Welcome to “Name Your Trade”—the fun, winter game where fans of the Dodgers scour the deepest depths of the hot stove to formulate which fantastic, but purely fictitious deal might benefit their favorite club heading into the 2020 season.
Admittedly, I’m not really big on hypothetical trades, as it’s hard to logically guesstimate what Andrew Friedman and the Dodgers have in mind as far as building the player roster goes, much less trying to figure out the needs of the many rival teams across the league.
Nevertheless, Kris Bryant‘s name came up in a conversation yesterday—if you missed the chat, you can find some of it in the comments section of Wednesday’s column. Anyway, I found the idea a prospective deal with Bryant intriguing. Based on the chatter earlier in the offseason surrounding the rumors linking the Dodgers to free agents Anthony Rendon and Josh Donaldson, I thought a deal that would gain Bryant’s services was worth exploring.
Probably the biggest thing holding prospective clubs from going all in on Bryant is the amount of time the team would have control over him. The 27-year-old third baseman/left fielder could potentially become a free agent after the 2020 season should he win an upcoming grievance. If not, he would be a free agent after the 2021 season. This could be the reason why his name is so frequently linked to this winter’s trade market.
Regardless, if it’s a bonafide, right-handed hitting bat the Dodgers are seeking to impact their everyday lineup, Bryant could be a great fit. Incumbent third baseman Justin Turner has already agreed to shift to first base in the event of a roster upgrade; but, there would be other roster consequences, like what to do with Gavin Lux should Max Muncy spend most of his time at the keystone.
Or, if plans to play Bryant in left field sound tempting, the club would need to decide the future of A.J. Pollock and/or Joc Pederson. Whatever the case may be, having Bryant hitting somewhere in the first five slots in the batting order would surely be an added boost to the Los Angeles offense.
However, if it’s defense that the Dodgers are prioritizing, Bryant definitely would not be the ideal acquisition. In 2018, his dWAR trickled into the negatives for the first time in his career. Last year, it got even worse at -1.5. In comparison, Turner’s dWAR was -0.6 in 2019.
Considering oWARs and dWARs, I thought it would be intriguing to compare all four of Bryant, Turner, Rendon and Donaldson from last year. Obviously, Rendon and Donaldson have the advantage as they were playing for contracts, but the findings are still interesting.
- Bryant—4.7 oWAR, -1.1 dWAR, 3.6 WAR, $12.9 million salary
- Turner—4.5 oWAR, -0.6 dWAR, 3.7 WAR, $19 million salary
- Donaldson—4.7 oWAR, 1.7 dWAR, 6.1 WAR, $23 million salary
- Rendon—6.4 oWAR, 0.3 dWAR, 6.3 WAR, $18.8 million salary
Obviously, Rendon provides the biggest bang for the buck here, but if we use a projected salary of $35 million for 2020, the numbers even out. Even though his dWAR is lower than Donaldson’s, Rendon is probably the best defensive third baseman of the group. The biggest factor surrounding Rendon, though, is the length of a prospective deal. He’ll almost certainly land a contract in excess of seven years, putting him beyond his age 36 season—something that certainly would be of concern to Friedman.
From a contractural standpoint, Donaldson may be the most interesting. He’ll turn 34 next month, so a three-year deal would put him into his age 37 season. Theoretically, he might be able to be scored on a two-year pact worth around $50 million—a much more friendlier figure for Friedman. Still, it certainly would not be prudent to bank on Donaldson maintaining or improving upon the numbers from his walk year.
In terms of comparing Bryant and Turner, I think I’d certainly take Turner, especially if the plan was to play either at third base regularly. Despite Turner’s recent decline with the glove, he’s still better than Bryant defensively. Consequently, Bryant may have more pop with the bat overall, but Turner’s career numbers in the clutch are huge. Lifetime with runners in scoring position, Turner has hit .309/.399/.470 compared to Bryant’s slash line of .265/.385/.474.
I realize I said in a conversation that I’d consider sacrificing Keibert Ruiz and Tony Gonsolin for Bryant, but based on these findings, surrendering those two prospects would be an absolutely ridiculous deal, especially if Bryant will only be around for just one season.
As much as an upgrade Rendon or Donaldson could be for the Dodgers, based on the risks involved contract-wise, the smart move might be to let Turner handle the duties at third next season for the final year of his contract.
In the end, taking the money that would have been spent on Donaldson or Rendon to upgrade the pitching staff (another topic for another column on another day) is probably the more productive move.