(Originally posted: 10.24.2016. Updated 12.2.2016 where noted). Last week, we looked at DecisionCast for in-game decision making during the 2016 National League Championship Series. However, the 2016 Los Angeles Dodgers season ended on Saturday night in a loss to the World Series bound Chicago Cubs led by Manager Joe Maddon. Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts, President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman, and General Manager Farhan Zaidi will now be shifting their attention to offseason decision making immediately. Officially, this will take place after the winner of the World Series is either the Cleveland Indians or the Chicago Cubs.
In putting together a Major League roster, there are six important emotional and practical factors to consider. These are the three emotional factors:
- Whether drafted by the team and built through the minor league system.
- Clubhouse presence, leadership abilities, and the like.
- The players emotional connection with management, fans, and the city.
The three practical factors are:
- Contract price and length.
- Availability in terms of willingness to sign with the team and risk of signing (injury, etc.).
- The character makeup of the player (his ability to perform on and off the field).
The practicality of signing a player generally weighs heavier on the minds of great decision makers than emotional ones. This is because the practical factors are easily measured in the past and can be projected for the future. As history proves, decision makers who rely on emotion are more likely to succeed short term and fail long term.
Baseball is a business, a moneymaking enterprise that is fun for the fans, executives, and players alike, but the product on the field must be good and consistent to succeed. If success and winning is not the purpose, then why do we play baseball? In competitive settings, the purpose is to win according the rules.
Baseball is hard enough to be successful where luck, circumstance, and the sheer length of a season can change any players and teams fortune. For example, offensively, we measure a great hitter as someone who can earn a hit three out of every ten at bats and someone who can get on base four out of ten times as the best in the Majors and even Hall of Fame worthy. In no other sport or industry is success three or four out of ten times a good ratio. Therefore, there is no reason to make baseball personnel decisions more difficult by bringing emotion into the equation other than as peripheral factors that support practical and logical decisions as the foundation.
With the above in mind, here are our predictions for the Los Angeles Dodgers twenty-five man roster in 2017. Our in-depth analysis for specific players will follow.
Starting Pitching: (UPDATED 12.2.2016)
- Clayton Kershaw (LHP)
- Kenta Maeda (RHP)
- Scott Kazmir (LHP)*
- Julio Urias (LHP)
- Jose De Leon (RHP)
- Andrew Toles (LF)
- Austin Barnes (2B/C/3B)*
- Corey Seager (SS)
- Justin Turner (3B)*
- Adrian Gonzales (1B)
Yoenis CespedesYasiel Puig (RF)*
- Yasmani Grandal (C)
- Joc Pederson (CF)
- Pitchers Spot
Closer: Kenley Jansen (RHP)*
Set-up: Grant Dayton (LHP)
RHP: Josh Fields, Chris Hatcher (signed to a one-year contract avoiding arbitration), Ross Stripling (possibly AAA), Brock Stewart (possibly AAA), and Brandon McCarthy
LHP: Luis Avilan or Vidal Nuno (acquired via the Carlos Ruiz trade from the Seattle Mariners) and Adam Liberatore
Leaving via free agency/or traded: pitchers Scott Kazmir (
should he opt-out of his contract/he opted-in), Brett Anderson, Joe Blanton, Rich Hill, J.P. Howell, Jesse Chavez, infielder Chase Utley, and outfielder Josh Reddick
40-man roster (26-40), leaving via trade, released, or optioned to a minor league affiliate: outfielder Yasiel Puig*, catcher Carlos Ruiz, left-handed pitcher Alex Wood*, right-handed relievers
Chris Hatcher and Pedro Baez, and utility-man Enrique Hernandez.
The Dodgers and Justin Turner have been in talks for an extension, but the price and length of contract may go too high once a bidding war begins with the New York Yankees and Mets as likely landing places, especially if Mets left fielder Yoenis Cespedes opts out of his contract and elects free agency. As great as a pickup Turner has been for the Dodgers since the New York Mets did not tender him a contract a few years ago, he has declined in key offensive categories since 2014, specifically batting average, on base percentage, and on base plus slugging percentage.
