Dustin’s Note: This article has been updated from the originally published version.
It took a while, but here is my 2021-22 Dodgers’ offseason plan. This needs to be taken with a heaping bowl of salt because of the pending lockout at the expiration of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (Dec. 1 at 8:59 p.m. Pacific time).
As such, I tried to have a little fun here. I’m not completely married to some of the ideas below, but there are a couple I would gladly defend to the death.
Alexander was outrighted, so he’s off the 40-man roster. All the other guys are easy tender candidates (deadline Nov. 30 at 5 p.m.).
The Dodgers have 10 free agents this offseason and the qualifying offer is worth $18.4 million this offseason. The most notable free agent the Dodgers have is Corey Seager. He and Chris Taylor were both given the QO, and both rejected it. Clayton Kershaw didn’t receive the offer.
Max Scherzer, as he was acquired midseason, is not eligible for the qualifying offer. Kenley Jansen was also ineligible for the QO since he received it after the 2016 season, and under the current CBA, a player can only receive it once.
The Dodgers declined Kelly’s option. There’s a chance he could be back at a reduced rate, but he’ll be absent from this plan.
And before we move on, I’m working under the assumption that Bauer will not throw another pitch for the Dodgers. I don’t really care if they have to pay him or not, but his inclusion in this plan (other than the restricted list) is not going to happen. Unsurprisingly, he opted into his contract.
Rule 5 Draft Protections
I wrote more in-depth about the Rule 5 protections here.
Andrew Heaney – 1 year, $8.5 millions
Clayton Kershaw – 2 years, $50 million + incentives
Corey Seager – 9 years, $269 million
Marcus Semien – 5 years, $129 million – Lol, he signed with the Rangers like 90 minutes after this was originally published.
Outside of the Heaney deal, which happened IRL, I averaged the four sites that did free-agent predictions with years and dollars, and while Kershaw’s came out a little lower than the average, there’s some makeup in the incentives. The Kershaw deal is a no-brainer for me. And there’s a realistic chance that Kershaw wouldn’t necessarily be ready for Opening Day, which wouldn’t be the worst thing, if we’re being honest. It would give opportunities to guys like Andre Jackson and others (read on) early in the season.
I laid out the idea of re-signing Seager earlier in the offseason. With Semien now off the board, Seager seems much more important for the Dodgers to bring back. His coming back would be dependent on the money, obviously, but also what position he’s going to play. JT isn’t an everyday third baseman anymore, so Seager might need to play the hot corner, with Trea Turner sliding over to shortstop (a year ahead of free agency). That could work, if Seager’s willing. If not, Trea Turner’s time in LA will likely be done after 2022 and Seager will play shortstop until he physically cannot do it anymore. Here’s hoping he’s willing to move to third base. For that kind of contract, he’d probably be willing to play any position.
Semien’s deal is interesting. The 31-year-old is coming off a career-year and has been an elite-level player two of the last three seasons and LA was interested in him last winter. He’s also a Gold Glove winner at second base — which is where he’d play with Turner still around. If the Dodgers fail to extend/re-sign Turner or come up with another option, Semien — an above-average defensive shortstop since 2018 — would slide over there starting in 2023. Instead of committing 7 to 10 years and $30 million-plus annually to Seager, who’s defense leaves some to be desired despite the Dodgers doing their best with the shift, it would be completely on-brand for Andrew Friedman to go with a less certain option for a lighter commitment in years and money. Scott Boras recently said he’s seeking $200 million or more for Semien. I’m not sure that money is there for him, but a nearly $130 million contract would be a nice consolation for a guy who, three years ago, probably never dreamed he could be in line for that much money. I’d probably prefer the Dodgers re-sign Seager, but getting Semien to replace him would be acceptable. Under the current CBA The Dodgers would forfeit their 2nd- and 5th-round picks, as well as $1 million in international bonus pool money. However, they’d gain competitive balance picks after the fourth round when Seager and Taylor sign elsewhere. So, losing the a second- and fifth (or maybe one of the 4th-round CBPs instead of their 5th) wouldn’t sting as much, but that shouldn’t be a big factor when it comes to signing elite-level players.
