled it as well as he could’ve handled it,” Roberts said. “There was many times he wanted to pull his hair out. There were times he didn’t want to be around the ballpark because it hurt him so much not to participate. And there were other times he had to be there because he wanted to be a part of it. But Corey’s a guy that’s built to play every day and wants to play and compete.”
Speaking of Kershaw, Dave Roberts officially announced that he’s the Opening Day starter. No surprise there. It’s Kershaw’s 9th straight Opening Day Start, a franchise record. The Dodgers signed Kersh to a three-year, $93 million extension this winter. It will be the ace’s 12th season in the big leagues, all with the Dodgers.
Kershaw is working on his pitching mechanics this spring in hopes of silencing critics who point to his decreased velocity as a symptom of his decline in performance. Kershaw’s 3.19 FIP in 2018 was the highest of his career since his rookie season in 2008. He struck out 8.6 batters per nine innings, the first time that mark has dipped below double digits in the last five seasons.
All of the Dodgers had reported to camp by Tuesday, except for one notable exception. Andrew Toles is dealing with a personal issue and will be out indefinitely.
Toles has suffered from anxiety in the past. The timing is less than ideal for the outfielder, as he would have been competing for a spot on the Opening Day roster. Toles spent most of last season in Triple-A Oklahoma City. He proved himself healthy after a nasty ACL injury, but the Dodgers’ logjam in the outfield blocked Toles at the big league level.
Tolesy’s absence opens the door for Alex Verdugo, who may now get a lot more playing time on the big club. The Dodgers also have outfielders A.J. Pollock, Cody Bellinger, Joc Pederson, Chris Taylor and Enrique Hernandez.
Finally, we say goodbye to one of the greatest Dodgers of all time. Don Newcombe passed away on Tuesday at the age of 92.
He was the first black pitcher to start a World Series game and the first player to win both the NL MVP Award and Cy Young Award. He was also a great hitter with a .271 career batting average and 15 home runs.
Newcombe was a inspiring mentor to many players, many of whom paid their respects to him on social media.
Rest in peace, Newk.