Even if the Dodgers are finished making any significant roster moves for the winter, it’s safe to say that things have indeed turned out quite well for the team, at least as far as player personnel goes.
Up until now, the league has been quiet in terms of overall spending. Many believe that there will be a surge once Bryce Harper and Manny Machado decide their respective fates, but Los Angeles seems to be in great shape. While it’s tough to believe, J.P. Hoonstra in his newsletter yesterday pointed out that only two the teams in baseball have spent more money than the Dodgers during the 2018-19 offseason.
There were a handful of moves that happened so early that the impacts have faded for many fans. Aside from numerous signings that strengthened the farm and the fringe, here’s a quick summary of what happened at the big league level:
- Staff ace Clayton Kershaw agreed to a deal that will see him wearing Dodger Blue for the next three seasons, avoiding the possibility of a mini-riot if he would have landed somewhere in Texas. (Everyone, especially Kersh himself, knew this wasn’t likely to happen, but it’s still a relief.)
- David Freese signed a one-year contract to return, giving the Dodgers a strong bench and clubhouse presence in the shadows of Chase Utley. Not many players are held in the same regard as Freese when it comes to clutch performances in the postseason. And, he has a pretty good track record against southpaw pitching.
- Lefty starter Hyun-Jin Ryu will be around for 2019, as he accepted the team’s one-year, $17.9 million qualifying offer. Ryu’s presence—if healthy—assures the Dodgers of having one of the top rotations in the National League. However, if you ask Rich Hill, he believes the Los Angeles starting five may be the best in baseball.
- Skipper Dave Roberts signed a new four-year contract, guaranteeing that one of the best managers in the game will be directing traffic in the Dodgers’ dugout.
- Reliever Joe Kelly was snagged on a three-year, $25 million deal, giving the Dodgers—finally—a strong 1-2 punch at the backend of the bullpen. The presence of a genuine set-up option was certainly missed last season, and the addition of Kelly gives Los Angeles some very much needed depth. Boss Andrew Friedman typically does not spend in this fashion for bullpen upgrades, so this move came as a surprise to many. Especially as early as it was.
- The team avoided arbitration with with Pedro Baez, Josh Fields, Yimi Garcia, Enrique Hernandez, Joc Pederson, Corey Seager and Chris Taylor. Sometimes it seems as if this is taken for granted, as the Dodgers NEVER go to the arbitration table. It’s another indication of how smoothly the organization’s run and gives management one less thing to worry about.
- Russell Martin returned to the team after a trade with the Blue Jays, clearing some of the smoke from the 2019 catching picture. While many believe there still could be further upgrades at catcher, Martin’s addition is much better than having Austin Barnes and Rocky Gale as the only two backstops on the roster with big league experience.
- A.J. Pollock was signed to a multi-year deal to anchor the Los Angeles outfield for the foreseeable future. There are definitely many questions that trickled down after the acquisition of Pollock, but his presence gives the team a legitimate righty bat in the lineup as well as a very capable defender in center.
Of course, there were some losses. Alex Wood, Kyle Farmer, Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig were shipped out to Cincinnati. It’s still difficult to digest the overall effect on the club, but it did open a door for Pollock, while giving players like Jeter Downs and Josiah Gray the chance to elevate to the top of the Los Angeles prospect rankings.
Fans also witnessed the departures of GM Farhan Zaidi, third base coach Chris Woodward and hitting coach Turner Ward. Big losses, for sure, but the additions of Dino Ebel, Robert Van Scoyoc and Aaron Bates may prove to be valuable as the season progresses.
Obviously, fans still want more roster upgrades, and it’s tough to blame them based on the fact the Dodgers came up short of a World Championship the last two seasons. But, while there’s still a chance we see more action before pitchers and catchers convene on February 13, there are always the summer trade deadlines to utilize as the club prepares for yet another playoff push.