Max Muncy – 5 years, $125 million
Muncy was having an MVP-caliber season before derailing late in the season. He’s has a very affordable $13 million club option for 2023 (which is really an $11.5 million option because of the $1.5 million buyout), so this extension would kick in for the 2024 through 2028 seasons. Those would be Muncy’s age-33 through 37 seasons. With the designated hitter all but assuredly coming in the next CBA, a shift to that position if his defense slips could make sense. Unless he goes completely crazy over the next two seasons at the plate, I don’t see a lot of teams committing more than $25 million a year to a 33-year-old Muncy. Plus, he’s more valuable to the Dodgers than any other team.
The A’s are looking to clear payroll and the Dodgers seem to be the perfect partner for that. I’m sure you’re slightly disappointed to not see one of the Matts — Matt Chapman or Matt Olson — but they don’t make a ton of sense right now. However, Montas makes a lot of sense. If the Dodgers don’t want to pay for Scherzer to come back, he’d be a fine replacement in the rotation. Here’s what I wrote about him on Nov. 16:
“Folks are going to look at the aforementioned Bassitt and Manaea, but old friend Frankie Montas would make the most sense. The 28-year-old is coming off a solid 2021 season that saw him post a 3.37 ERA, 3.37 FIP and a 19.3 K-BB% in 187 innings. He had a rough pandemic-shortened 2020 season, but his 2019 season was strong before being cut short due to a PED suspension.”
Montas could slot in behind Walker Buehler and Julio Urias in the rotation. The Dodgers are familiar with him, as they acquired him from the White Sox in 2015 before sending him to Oakland in the Rich Hill deal in 2016.
Pinder (projected $2.8 million in arbitration) is a guy I like as a Taylor replacement. He’s not as established, but with the way the Dodgers have worked wonders with guys in the past, Pinder could be the next in that line. He has good peripherals and he doesn’t serve much of a purpose on an Athletics team likely entering a rebuild. Piscotty is in here merely to lessen the acquisition cost of Montas. He’s guaranteed $8.25 million over the next two years ($7.25 million in 2022, $1 million buyout or $15 million club option in 2023). If you think that isn’t enough savings, then you don’t know just how eager Athletics’ owner John Fisher wants to trim payroll. They’d save at least (a projected) $16.25 million in this deal, less the MLB salary for Gonsolin.
The return for Oakland would be strong. It’d personally hurt me to lose Vargas, but if the A’s are going to move Chapman, they’re going to need someone to play third base as early as 2023. Vargas is one of the top third base prospects in the game. Gonsolin would give them a rotation replacement for Montas. He has shown ability in the past, and the A’s are pretty good at developing pitching. Yurchak seems like the quintessential Oakland Athletic and would give them a Scott Hatteberg clone, while Duran is a lower-level pitching prospect with big-time potential.
The Dodgers and Reds haven’t hooked up on a significant trade in a few years, so here it is. We saw how paltry the Dodgers’ bench was last season — especially in the middle months and postseason. While they’d be trading a couple bench-types, they’d be improving overall. Naquin, 30, could play the Joc Pederson role on the 2022 squad. He hits righties well (career .282/.332/.472, 110 wRC+), but isn’t great against lefties. That’s where Senzel comes in. The Dodgers have been interested in him in the past, and he (or Pinder, as stated above) could be the next Taylor. The 26-year-old former No. 2 overall pick in 2016 hasn’t exactly flourished in Cincinnati. He has dealt with injuries and his career .246/.308/.396, 80 wRC+ isn’t exactly inspiring. However, he has roughly league-average exit velocity numbers, and we know the Dodgers are good at getting the most out of players on the cusp of being solid contributors. His launch angle numbers are solid (11.6 degrees), so with a little coaching, they might be able to get him closer to his potential, according to his draft pedigree. Oh, and he’s one of the fastest players in the league (96th percentile sprint speed), and we know the like their athletic players.
