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Dodgers’ Off-Season Recap

The 2018 season is right around the corner. Spring Training is already in full swing with pitchers and catchers reporting this past week. For the Dodgers the 2017-2018 off-season saw reducing payroll and bringing in low-risk, high-reward talent. Despite the relatively low-key off-season for the Dodgers, there were many key losses and additions to the club. We are here to bring you the Dodgers’ off-season recap.

Key Losses – Via Free Agency

Brandon Morrow – Morrow was a key player in the Dodgers’ push to the World Series. He surprised everyone with an excellent 2017 campaign where he put up a 1.7 fWAR as our set-up man. Because of his excellent season, he drew enormous interest this off-season, and ultimately was signed by the Cubs to be their closer. His contract of $21 million over two years proved too rich even for the Dodgers.

Yu Darvish – Despite Darvish’s poor WS, he was quite excellent for us before that. During the season he had a 1.1 fWAR in 9 starts, and almost a 6:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. And his first two starts in the postseason were solid as well. Though, like Morrow, he has signed with the Cubs. Even though he won’t be returning to the Dodgers, our rotation still remains one of the deeper and more talented ones in the Majors.

Andre Ethier – He was always going to be a free agent this off-season. With a $17.5 million option and $2.5 million buyout the decision for the front office was an easy one. A reunion is always possible, but it is more likely he plays elsewhere in a more DH/back-up OF’er role. Especially with how crowded the Dodgers’ outfield picture is this Spring Training.

Tony Watson – As a mid-season acquisition Watson was quite solid for the Dodgers, hurling 20 innings of 2.70 ERA ball. He is not going to return after signing with the Giants.  It was never likely anyways as the Dodgers already have Tony Cingrani and also added Scot Alexander this off-season for lefties in the bullpen.

Key Losses – Via Trades

Adrian Gonzalez / Brandon McCarthy / Scott Kazmir / Charlie Culberson – Long-time fan favorite and steady presence at first-base Adrian Gonzalez was traded this off-season. In a major payroll swap, Gonzalez was sent to the Braves in order to help bring the Dodgers below the luxury tax threshold. Moving with Gonzalez was Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir, and Charlie Culberson. With Bellinger now manning first-base Gonzo unfortunately had no role on the club. For him, his time with the Dodgers has come to an end. The Braves quickly released Gonzo as part of the condition of the trade. Since then the Mets have brought him to their club to act as a bridge to their own top first-base prospect Dominic Smith.

Among the other players departing, only McCarthy’s loss may be somewhat felt. Despite still struggling to stay healthy, McCarthy actually brought a 2.4 fWAR to the team during his 92.2 innings. He was a big part of that starting depth that helped the team weather various ailments to the starting rotation. But alas his inability to stay healthy, and poor contract forced him out the door.

Luis Avilan / Trevor Oaks Avilan had a nice bounce-back season in 2017. This year he threw 46 innings to a tune of a 2.96 ERA and struck out 10.17 batters per 9 innings. Control issues continually plagued him and his arbitration raise was more than the club wanted to take on. So he was traded to the Royals along with right-handed pitching prospect Trevor Oaks. Losing Oaks isn’t a huge blow, as he was still a prospect pitcher and not looking to contribute much in 2018. But he was just added to the 40 man roster, and boasted a solid Minor League track record thus far.

Additions Via Trades

Matt Kemp – Acquired in the trade with the Braves, Matt Kemp has returned home to the team he was developed in. There are a lot of mixed emotions regarding the move, and initially it seemed like the Dodgers would flip him quickly to clear even more payroll. However, it is almost time for Spring Training and he is still with the Dodgers. He will be competing with a number of other players for playing time in left-field. There is the chance that the Dodgers will also release him if they see no spot for him on the roster.

Scott Alexander – A relatively low-key acquisition, Alexander could prove to be one of the more valuable players brought in this off-season. Last year he put up a 1.1 fWAR and 2.48 ERA. What really stands out is his astounding, not to mention league-best, 73.8% ground-ball rate. With the Dodgers’ excellent infield defense he should put up great numbers for us. Not only that, but he is under team control through 2022. Not a bad pickup for Avilan and Oaks.

Additions Via Free Agency/Waiver Claims

Chase Utley – He’s back – the Silver Fox will be in Dodger Blue for the next two seasons. Despite a fairly pedestrian 92 OPS+ and 96 wRC+, Utley was still worth 1.0 bWAR and 1.3 fWAR. For a bench-role, and clubhouse leader, that is quite valuable. And with the new contract only being $2 million over the next two years, the cost is very minimal. Having Utley’s leadership and veteran presence in the clubhouse is extremely valuable, and Dodgers are fortunate to have him back.

Tom Koehler – Signed on December 20th Tom Koehler has been the only significant pitching free agency acquisition for the Dodgers this off-season. Much of that is due to the fact that the front office was actively working to get under the luxury tax threshold. The hope seems to be for Koehler to become this year’s Brandon Morrow. Though his contract contains incentives for starting, he will likely become another piece of the bullpen puzzle. His stuff and stats improved greatly once he moved to the bullpen in Toronto last year, and the Dodgers’ brass hopes he can improve on that more.

Henry Owens – Once a top prospect in the Red Sox system, Owens has had trouble with walks over the years and struggled to find a place on a Major League roster. Acquired off of waivers from the Diamondbacks the Dodgers obviously see enough potential in him to bring him on board. Part of that is due to him still only being 25 years old. Rick Honeycutt and the Dodgers coaching staff is as good as any in the Majors. Because of this there is hope that Owens’ issues are fixable and he could ultimately become a significant contributor. The pinnacle of a low-risk, high-reward move.

Closing Thoughts

Overall the Dodgers’ focus this off-season was to get below the luxury tax threshold. In this goal they were enormously successful. Many thought it would be impossible to do, but the extremely creative front office found a way. The Dodgers are only at $182 million for their 2018 payroll, so they have some wiggle room to possible make another minor move or two. But it is highly unlikely for them to do anything drastic at this point in the off-season, short of a major trade that doesn’t add much payroll.

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Written by Blake Coble

Born and raised in SoCal and bled Blue my whole life. Absolutely love baseball and absolutely love the Boys in Blue! I have a fascination with analyzing the statistics and trends that drive player performance, and I love following our minor league prospects as well! Active duty Air Force currently stationed in Central California! Follow me on Twitter @yarritsblake

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