Seemingly, the fan base of the Dodgers is split as far as predicting whether the team will make a big splash this winter in terms of upgrading its player roster.
Some feel that boss Andrew Friedman and his troops will take the conservative approach in making a few menial acquisitions, while others believe the front office crew will go big in landing someone like Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg or Anthony Rendon.
Either way, for the first time in a while, there’s plenty of extra money on the books for management to spend, even if it means staying under the MLB Luxury Tax Threshold for the third consecutive season.
As it stands, $40 million seems to be a good ballpark figure regarding the excess funds while still avoiding the CBT. It could be enough to add one of the aforementioned superstars, or it could also afford Friedman and Company the opportunity to do some bargain-bin shopping for a multitude of different players.
Friedman himself says he has no set system in mind over the winter.
“I think for us, and I know it sounds like a cliché, but we really don’t have any hard-and-fast rules,” Friedman recently told Bill Plunkett of the OC Register. “We’re not opposed to any form of player acquisition. I think it’s just important to maintain some discipline whether it’s on the trade front or the free-agent market to find what works best for us.”
Last winter was interesting to say the least. The Dodgers wasted no time in signing Clayton Kershaw to a three-year contract extension, while Hyun-Jin Ryu accepted the club’s qualifying offer of $17.9 million not long after. Those two moves were significant in forming the core of the team’s 2019 starting pitching rotation.
At the Winter Meetings, which are sometimes the busiest point of the offseason with player transactions, the team signed reliever Joe Kelly to a three-year deal. Some folks felt that this move was a huge upgrade for the bullpen in securing a capable setup man, while others felt in was more of a menial move, specifically when noting the inconsistencies over Kelly’s big league career.
The same can be said when the club inked outfielder A.J. Pollock to a four-year deal.
Both of those moves turned out to be mostly insignificant, but that’s not to say neither player will not play larger roles in 2020.
Sandwiched between the Kelly and the Pollock signings was a deal with the Blue Jays that saw catcher Russell Martin return to the Dodgers. Once the smoke cleared on the trade, the Dodgers were on the hook for about $4 million of the veteran’s salary. This turned out as quite the bargain, especially in terms of having a bonafide leader in the clubhouse.
Of course, the big move occurred when the Dodgers traded Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Alex Wood, Kyle Farmer and cash to Cincinnati Reds for Homer Bailey, Jeter Downs and Josiah Gray a few days before Christmas. At the time, many expected this deal was a prelude to signing Bryce Harper, but it turned out to be basically a salary dump instead. Some felt that Downs and Gray would be immediately flipped in a subsequent deal; however, both have since thrived on the Los Angeles farm, finding spots ranked inside the team’s Top 10 prospects.
Regardless, there wasn’t much done to make the team significantly better. Pollock was mediocre when he was healthy, but he certainly didn’t fill the right-handed power gap created by the departures of Kemp and Puig. Kelly showed flashes of decency, but his inconsistencies prevented him from being trusted on a large scale. Both were terrible in the 2020 NLDS.
Although Friedman has no set plan this winter, he may find himself under much more pressure to make significant improvements to the roster, especially after the club’s early exit from the 2019 postseason. Whatever the case may be, he’s not showing his cards. As a matter of fact, he still has plenty of confidence in the core group that led the team last season.
“I don’t feel like we need to shake things up just to shake things up,” Friedman added. “I actually think this was as focused, committed and driven a group as I’ve been around. So I don’t feel like we need to shake up to change the complexion of our roster in terms of personality or talent.”
On the contrary, the opposite may be true. As other formidable opponents around the league have made strides early to improve their respective rosters, the Dodgers might soon be in a position to follow suit.