The Los Angeles Dodgers will yet again be big players during the off-season as they have 12 free agents of their own, option decisions and a thirst to improve upon their NLCS appearance this season.
Decisions will be made about Juan Uribe, Mark Ellis and Brian Wilson, but the Dodgers will be in the market for another starting pitcher. Chad Billingsley and Josh Beckett will be on their way back from season-ending injuries as they’ll to be healthy for the start of the season.
However, Beckett was brutal in his eight starts last season and Billingsley won’t be ready for the start of the season and after having eight starting pitchers to start last year, Ned Colletti and Stan Kasten know a surplus of pitchers isn’t a bad thing.
Collectively, the 2014 free agent pitching class is rather weak with Matt Garza, current Dodger Ricky Nolasco and Ervin Santana. Nolasco was thought to be close to a lock for the Dodgers to re-sign after his strong start, but his terrible September and NLCS Game 4 loss might’ve killed any chance of him returning.
Thus, the Dodgers have become a prime suitor for Rays ace David Price, who will be arbitration eligible in 2014 and a free agent in 2015, but is likely to be traded this off-season. Price battled a triceps injury this season, but went 10-8 with a 3.33 ERA before getting rocked in the ALDS against the Red Sox.
There’s a natural fit with the Dodgers as assistant GM Logan White drafted Price out of high school back in 2004 before he opted to go to Vanderbilt before being drafted first overall by the Rays back in 2008.
A rotation of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Price would be the best top three in baseball and while the money won’t be the issue, getting rid of top-tier prospects is the problem. Corey Seager, Julio Urias, Joc Pederson and Zach Lee have been mentioned as possible prospects going to Tampa Bay, which is a hefty price to pay (pun intended).
Urias is arguably the fastest rising prospect in the Dodgers system as many scouts believe the 17-year-old could make it to the big leagues by the time he’s 18. Seager is turning heads at the Arizona Fall League while Pederson is tearing it up in the winter leagues in Venezuela as the Dodgers try and rebuild their farm system.
Lee finished the year with Pederson at Double A and was reportedly almost traded at the deadline as the Dodgers were interested in Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick.
So if not Price, who should the Dodgers target?
Two words: Masahiro Tanaka.
The soon-to-be 25-year-old Japanese pitcher hasn’t lost a game since 2012 and he went 24-0, an ERA of 1.27 with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. He’s also 2-0 during the Japan Series, taking his record to 26-0 overall.
Tanaka is coveted by the Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees, but after the Dodgers success in the international market with Yasiel Puig, Hyun-Jin Ryu and now Alexander Guerrero, it’s natural they’d be interested in Tanaka. Colletti stated on several occasions that they’ve scouted him and are very aware about the type of pitcher he is.
Major league baseball and the NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball) are expected to reach an agreement in the next few days that will allow Tanaka to be posted as early as Friday. Another advantage signing Tanaka would have for the Dodgers is the fact that his salary wouldn’t count toward their payroll, thus not affecting the luxury tax.
However, there’s a chance that the new posting system will give more power to the player as he’ll be able to narrow down his decision to three teams and decide which team he wants to negotiate with exclusively. Under the current system, teams submit silent bids for four days and the highest bidder is awarded the chance to talk to the player directly for 30 days.
When Yu Darvish was posted in 2011, the Rangers paid a little over $50 million for the posting fee before signing him to a six-year $60 million contract. Thus, the Rangers paid $110 million for Darvish’s rights, a number many believe Tanaka will eclipse as he’s the latest sensation to come out of Japan.
Magic Johnson said that if the Dodgers are interested in a player they’re going to be aggressive in signing him. Advice to Dodger management: sign Tanaka at all costs.
In case you missed it, here’s the Dodgers pool celebration, PLUS Yasiel Puig’s celebration dance off!