Before the weekend began, there was quite a bit of news circulating about the Los Angeles Dodgers. The organization landed several of the best international prospects on the market while a few of the arbitration-eligible players settled their respective contracts for the upcoming season. Two other players—pitchers Pedro Baez and Alex Wood—landed contracts with perhaps two of the franchise’s biggest rivals.
Additionally, there were whispers on Friday morning that the Dodgers were close to landing a deal with Justin Turner.
For as much as fans would like to see Turner return, there are some potential complications that might be holding up a deal, at least to a small degree. First and foremost, there is the seemingly imposing Luxury Tax Threshold, which the team will not surpass at all costs, especially when considering the financial hit the organization took last year due to the pandemic.
There’s no arguing that a Turner deal would be priceless. From the clubhouse to the community to his performance on the field, there are few MLB players who are more complete. In last Wednesday’s Inside the Dodgers newsletter, J.P. Hoornstra of the OC Register makes probably the best case that I’ve seen for Los Angeles to re-sign the 36-year-old veteran. (If you don’t subscribe to the free newsletter, I highly recommend it, as it would be well worth your time.)
Presently, the Dodgers’ estimated luxury tax payroll for the upcoming season is just over $206 million, according to a detailed worksheet at Fangraphs. The chart shows all pertinent information related to the payroll, including the most recent arbitration-related settlements. This is about $4 million shy of the $210 million cap, the point where the team would get hit with the initial round of penalties should it go over.
Obviously, this doesn’t give the team much room to make many more significant player additions for 2021 while still staying under the cap—specifically Turner, or even someone like Kirby Yates, who Ian discussed in detail in his column on Saturday.
Nevertheless, that does not mean that Turner is out. Front-office boss Andrew Friedman and his troops could specifically work out some type of player trade to adjust the payroll. With about four weeks still to go before the commencement of spring training, there is still plenty of time for more deals to be made.
Regardless, here are three possible scenarios outlining how things might currently stand between JT and the organization with regards to a new deal.
THERE’S ALREADY AN AGREEMENT IN PLACE
With all the reporting we’ve heard that a deal is close, there might be a possibility that both sides have reached a prospective agreement, at least in theory. There could be a chance that the team is waiting for a trade to happen— a deal that reduces payroll—before things become official.
There have been some suggestions that the Dodgers could potentially move some of their most burdensome salaries to clear space, specifically in the form of the $20 million owed to Kenley Jansen and the $8.3 million owed to Joe Kelly.
However, based on how some rival clubs have been handling their money so far, chances of another team absorbing the salaries of Jansen and Kelly are slim, particularly when considering the inconsistencies of both players in recent years. Still, if both Turner’s camp and the Dodgers are in agreement, it should not be overly difficult to finalize a deal—it just might take a little time. Trade possibilities are always endless.
BOTH SIDES ARE AT AN IMPASSE
Another possibility is that both Turner and the Dodgers might be at an impasse as far as negotiations go. This doesn’t mean that there’s not interest, it just means that either party is not willing to budge from their contract demands—for now, anyway. All indications show that in a perfect world, Turner would like to land a four-year deal, while some reports have revealed that the Dodgers are not willing to go beyond two years.
What’s interesting is that if the Universal DH is incorporated for the upcoming season, it might mean the Dodgers would consider changing their stance on Turner with regards to contract length. It seems like a match made in heaven, but there may be a ton of red tape involved in a final decision, as some pundits feel that owners could be using the Universal DH rule as a bargaining chip while they push for another expanded postseason in 2021.
NEITHER SIDE IS CLOSE
Maybe all the reports are inaccurate, and neither side is close on reaching a deal. If the team is unable to land Turner, perhaps the Los Angeles managers and coaches are content on starting the season with Edwin Rios at the hot corner, creating a potential left/righty-hitting platoon scenario with somebody like Chris Taylor or Zach McKinstry. In a not-so-ideal world, Max Muncy could handle the duties at third, should a situation present a need.
Conceivably, there could be a trade in the works for somebody like Kris Bryant of the Cubs, despite his apparent gradual defensive decline. Another option mentioned by José a few weeks back was Eugenio Suarez of the Reds. Furthermore, as we have seen in recent seasons, perhaps the team will wait until the 2021 summer trade deadline to evaluate its needs, then upgrade accordingly. This would give the team ample time to evaluate Rios, in addition to providing more of a window to decide if Kody Hoese is indeed the Dodgers’ third baseman of the future.