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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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