This is supposedly the off-season where the Dodgers and Andrew Friedman will finally pull the trigger on a prized free agent.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 5, 2019
If the 2019 free agency class were a Coachella lineup, this trifecta would be at or near the top. A pair of World Series champion teammates still in their prime, starter Stephen Strasburg and third baseman Anthony Rendon, and a 300 strikeout starter and Cy Young finalist who is just entering his peak production in Gerrit Cole.
Friedman and his team have shrewdly positioned themselves below the Competitive Balance Tax in preparation for the 2019 off-season. That doesn’t guarantee they’ll go all-in on a high priced free agent.
For a myriad of reasons, Friedman has never signed one of the top three highest paid free agents during his tenure. That trend may continue.
- David Price $217M/7 years Red Sox
- Zack Greinke $206.5M/6 years Diamondbacks
- Jason Hayward $184M/8 years Cubs
To borrow a golf term, Friedman was “inside the leather” on resigning Zack Greinke in 2015. Los Angeles was considered the front runner until the Arizona Diamondbacks swooped in with five and half hours remaining in free agency, upped the average annual value (AAV), and tacked on a sixth year. The Dodgers pulled a Pedro Baez and balked at matching the new numbers, and the next thing we knew, Greinke was off to the desert.
- Yoenis Cespedes $110M/4 years Mets
- Aroldis Chapman $86M/5 years Yankees
- Dexter Fowler $82.5/5 years Cardinals
Closer Kenley Jansen had just wrapped up his best season with the Dodgers and was re-signed for the fourth richest contract of the 2016 off-season. The front office had their misgivings about paying up for Arnolds Champman due to his off field issues on top of displacing a fan favorite in Jansen.
The perpetually crowded Los Angeles outfield didn’t need an expensive headache in Cespedes or Fowler. Plus, the Dodgers were excited about finally calling up some guy named Cody Bellinger for the 2017 season.
- Eric Hosmer $144M/8 Padres
- Yu Darvish $126M/6 Cubs
- J.D. Martinez $110M/5 Red Sox
Re-signing starter Yu Darvish would have been a tough sell to the Chavez faithful even at a reasonable price after a World Series meltdown for the ages. Of course, the Astros may have known every pitch Darvish was going to throw…if you haven’t heard.
Defensively challenged famed Dodger killer J.D. Martinez offered a tantalizing right-handed bat that could’ve made for a terrifying lineup.
- Bryce Harper $330M/13 years Phillies
- Manny Machado $300M/10 yearsPadres
- Patrick Corbin $140M/6 years Nationals
The Dodgers reportedly offered Harper a shorter term deal at $45 million per year, but both he and Manny “Johnny Hustle” Machado sought long term deals in excess of six years. The exact type of contracts that Friedman avoids like your mother-in-law at the Christmas dinner table. Fun fact, neither Harper, Machado, or Corbin were All-Stars in 2019.
In Bryce Harper talks, I am told #Dodgers were willing to offer a four-year deal worth approximately $45 million per season. That would have allowed Harper to shatter the all-time AAV record and become a free agent at age 30. @MLB @MLBNetwork
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) February 28, 2019
Time and time again, Dodgers fans expect Friedman to whip out the checkbook at the Winter Meetings to get them over the championship hump. Despite the current state of the payroll, 2019 doesn’t feel like the year where Friedman breaks out of his 0 for 12 free agent slump.