Last week, we took a look at the potential 2017 roster for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Whether our predictions come to fruition has yet to be seen and will be that way for some time. What we want to do today is envision what might occur if the Dodgers do not sign any or some of their soon to be free agent players, namely third baseman Justin Turner and closer Kenley Jansen.
As difficult as the thought may be, we must remember that free agents are made to sign contracts and sometimes those contracts to play and get paid are not with your favorite team. Previously, we have looked at and analyzed whether Justin Turner and Kenley Jansen will resign with the Dodgers and at the potential cost and length of such agreements. Many will argue that the third baseman Turner and closer Jansen are must signs for the Dodgers and there are some strong arguments to do just that.
However, assuming for a moment, as often happens in life and the business of baseball, surprises and disappointments abound. Forgive us for saying so, but Turner and Jansen are free agents meaning that 29 other teams are free to make their pitch and sign them too. For arguments sake, let us assume that the Dodgers do not sign Justin Turner and Kenley Jansen.
Assuming that drastic news above, where do the Dodgers go from there for talent? Do not fret, we have some solutions based on available free agents and the trade market.
- Trade outfielder Yasiel Puig, pitching prospect Jordan Sheffield (no. 8), outfield prospect Alex Verdugo (no. 3), and third base prospect Edwin Rios (no. 26) to the Tampa Bay Rays for starting pitcher Chris Archer and third baseman Evan Longoria.
The value loss in Puig is regained through the consistency of Yoenis Cespedes, see below. The Dodgers also obtain a number one starting pitcher, an ace on many teams that do not employ Clayton Kershaw, in Chris Archer. The Dodgers also fill the gap left by Justin Tuner via free agency with Evan Longoria who is also from Bellflower, California, and out hit Turner in home runs, runs batted in, and has played in at least 160 games per season since 2013. He is the same age as Turner and the consistent equally defensively-stellar third baseman the Dodgers need. He is also signed through 2023 on a very favorable team deal. Archer is signed through 2019 with two team contract options in 2020 and 2021 at a very reasonable $25 million total. He is the same age as Clayton Kershaw, 28 years-old, and his contract includes his arbitration years.
Sheffield was selected 36th in the 2016 Draft out of Vanderbilt University by the Dodgers and he has some tremendous upside as do Verdugo and Rios. Being that the Dodgers President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman has his ties to Tampa, it makes this deal all the more likely and exciting. Of course, Josh Donaldson, Manny Machado, and Nolan Arenado are three of the best third baseman in the league, but the haul for these players would be astronomical and prying Arenado from a division rival in the Colorado Rockies is unlikely at best. The Dodgers would be better off waiting until 2018 to sign one when Donaldson and Machado are free agents. How about a Kyle Seager trade with the Mariners to bring both brothers to Los Angeles? Sounds amazing, but the more likely scenario is Evan Longoria to Los Angeles.
- Sign outfielder Yoenis Cespedes.
He just opted out of his contract with the New York Mets and he is best bat on the market next to another outfielder, Mark Trumbo with the Baltimore Orioles. He also has an amazing arm. Puig may become Cespedes in four to five years when he is Cespedes’ age (31), but no guarantees there and Cespedes has proven he can perform with consistency. We would also be fine with seeing Puig stay, but Cespedes would be a huge get for Los Angeles.
- Trade outfield prospect Johan Mieses (no. 23) and second base prospect Willie Calhoun (no. 4) to the Baltimore Orioles for closer Zach Britton.
Speaking of the Baltimore Orioles, they are likely losing two big bats from their lineup this offseason with catcher Matt Wieters and outfielder Mark Trumbo both free agents who combined to blast 64 home runs and knock in 174 runs in 2016. The Dodgers can leverage the Orioles loss with something to gain in two prospects (Mieses and Calhoun) who combined to hit 55 homeruns and knock in 166 runs in 2016 at rookie ball and Double-A, respectively. In exchange, the Dodgers get the Orioles closer Zach Britton who just joined Kenley Jansen as the Relievers of the Year, but in the American League.
The hard-throwing lefty closer is not as flashy as Aroldis Chapman with the radar gun or noteworthy as Jansen, but he was more effective than both in 2016. He converted all 47 of his save opportunities in route to a 0.54 earned run average. The two-time All-Star is arbitration eligible this year and is a free agent in 2019, just when the Dodgers internal closer candidate Yadier Alvarez (no. 5) should be ready for The Show.
Mieses and Calhoun both had breakout seasons in 2016, but Calhoun does not have a true defensive position and would be better served in the American League where he can become a designated hitter. Furthermore, Baltimore has a history of not wanting to pay relievers in arbitration so the Dodgers will gladly pay his salary, which will be half what Jansen receives in free agency in terms of average annual value, not to mention contract length. Britton is also the second youngest closer compared to the big name relievers on the free agent market. With how much hitters struggle against left-handed pitching, adding a hard-throwing lefty closer to the bullpen only makes the Dodgers that much stronger.
- Sign catcher Matt Wieters.
Sounds crazy with Yasmani Grandal already under team control through 2019? Consider a few facts before dismissing the thought. Grandal, and the entire Dodgers team for that matter, had a terrible time hitting right-handed against left-handed pitching and he has nearly no power from that side of the plate. Nearly all of Grandal’s power is from the left-side where he crushes the ball.
Imagine a catching platoon with the right-handed hitting and slick fielding catcher Matt Wieters going against left-handers where the two could lengthen their careers and the ability to stay on the field for a full season. Wieters can also play first base and spell Adrian Gonzalez who offense has slowed with age. The 30 year-old four-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove winner is also insurance, albeit an expensive one, against injury to catcher Yasmani Grandal and in case Austin Barnes struggles at second base or catcher.
He is what the lineup would look like if the above trades and acquisitions occurred:
- Andrew Toles (RF)
- Austin Barnes (2B)
- Corey Seager (SS)
- Yoenis Cespedes (LF)
- Adrian Gonzalez (1B)
- Evan Longoria (3B)
- Yasmani Grandal (C) / Matt Wieters (C)
- Joc Pederson (CF)
- Pitcher’s spot
- Clayton Kershaw (L)
- Chris Archer (R)
- Kenta Maeda (R)
- Julio Urias (L)
- Jose De Leon (R)
Bench: Matt Wieters (C), Andre Ethier (OF), Howie Kendrick (UTL), Trayce Thompson (OF), and Charlie Culberson (INF)
Bullpen: Zach Britton (Closer/LHP), Grant Dayton (LHP), Ross Stripling (RHP), Neftali Feliz* (RHP), Josh Fields (RHP), Luis Avilan (LHP), and Adam Liberatore (LHP).
To recap, the Dodgers keep their most highly-touted prospects in pitchers Jose De Leon and Yadier Alvarez as well as first baseman and outfielder Cody Bellinger. With the Dodgers signing outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and with outfielders Joc Pederson and Andrew Toles already on the roster, their outfield prospects, which there are many in the system, become expendable for major league ready players. No matter how you slice it, the above twenty-five man roster is scary good, Happy Halloween!