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.
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