The baseball world descends upon San Diego beginning Sunday for the annual winter meetings, and the Dodgers figure to be in the middle of the heavy action on the hot stove. Here is what to look for from the Dodgers next week:
The Dodgers currently have either Zach Lee or Mike Bolsinger as the fifth starter on the depth chart, so look for that to be addressed in some way. From the sounds of things, the Dodgers are aiming toward adding an arm toward the front of the rotation rather than to the back, with rumored heavy interest in left-hander Jon Lester.
It is unclear when Lester will sign, with Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe saying Lester "prefers to clear up his situation prior to the winter meetings," while Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported a decision isn't expected before Monday.
For the Dodgers to secure Lester, it seems they will have to blow away the field, which includes the Red Sox and Cubs, with strong ties to each, especially in Boston, plus the Giants as well.
If the Dodgers lose out on Lester, it is unclear how they would proceed. They could try for Max Scherzer or James Shields, each of whom would cost a first-round draft pick (unlike Lester), or go into the mid tier for someone like Brandon McCarthy. Or the Dodgers could trade for a pitcher, which brings us to the team's most likely trade chip(s).
You can't swing a dead cat without hitting a team that has reportedly talked recently with the Dodgers about Matt Kemp — the Padres, Orioles, Mariners and Rangers are the latest to join the annual fray — but for obvious reason.
One thing is abundantly clear — at least one of Kemp, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford will not be Dodgers in 2015. There is no way the club will saddle manager Don Mattingly with that juggling act again, and with all outfielders healthy and no surgeries this offseason we would be talking an entire season of a disgruntled would-be starter rather than only a few months.
As Ethier put it Thursday when he told reporters that he wants to play every day, "We tried the way of platooning and all that stuff, and obviously it didn’t make us any more successful."
The Dodgers would love to move one of Crawford (with $62.25 million and three years remaining on his contract) or Ethier ($56 million over three years), but the rumors have swirled around Kemp because he would bring the most in return, by far, of that trio.
"It's something we're continuing to explore," general manager Farhan Zaidi said on Tuesday. "Obviously there is going to be some demand and some interest in those guys, and we're going to sort through those as they come through."
The front office's job is to build the best possible team, and that means maximizing the return for one of the outfielders. Just because the team is talking doesn't mean they will deal Kemp, who for the first time in three years will have a normal offseason workout program and no surgeries from which to recover.
Kemp hit .309/.365/.606 with 17 home runs after the All-Star break and was much closer to the dynamic player he was in his MVP-deserving 2011 campaign and even better follow up in April 2012 before hamstring injuries took their toll. He also has $107 million and five years remaining on his contract. I'm not saying that means he will or even should be traded, but Andrew Friedman, Zaidi, et al would be fools not to at least listen to what is out there. Jayson Stark of ESPN put it best
Exec of team interested in Matt Kemp says he still isn't convinced #Dodgers will deal him. Says "Ethier's still the guy they want to move."— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) December 5, 2014
The Dodgers already have roughly $194.5 million committed to 17 players in 2015, plus six more eligible for salary arbitration that will likely push that to about $215 million. That is before considering the addition of Lester or another starting pitcher.
The point is we don't know exactly how much the Dodgers are willing to spend on what will likely be a stopgap at shortstop, waiting for Corey Seager at some point in 2016. The targets sound familiar — either Jimmy Rollins of the Phillies or Alexei Ramirez of the White Sox via trade (both adding $11 million guaranteed money), through it's hard to see Chicago willing to dump Ramirez with no ready replacement since they appear to at least trying to contend with the addition of Adam LaRoche.
Free agents include the uninspiring duo of Jed Lowrie and Stephen Drew, or maybe Asdrubal Cabrera. The Padres non-tendered Everth Cabrera on Tuesday, and he might be an option though Buster Olney of ESPN reported the Dodgers aren't interested.
The in-house options to start at shortstop are all defensive: Erisbel Arruebarrena, Miguel Rojas and Darwin Barney.
A shortstop might come in return for Ethier or another outfielder, or perhaps the Dodgers get...
The free agent market seems a bit too hot for the Dodgers' liking, with the team balking at the sticker prices of Andrew Miller ($9 million per year for four years) and Zach Duke ($5 million per year over three years). Former Dodgers draft pick and Kershaw domino starter Luke Hochevar missed a year and also got $5 million per year (for two years) from the Royals.
The Dodgers already have acquired one failed starter in Juan Nicasio in hopes he might provide quality relief. Perhaps the Dodgers can acquire another via trade? Maybe a bad contract swap is the way to dump Ethier, maybe for someone like Ubaldo Jimenez, due $38.75 million over the next three years. After all, Jimenez didn't pitch for the Orioles in the postseason and Baltimore has lost outfielders Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis to free agency.
That swap — pure speculation, by the way — might not happen, but the next week or so figures to be active for the Dodgers. The hot stove season is ready to reach a full boil.