The real prize of this deal, in my eyes, is Sims. The former top pitching prospect in Atlanta has taken quite nicely to a relief role in Cincy. He’s among the league leaders in curveball and slider spin rates and his mid-90s fastball plays well off of them. His curveball is the “spinniest” of the two breakers, but opposing batters fared better against it in 2021 than his slider (.342 wOBA vs. .260), but he was still able to maintain exit velos of 82.9 MPH and 82.6 MPH, respectively, on the breakers. His fastball (also a Top 10 spin rate) had a good batting average against, but also had an exit velo a little higher than league-average, but also an average launch angle of 32 degrees — a Top 5 rate among all pitchers with at least batted-ball events and 200 pitches thrown. Perhaps Mark Prior and Co., would be able to turn his fastball into a more effective weapon.
The Reds “must align (their) payroll to (their) resources,” so the chance to save nearly $6 million while getting their potential shortstop of the future in Lux would seemingly make sense. Before you say, “Lux isn’t a shortstop,” just know that I agree, but this is also the club that willingly played Kyle Farmer at shortstop for more than 1,000 innings (and, to be fair, he wasn’t bad), but they also played third baseman Eugenio Suarez there, and he … wasn’t good (-6 DRS in 285 1/3 defensive innings). They’d also land a guy who could probably start for them in a corner outfield spot in Beaty and a quality, cost-effective arm in White. They’d also land a lottery ticket-type arm in Fisher, who wouldn’t be the first prep pitcher the Dodgers chose in the fourth round to make his way to the Reds’ org.
Despite Pinder, Piscotty and Senzel in the fold, the Dodgers could still look to improve the bench and overall depth of the club. The Twins might be looking to move Taylor Rogers at some point and they could probably use a decent replacement bullpen arm. Gonzalez had a rough 2021 season, but he still has talent. But the emergence of Alex Vesia, Garrett Cleavinger‘s potential and Caleb Ferguson‘s impending return and the Dodgers can afford to move one of their left-handed relievers.
The Dodgers would get a somewhat familiar name in Gordon. Yes, he’s Dee Strange-Gordon‘s brother. A former Top 5 draft pick, Gordon had a bit of a mixed minor-league career (.276/.329/.387) before debuting in 2021. He hit .240/.292/.355 in 216 plate appearances while doing his best Hernandez/Taylor impression by playing multiple defensive positions. There are some underlying numbers that could show there is some untapped potential in his wiry frame. He had an average exit velocity of 91.2 MPH and a HardHit% of 47.9. The exit velo would put him in line with the likes of Pete Alonso (91 MPH), Kyle Tucker (91.2), Bo Bichette and Freddie Freeman (both 91.4). The overall profile is similar to his brother’s, but he has a little less speed and significantly more pop. Hitting coaches Robert Van Scoyoc and Brant Brown could have an interesting project on their hands with Gordon. He could also spend time in Triple-A refining what new skills/philosophies they’d teach him in hopes of maximizing his potential. LA would also get an upper-minors arm in Sands, who was just added to the Twins’ 40-man roster. He has a solid 3-pitch mix (fastball, curveball, changeup), but nothing really jumps off the board. He could be coached up a bit in the Dodgers’ org, but the Twins also do a solid job developing pitchers.
This isn’t a conventional plan. I could have just had the Dodgers re-signing Jansen, Kershaw, Scherzer and Taylor and supplement the rest of the roster with fringe moves … but where’s the fun in that? If that were to happen, I wouldn’t be upset! But rosterbating isn’t a time to think about what’s logical and safe. Let’s get wild!
The depth would be significantly improved. I tried to find an Pollock trade, but nothing was really jumping out. That doesn’t mean a move couldn’t be made down the road, but I’d feel a lot better about the Dodgers’ depth with this scenario — even with losing Taylor — because of the potential in the guys they’d be adding, as well as retaining an elite-level player in Seager. Second base would be a bit suspect, but the combination of Muncy, Pinder, Senzel and maybe even Mookie should be able to handle it. (The Dodgers really need Michael Busch to be the future at the keystone in this scenario.) And the chance to add a starting pitcher at the deadline — as they are oft wont to do — is there.
Let me know what you think in the comments and/or on Twitter.