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Should Dodgers Look to Upgrade Roster from Outside?

Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

About three weeks ago, Andy put together a story about the prospect of the Dodgers improving the player roster by exploring what was still available in the free agent market. She wrote this a week before the peak of Bryce Harper‘s decision, and believe it or not, there were still plenty of fans who thought that Andrew Friedman could get creative enough and find a way to lure the superstar to Los Angeles.

Once Harper began packing his bags for the City of Brotherly Love, those same fans were brought back to reality, confirming the popular belief that the primary goal of the Los Angeles management team was to once again stay under MLB’s luxury tax threshold for the 2019 season.

After all, the roster looks good. There’s a mix of both youngsters and veterans, and there was talent spread out everywhere. The coaching staff is solid, and there are enough blue-chip prospects on the farm to keep everyone excited. The should be enough talent, barring injury, to at least contend for yet another division crown.

However, not long after the moment it was confirmed that lefty reliever Tony Cingrani would begin the year on the injured list, coupled with the injuries of both Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill, the possibility arose of the Dodgers looking to the outside to bolster the relief corps. Even skipper Dave Roberts himself toyed with the prospect of a trade or free agent signing.

The Dodgers made one relief addition last weekend in righty Justin Grimm, but the 30-year-old journeyman threw to the tune of a 10.38 ERA last year, suggesting the signing is “a shot in the dark,” to say the least. Grimm was inked to a minor league pact and was not placed on the club’s 40-man roster.

As far as trades go, the possibilities are endless, and it’s tough to guess which clubs the Dodgers would be communicating with. Speculation in these regards is often futile.

Nevertheless, the are a few free agents still on the market. Two that come to mind right away are lefty Dallas Keuchel and righty reliever Craig Kimbrel.

Kimbrel made $13 million last year with the Red Sox, and the rumors that began to circulate last November suggested that the 30 year old was seeking a contract in the neighborhood of six years and $100 million. Many find those numbers laughable, especially when considering his age. We could debate for hours about whether or not his numbers warrant a salary in the $16-17 million range, but in the end, the question remains as to whether or not the Dodgers are willing to blow past the threshold.

There are a bunch of different versions out there, but my numbers have the Dodgers’ 2019 CBT total right around $195 million. The threshold for the 2019 season is $206 million. There’s a window there for bonuses and incentives—see Kenta Maeda‘s deal—but any way you apply the numbers, a Kimbrel signing would certainly blow the Dodgers past the cap.

Both Keuchel and Kimbrel are similar from an age and salary standpoint. Keuchel is just one year older and made just slightly more—$200K to be exact—than Kimbrel last year.

Keuchel has shown that he can chew up innings, and he could conceivably add some depth and dependability to a Los Angeles rotation that’s already feeling the effects of the injury bug. His career 3.66 ERA and 3.72 FIP aren’t overly appealing; however, the Oklahoma native is just one year removed from a 14-5 record with a 2.90 ERA and three seasons removed from a 20-8 record, a 2.48 ERA and a Cy Young Award.

Up until the time when suggestions were made that the Dodgers might seek help from the outside, I admittedly thought there was absolutely no chance at all about signing a free agent who could make a positive impact. There’s still quite a bit of depth within the system, although many of the arms are still unproven. Plus, the structure of the 40-man roster is quite complex this year. Besides, Friedman is famous for waiting to the summer trade deadline to make any necessary upgrades, giving his club several months to gel and establish some sort of identity.

Regardless, the possibility of signing somebody like Kimbrel is intriguing.

At the end of the day, though, there might only be room for one pitcher with the initials of CK on the Los Angeles roster, especially if the guy on the outside is still making exorbitant demands in the $100 million range.


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