Oct 19, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo (44) scores a run past Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal (9) in the 6th inning during game four of the 2016 NLCS playoff baseball series at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Article continues below ...
It’s time to grade off-season moves in the latest Dodgers news.
With pitchers and catchers scheduled to report to Camelback Ranch on February 15th, the Los Angeles Dodgers appear ready to start camp with many familiar faces in 2017. But equally important to the composition of the ball club will be the new acquisitions, some of whom have gone under the radar.
After a National League West Division-winning 91-71 season in which manager Dave Roberts captured the manager of the year award, the Dodgers were two wins shy of their first World Series appearance since 1988.
The front office, led by Andrew Friedman, Farhan Zaidi and Alex Anthopoulous, was tasked with improving the club without sacrificing chemistry in 2017.
How did the front office perform this off-season?
Here are grades for each notable transaction during the winter months, chronologically presented.
Jun 20, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Seattle Mariners relief pitcher Vidal Nuno (38) pitches in the 10th inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Dodgers trade Carlos Ruiz to the Seattle Mariners for Vidal Nuño
Analysis: Nuño is a versatile left-handed relief pitcher that has bounced around – the Dodgers will be his fourth team in five seasons.
He has shown versatility and the ability to start in the past, and will be replacing J.P. Howell, the effective lefty who signed with the Toronto Blue Jays after a solid four-year run with the Dodgers.
It is a strong, if not certain, acquisition for the Dodgers who jettisoned the player acquired in the A.J. Ellis deal for a shot at Nuño, a Southern California native.
May 23, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers left fielder Howie Kendrick (47) hits into a double play on an RBI hit in the sixth inning against Cincinnati Reds at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Dodgers Trade Howie Kendrick to Phillies for Darin Ruf and Darnell Sweeney Season
Analysis: Kendrick is an affable teammate and all-around good ballplayer. He sacrificed his aspirations as second baseman to learn left field in 2016, and performed competently. That said, he was on the second year of a two-year, $20 million deal in 2017, and though the front office is not under a clear mandate to shed payroll, Kendrick was deemed expendable.
The two players acquired, Ruf and Sweeney, are each likely to start the year at AAA Oklahoma City, but both have Major League experience and could see time in Chavez Ravine this season.
Economics, a crowded outfield, and the need to fill the second base position with an everyday player were a strong trio of reasons to oust a very likable ballplayer in Kendrick.
Dec 5, 2016; National Harbor, MD, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Rich Hill puts on a Dodgers jersey at a press conference announcing Hill’s signing a three year contract during the 2016 MLB Winter Meetings at Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Dodgers re-sign Rich Hill for three years, $48 million
Analysis: It is almost unbelievable at the extent to which Rich Hill has turned his career around. Andy McCullough’s piece in the L.A. Times really illustrates his journey, and the likelihood that Hill, like Jamie Moyer, could essentially start his career in his mid-30’s and pitch until nearly 50 years of age.
That is precisely what the Dodgers are hoping, as three-year deals nearing $50 million are not exactly commonplace for pitchers that will start the first year of their contract at age 37.
Hill, however, is a different breed and has minimal mileage on his left arm – and considering that the $16 million price tag is less than the MLB qualifying offer amount – ensuring that this is a team-friendly deal.
It was also a deal the team needed to make from a depth perspective, as Kershaw is the only sure thing in the pitching rotation that is as injury-prone as it is deep.
Oct 3, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers relief pitcher Kenley Jansen (74) earns a save in the ninth inning of the game against the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium. Dodgers won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Dodgers re-sign Kenley Jansen for five years, $80 million
Analysis: This move was a necessity. If there was any question about Jansen’s dominance – and there should not have been, based on the seven years of Dodgers dominance and career 2.20 ERA – they were assuaged in the postseason.
Jansen pitched more than one inning in six of his seven appearances, including a hitless three-inning, four-strikeout performance in the clinching game of the NLDS vs. the Washington Nationals.
Jansen is as under-the-radar as a player in Los Angeles can be, tallying 127 saves over the past three seasons (second in the National league over that time span to Mark Melancon). The comparisons to Mariano Rivera are not hyperbole; $16 million per season is a fair figure for a closer of this magnitude.
Also worth noting — Jansen was married over the off-season, and being around Justin Turner, Yasiel Puig and Scott Van Slyke reaffirmed Jansen’s commitment to being a Dodger, and to enhancing the relationship of his teammates.
Sep 3, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner (10) hits a 2-run home run in the seventh inning of the game against the Washington Nationals at Dodger Stadium. Nationals won 8-5 in fourteen innings. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Dodgers re-sign third baseman Justin Turner for four years, $64 million
Analysis: In a deal regarded as a bargain by Sports Illustrated, smart by Yahoo Sports and bold by ESPN, the signing of the 32-year old late bloomer was regarded as a major priority for the organization.
Turner, who played solid defense and walloped a career-high 27 home runs in 622 plate appearances, looks to sustain his .832 OPS while playing top-ten MVP baseball.
The deal value is below Chase Headley’s 2016 deal with the Yankees, and Turner is a superior ballplayer. This was a strong signing for the Dodgers.
Aug 22, 2016; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Logan Forsythe (11) looks on from the dugout against the Boston Red Sox at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Acquiring leadoff hitter Logan Forsythe from the Tampa Bay Rays for Jose De Leon
Analysis: After failing to land the Minnesota Twins’ Brian Dozier, the Tigers’ Ian Kinsler, or the Rangers’ Jurickson Profar, the Dodgers relinquished one prospect (Jose De Leon) in a deal for second baseman Forsythe.
