2019-20 Dodgers Digest offseason plan

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It’s finally here. I’m sure you’ve been eagerly awaiting my 2019-20 offseason plan for the Dodgers. What’s that? You haven’t? Well, I don’t blame you.

This is a pivotal winter for Andrew Friedman and the Dodgers. I wrote about it after the Dodgers’ early and unexpected exit from the 2019 playoffs. Sure, it’d be easy for him to stand relatively pat. I mean, the Dodgers did win 106 games last season. But this is Year 6 of his being in charge of everything, and it has yet to deliver a championship. Yes, it isn’t completely his fault — it has been an organization-wide effort — but at some point, a shakeup could be in order. Now, that doesn’t necessarily involve shipping out half the team. It does, however, involve trying something different than they have been doing over the last few offseasons. At least, that’s my hope.

Sometimes the best moves a general manger (or president of baseball ops) makes are the one he doesn’t, but now, it’s time for the Dodgers to really open up the wallet.

Let’s get started.

Arbitration

Cody Bellinger – $11.6 million
Joc Pederson – $8.5 million
Corey Seager – $7.1 million
Enrique Hernandez – $5.5 million
Chris Taylor – $5 million
Max Muncy – $4.6 million
Pedro Baez – $3.3 million
Ross Stripling – $2.3 million
Julio Urias – $1.7 million
Austin Barnes – $1.3 million
Scott Alexander – $1 million

I broke this down in more detail in a post last month, but these are all pretty easy tenders for me. Now, just because a player has been tendered a deal doesn’t mean said player will be on the roster heading into 2020.

Obviously, Bellinger and Muncy are going nowhere. They’re basically untouchable — and who woulda thunk that a year ago? But everyone else listed could be traded, but I’m doubting many of them will. If I were in charge, though, that’d be a little different (as you’ll see below).

Non-tender

Yimi Garcia – $1.1 million

Let me go on record in saying I don’t think the Dodgers will non-tender Garcia. But I just don’t see a fit for him on the roster. And that’s weird for a guy who had a 3.61 ERA, 21.0 K-BB%, .171 BABIP against and .176 batting average against. Those are all really, really good numbers! But why did Garcia end the season with a -0.3 WAR with numbers that good? He gave up dingers. A lot of them. In 62 1/3 innings, Garcia allowed a whopping 15 home runs. He allowed more dongs than he issued walks (14). Couple that with an unsustainable (for him) strand rate (82.1 LOB%) and those good numbers could go the opposite direction awfully quickly in 2020. But the biggest reasons I’d non-tender Garcia are

  1. There are better arms on the 40-man roster (and in the minors)
  2. He’s out of minor-league options

He survived the 2019 season on the roster with no options remaining, but I don’t see him doing it for a second year in a row.

Qualifying Offers

Because Hyun-Jin Ryu was extended the QO last winter, he was ineligible for it this offseason. Rich Hill — really good when healthy — didn’t get the $17.8 million offer. Other than Hill, the only other true free agent the Dodgers have is Russell Martin, since David Freese retired.

Option

Jedd Gyorko – $13 million or $1 million buyout

This happened IRL, and it was a no-brainer.

Rule 5 Protections

UTIL Zach McKinstry
OF DJ Peters
RHP Jordan Sheffield
RHP Mitchell White

I looked at this more in depth last week, but I’ve added McKinstry along with the other three just to have more MLB-ready talent on the 40-man roster.

DFA/Outright

Editor’s note: Chargois added due to an oversight. Dodgers Digest regrets the error.

JT Chargois
Casey Sadler

Both Chargois and Sadler are out of options. The Dodgers might be able to sneak them through waivers, but both have MLB-caliber arms and could probably latch on elsewhere. If both go unclaimed and accept the assignment, they’d go to Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Free Agents

Gerrit Cole – 7 years, $245 million

I have written about why I think Cole should be the top priority for the Dodgers this offseason. It’s also because the options of adding another top-flight starting pitcher to pair with Walker Buehler is much more difficult. If Noah Syndergaard were available, that’d be one thing. It appears the Mets (smartly) want to keep him. Jon Gray is a personal favorite of mine and I think he could be in line to take a big step forward in 2020, but the Rockies may not want to trade him within the division and there’s a good chance Gray is a solid mid-rotation guy instead of a top-end pitcher.

