Every single Dodger fan remembers how the Dodgers’ 2017 ended. It’s not something many people want to talk about or remember, and nobody can blame them. This past season was “absolute madness” from beginning to end. It was a season that fans will remember forever and a season that will always sting. So, let’s do the only thing we can, and move forward.
Coming into 2018, the Dodgers had cleared a good chunk of payroll and received an old friend back, and they let the second pitcher ever to pitch in all seven World Series games, sign with a newish rival. There’s been moves this offseason that most people may have not wanted to see, but they’re the right moves.
Brandon Morrow pitched in all seven World Series games and 14 out of 15 playoff games in 2017. He was incredible, to say the least. When the Dodgers needed him he was available. He was a great setup man for Jansen and possibly the best in the league last year. He was a free agent after the season and signed a 2-year, $21 million contract with the Cubs and that one was tough, because it was the Cubs. Sure he was a great setup man, but after the World Series alone, his arm has to be feeling it. All the best to Morrow, but $21 million to a setup man is too much.
The Dodgers paid Andre Ethier $2.5 million and allowed him to become a free agent, when they declined his 2018 club option. This one was tough as a loyal fan, but this move was huge for the payroll as well as the playing time. The outfield was too overcrowded and honestly, Ethier wasn’t worth $17.5 million. Keeping a player just because he’s a fan favorite and has been there his whole career is exactly why fans can’t be GM’s. I get it, everyone wants to be loyal to their favorite players. But, when it comes down to it, winning a World Series is the ultimate goal and baseball is a business.
Yu Darvish, Tony Watson, Chase Utley, Curtis Granderson and Franklin Gutierrez all became free agents after the season ended. Darvish, Watson, Utley and Gutierrez are still free agents, while Granderson signed a 1-year, $5 million deal with the Blue Jays. Darvish is being looked at by a few teams, and it’s rumored the Dodgers are one of those teams. Watson, Utley and Gutierrez will most likely find a new home this offseason. If the Dodgers are interested in Darvish, I wouldn’t mind giving him another shot.
Grant Dayton and Josh Ravin were in the bullpen for the Dodgers in 2017, but both will be with the Braves in 2018. Dayton started off the season well with the Dodgers, but his injuries throughout the season affected his performance and his stay. Dayton was claimed off waivers, while Ravin was designated for assignment and then traded for cash considerations.
After the Braves grabbed these two players from the Dodgers, they made a trade that shook up the baseball world. The front office managed to unload Adrian Gonzalez, Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy and Charlie Culberson to the Braves for Matt Kemp. The Dodgers also had to throw in $4.5 million. This trade was huge for the Dodgers payroll, because it allowed them to finally get under the luxury tax threshold. By trading away Gonzalez, Kazmir and McCarthy the Dodgers were able to get rid of close to $50 million in payroll, while taking back about $20 million for Kemp. This trade will save the Dodgers millions in luxury tax and also unloaded players who they no longer needed. Gonzalez was quickly released from the Braves and agreed to a 1-year deal with the Mets this last weekend.
Besides the front office looking like geniuses and getting below the luxury tax threshold, the Dodgers still have Matt Kemp. Kemp being a Dodger again is a weird feeling, but I also doubt the feeling stays long. Kemp seemed to have left the Dodgers on some negative terms and he also made a comment saying he had “never played in a baseball town before,” when he was traded to the Braves. Not to mention, he just isn’t the same player anymore and his defense is a totally different story. With an overcrowded outfield it’s hard to see the Dodgers giving Kemp any real time as a Dodger again. But, if the Dodgers aren’t able to trade Kemp I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw him in uniform on Opening Day. Stranger things have happened before.
Tom Koehler, Henry Owens, Dylan Baker and Scott Alexander are all pitchers the Dodgers have acquired this offseason; Koehler was signed as a free agent to a 1-year, $2 million contract; Owens was claimed off of waivers; Baker was traded from the Brewers for a player to be named later or cash considerations; Alexander was traded from the Royals in a three team trade that also included the White Sox. Alexander’s trade was the only deal that really “cost” the Dodgers anything and even then, it still really didn’t.
The trade Alexander was in, also brought over minor league infielder Jake Peter. Alexander came from the Royals and Peter came from the White Sox. With this trade the Dodgers sent Luis Avilan to Chicago and sent Trevor Oaks and Erick Mejia to Kansas City. Oaks was a prospect that had a lot of potential to do well in the major leagues, but the Dodgers are in a win now mode and Alexander help fills a hole in the bullpen. Avilan didn’t have the best season with the Dodgers, so as of now, Alexander looks like an upgrade to the pen.
The Dodgers agreed to 1-year contracts with Grandal, Baez, Fields, Kiké, Cingrani, Wood and Pederson to avoid arbitration. All seven returning players are important to the Dodgers roster and helps keep a lot of the same team intact from 2017. They also signed Yimi Garcia to a 1-year contract to avoid arbitration as well. Garcia didn’t pitch in 2017 due to Tommy John surgery, but is expected to be an important piece to the bullpen when he returns. The player I find interesting here is Yasmani Grandal. With Austin Barnes having a breakout season and Kyle Farmer getting called up, it leaves room for the question; will Grandal stay with the Dodgers in 2018?
This offseason has been fairly slow in most regards, but for once, I’m fine with this. The Dodgers were one game away from winning the World Series. The only players they lost of any value were Darvish, Morrow and Culberson. When Darvish came to the Dodgers it was strictly for the playoffs. After dominating in the NLDS and NLCS, he fell apart in the World Series. Astro players said he was tipping his pitches and that’s why they were able to tee off on him. Morrow was a big piece from early on and will be missed from the bullpen. However, bullpens are constantly changing and the Dodgers just made Morrow their setup man in 2017. There’s no reason to think they can’t do the same thing with someone else. Culberson didn’t have an impact on the regular season, but was a big part in the NLCS when he had to play for Seager at shortstop the entire series. All three of these players can be replaced with Darvish being the most difficult. Even without Darvish, the Dodgers still have a pretty good rotation and are looking to add number one prospect, Walker Buehler, to the rotation in 2018 as well.
Almost every single key player from the 2017 season will be back to play in 2018. This is incredible when you think of what the Dodgers did in 2017. A lot of the key players for the Dodgers are still young and still have plenty of room for improvement. The 2018 Dodgers are looking just as strong as they did in 2017, if not stronger. I also wouldn’t count the front office out yet. There maybe a couple more trades or signings before Spring Training begins in 28 days, but if there isn’t I’m not worried at all.