Rosenthal: Dodgers Out On Harper/Machado and Explains Their Spending Practices

After the Kasten Kerfuffle it looks like someone in the Dodgers front office caught the ear of Ken Rosenthal. Given some of the reactions to Stan Kasten’s remarks it is a good idea to feed some information to an excellent reporter like Rosenthal. His article in The Athletic covers topics such as why the Dodgers chose A.J. Pollock over Bryce Harper, why they won’t re-sign Manny Machado, Dodgers spending now and in the future and what might happen with Joc Pederson.

Why Pollock Over Harper

Regarding Pollock over Harper Rosenthal says:

The Dodgers’ big outfield addition, free-agent center fielder A.J. Pollock, is a better defender than Harper and, as a right-handed hitter, better balances the team’s lineup. At a maximum of $60 million over five years, Pollock also will be less expensive than Harper, perhaps by hundreds of millions.

Rosenthal also mentioned the reservations the Dodgers had about Harper’s defensive play, consistency and the length of the contract. Some have said that they don’t think Harper will age well enough to stay healthy and on the field.

He then goes on about how it is understandable how most fans would prefer Harper since he is younger, more durable and has huge star power. The mantra of when does the front office “get the benefit of the doubt” is brought up and that is a good point. What is constantly missed with that saying is that fans are frustrated with so many near misses. Some of the frustration might be misplaced as the players have been in place but have not delivered when needed. The trade of Puig also set expectations for signing Harper, even though nothing was said by the front office.

LOS ANGELES, CA – OCTOBER 28: Manny Machado #8 of the Los Angeles Dodgers strikes out during the fourth inning against the Boston Red Sox in Game Five of the 2018 World Series at Dodger Stadium on October 28, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

[button link=”” color=”blue”]2018 DODGERS PLAYER REVIEWS: MANNY MACHADO[/button]

Machado Will Not Be Re-Signed

Despite my desire to see Manny Machado re-sign with the Dodgers it looks like it won’t be happening. According to Rosenthal, even though Machado is a good fit as a right-handed hitter, the “Dodgers became less enamored of him once they got to know him.” None of this should be surprising and it’s too bad as Machado is very talented but to make a mediocre impression on an excellent team lowers his value. For his sake, he needs to learn from his mistakes and be better.

Current Spending

In addressing “real inside baseball economic stuff” Rosenthal attempts to figure out Kasten’s reasoning.

If a big-market team such as the Dodgers exceeds the threshold for at least two consecutive years, it forfeits a percentage of the revenue-sharing refund it would otherwise receive. Teams also must remain in compliance with the debt-service rule, earning enough profits to adequately service their debt.

The debt service does scare me but Bill Shaikin addressed it in November and it does not seem to be an issue:

The Dodgers are in compliance with the league’s rules on debt service, Manfred said. Guggenheim had taken advantage of a provision in the collective bargaining agreement that affords new owners five years to satisfy the debt rules.

“We don’t try to regulate payroll through the debt service rule,” Manfred said. “We try to get to financial stability. There are other ways to get there. The Dodgers had a plan, and they stuck to it. Probably the most amazing thing about it is that they had a lot of high-payroll guys, they worked their way into a young team and got to real financial stability, and throughout the whole time they were competitive. That is no mean feat.” – Bill Shaikin, LA Times

Rosenthal points out that the Dodgers will have the highest payroll in the National League and will be a leader in spending on things such as “facilities, front-office staff, revenue sharing and scouting and player development.” Remember, the All-Star game is coming to Dodgers Stadium in 2020 and there will be extra costs related to that event, even though they will recoup the costs.

Future Spending

LOS ANGELES, CA – JUNE 24: Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers folows throws a pitch in the second inning against the Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium on June 24, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

In addressing some reasoning behind not spending huge amounts on players such as Harper:

Eventually – after years of trading prospects, selecting at the bottom of the draft and operating with smaller international signing bonus pools – the Dodgers will be in less of a position of strength.

When that happens – and when their division rivals, several of which are rebuilding, start to pose more of a threat – the Dodgers will be well-positioned to react to their increased urgency, well-positioned to spend big. They will benefit from the money they saved. The money they declined to spend on Bryce Harper.

This does make a lot of sense as the Dodgers will also need to sign their own players as the young and underpaid players will eventually absorb a lot of payroll. Of course, what gets missed, is that others such as Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen, Rich Hill and Justin Turner will roll off the payroll at the same time. In my opinion, the Dodgers could afford Harper if they felt he was the fight fit. Maybe it is someone like Nolan Arenado after 2019 but I doubt that also.

Joc Pederson Trade Interest

Rosenthal said that there are a few teams that are interested in trading for Joc Pederson after the Dodgers signed Pollock. It has not been ruled out that Joc could remain with the Dodgers as his .893 OPS in 386 plate appearances against right handed pitching would be tough to replace. With Cody Bellinger, Pollock, Alex Verdugo and Joc Pederson I see four players that should be in the lineup a majority of the time. Then you factor in Chris Taylor, Kiké Hernandez and Andrew Toles and the outfield is crowded. Somebody has to go as it is only fair to all of them. These are major league ready and capable players and deserve a chance to play.

