The Dodgers off-season shouldn’t be a very busy one. While there are some improvements to make the free agent market doesn’t offer many attractive options.
The Dodgers find themselves in a very peculiar spot this off-season. After finishing one win shy of a World Series championship they could make no moves this off-season and still enter the 2018 season as one of if not the favorite to win the World Series. The Dodgers key free agents are Yu Darvish, Brandon Morrow, and Tony Watson. It appears that the Dodgers are unlikely to bring Darvish back since he will command one of the biggest deals of this years free agency.
This year’s free agent class of starting pitchers is not a very good one. Outside of Darvish the only other big time upgrade would be Jake Arrieta although he had a down season and is going to be 32 years old next season. Given that he will most likely get a five year deal it would be a big surprise if the Dodgers signed Arrieta. The Dodgers also have a surplus of starting pitchers who will be fighting for the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation. Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, and Alex Wood will get the top three spots but the last two will be fought for in spring training. The competitors will be Hyun-Jin Ryu, Brandon McCarthy, Kenta Maeda, Walker Buehler, and other starters that have been moved to the pen like Ross Stripling and Brock Stewart.
It’s easy to see that quantity of starting pitchers is not an issue the Dodgers face. The one issue that the Dodgers do have is that almost every one of the starting rotation competitors has spent time on the disabled list in the last two seasons. While the Dodgers have plenty of starters the problem they face is how many innings can they get out of each one? The Dodgers are better off dealing one or two for another starting pitcher on the trade market. The best starting pitcher that figures to be on the trade market is Chris Archer. Archer has a much more team friendly contract than what the free agent starters will get and he is better than all of them.
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The Dodgers also need to either bring back some of their bullpen free agents like Morrow and Watson but if they get big offers the Dodgers may have to pass on them. While Brandon Morrow was lights out for the Dodgers this season he has an extensive injury history. The Dodgers could revisit trade talks with the Orioles for Zach Britton. Britton would give the Dodgers a short term upgrade and since he is a free agent after next season the Dodgers would not be locked into a high priced contract for a reliever. Given how volatile relievers tend to be this would be a very good thing for the Dodgers.
Another area the Dodgers can get better for the 2018 season is by adding a right-handed bat. JD Martinez is at the top of the free agent market but Scott Boras is rumored to be seeking a 200 million dollar contract for him. The other free agent bats available either play a position the Dodgers don’t need like Eric Hosmer at first base, or they are older and on the down side of their careers like Lorenzo Cain. Giancarlo Stanton is on the trade market and the Dodgers definitely have the prospects to get a deal done if they really want to.
In their short amount of time with the Dodgers, Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi have shown a reluctance to give pitchers more than three year contracts and they are gun shy when it comes to signing players on the wrong side of thirty years old. The front office can deal from their surplus of starting pitchers to upgrade their rotation, bullpen, and right-handed outfield bats. Given the crazy amount of dollars that will be spent in free agency it would be wise for the Dodgers to upgrade via trades than free agency.