Apart from retaining both Clayton Kershaw, who signed a a two-year extension, and Hyun-Jin Ryu, who accepted a qualifying offer, the two-time defending NL champion Dodgers have had a quiet offseason thus far. They have several needs to fill, with catcher, second base, and the bullpen being the most glaring, and they’re particularly deep both in starting pitching options and in the outfield.
On that note, ESPN’s Buster Olney reported thusly from Las Vegas this morning:
Dodgers have talked to other teams about moving two outfielders among the group of Kemp, Puig, Pederson, Bellinger, and as they look to re-shape payroll, they are also are prepared to move starting pitchers Rich Hill and Alex Wood.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 11, 2018
Dodgers have a plethora of good outfielders, and Bellinger is the one most coveted. But of course he’s the 1 Dodgers most want to keep. Puig, Peterson, Taylor, even Verdugo more available. Dodgers. match up well with both marlins and indians.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 11, 2018
Plus, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal mentioned the Dodgers and Reds discussing Yasiel Puig, that after Cincinnati recently plucked his mentor, hitting coach Turner Ward, away from Los Angeles. Rosenthal later added the name of Homer Bailey to the mix as a potential salary dump in a situation that would figure to involve prospects and a more complicated swap:
In one variation of this deal, #Dodgers would take back Homer Bailey from #Reds and his remaining $28M commitment as a way of buying prospects. Bailey’s CBT number (average annual salary in multi-year deal) is $17.5M. Deal complex, still in discussion, not close. https://t.co/y3yVs5Rpsf
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 12, 2018
And finally, DK Sports’ John Perrotto, who covers the Pirates, noted this:
— John Perrotto (@JPerrotto) December 12, 2018
To varying degrees, all of this makes some sense given the tantalizing rumors that have connected the Dodgers to high-profile players such as Indians starter Corey Kluber, Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto, and free agent outfielder Bryce Harper. Let’s break out the tools and build a table:
|Pitcher||2018 WAR||2019 Proj WAR||2019 Age||Control Status||2019 Salary|
|Rich Hill||1.9||2.8||39||Through 2019||$18M|
|Ross Stripling||2.3||0.8||29||Through 2022||$585,000**|
|Alex Wood||2.6||0.6||28||Through 2019||$9-9.5M*|
|Outfielder||2018 WAR||2019 Proj WAR||2019 Age||Control Status||2019 Salary|
|Cody Bellinger||3.6||3.9||23||Through 2023||$600,000**|
|Matt Kemp||1.6||0.5||34||Through 2019||$21.5M|
|Joc Pederson||2.7||2.9||27||Through 2020||$4.25-4.3M*|
|Yasiel Puig||1.8||3.1||28||Through 2019||$11.3-12.5M*|
|Chris Taylor||3.1||2.4||28||Through 2021||$3-2-3.5M*|
|Alex Verdugo||0.2||1.0||23||Through 2024?||$555,000 **|
The WAR projections on our Depth Charts page come with some caveats. The oft-injured Hill’s projection is based upon 159 innings, even though he has averaged 134 in his two full seasons with the Dodgers, while Wood’s is based upon just 58 innings in a swingman role, including 26 appearances but just six starts; he’s averaged 152 innings over the past two seasons. Similarly, Stripling is projected for just 68 innings in six starts and 30 relief appearances, while the projection for Verdugo (the Dodgers’ No. 3 prospect and the game’s No. 49 overall according to the fancy board put together by Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel) is based upon just 43 plate appearances at the major league level. Prorating Wood to 150 innings yields 1.6 WAR, doing so for Stripling yields 1.8 WAR, and doing so to 300 PA for Verdugo yields 0.5 WAR.
That’s a whole lot of talent and control on the table, and it doesn’t even include their pair of catching prospects, Keibert Ruiz and Will Smith, one of whom could be moved as well. So the Dodgers have a veritable plethora of options as they try to navigate under the $206 million Competitive Balance Tax threshold if they so choose (Cot’s Contracts pegs them at $190 million and counting). One can envision, for example, the inclusion of Kemp in a trade involving Pederson (or, though it’s much less likely, Bellinger, as they’d probably have to be bowled over by an offer to deal the former NL Rookie of the Year), with the Dodgers picking up some portion of his remaining salary. The Indians and Dodgers are known to have discussed Puig in the past, and according to MLB.com’s Jon Morosi, have shown interest in Verdugo as well. In addition to his skill as a player, Puig could also appeal to the Marlins given Miami’s large Cuban population and the team’s recent rebranding to emphasize the city’s heritage; after all, it’s not like [squints at roster] Peter O’Brien is going to put butts in seats.
Meanwhile, the likes of free agents such as second baseman DJ LeMahieu and reliever David Robertson have been connected to the Dodgers as well, so it seems like it is only a matter of time before they commit to a path and light up the transaction wires.
Brooklyn-based Jay Jaffe is a senior writer for FanGraphs, the author of The Cooperstown Casebook (Thomas Dunne Books, 2017) and the creator of the JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score) metric for Hall of Fame analysis. He founded the Futility Infielder website (2001), was a columnist for Baseball Prospectus (2005-2012) and a contributing writer for Sports Illustrated (2012-2018). He has been a recurring guest on MLB Network and a member of the BBWAA since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @jay_jaffe.