It’s Time for the Dodgers to Go Big-Game Hunting

The Los Angeles Dodgers have had a rather eventful offseason without making any significant free agent signings or trades. You can classify Clayton Kershaw’s restructured deal as one, but we all knew he was coming back. And he technically never really was a free agent.

The franchise has lost two coaches (third base coach Chris Woodward and hitting coach Turner Ward) while former general manager Farhan Zaidi left for a promotion with the rival San Francisco Giants.

All these moves have President of Baseball Operations, Andrew Friedman, feeling like an “HR director.” He knows he has to turn his focus to filling in critical roles within the organization, but that still has not stopped the front office from staying busy and show interest in free agent second baseman DJ LeMahieu.

However, there are reasons why the veteran would be a bad signing, with one of them being that the Dodgers need to stop going for what they perceive to be incremental upgrades that give them the best ‘bang for your buck.’

Their largest free agent signings have come via re-signing their own players: Clayton Kershaw, Justin Turner, Rich Hill, and Justin Turner. They have not gone out to sign any of the top free agents on the market. They did not even re-sign Zack Greinke, Yu Darvish, or Brandon Morrow (although the Darvish and Morrow decisions are looking great).

They prefer to find the biggest bargains on the market by looking for the diamonds in the rough. They did so with Max Muncy, Josh Fields, Chris Taylor, and Brandon Morrow. But that was not them being cheap. It was them seeing something no other organization did.

Signing LeMahieu would be reminiscent of the trades for veteran second baseman Logan Forsythe and Brian Dozier. Both were looked at as cheap upgrades at the position but did not pan out. LeMahieu has “bust” written all over him.

Los Angeles needs to improve its offense, and need to do so by taking advantage of the market they reside in. They have nearly limitless pockets and spending power, leading people to peg them “Yankees West.” And it’s time to live up to that moniker.

LeMahieu is an excellent defender, but the Dodgers already have capable defenders at second base with far superior bats in Chirs Taylor and Enrique Hernandez.

If they want to improve the offense, they have to go after the big fish available. And no, not Manny Machado. The franchise should let him walk. They need to make a run at free agent Bryce Harper and/or trade for catcher J.T. Realmuto.

Los Angeles is all about stars, and what better market and city for a flashy, brash, cocky, and supremely talented superstar such as Harper? The 26-year-old headlines a lauded free agent class and is coming off a “down year” where he had a .889 OPS and 34 home runs.

He is going to be expensive and reportedly turned down a $300 million deal from the Washington Nationals which shows just how much the Dodgers better be prepared to pay. But he’s shown he has the talent and youth to garner such interest.

In 2017 Harper had a 1.008 OPS with 29 home runs in 111 games and a 1.109 OPS with 42 homers during his 2015 MVP season. His career hasn’t been the most consistent, but his ceiling is high as anyone’s in the game, while his “down seasons” have still been good years.

Harper would bring consistency to a lineup that sore lacked it in 2018. He is the type of power bat who would take this offense to the next level. Something Manny Machado failed to do.

This is the type of deal the Dodgers set themselves up for last winter. They cut down on payroll and avoided spending anything in free agency to reset their luxury tax thresholds in 2018. Baseball-Reference estimates a $180.7 million payroll for 2019 after all costs, leaving room for a free agent or two.

In addition, at least $40 million comes off the books next winter when Rich Hill, Matt Kemp, and David Freese’s deals expire. Justin Turner’s $16 million comes off the next winter with Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen’s near-$50 million the winter after. It’s time to spend.

Regardless, tax costs should not be so much of a deterrent for such a financial power. You are in a big market with wealthy owners and have the best attendance in the game. They are doing fine; it’s time to make a splash.

The Dodgers made a big trade for Manny Machado this past summer, but they were able to do so because the prospect asking price did not cost too much. They did the same in 2017 for Yu Darvish. But both were pending free agents so did not require putting much of a dent into the farm system.

And maybe the Dodgers finally should. They have a hole behind the plate, and the game’s best catcher is there for the taking. Los Angeles has a deep system with two of baseball’s best catching prospects who aren’t ready to play yet. They can afford to package a deal to acquire J.T. Realmuto, who would boost the offense through 2020 at least.

It’s time for the Los Angeles Dodgers front office to stop leaning towards their small market mentality. They have done an excellent job of meshing a small market mindset with big market financials, but there are still times that they refrain from spending. It’s finally time to give in to that Hollywood mentality for once.

Their formula has come close the last two seasons. It just hasn’t been enough. The time has come to tinker with it a bit and make a power move to take them over the hump next season and seasons after. And it starts this winter.

 

Sports and food enthusiast. Love reading thriller and Comic books. Will talk almost any movie or tv show (more recent preferred), especially Westworld!

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