What does a team that has everything but still cannot get out of its own way in the playoffs need? Why more talent, of course!
The Los Angeles Dodgers, who look to be resembling the Houston Rockets and the Dallas Cowboys in terms of their yearly penchant of making it to the playoffs after a dominant regular season, only to crumble when the toughest of teams show up, are stuck and are in need of some serious roster upgrades. Gone are the days that this team relies on its sluggers to get it through games, now their pitching staff looks to be the leading facet of the team, and even that is not good enough.
Their regular-season run that they do every single season through the National League West division is pretty much a moot point once the end of September and the month of October roll around, as they almost seem to forget how to play the sport of baseball. As good as they are in the regular season, some sort of switch ends up being flipped and is enough of a bump in the road that they are never able to recommit to winning the ‘ship.
With Hyun-Jin Ryu a free agent, Cody Bellinger coming off of his first NL Most Valuable Player award, and Kenley Jansen looking like nothing remotely close to the dominant closer that he once was, Dave Roberts’ team looks to be in a bit of shambles, even as they continuously make the regular season look like a pinata full of playoff-less prizes.
Always having the money to make runs at the best crop of free agents available, this year provides the team with a very interesting few decisions to be made.
On one hand, the likes of starting pitchers Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg, as well as third baseman Anthony Rendon, are out there and ripe for the picking. But on the other hand, taking a firm stance in the financial department, not budging if a top-flight player demands way too much money, and going after mid-tier replacement players to help fill gaps may be enough to push this team back over the edge.
President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman, who just recently signed an extension due to his old contract having run out at the end of 2019’s regular season, has publicly said that he is understanding of the copious amount of talent in this year’s free agency class, but he also understands that the monetary values of each player are tough to gauge but cannot blow this team’s payroll for the next four-plus seasons.
With that non-helpful bit of information in mind, here are three potential targets for the Dodgers as they move ahead into the 2020 Winter Meetings and free agency period.
Hyun-Jin Ryu – SP
Potential Deal – 2 years, $38 million
Resigning Hyun-Jin Ryu would actually represent the biggest move that they could make this offseason, even if his age, durability, and arm issues catch up with him before this contract runs out.
Ryu has been a real steadying force for the Dodgers in their rotation, pairing with incumbent ace Clayton Kershaw and young upstart hurler Walker Buehler to form one of the best regular-season rotations in the entire league. When the calendar turns to October and the Dodgers learn who they are facing in the postseason after winning the NL West divisional crown, the roster seems to forget how to play baseball in key moments, especially when looking at their rotation.
Teams will most certainly be courting Ryu as the free agency period moves on, but the Dodgers would be very smart to retain his services for at least two more seasons as they assess the next set of moves that they would like to make. Paying $19 million per season for Ryu will absolutely become a burden for their payroll as soon as the ink starts to dry on the contract, but ultimately it will be filed under a typical move that the Dodgers make, making the scrutiny look a bit less negative than it could potentially be.
Dallas Keuchel – SP
Potential Deal – 3 years, $45 million
Having produced a bounceback season after having to wait for a very, very long time into free agency before being signed by the Atlanta Braves, Dallas Keuchel would still be a great target for the Dodgers even if Ryu was brought back. Helping add a left-handed starting pitcher to pair with Kershaw would help bring some difference-makers into the rotation, and the Dodgers would not necessarily have to overpay for Keuchel as he makes his return to the type of pitcher that he used to be when pitching for the Houston Astros.
The ‘Big D,’ as his nickname is concerned, had a middle of the road season in 2019, winning and losing eight games each, while putting up a relatively-solid 3.75 ERA across 19 starts. Having mostly justified his one-year pact with the Braves, Atlanta is no worse by having brought him in for that one season, and he was able to recoup enough of his starter value to jump back into free agency and earn $10+ million on a long-term contract.
The Dodgers would be an excellent fit for Keuchel, as he would be able to help neutralize some of the NL’s best left handers, like Christian Yelich, Freddie Freeman and Eric Hosmer (among others), while keeping him away from their competitors to match up against Cody Bellinger and Max Muncy. For $15 million annual adjusted value across three seasons, the price for Keuchel is right.
Dellin Betances – RP
Potential Deal – 2 years, $20 million
Stealing from the New York Yankees always makes sense, right? Especially if it results in a bullpen weapon joining the NL and keeping him away from the American League, then yes, that decision is an easy one to make.
Off of his name and past alone, Dellin Betances should be able to wait for the highest bidder to come to him with a long-term deal, which most likely would involve the Dodgers. Needing help at the backend of their ‘pen, supporting Kenley Jansen and Joe Kelly with another right-hander would be an excellent choice for the Dodgers moving forward.
$10 million for a pitcher coming off of an injury may be a tough pill to swallow, especially if Betances is unable to regain his shutdown form early on in 2020. However, $10 million could turn into a bargain real quick if he is able to regain his dominating form at any point over his two-year pact, which would actually prove that the Dodgers threw money at a good player and did not just hope it stuck.
For the Dodgers, 2020 is an important year to see if they can finally get over the postseason horrors that they have experienced as of late. Going into a new decade may provide that sense of reflection and reset that they need, and bringing these three players into the fold or back again would be a great first step into making sure that they remain as dominant as they have ever been.