As we Dodger fans sit here and watch the Nationals sweep right through the Cardinals on their way to the World Series, one thing is painfully clear: The Dodgers need to spend big this winter.
This isn’t a novel, nor new, concept from yours truly, and Molly Knight wrote about something similar over at The Athletic earlier this week. I wanted Bryce Harper last winter to no avail (and no, LA’s bullshit 4-year offer wasn’t legit). The year before, the big free agents I wanted were Mike Minor and Brandon Morrow. Before that, it was mainly retaining their own free agents in Kenley Jansen and Justin Turner.
But coming off the most disappointing 106-win season in the history of everything, something needs to be done. Yes, the Dodgers are setup well to be a juggernaut long-term, but if there were ever a time to splurge, it’d be now.
I’ll admit, the immediate fit for Harper last year wasn’t obvious. It would have involved trading Joc Pederson to the White Sox after already trading Yasiel Puig to the Reds. But still, if the Dodgers really wanted him, they would have found a way to do so. Hell, they did it for A.J. Pollock. But this offseason, the Dodgers need to legitimately be in on the top two or three agents in Cole and Anthony Rendon (and maybe Stephen Strasburg, if he opts out).
Hyun-Jin Ryu is coming off the best season of his career and Scott Boras has a plan to get him a a big payday. That might be $20 million a season for 3-4 years. That’s something they could easily do, but if they’re going to do that for the guy going into his age-33 season, then why not spend $10-15 million more annually for a younger, better pitcher in Gerrit Cole? Yes, the term would be significantly longer than what Ryu is going to get, but that’s what it takes these days to sign the best of the best (see: Harper, Manny Machado, Eric Hosmer [lol], etc.). At minimum, Cole is getting a 6-year deal, ala Patrick Corbin‘s last winter.
The Dodgers have prided themselves on pitching for the entirety of their franchise, and adding Cole would form one of the best duos in the game with Walker Buehler. And as we see the Cole-Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer-Strasburg duos carry their teams to the Series, well, it almost makes too much sense.
Strasburg is an interesting potential target. He’s owed $100 million over the next four years after the conclusion of this season. He’s coming off one of his best season as a pro and has been even better in October. More importantly, it was one of his healthiest (he led the NL in innings pitched). You have to think he can best 4/100 on the open market, even going into his age-31 season. If the Dodgers strike out on Cole, Strasburg would be one hell of a consolation prize.
And if the Dodgers are more focused on adding a big-time bat, well, it doesn’t get much better than Rendon. He’s going to get a huge deal, and the Dodgers have been rumored to like him a lot (who wouldn’t?). If that’s the case, then they’ll have to rearrange the deck chairs a bit, but adding Rendon would give them a legitimate middle-of-the-order bat to pair with Cody Bellinger and Max Muncy while also improving defense at the hot corner. Justin Turner would slide over to first base, Muncy would play (mostly) at second base and Gavin Lux would slide to shortstop.
But what about Corey Seager, Dustin?
I think Seager could be the odd man out in this scenario. He hasn’t shown to be the player he was in 2016 and most of 2017, but he’d still have value. But he’s a free agent after the 2021 season, thanks to losing basically a whole season because of Tommy John surgery. This would be the optimal time (control years-wise) to move him to improve the team elsewhere. I haven’t fully thought out a scenario in which Seager is traded (if Rendon is signed), but don’t be surprised if it happens.
The Dodgers have a little more than $112 million committed to players in 2020. Add another $53 million (give or take a few million on either side) in arbitration and that puts the Dodgers at $165 million, and the competitive balance number could be different than that.
For argument’s sake, let’s just say the Dodgers have $40 million to spend this winter (a conservative estimate for sure and we all like our Base 10 numbers). That should be plenty to land one of the three players listed above without going over the precious luxury tax — because we know the Dodgers are desperate to stay under the $208 million mark. That doesn’t include off-loading any salaries via trade and/or bringing in salary the same way. It also doesn’t include the Dodgers (hopefully) bringing back Rich Hill at a reduced rate. I think he either does that or retires.
We’ll see what happens. But the Dodgers are in a much better position to land a proverbial big fish than they have been in the last two offseasons. Now, it’s on Andrew Friedman to pull the trigger on one of these premium free agents … as long as Mark Walter and Stan Kasten OK it. Ugh.