On Tuesday night, it was reported at the general managers meetings that Chicago White Sox (and former Los Angeles Dodgers) outfielder AJ Pollock declined his $13 million player option for the 2023 season, collected his $5 million buyout, and will hit free agency.
All that did was put the exclamation point on the Dodgers’ failed trade with Chicago prior to the start of the 2022 season.
Following the departure of Kenley Jansen, who signed with the Atlanta Braves in free agency, LA needed to fill the closer void. Instead of re-signing Jansen, they did unnecessary gymnastics by letting him go and then sending Pollock (and his $10 million salary) to the White Sox for Craig Kimbrel, who was making the same as Jansen ($16 million).
In one fell swoop, the Dodgers killed their outfield depth and downgraded at a marquee position … while ADDING $1 million to the payroll (Kimbrel’s $16 million vs Pollock’s guaranteed $15 million). Though it saved them a bit against the luxury tax had they kept Pollock and re-signed Jansen for $16 million, they already eclipsed the second luxury tax tier of $250 million (the next was $270 million, and their Opening Day payroll was $263.5 million).
They paid Tommy Kahnle $2.375 million to pitch 12.2 innings. They paid Danny Duffy $3 million to do nothing. They paid Jimmy Nelson $700K to do nothing. Think we found some leftover cash for ya!
The Dodgers’ Craig Kimbrel-AJ Pollock swap was a true failure
Sure, Trayce Thompson eventually arrived in LA and performed admirably, but that wasn’t until the end of June. Between Mookie Betts’ rib injury, Chris Taylor’s fractured foot, and Cody Bellinger’s struggles in the first half and beyond, the Dodgers could’ve really used Pollock.
And they didn’t use Kimbrel, who was deemphasized down the stretch and left off the playoff roster! Meanwhile, the Dodgers’ outfield in the playoffs, which consisted of Betts, Bellinger, Taylor, Thompson and Joey Gallo (who they needed for more outfield depth!), went 5-for-40 against the Padres in the NLDS.
Pollock didn’t have a good year with the White Sox whatsoever, but that’s because Chicago was poisoned from the start. The veteran’s best years came in LA (.282 AVG, .856 OPS, 124 OPS+, 52 HR in 258 games) and he was fresh off a dominant showing in the 2021 playoffs even though the result didn’t favor the Dodgers.
Looking ahead to 2022, assuming Pollock had even a solid year, it’s evident he would’ve opted out anyway. So, regardless, it was likely the Dodgers were always going to have an expiring contract on the books whether it was Kimbrel or Pollock.
If Kimbrel had slid right in to the closer role without a hitch, there’d be no discussion to be had. But after the Dodgers subtracted from an area of need, they needed the swap to at least provide a semblance of stability. It didn’t. And they ended up downgrading in two areas of the roster.
It was all in the name of avoiding that $270 million tax threshold, which could’ve been done more constructively and creatively.