The Winter Meetings start on Sunday in San Diego and many of us are hoping the Dodgers can make some improvements. The Dodgers, as currently constituted, are already a very good team. However, we all saw them lose in game 5 of the National League Division Series (NLDS) to the Nationals.
We then saw the Nationals go on to win the World Series and wondered what could have been.
Coming off of a franchise-record 106 win season, the Dodgers have already lost David Freese to retirement — his right handed bat will be severely missed along as his role of step-dad. Moreover, Cy Young runner-up Hyun-Jin Ryu is currently a free agent along with Rich Hill and Russell Martin.
This article will look at what the Dodgers need to address at the Winter Meetings.
Upper Level Starting Pitching
It is looking more and more like Hyun-Jin Ryu could be signing with another team this off-season. Even if he comes back, LA’s top level starting pitchers did not match up against the Nationals and probably wouldn’t have against the Astros. The fact that Clayton Kershaw is beginning his decline and that they started an injured Rich Hill the playoffs shows that the rotation, after Walker Buehler, is not playoff worthy yet. The way the Dodgers offense performs in the playoffs (we talk about that later) means the pitching has to be very good.
2019 PitchingNinja "¿Quién es más macho?" AB Award. ??
Gerrit Cole (vs Puig)
[89mph Slider–Puig misses by 2 feet & smiles
100mph Fastball–Puig fouls it off, steps out, looks at Cole.
Cole glares back: "Hurry up"
Cole blows him away with 101…& fist pumps it?] pic.twitter.com/9tV0dSGv42
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) December 3, 2019
If the Dodgers re-sign Ryu I see him and Kershaw as the 3 and 4 starters in the playoffs. Buehler is the clear number one type playoff pitcher. A Gerrit Cole, Steven Strasburg or some trade candidate is needed.
We also could see someone like Dustin May, Julio Urías or Tony Gonsolin step it up a lot. However, a problem with those pitchers is that they will all be on some type of innings limit. How long will the Dodgers be satisfied going into the playoffs with an incomplete starting rotation? With Ryu still a free agent, there are two spots remaining in the playoff rotation for 2020.
Late Inning Bullpen Help
Based on what happened in the postseason, Kenley Jansen clearly does not have a lock on the closer’s role. The back end of the Dodgers bullpen currently consists of Jansen, Pedro Baez and Joe Kelly. Their best reliever in the playoffs, Kenta Maeda is either heading back to the rotation or another team. Julio Urías is expected to be in the starting rotation for the whole 2020 season. Adam Kolarek, a lefty specialist, will need to get more than one out with the new pitching rules in 2020 but right handed batters crush him.
The Oakland Athletics are rumored to be shopping Blake Treinen ahead of tomorrow's non-tender deadline, per @Ken_Rosenthal.
Here's a video (of all 19 of Treinen's strikeouts off of his signature sinker in '19) that depicts why every single team in baseball should be interested. pic.twitter.com/MqE2MxMd5s
— Max Goldstein (@MaxSportsStudio) December 1, 2019
There are a couple of candidates that were non-tendered that come with their own question marks in Blake Treinen and Kevin Gausman. Treinen was a easily one of the top relievers in 2018 but his numbers fell off a cliff in 2019. He is my number one candidate for improving the back end of the bullpen. If he’s close to where he was in 2018 then he is excellent insurance for the closer spot. Gausman is a converted starter and it sounds like the Dodgers are interested. My under-the-radar candidate is the in-house option of Tony Gonsolin. His fastball/splitter combo is an excellent mix for a closer-type.
I did an article about the infield defense last month that found it being barely average, even while excluding the Joc Pederson at first base experiment. Max Muncy at second and Justin Turner at third were weak spots and Corey Seager at shortstop wasn’t more than average either. There have been rumors of the Dodgers being interested in free agents Anthony Rendon and Josh Donaldson to player third base with Turner moving to first. Both Rendon and Donaldson are very good defensive players at would make third much better. That would move Muncy to second on a more permanent basis so that is the negative.
