After a wholly unexpected first round exit in the playoffs, the Dodgers miss playing for at least the National League pennant for the first time since 2015. I don’t know what to do with added free time barely 10 days into October. There’s no saying that even the Dodger front office knows where to begin either.
Nevertheless, the off-season essentially begins now.
Sure, for baseball it technically doesn’t start until the completion of the World Series, but the brain trust will no doubt already be hard at work plotting and planning for the 2020 season.
While everyone will look at players and on-field personnel as the starting point, the first question actually starts at the head of the brain trust…
Dave Roberts and Andrew Friedman are both on my shit list, get rid of these bums. Joe Kelly was the big pickup to solidify the bullpen, pitches like Kershaw’s son
— Ben Maller (@benmaller) October 10, 2019
The Dodgers President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman came to Los Angeles in 2015. Friedman was famously plucked from Tampa Bay for a lot of money over a 5-year deal. That deal is now approaching its end date.
After a winning a franchise record 106 wins in 2019, it was a foregone conclusion that Friedman and the organization would come to a new deal. Under his direction, the Dodgers have reached new heights and levels of stability that quite possibly have never been seen.
Some may argue in favor of the late ’40’s, early ’50’s Dodgers instead.
While ending September win 106 wins lets you hold you head up high, the sucker punch of a 2-3 first round exit brings you back down to earth in a hurry. And with that, now Stan Kasten, Mark Walter, and the rest of ownership may consider reevaluating some pieces.
Complacency gets you passed up in this game.
Moreover, Andrew Friedman may in fact consider reevaluating his own position with the club, and the mental state that degrades with running a big market franchise like the Los Angeles Dodgers.
So step one this off-season? You better believe that it is Andrew Friedman.
Doc has a contract. He and club came to an agreement on a 3-year deal this past off-season, despite back-to-back World Series losses. While Dave Roberts is a great man, and a wizard at keeping a clubhouse together — no one could have survived having Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, and a lack of playing time in the same room the way Roberts did — but there comes a point where you wonder if that’s enough.
What Dave Roberts offers as a good guy and locker room buddy, he continues to display what he lacks with in-game tactics. I won’t break down any NLDS game 5 decisions here because I plainly can’t handle that right now, but they appear to be the same style moves again and again.
So, in regards to Doc’s off-season status, he’s under contract (and technically shouldn’t be part of this article), but with Friedman’s status in question, so too would the manager’s status be. A new front office would almost always want new field staff of their own choosing.
As we move down to on-field product, many tough questions will follow. First and foremost, before making decisions on any free agents — particularly any starting pitchers — you need to dig in to how ready you think some of the up and coming rookies are.
Did Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin earn their 2020 stripes?
Beyond the rooks, what role will Julio Urias, Ross Stripling, and Kenta Maeda play next season? Will Caleb Ferguson resume starting in the minors?
Walker Buehler will lead the rotation. And yes, Clayton Kershaw will be back for his 13th big league season.
There we list 8 names for 5 spots… and we’re missing two big names from the 2019 season.
The NL Cy Young hopeful is a free agent at the conclusion of the World Series. He’s career arc has gone from “ace 1c” alongside Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, to injured and forgotten, to 2019 NL All-Star.
Now he’s 32, going on 33, and heading into MLB for the first (sort of second) time in his career. Over his last 44 starts spanning the 2018 and 2019 seasons, Ryu has gone 21-8 with a 2.21 ERA in 265 innings pitched. he led the team in ERA, innings pitched, WHIP and other lesser stats.
A guy like that is not easy to replace.
As much as he loves Los Angeles, and LA loves him back, this will be his first and only opportunity to cash in on a lucrative contract in free agency. He pitched on a $17.9M qualifying offer deal this season, and he’s earned a raise from that.
The Dodger handbook says they don’t hand out deals to players into their mid-to-late 30’s and with Ryu likely aiming for a 4-5 year deal, he would be 37-38 by the end of that. However, there’s no saying how long the Korean native wishes to continue pitching in the states while embarks on fatherhood for the first time.
We want Ryu back, and no doubt he would love to return… but it just might not be in the cards.
If you have a soul, you were crushed by Rich Hill’s post game interview. The man fought back tears — most of the team, really — that were partly about the weight of the moment, but also about his unsure future in baseball.
