After being eliminated in the NLDS for the second straight year, we now get the chance to take an early look at what could transpire in what is sure to be a hectic off season. After a year of continual roster turn over, more is about to come once the off
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season finally hits us as we could potentially lose 6 players off the 25 man roster (you can read more about the potential FA’s
). With a number of players set for free agency and some existing holes to fill, the Dodgers have plenty of shopping to do. With that in mind, I have compiled a complete shopping list for the front office as they continue to rebuild a 92 win team.
Fill the 2 spot in the Rotation
Reports all year have suggested that Zack Greinke will opt out of his contract once the clause vests 4 days after the conclusion of the World Series. After going 19-3 with a 1.66 ERA in the regular season as well as two solid starts in the post season, Greinke will almost certainly be able to find more than the 3 years and $71 million left on his contract in free agency. I should note however, that this doesn’t exclude him from re-signing with the Dodgers as a free agent. However, Greinke will be 32 when he hits the market and is expected to command anywhere up to 5 years and $150+ million. Whilst I think that Greinke is probably the pitcher best suited to pitching behind Kershaw, I’m not sure it is worth paying Greinke more for his decline years ($30M AAV) than what Kershaw ($28.7M AAV) is being paid for his prime years. If the Dodgers could retain Greinke for 4 yrs with a mutual option and $110M or so I think they would be wise to do so. However, the thought of paying a 37 year old Greinke $30M makes me a little nervous
Thankfully, the free agent market is stacked with starting pitching this year with names such as Johnny Cueto, David Price and Jordan Zimmerman at the top of the list. Let me just say this from the get go, I’m a huge Cueto/Price fan, however, neither are
great fits for the Dodgers going forward. Price is expected to command as high as $225M and has really struggled in the post season and in Clayton Kershaw the Dodgers already have a legitimate left-handed ace. Whilst to see Price in Dodger blue would make me jump for joy it would not be a good baseball decision at all. Similarly, Cueto will probably be seeking more than $150M despite concerns about his elbow and a horrendous performance down the stretch.
For these reasons, I would argue that the best fit for the Dodgers on the free-agent market is Jordan Zimmerman. The former Nationals ace struggled at the outset of 2015 but managed to right the ship before the all-star break en route to a 13-10 record and 3.66 ERA. It has been estimated that the 30 year old right hander could be had for approximately 5 years and $110-120M. Zimmerman would likely be the ace on most major league staffs but with Kershaw at the top of the rotation, Zimmerman could be the perfect ‘Co-Ace’ on a much more manageable contract. Zimmerman was at the top of the Dodgers wishlist at the trade deadline and should again be in free agency.
However, Friedman and Zaidi have shown a penchant for trades since their arrival last October and as such they may wish to save some cash in free agency and explore the trade market. Whilst the trade market is yet to be developed, we can get a feel for who may be available by looking at the 2016/17 FA list. At the top of the list is one Stephen Strasburg. Any acquisition of Strasburg would start with Urias/De Leon as well as taking in Jayson Worth’s salary (Hint: DON’T DO IT). The rest of the market appears relatively thin with Andrew Cashner the only other appealing option.
Find A 2nd Baseman
There is no doubt in my mind that the Dodgers plan on having top prospect, Jose Peraza be the starting second baseman in 2016. However, with 20 year old Corey Seager entrenched at shortstop, having a middle infield with just 34 starts combined could spell disaster for a team that will once again take aim at a World Series title. If one of those two struggle (which they inevitably will as they continue to learn at the big league level) the Dodgers may be forced to overpay at the trade deadline.
Howie Kendrick is the best free agent option for the Dodgers here. Whilst the market will include Ben Zobrist and Daniel Murphy, neither seem like a good fit. Zobrist is going to be sought after by just about every team in baseball, driving up his price and I struggle to see Daniel Murphy wanting to play in LA after that NLDS series..
The Cubs are expected to make both Javier Baez and Starlin Castro available via trade (though they would only part with one) and both are potential fits for the Dodgers. Castro has thrived since his transition to 2nd base (and would also be an option at shortstop/3rd base), while Javier Baez is a young kid who possesses legitimate ‘light tower power’ and superb defense at all INF positions. Strike outs are a problem for Baez but has shown a much better approach since being recalled. Young pitching appears to be a priority for the Cubs in any deal of which the Dodgers have plenty to deal from.
Finally Acquire a Lights Out Set Up Guy.
This could come from any number of avenues. The Dodgers have Pedro Baez, Yimi Garcia and Chris Hatcher who could all potentially develop into solid late inning options, although fans (and conceivably the front office) are tired of waiting and watching late leads disappear. Relievers are one of the most liquid assets in baseball which makes predicting any acquisition quite difficult. However, the free agent market holds two established names that really jump off the page at you – Tyler Clippard and Darren O’Day. Both are all-star relievers with great stuff and a track record of success. Both will be highly sought after and will likely demand multiple years and $10+M. O’Day seems like a better fit for me as his sidearm delivery gives a completely different look to any other reliever currently in the bullpen. Relief help could also (and often does) come as a compliment to any other trade that is made in the off-season.
Find a Right-Handed Run Producer
Call to the Pen
The Dodgers need right-handed power. Justin Turner posts reverse splits, Howie Kendrick is a free agent, Grandal’s power comes from the left side, Scott Van Slyke was largely unproductive and Yasiel Puig has more doubles power that can produce 15-20 home runs rather than being a true power threat. The aforementioned Castro and Baez would both help in this regard but aren’t true middle order bats, and Seager, Turner and Gonzalez are entrenched at the other infield positions. This means that any addition would likely have to come in the outfield where Andre Ethier, Joc Pederson, Yasiel Puig, Scott Van Slyke and Carl Crawford already reside.
Justin Upton is probably the best candidate on the free agent market however, he is probably too talented and too expensive to be put in a platoon with Andre Ethier. For this reason, I would say that any upgrade to the offense will likely come via trade. Jorge Soler and Marcel Ozuna are two possible candidates here as both are young, cheap and have plenty of ability.
Be sure to let me know what you think in the comment section below.
If you want to create your own shopping list, you can view the complete set of free agents here.