After trading Kendrick and facing the reality of starting Kiké Hernandez as the 2017 opening day second baseman, the front office decided that the 20-home run Forsythe was going to improve the team.
His defense is rated highly in the Defensive Runs Saved metric, and will be an improvement over Utley or Kendrick on both sides of the ball. He will be expected to lead off for the Dodgers, and should supply grit as a right-handed complement to Utley.
Oct 17, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Andrew Friedman is introduced as Los Angeles Dodgers president of baseball operations at press conference at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Dodgers trade Carlos Frias to Cleveland Indians
Analysis: The move was done mostly to break the logjam of starters chasing the fifth slot in the Dodgers rotation.
Frias lost the Spring Training competition last year to Ross Stripling, and also fell behind Brock Stewart in the organizational depth chart in 2016, leaving him pitching in only one game for the big league club.
Cash is always nice to have on hand, and Friedman & Co. are adept at making smaller decisions as larger ones loom on the horizon.
Apr 18, 2015; Kansas City, MO, USA; Oakland Athletics Ike Davis (17) at bat against the Kansas City Royals during the second inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
Dodgers sign free agent first baseman Ike Davis and free agent pitcher Brandon Morrow
Analysis: Ike Davis slammed 32 home runs for the New York Mets in 2012 and holds a career .742 OPS. He has been battered by injuries for the larger part of the past five seasons, and accrued 14 at-bats in the big leagues in 2016 with the Yankees.
Morrow was 1-0 with a 1.69 ERA in 18 games with the Padres in 2016. He holds a career 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings ratio, a testament to his ability and promise.
If the Dodgers can cultivate a role where Davis and Morrow contribute to the big league club in 2017, these quiet signings will be lauded come October.
Sep 24, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants relief pitcher Sergio Romo (54) reacts after the final out of the 9-6 win over the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Dodgers sign right-handed relief pitcher Sergio Romo for one year, $3 million
Analysis: Though Romo missed significant time in 2016 due to a flexor strain in his pitching elbow, his 2.64 ERA showed flashes of the dominant reliever that contributed to three World Series titles with the rival San Francisco Giants.
With a 2.58 career ERA and 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings, this appears to be an adequate replacement for the departed Joe Blanton.
And if Dodgers fans have a sense of déjà vu from the Brian Wilson era in Los Angeles, it’s understandable – the parallels are evident, though Romo’s career numbers portend a bit more optimism for the ball club.
Oct 10, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada (right) collides with Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Chase Utley (left) at second base during the seventh inning in game two of the NLDS at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Dodgers re-sign second baseman Chase Utley for one year, reportedly $2 million
Analysis: More than performance, Utley’s value is measured in intangibles. The quick, timeless hitting stroke; his slide versus the Mets; his influence on Corey Seager.
Though Utley brings much to the clubhouse, his best playing days are behind him. But the UCLA alum still contributes in the dugout and on the field and is valuable enough to have teams fighting over his services in 2017.
With 14 home runs and a .716 OPS in 2016, the 38-year old Utley will define ‘gamer’ for at least one more season in Los Angeles. This was a good signing for the Dodgers – as long as the expectations are not too high.
Jun 26, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners right fielder Franklin Gutierrez (21) looks up after hitting a three-home run during the sixth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports
Dodgers sign outfielder Franklin Gutierrez for one year, $2.6 million
Analysis: Gutierrez will be 34 years old on Opening Day. The Dodgers already have eight other outfielders competing for five spots. So why bring in the right-handed, one-time Gold Glove winner relying now on a late-career power surge?
Because amongst Hernandez, Ruf, Yasiel Puig, Trayce Thompson and Scott Van Slyke, there is not a right-handed bat that Dave Roberts can count on – and maybe Gutierrez is that bat.
With 10 home runs in only 98 games in 2016 and a .974 OPS in 2015 (albeit in limited playing time), Gutierrez provides some immediate pop and a veteran presence in a club that has meshed young and old with aplomb under the Friedman and Roberts power duo.
Aug 2, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Josh Reddick (11) bats in the second inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Gone: Left-handed relief pitcher J.P. Howell, right-handed set-up man Joe Blanton, left-handed starting pitcher Brett Anderson, outfielder Josh Reddick
Analysis: Reddick never fit in Los Angeles, looking overmatched during at-bats and struggling during the majority of his half-season with the club.
Howell was a strong, four-year presence who hit the proverbial wall in 2016. Anderson was never healthy and pitched to an 11.16 ERA, and while Blanton was a revelation as set-up man, the ghosts of years past caught up with him in the postseason. Each has been adequately replaced.
Oct 10, 2016; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts (30) in the dugout during the sixth inning against the Washington Nationals in game three of the 2016 NLDS playoff baseball series at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Analysis: Though the Dodgers did not make a big-name acquisition from outside the organization, they methodically checked off all of the boxes they needed to check to build off of their 2016 success.
What may be most important is that they only traded one prospect from their historically deep farm system. Since day one, Friedman, Zaidi & Anthopolous have stated that their intention is to build a dynasty from within.
Though they did not acquiesce to the rumors and acquire Dozier, Kinsler, Chris Archer or Justin Verlander, they did enough to improve upon their division-winning team.
By re-signing every key free agent they could have lost and adding a few strategic pieces, the Dodgers ensured that they will maintain the roster and payroll flexibility to head into the 2017 season in a strong position to make acquisitions as necessary.