Motivation

Dodgers have flexibility to make moves, but do they have motivation? – OCRegister

Written by admin

LOS ANGELES — Remember last winter? The Dodgers were viewed as locks to sign Bryce Harper or at the very least trade for J.T. Realmuto and Corey Kluber.

It didn’t happen.

Or the year before? The Dodgers were a frontrunner to land Shohei Ohtani and bound to trade for Giancarlo Stanton or Christian Yelich.

None of that happened either.

With the Winter Meetings about to begin, it has started again. As they head to San Diego for the annual festival of room service and rumors, the Dodgers are linked to top free agents Anthony Rendon, Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg and portrayed as trade suitors for young stars Francisco Lindor and Mookie Betts.

While they have spent to keep their own, the Dodgers haven’t signed a top-tier free agent since December 2012 when then-GM Ned Colletti landed right-hander Zack Greinke. Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman – still operating without any official announcement of a new contract – has wheeled and dealed plenty. But his offseason additions so far have topped out with catcher Yasmani Grandal, acquired during Friedman’s first winter with the Dodgers in December 2014.

So – is this the year the Dodgers make the annual winter dreams come true?

“I think there’s an outcome-based narrative of how things have happened versus things that we’ve tried,” Friedman said at the GM Meetings last month, denying that the Dodgers have a philosophical aversion to making the commitment it takes to land a star free agent of the Cole-Strasburg-Rendon level. “So we’ve tried to do certain things that haven’t worked out that maybe would have fallen more into that. In some instances, we’re glad it didn’t happen and in some instances, we wish it would have.

“I think for us, and I know it sounds like a cliché, but we really don’t have any hard-and-fast rules. 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.”

But discipline can be a handicap on the free-agent market. Three years ago – talking about the Dodgers’ efforts to re-sign Kenley Jansen, Justin Turner and Rich Hill – Friedman memorably acknowledged, “If you’re always rational about every free agent, you will finish third on every free agent.”

This offseason, the Dodgers are in a position to be a little less rational.

After leading MLB in payroll for four consecutive seasons, the Dodgers have reined it in, ducking under the luxury-tax threshold each of the past two. Heading into 2020, they have eight players under contract for approximately $80 million – a number that will go higher based on incentive bonuses. The ‘dead money’ of past years has largely been cleaned up though nine arbitration cases (topped by reigning NL MVP Cody Bellinger) will add $50 million or more to that total. That still leaves a long way to the luxury-tax threshold of $208 million.

“We talked when the offseason started about our jumping-off point going into the offseason was that we have payroll flexibility, a strong farm system and a group of talented players that had a chance to be here for a number of years. That is a strong foundation to enter into the offseason,” Friedman said. “So we have that flexibility whether it’s in the trade market or the free-agent market to aggressively explore ways for us to put ourselves in an even better position to win a championship.”

So they have the wherewithal to make a big move this winter – do they have the motivation?

Friedman accurately points out that the Dodgers could take their current roster, unaltered, into the 2020 season and “be a serious contender for a championship.” But the Dodgers have been serious contenders for years now without winning that elusive championship and that goal only seemed to get farther away with this fall’s first-round exit.

“I don’t feel like we need to shake things up just to shake things up,” Friedman said of the need for changes to put the Dodgers over the top. “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.

“But we’re open to exploring different ways to increase those chances.”

There are few areas of need-based concern on that roster.

Friedman acknowledged the bullpen as an area of perennial concern. The potential departures of Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill could send the Dodgers searching for starting pitching even beyond the top-tier talents of Cole or Strasburg – though the Dodgers’ wealth of young starting pitchers (Julio Urias, Ross Stripling, Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin) gives them the option of starting the season with one or more of those starters in the rotation and making a big add at the in-season trade deadline.

The Dodgers’ early contact with Rendon and Josh Donaldson signals a desire to balance a lineup that leans decidedly to the left – more than any desire to move Turner from third base (the best right-handed hitters on the market just happen to play third base).

“We have the flexibility to explore adding really good players at a variety of different spots which just increases our chances of doing that,” Friedman said. “We don’t have an acute need at any position where we’re like, ‘We have to get the best one who plays this position’ and kind of line up the candidates on the trade market or free-agent market.

“We’re able to paint with broader strokes.”

Let’s block ads! (Why?)


Source link

About the author

admin

Leave a Comment