For as quiet as the Dodgers have been in the player market so far this offseason, there certainly has not been a shortage of rumors.
It’s no secret that the Red Sox want to slash payroll in an effort to not repeat as a Luxury Tax offender for yet another year. The AAVs of four players alone—Mookie Betts, David Price, J.D. Martinez and Chris Sale—represents more than a combined $112 million for the 2020 season.
The Dodgers have been linked to Betts for quite some time now, and there have been a few recent reports saying that front-office boss Andrew Friedman has spoken to his rival execs in Boston about a potential deal for the outfielder over the last several weeks.
The problem with Betts, as we all know, is that he will become a free agent after the upcoming campaign. That being the case, it’s extremely unlikely the Dodgers offer anything of overwhelming value to the Red Sox in return—at least in terms of something that might spark the interest of the folks in Boston. It’s rumored that the Red Sox really like catcher Will Smith alongside a few other Los Angeles prospects, but an exodus of Smith would leave the Dodgers scrambling for a MLB-ready replacement catcher on the active roster.
Obviously, Boston wants to stay competitive, so the chances of the Red Sox accepting a package consisting of mid-to-lower tier prospects would be slim. While the Dodgers would certainly re-align their outfield to make a home for Betts, the principles simply do not make sense for Friedman, unless he can come away with a steal, which is highly improbable.
In the greater scope of things, at least in the eyes of Friedman, Francisco Lindor and two years of control could theoretically outweigh one year of Betts.
Recently, there have been a number of whispers saying that Los Angeles could be a conceivable landing spot for Price. The 34-year-old lefty still has three years and $96 million remaining on his contract. While it would certainly be a huge help for Boston if somebody else snagged the lefty, it’s not likely to happen even if the Red Sox ate part of the monstrous contract.
Friedman has ties to Price, as he selected the lefty as a No. 1 draft choice for the Rays back in 2007. However, an aging left arm—specifically the elbow—isn’t going to rekindle any past camaraderie. Between his elbow and an injured wrist last year, Price made just 22 starts while producing a 4.28 ERA and a 1.314 WHIP.
We could even compare some of the 2020 peripheral projections of somebody like Ross Stripling to Price, and Stripling would have him beat almost across the entire board. Furthermore, a full season of Dustin May or Tony Gonsolin would probably be a better option. Considering his age and money remaining on his contract, Price doesn’t have much value at all.
According to Baseball Reference, Price is projected to produce a 4.15 ERA with a 1.277 WHIP over 130 innings. Although the innings are significantly less, Stripling is projected to post a 3.80 ERA with a 1.237 WHIP with a lot less mileage on his arm.
Price does have some impressive performances in the postseason—specifically in the 2018 World Series—but there are no guarantees he will ever approach that kind of effectiveness again.
Nevertheless, that isn’t to say that Friedman couldn’t get creative and put something together similar to the Homer Bailey situation last winter. In that case, the deal turned out to be a bit of a salary dump that made sense for both the Dodgers and the Reds, although Los Angeles surely does not find themselves in a need to make that type of deal right now.
My best guess is that Friedman will make a strong run at Hyun-Jin Ryu regardless of how steady Ryu’s contract value continues to increase as the offseason progresses. Whether Ryu lands back in Los Angeles or not, there’s always the 2020 summer trade deadline to make roster adjustments—if they’re even needed.
The Los Angeles bullpen, though, may be an entirely different issue.