After suffering a disappointing loss in the NLCS against the Chicago Cubs the Los Angeles Dodgers will look to switch gears and start to weigh their options for the offseason. What area should the Dodgers address in order to reach the World Series in 2017? Before we get to that keep in mind that they had the largest payroll with approximately $279 million committed this season.
It is safe to say that they will be looking to shed some salaries in order to bring down the cap. Having said that, the Dodgers should still address three key areas.
Re-signing key players:
In recent years we have noticed a theme with the current Dodgers regime. Andrew Friedman and company want to get younger, are reluctant to sign aging players to long contracts and want to shed payroll, which is understandable. This will be another difficult offseason for the team, as they will have to make a difficult decision of either re-signing two key players that contributed to their success this season.
Namely, 3B Justin Turner and closer Kenley Jansen. Turner led the team in home runs (27) and RBIs (90) this season, not to mention his defensive prowess and is a valuable leader in the locker room. What will complicate Turner’s contract situation is that he will turn 32 years old during the offseason and as I listed above management will be very careful with the type of contract they will offer Turner.
According to spotrac, they have Turner rated as the eighth best 3B and his market value is around $12.8 million/year. But he will likely command more if he hits the open-market as teams will line-up to sign Turner after a stellar regular season. In this situation Turner slightly has the edge on the Dodgers as they do not have any prospects that is ready anytime soon, let alone offer the same production that Turner can. It is likely, that Turner will command top-3 3B money without any fuss but the difficulty will be deciding the length of the contract, which could be the make or break.
Next, Jansen will also be due for a raise. Jansen had a masterful season where he was leaned on heavily during the regular season and playoffs. He had a 1.83 ERA, with 104 strikeouts and 47 saves (career-high). In my opinion, he is arguably the most valuable asset on the team next to ace Clayton Kershaw and Jansen should be retained for two reasons. One, he is arguably one of the best closers in the league and two, you do not want him to be swooped up by a division rival, especially the San Francisco Giants.
According to spotrac, Jansen is ranked the second best closer in the MLB and has a market value of about $13.2 million/ year. Like Turner, you will probably see Jansen get paid more than the approximate market value listed. He will probably get closer to $15 million/ year mark but this valuation could change based on the free-agent market.
Replacement at second base:
The Dodgers will need to start looking for a replacement at 2B, given the age of Chase Utley and the regression he showed this season. It is more than likely that the Dodgers will part ways with him or if retained he will have a diminished role on the team.
Next question is, who will replace Utley? Well, the Dodgers still have Howie Kendrick who is signed till the conclusion of the 2017 season. But the Dodgers might want to leave Kendrick in LF. Which leaves only one of two options. Call up #4 prospect Willie Calhoun who is now in Triple-A Oklahoma City or sign/trade for a more accomplished 2B. The Dodgers are very high on Calhoun but they may not want to rush his progress and allow Calhoun to develop more. So the Dodgers will likely want to trade for a guy with a short term contract with an impact bat to bridge the gap.
A great candidate could be Detroit Tigers 2B Ian Kinsler who has two years $21 million left on his contract including a second year club-option. Although, he is 34 years old it hasn’t seemed to have slowed him down. Kinsler recorded .288 with 28 home runs and 115 RBIs. He would have easily led the team in multiple offensive categories.
Add pitching depth:
The Dodgers have had difficulty with their starting pitchers staying healthy over past two seasons. Brett Anderson has had back issues, Brandon McCarthy came back from Tommy John surgery but was again sidelined by a bothersome hip and the health of Hyun-jin Ryu’s shoulder is still in question after having multiple setbacks.
At this point, the only real lock to start is:
Scott Kazmir* (has player option and can opt out)
Alex Wood (might stay as relief pitcher)
Assuming Kazmir opts-out of his current contract the Dodgers will be thin behind the starters. They do have some starters in the minors like right-hander Jose De Leon and Brock Stewart but it may be smart to bring in on more guy from the outside.
Miami Marlins pitcher Andrew Cashner may be a good fit. He is not a frontline starter but he is 6’6 and has a nice four-seam fastball and outstanding slider when he is zoned in. Cashner is not a heavy strikeout guy but gets a lot of ground ball outs and can grind out innings. What more can you ask for than that from a back-end pitcher? Plus, he may look a little better as the Dodgers can provide him with run-support and defense that he didn’t have with the San Diego Padres.
Lastly, the bullpen may not be a huge concern as they have many young capable players in there already.
The Dodgers should still have the core of their team intact. It will be interesting to see how they handle the contract situation of Turner and Jansen.
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