LOS ANGELES -- I picked a good time to attend my first meetings. Though the first two days started out slowly, the Dodgers' unrelenting flurry of activity in a period of less than 24 hours on Wednesday and Thursday made for quite a memorable experience.
For the first two days, everyone seemed to be waiting on Jon Lester to make a decision, with his choice affecting others' pursuits of players. The Dodgers missed out on Lester, but spent most of the first few days in a series of meetings with several teams and agents.
"We are in active dialogues on certain things where we could get things finished up in one phone call," general manager Farhan Zaidi said on Tuesday night.
Those phone calls came Wednesday, one after another after another.
First came report of the Jimmy Rollins trade, giving the Dodgers the shortstop they sorely needed at the terms they desired, with one year left on his contract and top prospect Corey Seager nearly ready.
Then, shortly after came news of Dee Gordon heading to the Marlins, one day after Zaidi tried to squash rumors the second baseman was on the block.
"We are not dangling him. He is our second baseman," Zaidi said. "He's a cost-controlled All-Star second baseman that teams would have for four more years. He's a tremendous player. Anybody like that, teams are going to ask us about. We can't control that."
Shortly after the trade with the Marlins broke, a deal that also sent Dan Haren and Miguel Rojas to Miami for a package of four, headlined by young starting pitcher Andrew Heaney and reliever Chris Hatcher, we spoke with manager Don Mattingly, who didn't attend this year's winter meetings due to the birth of his son just last week.
Mattingly said he was on board with all the changes made by the new front office, and hinted at more things coming.
"There is a possibility of some big changes," Mattingly said.
Those changes continued.
Before we could finish sorting out what Gordon's departure meant for Alex Guerrero's playing time, the Dodgers flipped Heaney for Howie Kendrick, completing the reshaping of the Dodgers' middle infield.
While I can't say I would have traded six years of Heaney for one year of Kendrick, in totality the upgrade at second base from Gordon to Kendrick is solid, with the three others from Miami helping to offset losing three more years of Gordon. Besides, Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said the Dodgers had the Kendrick-for-Heaney portion worked out with the Angels before even completing the deal with the Marlins.
That is the nature of these meetings, with every team wanting to make a deal regardless of whether they are in contention. Zaidi hinted as such on Tuesday night.
"This isn't really a true market with buyers and sellers. A lot of teams are playing the middle right now. When it's not just true buyers and sellers, it's all about fit positionally," Zaidi explained. "There are very few bilateral trade negotiations. Everything is becoming a three-way trade or a four-way trade as people try to fit the pieces together."
That's essentially how the Dodgers made their moves. Aside from the straightforward signing of pitcher Brandon McCarthy to a four-year contract, the Dodgers' four-trades essentially are a pair of three-team deals.
The Dodgers used Heaney from the Marlins deal to get Kendrick, and will reportedly use Zach Eflin from the Padres (in the Matt Kemp deal) to get Rollins.
On its face the Kemp trade has been received poorly it seems by Dodgers fans, who are understandably emotionally connected to one of the faces of the franchise for the last half-decade. But nothing happens in a vacuum.
This opens the door for the club to put Joc Pederson in center field, moving Yasiel Puig back to right. The club is better defensively in center, right, shortstop and second base, with upgrades offensively at catcher (with Yasmani Grandal, in whatever time split he has with A.J. Ellis) and second base. Will that offset the expected downgrade in offense from Kemp to Pederson?
Maybe, maybe not, but there is still time in the offseason, and another starting pitcher is surely on the way. The moves aren't done yet.
"Our ability to score runs is so intertwined with our ability to prevent them that there is a connection there. I'd be okay if we scored 200 runs if we allowed 100, just going to a crazy example. I'd be okay if we allowed 900 runs if we scored 1,300," Friedman said on Monday. "It's about us trying to construct the best 25-man roster we can, with the requisite depth behind it, to put us in the best position to start the season."
Speaking of preventing runs, Hatcher joins Joel Peralta and Juan Nicasio as quiet relief additions this offseason who figure to play a large role in the Dodgers bullpen, which was a weakness in 2014.
As for the payroll, the specific details might take a day or two to trickle in, but the Dodgers are sending a reported $32 million to San Diego to cover part of Kemp's salary, and sending roughly $12.5 million to Miami to cover Haren (whether he pitches or retires) and Gordon, but are also receiving some unknown amount from the Phillies for Rollins.
In terms of 2015, Rollins ($11 million) and Kendrick ($9.5 million) nearly offset Kemp's salary ($21 million), and the money for Rollins will likely roughly cancel out the money sent for Gordon. So thus far, the increase in Dodgers' payroll next year is essentially whatever McCarthy makes and whatever amount is sent in 2015 to San Diego for Kemp. If we assume for now that each year is equal for McCarthy's contract and for Kemp's money sent to San Diego, the Dodgers have added roughly $18 million in payroll in 2015.
The shear volume of moves at the winter meetings was amazing.
Five trades. One signing. 17 players involved.
There were 36 players on the Dodgers' 40-man roster after the three 2015 options were settled. Since then, 11 of those players are gone, plus two more were added then later removed (Ryan Jackson and Ryan Lavarnway), while 14 have been added from outside the organization.
That is quite a turnover in a short period of time, and again with plenty of offseason left for tweaking. Like it or not, Friedman, Zaidi and the gang have put their mark on the Dodgers' roster.