Having said all that, Cole is the guy. He and Buehler atop the Dodger rotation would give them one of the most lethal combinations in the game. We saw what the Nationals top starters did in this year’s postseason. When Clayton Kershaw is your No. 3 starter and you have guys like Julio Urias and Kenta Maeda (as well as Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May) behind him, that’s about as good as you get.

Cole is a difference-maker. He might be the best free-agent starting pitcher available in the last generation. Max Scherzer was really good after the 2014 season, but Cole is coming off one of the 10 best seasons by a starting pitcher in the last decade. While he throws hard, he isn’t completely reliant on velocity to be successful. He has three other plus-or-better pitches, and a guy like that is someone the Dodgers should stop at (almost) nothing to get. The price tag is hefty — $35 million per season and the loss of their 2nd-round pick in the 2020 MLB Draft and $500,000 of international signing money (2020-21 period) — but he’s more than worth it.

Trades

To CLE: Joc Pederson, Julio Urias, Jeter Downs, Marshall Kasowski
To LA: Francisco Lindor, Daniel Espino

Craig Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus said it best, “Cleveland loves to go backwards and forwards at the same time …” and that’s exactly what’s happening here.

After much back-and-forth behind the scenes, I finally settled on Lindor being the Dodgers’ big trade acquisition — and it doesn’t come at the expense of Seager. Seager would shift to third base in this scenario, with Justin Turner moving across the diamond, Muncy playing second base when Turner is at first and Gavin Lux would be an infield/outfield option for a year.

Lindor, 26, is one of the game’s bright stars. If Cleveland is truly making him available, the Dodgers should be laying the groundwork for a deal. He’s the type of player you can build a franchise around. With the 2019 NL MVP already anchoring the lineup, another franchise-level player added to the offense make tons of sense. I went more in-depth on Lindor over here a few weeks ago. Not only would Lindor’s bat be most welcome, but so would his elite shortstop defense. He’s the rare player who has elite potential on both sides of the ball. Seager sliding over to third base might end up helping his overall value, if he can handle it defensively. And if he can play shortstop at at least an average clip, he should be better at third base.

The Dodgers would also get a hard-throwing right-hander they were set to choose at No. 25 in the 2019 MLB Draft, but Cleveland popped him at 24, so the Dodgers had to “settle” for Kody Hoese. Espino is at least three years away from the majors, so he doesn’t especially help Cleveland in the short-term and it helps the Dodgers 

By landing an established star in Lindor and a developmental pitching prospect they scouted heavily, the Dodgers can afford to give up the amount of talent they are in this deal. Pederson is going into the final year of team control and would be a great fit in the Cleveland outfield that was one of the worst, offensively, in all of baseball last season (and especially bad against right-handed pitching). He’d be a big boost in that regard. Stripling Urias would give them a young, controllable starting pitcher (four years) for when they end up trading Shane Bieber or Mike Clevinger in a year or so, because that’s what they like to do. Plus, this would give Stripling Urias a chance to start without having to wonder whether he’s going to be moved to the bullpen. Cleveland would also get a guy in Downs who could very well slide into the shortstop position as early as 2021 for them and a nearly MLB-ready relief prospect in Kasowski.

Editor’s note: After early feedback, Stripling has been swapped out for Urias to make this package a little more balanced. Dodgers Digest appreciates the feedback.

Cleveland would also save money in this deal (which might be the most important part for them), as Lindor is projected to make $16.7 million via arbitration while Pederson and Stripling are projected (combined) to make $10.1 million. Lindor’s price tag is only going to rise, so they’d be wise to trade him now if they don’t intend on extending him.

To TOR: Jeren Kendall, Mitchell White
To LA: Ken Giles

I wrote at True Blue LA on Saturday that the Dodgers need to get Kenley Jansen some help, and Giles would qualify as help. Giles, 29, is coming off one of the best seasons of his career and is a sure bet to be traded by the trade deadline, but probably sooner. He’s set to make $8.4 million in his last year of arbitration for a Toronto club that probably isn’t contending for the AL East title (or even a wild card spot) in 2020, so why not move him and his salary for a couple lottery tickets?

