Dodgers GM Ned Colletti
As the season winds down and rumors start to float about what kind of moves might be made heading into next season, it’s time to take a look at what the Dodgers might do prior to the 2014 season.
While we’re not overlooking the end of this year—the team has a legitimate chance to win the World Series for the first time in 25 years—front offices are always prepared to act the moment the season ends, so a quick primer on what might happen is useful.
With the assumed addition of Cuban defector Alexander Guerrero, the Dodgers will not need to resign Ellis, who at this point in his career is a limited player. His bat is no longer what it once was (.674 OPS), and he is restricted to playing second base, so he doesn’t have the same utility as other bench types who can also play shortstop.
Kershaw is arguably the best pitcher in baseball. He has led the league in ERA each of the last three years, and he is still just 25 years old. There have been rumors surrounding his basically-inevitable extension, and the idea that a team clearly swimming in money could let someone of this caliber hit the free-agent market just seems ludicrous.
The Dodgers will agree to terms with their ace, and it will likely be in the $30 million-per-year range, which would set a record.
Matt Kemp’s repeated trips to the disabled list have caused many people to forget this, but the Dodgers still have a logjam in the outfield. With Yasiel Puig and Carl Crawford, the Dodgers have two virtually untradeable players, although for different reasons: Puig is the budding superstar getting paid an average of just $6 million per year and Crawford is an aging player limited to left field and still owed over $80 million.
This leaves Kemp or Andre Ethier. I do not believe that bringing both back is an option, as they are both highly-paid and at the point in their careers where neither will want to be a fourth outfielder. At this point in the season, though, there has been no indication as to which will be dealt.
Robinson Cano was the only potential big-money signing out there for the Dodgers to pursue, but with the aforementioned acquisition of Alexander Guerrero, Cano is likely off the table. With no obvious top-of-the-rotation starters or third basemen available (the complete list of 2014 free agents can be found here), there isn’t another clear hole for the Dodgers to fill.
But that’s not to say that the team will stop spending money. Two of the best players in baseball—Kershaw and Ramirez—will soon be extended.
There was a point in the season when no one expected Mattingly to make it out of the month of May with a job, let alone into 2014. This was with good reason: as the above article discusses, it’s very difficult to criticize your bosses and not get fired. However, Dodger management stayed its hand, and the team has rewarded its patience with a charge up the standings.
The Dodgers have a 2014 club option on Mattingly, and after the success of this season, they have to exercise it. However, they should also sign him to an extension. He has proven that he has the ability to manage a winning team, and he should benefit. Despite the fact that we don’t totally know everything that a manager does, Mattingly clearly has a good influence on this particular group of players.
Ramirez has been one of the best players in the major leagues when he’s been on the field (4.8 WAR in 78 games, per FanGraphs), and he and the Dodgers have made recent noise about a possible extension to his current deal that expires after 2014.
Now, it is unlikely Ramirez will remain at shortstop. He’s already massive at age 29, and he will lose lateral quickness as he gets into his 30s. But his bat (career .301/.372/.505 line) will play at third base as well, so the Dodgers do not need to worry about him potentially being an albatross right away.
Before this season, expecting Uribe to be back with the team in 2014 would have been foolish. He was coming off back-to-back seasons with an OPS+ in the 50s, and he was entering his mid-30s—an age when it was not unreasonable to suggest that he would just never be good again.
However, he has had a remarkable resurgence, posting a .276/.332/.421 line that is actually above his career totals. Per FanGraphs, his 112 wRC+ (a cumulative offensive measure where 100 is league average) ranks eleventh among all third basemen with at least 350 plate appearances, a number that would have been shocking coming into this year.
The possibility exists, of course, that this was simply the baseball player’s equivalent of the dead cat bounce. But given the lack of real options on the market—the best free agent third basemen are Uribe, Kevin Youkilis, and Michael Young—I expect the Dodgers to bring Uribe back on a relatively cheap one-year deal.