Will Dodgers Pursue Bryce Harper in 2018?

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On Saturday, the Dodgers announced that they had traded four players to the Braves in exchange for Matt Kemp. It was a rare trade that worked for both sides, in that both teams got the salary dump they were looking for, plus the Braves got some players that can be useful to them in 2018 and beyond. Yesterday we touched on what it meant to the players that were traded and where it left the roster. But what does it mean for the Dodgers going forward?

The main purpose of the trade, as stated, was to unload bloated contracts. By moving Adrian Gonzalez, Scott Kazmir and Brandon McCarthy, the Dodgers relieved themselves of approximately $47 million in payroll. (Charlie Culberson, the fourth player in the deal, was only making $550,000). Los Angeles was already paying $3.5 million of Kemp’s contract. They are now under the Competitive Balance Threshold of $197 million and if they stay under it for the entire 2018 season, which effectively resets the amount of tax they have to pay on their payroll, they can make a big splash in the 2018 offseason, where a huge free agent class is beginning to build.

Will the Dodgers want to turn right back around and add monumentally to that payroll, though? Right now, they have a World Series contending team while staying below $200 million in payroll. But after next season, Clayton Kershaw can opt out of his contract and test the free agent market.

Re-signing Kershaw should be the Dodgers’ number one priority, and I believe that it will be. Andrew Friedman has stated before that he would like CK to be a Dodger throughout his pitching career and beyond. Kershaw signed a seven year, $215 million contract in 2014. He will be 30 when he can opt out next year, and has had his issues with the health of his back. Still, he will command a big payout, and the Dodgers will have to be ready to pay to keep him.

This brings us to the other big names that will be free agents after the 2018 season. Some of the more prominent names that will hit the market are Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson, and Charlie Blackmon, in addition to pitchers Zach Britton and Dallas Keuchel. Harper and Machado though are indeed the biggest names. Machado is rumored to already be a focus of the Yankees, and Harper to Los Angeles has long been talked about.

There will be a bunch of teams competing for Harper and the other free agents, teams that have already been planning for that free agent class. Both the Phillies and Braves are poised to spend big money. The Yankees, as previously mentioned, may also have plenty of money to spend.

My gut is that the Dodgers stay out of the bidding war for Harper. It will, of course, be rumored that they are very much in it, but just watching how the front office works, I see them focusing more on keeping their home grown talent in Kershaw, Seager and Bellinger down the road, while finding less expensive yet high contributing players like they have done so far. As this front office has taken me much by surprise before, nothing is off the table. However, I don’t think fans of the Dodgers should get their hopes very high for seeing Harper hair flips while wearing Dodger Blue.

(FOLLOW ANDY ON TWITTER: @DODGERSANDYINPA)

 

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8 thoughts on “Will Dodgers Pursue Bryce Harper in 2018?

  1. All things being equal, I’m sure the front office would like to do whatever necessary to keep Kershaw but if he has another back issue in 2018 all bets are off the table. A 30 year old pitcher, no matter if he’s HOF caliber, is going to have a hard time getting a huge/long contract if his back issues are chronic. That might be where Andrew draws the line. If his back gives him problems again next year Kershaw might decide not to opt out, play out the last few years of his current contract, and retire to his charity work. Or……………………….he might decide he wants to play for his hometown team, the Rangers. In my opinion, there are too many variables at this point to say for sure that CK will opt out and Andrew will re-sign him. By 2019, Buehler, Urias and possibly Santana should be ready to step into the starting rotation so it’s not as though we wouldn’t have any pitching. Not sure if the front office would spend on both Kershaw and Harper, but if Kershaw leaves I think they’re all in on Harper. They might decide to go for it in any case since players of that caliber and that young don’t come around that often and we really don’t have a spot for Machado (unless we get really creative and move JT to first for the last year of his contract, Cody to the outfield and use Machado and Seager at third and short or short and third, as the case may be).

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    1. Don’t forget Turner came up as a second baseman, so that is a possibility too, if the Dodgers sign Machado. Regarding Kershaw opting out. I believe he is due $35M per year those last two years. I will lose respect for him, if he opts out and expects more, and I am a huge fan of his. He has missed something like 18 starts over the last two years and needs to be fully healthy this,year. If he opts out, only to receive some kind of extension, that is one thing, if he wants a raise for 2019-2020, let him walk.

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      1. I’m guessing, from what I’ve seen and read that any long term move of JT to second is not in the cards. He’s a great third baseman but I think the front office considers his range at second to be less than ideal. Not to say they wouldn’t put him there for a few days but I don’t think there’s any chance they would do it for more than that. With regard to Kershaw, I agree that just opting out to get more money for 2 years is not going to happen. Assuming he doesn’t have a major back situation this year, I assume he’ll opt out in order to get something like 5 or 6 years (3 or 4 beyond the 2 remaining years). That’s where the tough decision will come for Andrew. Signing a pitcher at that age and for that length of contract, with a history of back problems, is totally contrary to anything the front office believes in. That said, this is Clayton Kershaw, Dodger icon. It will be interesting to see this play out.

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      2. I may sound naive or homerish, but I can imagine Kersh being one of those select few guys who wants to stay in Los Angeles regardless of what other teams are willing to offer. I also see him as a pitcher who walks away from the game long before his skills/ability begin to blatantly deteriorate. Ideally, not before a World Chamionship, though.

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      3. I could easily see him as one of those rare guys who walks away early. With regard to wanting to stay in L.A., the only exception I could see would be if he decided he wanted to play at home in Dallas. Even if he had a thought that he might want to walk away early, I’m sure his agent would convince him to sign a longer contract. He could always walk away from that before it was completed.

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  2. The Dodgers have to do whatever it takes to bring kersh back. I can see him being this century’s sandy Koufax, teaching young pitchers how to throw a curve until he is eighty. I want to see him get a lifetime contract, as far as the back goes, don’t worry about it, thats what they make contract insurance for.

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    1. Anyone have an idea what insurance would cost on a 200 mil contract? For a guy with back issues? This is a real question. I really have no idea but would be interested to know.

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