Jan 08

Hot stove stagnating?

Jacob Rudner of Sports Illustrated says

Andrew Friedman needs to rethink his strategy. Instead of being reluctant and hoping the roster pans out for another year, there has to be some benefit in going and making the changes you need to make to get the roster to the promise land. After two years of reserved salary acquisition, the Dodgers roster is cheap enough that the team should be going all out for a trophy.

Michael Wittman of SI says

Yasmani Grandal on the other hand, is the best catcher left on the market.

While passed balls became an issue behind the plate towards the end of the season, Grandal is still a better backstop than 95% of the catchers in the league and he could be primed for a nice bounce back season in 2019, especially if the Dodgers get him back on a one year deal. Then he would help bridge the gap to Keibert Ruiz in 2020, while re-establishing his own market before hitting free agency again at the end of next season.

Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times is equally impatient

Because of their relative frugality last year, the Dodgers will be penalized as first-time offenders if their payroll for next season exceeds the luxury-tax threshold. And because they traded Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp to the Cincinnati Reds, they can take on another outfielder.

So where’s Bryce Harper?

Hernandez argues that the fans expect and deserve better than this sudden apparent unwillingness to spend on payroll given the higher ticket prices and inability to watch Dodgers’ games on television, among other things.

Dec 14

Roberts on rosters

Newly-inked manager Dave Roberts used his media availability requirement at the Winter Meetings on Tuesday of this week to answer a few questions:

On the position player side, Roberts said he expects Cody Bellinger to be an everyday player in 2019.

“Just the way he can defend and how he can affect a game and impact a game with his legs, with the bat, the goal is to have him out there and handle lefties and righties,” Roberts said.

“I think for Cody, it was a tough year,” Roberts said. “It was a grind for him with a slow start. But if you look at the surface line, it wasn’t bad. Now you kind of introduce the defense and the versatility, for a second-year player, still pretty good.”

But if you have Bellinger in the lineup every day, what position will he play? CF or 1B? “Reply hazy, try again.”

Well, what about Muncy? Kiké? CT3?

Roberts said Muncy, Chris Taylor and Kiké Hernández will all be options at second base, with Muncy also getting at-bats at first.

On the pitching side, Roberts said he sees Kenta Maeda and Alex Wood, who transitioned to bullpen roles by the end of 2018, as starters in 2019. Roberts said Ross Stripling will also compete for a starting job after an All-Star 2018 season.

I think Roberts was in a good mood, as shown by this:

On former Diamondbacks All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt going to the Cardinals:

“Goldy, he can stay in the (National League) Central as long as he wants. I’m trying to work on getting him to the American League next. But Goldy, one of my favorite players to watch. To get him out of our division is great. Hope he’s happy. I’ve got to send him flowers.”

Dec 08

Rumors, alarums and excursions

Over at MLB Trade Rumors Connor Byrne notes the recent Times story about Yasiel Puig’s ostensible “disgruntlement” about his diminished playing time last year. He also speculates about a Matt Kemp trade, but wonders how and to whom that might happen. So do I. I can’t imagine another NL team wanting the Bison, a 34-year-old outfielder who had an excellent first half of last year but then fell off drastically at the midpoint of the season. He did win the Players’ Choice Comeback Player of the Year Award in 2018 but was beaten out for the MLB one by Atlanta’s LHP Jonny Venters. He could be a useful DH for an American League team.

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Nov 08

Management turnover

Roberts extended.

“Nothing’s changed,” president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said at the GM Meetings here at the Omni La Costa Resort. “We remain extremely optimistic. We have just set it off to the side a little bit as we work through all of our coaches and the vacancies we have there. Nothing has changed from our vantage point.”

In addition to hitting coach Turner Ward and third base coach Chris Woodward, the Dodgers are also losing Danny Lehmann, their game planning and communications coach who was in uniform for games. And general manager Farhan Zaidi, who was introduced Wednesday afternoon as the San Francisco Giants’ new decision maker.

Friedman says the team’s only urgent need is catcher, presuming Grandal doesn’t accept the qualifying offer the Dodgers extended to him. Of the two players to whom those offers were made, Ryu is considered by observers to be more likely to agree.

This assessment of Grandal from Friedman is probably the same most Dodgers fans have:

“I would prefer a more even, level distribution,” Friedman said this week. “But I would also prefer how it has played out to most catchers in the big leagues. So.”

Former exec Jim Bowden speculates on who the Marlins’ Realmuto might be traded to and what he might bring in return. He thinks the Dodgers would have to give up Alex Verdugo and AA pitcher Dustin May. Incidentally, there’s a chart of MLB catchers sorted by WAR in that article: Realmuto’s 4.8 is the highest, but second is Grandal at 3.6.

Oct 30

Gather ’round the stove, y’all

We go into the offseason earlier than we hoped and without the ultimate prize, so who’s coming back to ensure we get back to the Series for the third consecutive year?

…the Dodgers retain their nucleus. Hill will return for the final year of a three-year deal he signed after 2016. Justin Turner and Jansen will be back. Max Muncy, this year’s breakout star, will be back and cost-controlled. Seager is expected to be healthy. A young nucleus of position players that includes Cody Bellinger, Chris Taylor, Kiké Hernández and Joc Pederson will also come back, with Andrew Toles and Alex Verdugo perhaps ready to take on bigger roles.

Kershaw or not, the rotation could post a combination of Buehler and Julio Urías that is currently a combined 45 years old.

Besides Kershaw, other free agents include Machado, Freese, Dozier, and Grandal. Despite the current dissatisfaction with Grandal,

…only J.T. Realmuto was a more valuable catcher by Baseball Prospectus’ WARP metric, and he is coming off the best offensive season of his career. He will be paid, and handsomely, as the Dodgers will look to find a catching partner to join the light-hitting Austin Barnes.

Beyond Kershaw’s decision, which must be made this week, the biggest question is whether Dave Roberts will manage the team next year. You’d think three consecutive playoff appearances and two trips to the World Series would make that question ludicrous, but baseball owners have done screwier things*.

To win the World Series, the Dodgers would have had to play better than they had for any seven-game stretch all season. Roberts would have had to nail every single decision, which he did not. Puig would have had to throw to the cutoff man, which he did not. Their pitchers would have had to pitch to their strengths, which they did not. Their hitters would have had to, well, hit.

“You have to realize that we are a really good team to get to go to the World Series two years in a row,” Kershaw said. “It might not be a personnel thing. It might just be a ‘play better’ thing.”

So, what’s next? Here are selected events from Major League Baseball’s calendar:

  • Nov. 2, 2018 Deadline for teams to extend qualifying offer to own free agents, 5 p.m. ET
  • Nov. 8-15, 2018 Japan All-Star Tour (including CT3)
  • Nov. 12, 2018 Deadline for players to accept or reject qualifying offer, 5 p.m. ET
  • Nov. 30, 2018 Non-tender deadline
  • Dec. 9-13, 2018 Winter Meetings in Las Vegas
  • Dec. 13, 2018 Rule 5 Draft

*Back in 1964 the Cardinals’ owner Gussie Busch fired the team’s entire senior management in August, leaving field manager Johnny Keane as sole survivor for the time. Shortly after the Cardinals won the World Series, Keane surprised management by resigning (and then being hired by the Yankees, who’d just lost to Keane’s former team).