The Dodgers acquired Logan Forsythe in exchange for Jose De Leon on Monday. He addressed two glaring needs on the roster: a second baseman and a right-handed hitter. In addition, Forsythe brings the versatility Dave Roberts loves: L.A. will be able to plug him in at first, second or third. He’s also highly regarded in the clubhouse and obviously by Andrew Friedman, who’s acquired Forsythe twice through trades.
But Forsythe is 30 years old. He isn’t the long-term solution at the position, rather a productive plug-and-play athlete who aids the Dodgers in their quest for a World Series in 2017 and 2018.
Forsythe is signed through this season with an option at a below market rate, so logic says the Dodgers could pursue an extension with their new infielder.
Forsythe is under Dodgers' control through 2018 ($5.75M in 2017, $8.5M option/$1M buyout for 2018). Extension candidate for sure.
— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) January 24, 2017
What could a Forsythe extension look like? It’s hard to say. He probably won’t get Ben Zobrist money (four years, $56 million), but he’ll want a significant enough raise from the $8.5 option. Forsythe will be two years younger than Zobrist when he hits free agency, but he won’t have the pedigree. Sean Rodriguez, another versatile infielder coming off a strong season, was 31 and just earned a two-year, $11.5 million deal with the Braves.
If Forsythe’s next contract resembles Rodriguez’s, that’s more than fair (and unlikely). Forsythe’s value likely falls between both players, more so leaning towards Zobrist. Keep in mind it’ll be Forsythe’s last, and only, big payday assuming his play warrants it.
But will it? As Chris Cwik notes in a Yahoo! Sports column, Forsythe already dropped off a year ago.
It’s worth noting that Forsythe did see a drop-off in his numbers in 2016. After putting up a career best .281/.359/.444 slash line in 2015, Forsythe saw that fall to .264/.333/.444 last season. His strikeout rate also jumped over four percentage points, as he failed to keep some of the gains from his breakout year.
Even with that decline, Forsythe was still valuable. He was nearly a three-win player according to FanGraphs, and his 113 wRC+ ranked 12th at the position in 2016. His contract is also a plus. Forsythe will make $7 million in 2017, and has an $8.5 million team option for 2018. As long as Forsythe repeats what he did last season, he’ll be an above-average player for the Dodgers over the next two years.
Then there’s Willie Calhoun, the Dodgers’ prized second base prospect. Calhoun is nearing MLB-ready status, but his defensive deficiencies and left-handed bat make him an odd fit in Chavez Ravine right now. Forsythe’s place on the roster leaves Calhoun in question.
Everything happens for a reason ??
— June Calhoun (@11WillieCalhoun) January 24, 2017
The problem extends past 2017. The infield of the future presents imbalance. Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager and Calhoun all hit left-handed. That’s not dooming; it’s just not a perfect situation. Justin Turner is a righty but he’ll be 34 on a two-year deal when Forsythe necessitates an extension. That’s an argument to keep Forsythe, assuming he produces with the Dodgers, but money and his sustainability could be a concern moving forward. Forsythe has been better than average over the past two seasons, though it’s asinine to think his play will constantly improve from this point on. He is what he is, which means the only way to go is eventually down.
That’s not to say he won’t work out, but it’s possible. Many a player has gone from a smaller market team to larger only to crumble. Forsythe’s MLB experience has been with the San Diego Padres and recent Tampa Bay Rays. He doesn’t have to be Manny Ramirez or Josh Reddick – there’s a middle ground – but why pay for that which you have not seen?
He'll be entering his age 32 season on the first year of an extension. More likely Forsythe is an ideal bridge to Calhoun.
— Gabe Burns (@GabeBurns_DN) January 24, 2017
It wouldn’t be a surprise if Forsythe was extended before Opening Day given his relationship with Friedman. Perhaps he becomes one of the Dodgers’ better hitters and Calhoun is trade bait. But if I’m the front office, I’d give it at least the season to evaluate Forsythe and Calhoun before investing more in Forsythe. As of today, I view him more as an excellent bridge.
If Forsythe works out and Calhoun is a hit, you have options. If Forsythe fails without an extension and Calhoun progresses, you’re safe. If he fails with an extension, regardless of Calhoun, you’ve produced easily avoidable self-damage. Calhoun is not only potentially your future, but he’s a buffer if Forsythe disappoints.
My point here is the Dodgers have done well in developing and retaining their own talent. The team has massive contracts coming off the books in the next two offseasons with a mega free agent class (which includes Clayton Kershaw) due in 2018, when Forsythe expires. The future infield appears to be set, providing the Dodgers a multitude of options with the outfield and pitching. There’s no reason to gamble on extending a player before he takes the field. If Forsythe gets an extension to finish his career in L.A., let him earn it first.