He has increased in games played, home runs, and runs batted in, but the contract length cannot be longer than three-years and $60 million for the Dodgers to move forward. Performance-based bonuses would be the Dodgers and Turner’s friend here. Discussions are on-going.
Yoenis Cespedes* Whether Turner leaves or not, Yoenis Cespedes would be a high value target for the Dodgers to immediately insert into the middle of their lineup to provide the pop and run production that Yasiel Puig and Josh Reddick could not. Cespedes also has the health and career longevity. More on Yoenis Cespedes and his potential contract value and possibility of opting out of his contract with the New York Mets here. Congratulations to the New York Mets for re-signing Cespedes to a four-year, $110 million dollar contract.
There are no closer candidates on the Dodgers roster or in the Dodgers farm system and the other top two free agent options of Aroldis Chapman and Mark Melancon will be just as much money as Jansen to sign. Jansen is arguably the best and most consistent closer in Major League Baseball and the team loves him. The Dodgers would be silly not to pay him top dollar for his talents and to keep him away from the San Francisco Giants whose closer Sergio Romo has been struggling. Discussions are on-going.
It would also be unsurprising to see the Dodgers make a run at Neftali Feliz on a one-year deal to replace the inconsistent, but hard-throwing Pedro Baez in a set-up or bullpen role.
The Dodgers would be wise to use Yasiel Puig, Alex Wood, and possibly other lower ranked prospects and Major League talent to obtain one of the Cleveland Indians or Tampa Bay Rays starting pitchers that can add more experience to the Dodgers starting pitching rotation. Puig has not performed as projected and Yoenis Cespedes easily provides the missing performance with starting pitcher a need for the Dodgers. Right fielder Yasiel Puig* somewhat did the Dodgers organization a favor by opting-out of arbitration and saved a headache. A wise move and he will likely be starting in right field for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2017. Personally, could not be happier, he is a stud of a player with huge potential and under a team friendly contract.
When fellow catcher Carlos Ruiz was traded, Barnes became the back-up catcher to Yasmani Grandal. When second baseman Howie Kendrick was traded, Austin Barnes became the ranking second baseman. The Dodgers are on the market for a second baseman with ties to Brian Dozier, Ian Kinsler, and Logan Forsythe. Barnes made the Dodgers 2016 playoff roster and earned some playing time over several veterans. The Dodgers brass love him and he will see increased playing time in 2017. How much playing time depends on players acquired via trade and/or how much tax dollars the Dodgers want to pay under the new 2017-2021 Collectively Bargained Agreement. We discussed possible trade and signing scenarios previously, here and here.
The upcoming season will be an interesting season as well because Clayton Kershaw has an opt-out of his contract after the 2018 season. Kershaw wants to win a World Series. Will he and the team deliver in 2017 or 2018?
One thing is certain, the Dodgers will continue to get younger from within their minor league system over the next one to three years. Specifically, Howie Kendrick’s two-year contract ends after the 2017 season when the Dodgers fourth ranked prospect, second baseman Willie Calhoun and his 27 homeruns in 2016, will hopefully be ready to step forward. After the 2018 season when his contract ends, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez is likely to be replaced fulltime by the Dodgers number one prospect, power hitting and slick fielding first baseman and center fielder Cody Bellinger.
The Dodgers also have Yadier Alvarez and other top prospects available to promote, but injuries and performance will, as always, drive the youth movement. The Dodgers will also have some money to spend, potentially in 2018 as many contracts clear their books, and as Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and others hit the free agent market for the 2018 class.
With the new collectively bargained agreement being negotiated for the 2017 season and beyond, changes are certain. Will the Dodgers choose to spend more free agent money and/or utilize and acquire more minor league talent? Time will tell.