The Dodgers’ offseason hasn’t quite gone according to plan. However, recent signings around baseball makes what the Dodgers have done look even better.
When the Dodgers were eliminated in the postseason, a very tiny part of me was excited. 99 percent of me was obviously sad, but part of me was anxious to see what the Dodgers would be able to pull off this offseason.
Fast forward a little bit, and everything was on fire. Zack Greinke was in Arizona, Aroldis Chapman was almost a Dodger and then he was a Yankee, and Hisashi Iwakuma apparently wasn’t healthy enough for the Dodgers.
The Dodgers didn’t make a huge splash, but moves were made. Scott Kazmir and Kenta Maeda headline the new faces. Chase Utley will be back next year, and the Dodgers traded prospects for different prospects. Unless the Dodgers spring up out of nowhere in the Yoenis Cespedes market or bring back Howie Kendrick, it seems like they won’t spend a lot more money on any free agents. They’ll probably cut some massive checks for international talent, but with the exception of a reliever and a few more low-risk fliers, it’s tough to see the Dodgers make any other big moves.
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The Dodgers’ offseason is tough to grade on its own without looking at what I expected back in September. However, watching other teams sign players is making this offseason a lot more solid in comparison.
Dodger fans should be familiar with Ian Kennedy, who has been in the NL West for the last six years. Kennedy was incredible in 2011, when he finished fourth in Cy Young voting with a 21-4 record and a 2.88 ERA for the Diamondbacks. Two years ago, Kennedy had a .500 record and a 3.63 ERA/3.21 FIP with a career-high 207 strikeouts for the Padres. Those were his two best seasons in the NL West, and he posted ERA’s of 3.80, 4.02, 4.91 and 4.28 in his other four seasons. Kennedy just turned 31 and had received a qualifying offer from the Padres, meaning the Royals gave up a draft pick when they signed him to a five year $70 million dollar contract.
Moving to a team with an incredible outfield defense should help his numbers, but he still seems to be an extremely mediocre pitcher that shows flashes of potential.
Projections always seem to hate the Royals for some reason, but those are not flattering for Kennedy in KC. Szymborski acknowledged that he felt like these projections were low in a follow up tweet, but he still doesn’t figure to have a ton of success in Kansas City.
The Dodgers were never really rumored to be in on Kennedy, but that contract makes the Kazmir and Maeda signings look mighty nice in comparison. Kazmir is a year older, but since he’s been back in baseball he’s arguably been as good, if not better than Kennedy. He posted a 4.04 ERA in 2013 after nearly two years away from the majors. In 2014, Kazmir was an all star and posted a 3.55 ERA in Oakland. He got off to a great start last year and had a 2.38 ERA in his first 18 starts for the A’s, but his final 13 starts for Houston went much worse (4.17 ERA/5.19 FIP in 13 starts). He finished the year with a 3.10 ERA/3.98 FIP.
Because Kazmir was traded, he wasn’t eligible for a qualifying offer. His contract is deferred, so he will only receive $3M in base salary in 2016 with a $5M signing bonus and then $8M in each of the next five years (per True Blue LA).
Maeda’s contract is all sorts of complicated and I’m not sure if anyone really knows exactly how much he can receive in incentives. It was initially reported that his contract can take him above $100 million over the next eight years, but Yahoo’s Jeff Passan recently reported that the deal maxes out at $90.2M and his incentives can reach $8.15M per year on top of a $3M base salary. Either way, it’s extremely team-friendly, and even if Maeda is an absolute workhorse he’ll be making less than $12M a year.
Both Kazmir and Maeda are signed to much friendlier contracts than Kennedy, and there’s a pretty solid chance they will both pitch better than Kennedy next year. Kazmir has proven himself recently to be a solid, if not very good and reliable arm. Maeda is a bit of a wildcard, but there’s definitely upside with him (and very little downside considering the contract).
ZiPs likes both Kazmir and Maeda a lot more than Kennedy. Kazmir is projected for a 3.37/3.46 ERA/FIP and 2.9 WAR in 168 innings, and Maeda is projected for a 3.20/3.28 ERA/FIP and 3.4 WAR in 177 innings. Obviously, projections are just projections, but as more and more mediocre pitchers sign long term deals, it makes what the Dodgers have done look a lot better.
This whole post was sort of unnecessarily mean to Kennedy, but he was one of the most recent pitching signings and it seemed like a very un-Royal-ish signing. You can replace Kennedy with other pitchers and my feelings would be the same. Kazmir and Maeda at their contracts are much better options than Mike Leake or Jeff Samardzija at their contracts, among others. If Maeda hits all his incentives, he and Kazmir combined will make less per year than Greinke or Johnny Cueto.
This isn’t to call the Dodgers’ offseason a slam dunk or give it an A grade. Losing Greinke was a shock and I’m not sure how sold I am on the Utley/Enrique Hernandez platoon at second, but this front office deserves a lot of credit for taking what was a partial disaster of an offseason and making some smart moves. As other teams sign players to long term, expensive deals, the Dodgers shorter deals look better and better.