Final Thoughts

I’ve publicly advocated for signing Bryce Harper but it does look like the front office has ruled that option out, along with Manny Machado. I usually do give the front office the benefit of the doubt as they don’t make too many mistakes. The Dodgers’ team going into 2019 is a strong team and will only get better with any further moves. I do get a bit worried about relying on trades to improve the team as the farm system has been hit pretty hard with trades within the last three seasons.

In some ways it does seem Rosenthal has been given some extra access to the Dodgers in order to allow them to do damage control after the Kasten Kerfuffle. As always, Rosenthal is very good at providing a lot of excellent content but we are seeing nothing really new regarding the spending approaches. Rosenthal just says it better and clearer. I want the Dodgers to spend what they need to spend in order to get over the top. Is it Bryce Harper? Is it Manny Machado? The Dodgers don’t think so.

The last two years they’ve come up short and part of it is because they relied on bullpen options that were not reliable. A little more spending may have fixed that problem. Joe Kelly is an excellent addition and seems to be a different direction in bullpen spending. Let’s hope they don’t let the luxury tax get in the way of getting the players they might need to win the 2019 World Series.

[button link=”” type=”big” color=”red”]DODGERS: KEITH LAW’S TAKE ON A REALMUTO TRADE[/button]

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  1. Harper on a 5 year contract with multiple opt outs (perhaps after 2nd, or 3rd, or 4th seasons) made sense for the Dodgers, but 10 years with guarantee of $325+MM is not a good business decision. Machado has no one to blame but himself for Dodgers disinterest.

  2. The media focus on Harper and Machado has helped create unrealistic expectations for fans and those players. Harper is not the best player in baseball, on the WAR list he sits below players like Andrelton Simmons, not even the 30th best! If I can get 2 players like Pollock for 12 mill each isn’t that a much better shopping spree?

  3. I think the Dodgers were interested in Harper if he would agree to a shorter term contract (say 5 years) with multiple opt outs (perhaps 3), but were not going anywhere close to 10 years. Machado? His attitude, bush league attempt to kick Brewers first baseman, and periods of indifference on offense and defense, cost him any possible interest by Dodgers.

  4. I guess there is nothing left to say!!!!! Realmuto might still be a possibility; maybe, even a pitcher. But for right now, what we see is what we get. Lts hope it is sufficient to carry us into post-season ball. Go Blue!!!!

  5. Lies all Lies. We have become the Los Angeles Rays/A’s. If that was the case we would have kept Puig. What a dumb trade with the Reds. Should of just cut Kemp loose traded Wood for prospects and basically not send them a swap of bad contracts. I know one thing after the comment from Kasten. I have canceled all my trips to camelback stadium for spring training and will not attend 1 Dodger game or buy Dodger merchandise at all. I will check for free on the internet on how well they did or how bad they did. But for sure I expect another playoff exit early stage left. Thier mentality is more of win our division only to get to the playoffs which to me is dumb win it all 1988 has been long enough. Harper and Machado only cost money while they still have a strong core to win it now.

    • Thank You – Your the first person Ive seen mention this. The winter, especially the meetings week have become baseball fans Christmas. No one wants to be told that they arent getting any new toys or their new toys arent coming for a few months but that is fine for the Dodgers right now. San Francisco, San Diego (I dont care who they sign) and Arizona are HORRIBLE. Colorado is good but in my opinion not on the Dodgers level. The Dodgers should be 5 or 6 games behind (and probably 10 ahead) come July 31. THATS when they MUST act. We have no idea whos going to play over or under their expected abilities. In February, we have no idea what injuries may occur. No one knows on Groundhogs day what their playoff needs will be in late July. The Dodgers have plenty of time. Imagaine what Machado would have cost last January compared to what they paid in July.
      Anyone can argue the present Dodgers arent good enough to win the world series but no one can argue that barring major injuries they will be at the top of the NL West come the All-Star game

  6. Great article–thank you for posting this. Great call on Machado–not sad at all to see him go. His lax attitude and questionable moves are troublesome. I didn’t care for him at all.
    He was a big disappointment. Let someone else be burdened.
    Harper on a shorter deal would have been very nice. But again, a longer deal would have been a burden. How many long-term contracts of seven, eight, ten years work out in a team’s favor? I cannot think of one.

  7. Let me add to what ya said here:
    “The last two years they’ve come up short and part of it is because they relied on bullpen options that were not reliable. A little more spending may have fixed that problem”. Bullpen options were not the only issue of why they came up short. Dodgers got away with a platoon of basically marginal players during the season but when it came time to face an elite Boston team, they were no match.. They struck out a whole lot, RISP went way down or was non existent, BUT IMHO the big reason the Dodgers fell short in these past 2 WS was those 23 HR’s given up by our pitching staff. Yes I know that was just one reason but I would bet that had Dodgers cut those HR’s in half, they would have won at least one of these WS.