Rich Hill is fighting back tears taking about his relationship with Clayton Kershaw and how he’s shouldering the blame for this loss. “We wouldn’t be here without him.” #Dodgers pic.twitter.com/uGPTHdevWg
— Michael J. Duarte (@michaeljduarte) October 10, 2019
Richie battled back from a malady of injuries in 2019 only to toss 2.1 innings in the postseason. With that, he still did what was expected of him and kept his team in the game. As the carpet now gets pulled out from under him, ahead lies very murky waters.
Hill will be 40 years old by the time next season rolls around. While he’s great for this team on paper, and a fantastic locker room piece, there’s pause when looking at forking over money to a soon-to-be 40 year-old with a recent history of injury issues.
He says he hopes to be back and that “it’s been an honor” to wear the Dodger uniform, and there is no doubt that the feeling is mutual.
Where he fits in for 2020 is as a bridge and emergency blanket for rookie arms like May or Gonsolin. The Dodgers are not usually ones to hand the keys to a spot in the rotation to bodies with less than 10 career starts under their belt. Moreover, this franchise has built its success on depth and sustainability.
One of Ryu or Hill could return, but definitely not both.
Our dear step-dad. Freese stepped into the Chase Utley sized hole in the locker room and filled in with flying colors. But he’s a man with mileage under his belt. Freeser was talked out of retirement last off-season, but murmurs are that this is it for the 36 year-old.
Orel Hershiser spoke about the feeling of “let down” on SportsNet LA’s post game show following the loss. Bulldog had been before where Clayton Kershaw was after the game. You feel you let your team down; you let everyone down, and you’re ready to wear it.
Hershiser was part of the 1997 Cleveland Indians team that went to the World Series and lost to the Florida Marlins. Bulldog was 38 but still an ace of the Cleveland staff. The man that put the Dodgers on his back in the 1988 World Series allowed 13 earned runs in 10 innings, losing twice in the series.
Where Kersh and Orel separate is that 55 has an ’88 ring to look at and help him with the let down of ’97.
As we double back to Freese, the veteran clutch master has a ring to look back on. He’s fine to pack it up and walk away. And baseball will lose one of its finest.
In 2017, the Dodgers still had Andre Ethier. In 2018 they brought back Matt Kemp. Both seasons the club made the World Series and lost. 2019 was supposed to be different. Russell Martin was back. The veteran backstop returned to where it all began after an eight year absence.
For the most part, he did what was expected of him. He provided steadying “veteran presents” for the club and found a powerful kinship with many of his teammates.
Now, he’s 36 years old and the 5-year contact he signed in the winter of 2014-2015 is set to expire. While he would be welcomed back with open arms, the Dodgers already have their starting catcher and backup catcher under contract. Will Smith and Austin Barnes will handle catching duties in 2020. Moreover, catching prospect Keibert Ruiz will make an impact in 2020.
While people would make the argument to see Martin re-signed as a relief option for the bullpen, the bodies are in place at catcher to see Russell walk (and possibly retire).
This listing is more of a bonus round addition to the primary of this list, but there may be more meat on the bone then we think. Jansen has an oft-forgotten opt-out in his contract. The now 32 year-old can forgo the final two years and $38M of his deal (he won’t).
While all the cards are against him in finding more money on the open market, Kenley is an ego driven man. That ego took a big hit in the 2019 season. In a career worst season, constant questions about his role as closer came up as boo birds at Dodger Stadium grew louder and louder by season’s end.
While Dave Roberts came close, he never wavered in his crippling support of Kenley Jansen. And while most people wouldn’t risk that amount of money and security with so many red flags against them, Jansen’s ego could be the deciding factor in a shocking opt-out.
So I just found out that Jedd Gyorko has a $13M club option for the 2020 season.
Guys… Jedd Gyorko has a $13M club option for 2020… HOW ARE THE CARDINALS IN THE NLCS AND WE'RE NOT? They signed that deal!!!
— Clint Pasillas (FRG) (@realFRG) October 10, 2019
His contract contains a $1M buy out, which I’m honestly not sure if the Dodgers or his former team the Cardinals are picking up, but either way that is highway robbery.
He will not be back.
This will be a long, painful, and arduous winter for the organization and fans alike. Trades will happen. Friends will leave. And everyone will complain about the front office not making any moves.