Francisco Lindor is a cheat code on defense pic.twitter.com/QJXWu1Brhn
— Sports Daily (@SportsDGI) June 26, 2019
There have been rumors of the Dodgers being interested in Francisco Lindor to play shortstop. Unlike Rendon and Donaldson, the Dodgers would have to trade for Lindor. A shortstop like Lindor makes the whole infield better with his range alone as he can help cover up for the lack of range of others. The better the infield defense, the less a pitcher has to work. The Dodgers are decent at making the basic plays but none of the main infielders in 2019 are known for making plays that require a lot of range. If Gavin Lux ends up at second then he would upgrade the defense a bit also with some athleticism.
Right Handed Lineup Balance
The Dodgers went out and got A.J. Pollock last off-season to try and fill the need of putting another right handed hitter, along with Justin Turner. The Dodgers are filled with left handed hitters like Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy, Corey Seager, Alex Verdugo, Joc Pederson, Matt Beaty, and Gavin Lux. Too many times the Dodgers seems to overly pinch hit due to some of the in-balance. There are still those moments when many Dodgers hitters revert to strikeout mode as evidenced in the NLDS and the last few playoff series.
Is Anthony Rendon the most underrated player in the game?
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) May 4, 2019
Players mentioned previously like Rendon, Donaldson and even switch-hitting Lindor would help with the lineup. There have been Mookie Betts rumors but he, like Lindor, would cost a lot in a trade. Wouldn’t it be great to have the heart of the lineup look something like this?
Then you surround them with other players like Will Smith, Gavin Lux, Joc Pederson, Alex Verdugo, A.J. Pollock Chris Taylor and Kiké Hernandez. That is a nice supporting cast that offers the Dodgers a chance to have a more balanced lineup. With the new rules about pitchers needed to throw against three batters, having a good left/right balance will take away bullpen weapons for other teams.
Gerrit Cole Scenario
In the scenario below the incoming salary would be between $55-60M which necessitates the trading off of some salary. See our payroll page for what each player makes or might make.
- Sign Cole (or Strasburg)
- Trade for Lindor
- Sign Treinen
- Trade off some salary for some prospects to help in the Lindor trade
Signing Rendon and Treinen would cost around $40M. The salary for the starting pitcher is unknown so that would dictate how much salary needs to be traded away.
- Sign Rendon
- Trade for a starting pitcher
- Sign Treinen
- Trade off some salary for some prospects to help in the trade for a starting pitcher
Non-Big 3 Senario
These three would cost around $50M.
- Sign Donaldson
- Re-sign Ryu
- Sign Treinen
- Trade off some salary to help pay for the above.
This scenario would approach around $53M in salary.
- Trade for Betts
- Sign Ryu
- Sign Treinen
- Trade some existing players to reduce salary and gain prospects to trade for Betts.
I remain hopeful that the Dodgers will make a big splash in free agency which could net Rendon, Cole or Strasburg. Maybe they retain Ryu and sign Donaldson. They have around $41.5M before there are any luxury tax penalties. If they unload more salary in trades they could do some good things in free agency. I prefer the free agent route more than the trade route.
I don’t like the idea of giving up excellent prospects when the Dodgers can just spend the money and lose a draft pick. Players like Lindor or Betts would require 2 of the Dodgers top 5 prospects, is my guess. I am not against trading for those but having the option to get top talent via free agency should be exhausted first.
With players like Rendon, Donaldson and Lindor they help with two needs; lineup balance and infield defense. As you can see above, I really want Blake Treinen and he makes too much sense for the Dodgers to not get him. Let’s hope the Dodgers can make a splash and not finish in second or third for all these key players:
“If you’re always rational about every free agent, you will finish third on every free agent.” – Andrew Friedman
Now is the time. Despite my stab at looking at possible salaries, staying under the luxury tax should not stop them from the moves discussed above. Your turn, Andrew.