  8. Trade Puig. Keep Roberts. Disaster.

    Dodgers are hung up on sabermetrics (which do not work), and have insufficient real baseball men in the organization.

    Should have kept Puig, released Kemp, and traded Wood for prospects. Outfield would be Pollack, Puig, and Verdugo with solid bench behind them. Put Bellinger back at 1st where he belongs and move Muncy to 2nd.

    I agree with not signing Harper. Very overrated. Compare his numbers on average to Puig’s and while Harper’s are better, they are not worth paying 3 times Puig’s salary. Plus, Puig is a beeter fielder, has a much better arm, and has a much better overall attitude.

    Instead of Russell Martin, start Barnes, and sign Ellis as backup. If anything will help Kershaw back to form, it is AJ Ellis.

    If there was going to be spending of money, it should have been on the bullpen. Kelly is okay, but not sufficient.

    Lastly, I would not have resigned Dave Roberts. He may be a wonderful human being, but his management during the last 2 World Series was nothing short of horrific.

    I am hoping for the best in 2019, but the team is not stronger. Friedman’s moves have been poor.

    • Agreed Friedman’s moves have been poor but I have a feeling that his hands have been tied more by what Kasten wants at this time.

      He wants to run the Dodgers like the Rays / A’s. Sabermetrics work for the long run but on the short term it blows up.

    • I agree with you 100%. The biggest market and they treat the fans like crap, the comments about the fans the lack of spending on players and a tv deal that blocks out the majority. If this is the future baseball and the Dodgers are in trouble.

    • Wow, the last commentator was excellent. There must be more to this Puig issue than anybody is letting on. Dodgers are infinite amous for not discussing contracts or personalities in the air. However, we don’t need a strong character like Puig as much as I love him. We are here to win. Pollock I think is an excellent signing, you will see that his three shortened seasons was by straight specific injury issues, and not due to age or wear and tear. I can’t stand The fact they signed over the hill Martin. Ellis was the right choice and I still think he should be signed and come to spring training. The year after this he should become a dodger regular coach, although I fear he wants to go back to Nebraska or Iowa or wherever he was from originally. You have to put Verdugo in the outfield. In regard to Belanger, he is acknowledged as potentially the the best fielding first baseman in major leagues behind Votto . Muncie had a career year so send him to the American League as a DH. Look at Stanton, Edgar Martinez, Boston Red Sox middle of the order etc. We have a great pitching minor-league set up. Before the trade deadline we will need to trade away two of them to get probably a number three starter. Lux is our second baseman starting next year so let’s get by with Taylor and Hernandez. I’m concerned that Seager will not be ready before June 1. All in all, I totally believe in the situation of keeping under Max contract limit. That will allow us to be more versatile and open to more interesting and important deals in mid July. We still need a vocal leader, and Turner, Belanger, Seger, Jensen, Kershaw are not vocal leaders. Mike Trout would be perfect but he’s going back to the Phillies in 2020 his hometown. Our current outfield could be excellent. I am a major Toles and if he can break the injury bug he is our leadoff man , if he can show better discipline at the plate

  9. Um no the dodgers fucking choked and they’ll do again next season. If they fucking choke in the playoffs I’m done with this sorry ass team. Also they’ll probably make a dum trade in July and that guy probably chokes in playoffs or world series like Machado and darvish did.

  10. Smart not to go in on Machado or Harper. Would be nice to get Kluber or Realmuto. Yes, a player like Manny or Bryce would help AJ, Corey, and JT see good pitches, but those guys have seen the best pitching being in the being in the WS the past 2 years. Being optimistic, I think Verdugo will have a great season and Ruiz is closer than we think and an injury to Martin or Barnes might prove that point. management will have faith in their youth to keep the ball rolling. They will be in the hunt when all said in done in 2019.

  11. The Dodgers have won six consecutive National League West titles, the most since the New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves. They have won back-to-back pennants, they play in the weakest division in baseball arguably, they will have the best record in the National League in 2019 as four teams from both the NL Central and NL East battle each other to the death trading wins, the 10-day disabled list if left unchanged will dramatically assist the Dodgers in their use of a 40 Man / 25 man roster which will allow them to rotate players keeping them healthy and rested, they will pickup foundational pieces in July and August, get more assistance in September, then overpower and outlast their opponent in the LDS and LCS with home field throughout then return for a third time charm against an AL behemoth in hopes they can overcome.

  12. I think they have improved themselves greatly with the signing of Pollock. I have been telling friends all winter that I would rather have Pollock then Harper. Other then catcher think lineup looks great and if they get Realmuto or Barnes plays like he did in 2017 that is solved Bellinger/Muncy 1B Taylor 2B Seager SS Turner 3B Pederson/Hernandez LF Pollock CF Bellinger/ Verdugo RF awful good lineup and some depth key is either Muncy or Verdugo coming through Bellinger can cover either 1B or RF depending on which one is playing best. Hernandez platoons in LF with Pederson and gets additional ABs giving guys days off .