Kendall has the pedigree — college performer, 1st-rounder — but he has yet to put it all together. He showed some signs of improvement, but consistency is key for him. Perhaps Toronto — an org that has developed good hitting prospects like Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Lourdes Gurriel could be the cure for what ails Kendall. White gives the Jays a young hurler who has shown No. 2 stuff in the past, but like Kendall, consistency is what’s holding him back.

To SEA: Edwin Rios
To LA: Austin Adams

This is the most minor of the three deals. Adams is coming off a good showing in limited time and fits exactly what the Dodgers look for when trading for a reliever — under team control, low-cost, some history of performance. It’s what they did when they acquired Alexander, Josh Fields and Dylan Floro in separate deals. Adams had the 8th-best FIP among all MLB relievers (minimum 30 IP) in 2019, and the Mariners won’t be contending anytime soon. So, it makes sense for them to move the 28-year-old for a powerful hitting prospect in Rios, who is actually three years younger than Adams.

Rios would immediately step in — at worst — as a platoon partner for Austin Nola at first base and has shown to be plenty effective against right-handed pitching in his brief MLB stint and his minor-league career. With Muncy and Matt Beaty around, having Rios is a bit redundant for the Dodgers. But there’s no doubting his power, and not even T-Mobile Park (formerly Safeco Field) can hold it.

——

For this plan to fully work, a couple things have to go right. First, Seager has to transition to third base. He may not necessarily want to but he isn’t playing the position over Lindor. Secondly, Lux would have to learn some outfield if he wants to maximize his playing time. And with Turner only having a year left on his deal, Lux could slide into second base exclusively next season. One thing’s for sure: This roster would still be plenty deep and flexible.

Roster (26)

Catchers (2)
Austin Barnes
Will Smith

Infielders (5)
Max Muncy
Francisco Lindor
Corey Seager
Justin Turner
Tyler White

Outfielders (2)
A.J. Pollock
Alex Verdugo

Infielders/Outfielders (4)
Cody Bellinger
Enrique Hernandez
Gavin Lux
Chris Taylor

Rotation (5)
Gerrit Cole
Walker Buehler
Clayton Kershaw
Kenta Maeda
Ross Stripling

Bullpen (8)
Austin Adams
Pedro Baez
Caleb Ferguson
Dylan Floro
Ken Giles
Kenley Jansen
Joe Kelly
Adam Kolarek

Remainder of 40-man (12)
Matt Beaty
Kyle Garlick
Zach McKinstry
DJ Peters
Keibert Ruiz

Scott Alexander
Tony Gonsolin
Victor Gonzalez
Dustin May
Dennis Santana
Josh Sborz
Jordan Sheffield

Restricted List (2)
Yadier Alvarez
Andrew Toles

Note: Until we know the status of Alvarez and Toles, I’m just going to assume they’ll be on the restricted list. But I’ll leave two 40-man spots, just in case.

——

Before I wrap up, you’ve probably noticed the lack of “luxury tax” in this plan. While I don’t think the Dodgers should be concerning themselves with it — especially since they’ve won the Competitive Balance Tax belt the last two seasons — it’s a thing. The plan I have proposed above puts them in the $208-210 million range. With some creative bookkeeping and/or midseason trades, they could figure out a way to stay under the tax. But if they don’t, I’m not going to complain. 

So, that’s my grand plan. Cole & Lindor would be the big additions to (hopefully) finally propel the Dodgers over the hump. Cole is worth every cent he’s about to sign for and Lindor gives the Dodgers another dynamic offensive player. As long as Seager is OK moving to third base — which remains to be seen — this has a chance of working. The bullpen will always be a work in progress, but adding an established Proven Closer to the fold could help to take some pressure off Jansen.

I am absolutely Charlie Brown and Mark Walter, Stan Kasten and Co., are Lucy. One of these times, though, maybe they will actually let me kick the football.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler
Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.