Is Kris Bryant a Good Fit for Dodgers?

kris-bryant-cubs
(New York Post photo)

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.

 

15 thoughts on “Is Kris Bryant a Good Fit for Dodgers?

  1. I go back and forth about pitcher vs righty bat, but I think I’m settling in on the high-end starter as my number 1 priority. Our starters’ ceiling as a group is terrific but if we go into 2020 with a rotation of Buehler, Kershaw, Maeda, May, Urias it could all go very wrong. Kershaw is sliding a little more every year, although still a decent starter. Maeda has already proven to be a better reliever than starter. Urias has pitched relatively few innings as a starter and even if he pitches well in that roll he may tire toward the end of the summer. May, same as Urias but even more so. Basically we can depend on Buehler and even he doesn’t have a long enough record to be sure of. Start with going after Cole and work downward to Strasburg, Ryu and Wheeler from there. Problem is Cole may be the last to sign, so I immediately try to sign Ryu or Wheeler and then still go after Cole. If signing both means we need to reduce payroll there are lots of possibilities, Joc and Maeda among the most logical.

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    1. A couple reasons I think a Rendon signing could make sense is 1.) 2020 is the final year of JT’s contract and 2.) there really isn’t any other stud third baseman in the system. Two or three years ago I thought Santana could be the answer, but he wasn’t even included on the 40-man to prevent him from being snagged in the Rule 5 draft. Kody Hoese could have a chance, but he has a ways to go. In the same breath, maybe a transition to third for Seager was in the plans all along.

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      1. We definitely don’t seem to have a deep pool of 3rd basemen in the system and Hoese is definitely not close yet. I just checked the free agent list for next winter. Nothing, unless you want to sign DJ LeMahieu and make him your third baseman. Soooooooooooooooo…………………….we could sign Rendon and not have to worry for the next 6 years or so. We could trade for Bryant and hope Hoese is ready in a couple of years or Bryant re-signs. We could sign Donaldson (probably 3 years). We could hope Seager is willing to take over third in 2021 and then re-signs after 2021. We could trade for someone next winter (Arenado, Suarez, Ramirez, etc.). All in all, it seems as though Rendon is the easiest way to go if we’re willing to spend the money. But I’d still rather spend the money on pitching if there is only one choice and then find a third baseman next winter.

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      2. Oh, so you didn’t hear the Rams announcement a few minutes ago? 🙂 They’ve actually signed Kaeprnick to finish up this year since it’s obviously a lost cause anyway.
        Rox are totally screwed salary wise. We’d be doing them a favor to take Arenado off their hands. Or, if they want to keep him, I’ll take Trevor Story.

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    2. Is Kris Bryant a good fit for the Dodgers?

      In a word, yes.

      But I don’t want to trade for anyone yet. We got money now. Identify the free agents we need and sign them. We can trade for players we need later. In the mean time, let’s see how much closer our top prospects can get.

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  2. After seeing the defensive numbers on Bryant, I’m not really on the Bryant bandwagon any more. Trade for Lindor, and move Seager to third, or spend the money to sign rendon.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think the Dodgers should trade Ruiz, Lux, Pederson and others for Lindor and Kluber then move Seager to third and JT to first. Then resign Ryu and work on the bullpen next.

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  4. THIS is what I have been saying about Yimi for two years now.

    Just look at his fastball placement chart. It says it all:

    https://www.dodgersnation.com/dodgers-3-things-yimi-garcia-should-focus-on-in-the-off-season/2019/11/22/

    That hot spot is what we call cookies. Unless those come in at 105 mph or with a spin rate of the planet earth Major League hitters will, and did, turn them around.

    Yimi has the stuff to be a successful late inning reliever. Move that hot spot up or down 8” and watch what happens.

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      1. It absolutely is the thing. How does the new pitching coach change the thing? It’s THAT pitch that is skewing all the important numbers in his metrics. The simple answer is – don’t throw it. Take that pitch and aim it at the catcher’s knee guard or the umpire’s mask. You need a strike throw something else.

        I don’t know how the coaches and catchers approach this issue in training. I know what I would try with younger players and that is learn to hit the catcher’s mitt wherever it is placed, then set the catcher up on the edges. Once that is mastered you can change it up some. As I got older when I noticed hitters glancing back we had a signal to bust his knuckles. Umpires always set up plate side behind catchers. Those pitchers who can hit their spots can aim at anything other than the glove and hit it. With catcher set up out and low I would often aim it at the dark blue behind the catcher, which was up and in. “Hit your spot” doesn’t always mean hit the glove. Maybe in Little League but not in the Majors.

        I don’t know why Yimi’s fastball hot zone is center cut but I do know he needs to move it or he’s in for a whole lot of you ain’t seen nothing yet. If I know his fastballs are cookies you can bet Major League hitters know it and will sit on them.

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  5. ted You’re awful aggressive, but that’s not to say it couldn’t work, everyone you propose to trade has somebody else to play their position. I don’t see the Ryu part as much, I think if they brought in kluber , they wouldn’t sign a Ryu , and maybe an unhappy maeda goes in as part of the package.
    You are not going to be very popular around here trading lux, seems people around here think he’s untouchable. I would have no problem making him part of a deal that nets me Lindor, and kluber.

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