A year after the unprecedented drag that was the 2018 off-season, the MLB hot stove has been a bit quicker to fire up in 2019. Will Smith, likely the best reliever on the free agent market, was almost immediately claimed by the Atlanta Braves. The San Diego Padres one-upped them with an even bigger contract for Drew Pomeranz.
On the Dodgers front…well, nothing. Unless you count re-signing Rocky Gale as a big move. Many fans fear another off-season of big expectations and no payoff. Andrew Friedman, perhaps just to stave off bad publicity (although hopefully being honest), insists the team is in on all the big name free agents this time around.
The biggest developments thus far have instead been in the much ballyhooed renovation of Dodger Stadium. With the park hosting its first All-Star Game in 40 years, it’s the right time for a fresh makeover, including improving accessibility and actually making use out of the dead zone beyond the centerfield wall.
To which I say: sure, great. As much as I love the steady familiarity of the stadium (especially as the third-oldest park in MLB), all of the changes being made are necessary ones that will modernize it in time for a special event, and beyond.
However, these tune-ups to Chavez Ravine will be utterly meaningless without a similarly renovated roster to play there. If anything, the fact that the franchise is so ambitious in remaking its cherished home creates the perfect backdrop for what was already obvious: the team, after a pathetic first round exit despite 106 wins, needs a serious roster reboot.
Got this comment a few days ago on a stadium renovation update post and I laughed a bit. Dodger fans are bitter as hell this off-season, and rightfully so. pic.twitter.com/sI4y6rwulQ
— Clint Pasillas (FRG) (@realFRG) December 1, 2019
By every measure, there is no greater time for Los Angeles to finally go big than this off-season. In the spending department, they’re around $40 million under the luxury tax threshold, made possible by building from within and two massive salary dumps. By avoiding previous albatross contracts of the past two off-seasons in Giancarlo Stanton and Bryce Harper (wisely against my clamoring), they can now splurge on a big name that actually addresses a need this time around. Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg (preferably Cole) is a must to create the ultimate rotation, while Josh Donaldson or Anthony Rendon bring defensive and offensive prowess that would greatly boost the hot corner.
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In terms of trading, they have plenty of capital both in terms of league-ready players and promising prospects. As always, an extra outfielder like Joc Pederson can be moved, or Corey Seager if the infield is reshuffled. With respect to signing either Cole or Strasburg, they could realistically move one of their surplus starting pitchers like Tony Gonsolin, Julio Urias, Ross Stripling, or Kenta Maeda.
Especially after cultivating perhaps the best rookie class in franchise history in 2019, there is also breathing room to trade prospects. The Yasiel Puig trade last year yielded extra ones in Jeter Downs and Josiah Gray, either or both of whom could be flipped for someone like Mookie Betts or Francisco Lindor. Think of how Friedman, in one of his first moves as president of operations in 2014, flipped Andrew Heaney to the Angels to get Howie Kendrick.
Furthermore, recent World Series history provides a compelling antithesis to the Dodgers’ obsession with winning on a budget. The 2018 Red Sox paid a hefty luxury tax for their title, but no one in Boston is complaining. Sure, the Sox are now trying to emulate Friedman and company’s demure financial approach after dismissing Dave Dombrowski, but they do so with a trophy three decades fresher than ours.
The Nationals sunk more than $87,000,000 collectively into Max Scherzer, Patrick Corbin and Stephen Strasburg in 2019. Scherzer and Corbin alone made every penny worth it by teaming up to win game seven of the World Series, with Corbin the pitcher of record in relief. Strasburg, meanwhile, did nothing other than win World Series MVP.
Now is not the time to continue hot stove reticence. With the right amount of big moves, the Dodgers can truly give gravitas to their stadium’s overdue makeover. It would be a marketing dream: a new look team to go with a new look ballpark. And it’d be reasonable to anticipate it hosting both of MLB’s marquee events in the same year, summer and fall.
Otherwise, it’s all window dressing…quite literally. Without an ambitious array of signings and trades this off-season, 2020 will be nothing more than business as usual for this franchise. The only difference being you’ll be able to watch a crushing postseason defeat from the new standing room area of the left field pavilion.