Previewing the Free-Agent Names the Dodgers Should Be Chasing This Offseason
As one would hope and expect for a team with a $241 million payroll this season, the Los Angeles Dodgers are well positioned going forward. Over past two years, general manager Ned Colletti has made several big moves that have filled previous holes: trading for shortstop Hanley Ramirez, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, and left fielder Carl Crawford, and signing pitchers Zack Greinke and Hyun-jin Ryu and right fielder Yasiel Puig.
Keeping those names in mind is important, because all the Dodger returning starters are signed to long-term deals except ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw, and he will probably agree to an extension this offseason.
In addition, Dodger president Stan Kasten has said that he does not feel comfortable signing players to contracts that will keep them on the team past the age of 36, so that takes the team out of the running if bidding on high-priced players like Robinson Cano causes contracts to run past six seasons (Cano is currently 30 years old).
What They Need
And from their current rotation, only Ricky Nolasco’s contract is up after the current season, although the early-season injuries to Greinke, Chris Capuano, Ted Lilly and Stephen Fife certainly illustrated that there is no such thing as too much pitching.
Therefore, I expect the Dodgers to look into filling the two infield spots and bolstering the rotation, although the previously mentioned comments from Kasten indicate that there will be some level of financial restraint—so don’t expect the front office to throw money at mediocre players just for the sake of change.
A full list of the upcoming free agents can be found here and is the information I will be going off of.
Juan Uribe, 3B
This first name is someone currently on the Dodger roster, but he is legitimately the best option available for 2014. Of all free-agent third basemen, Uribe has been by far the best player this season in all facets of the game.
All numbers below are courtesy of FanGraphs.
Juan Uribe, LAD
Eric Chavez, ARI
Mark Reynolds, CLE/NYY
Mark DeRosa, TOR
Michael Young, PHI
Wilson Betemit, BAL
Brandon Inge, PIT
Kevin Youkilis, NYY
Placido Polanco, MIA
Jamey Carroll, MIN/KC
Jerry Hairston, LAD
Yuniesky Betancourt, MIL
While the last two years were certainly horrible (.199/.262/.289) and therefore certainly worrisome, there simply isn't a better option than Uribe—especially given his popularity in the Dodgers clubhouse.
Expect the Dodgers to re-sign him.
Alexander Guerrero, 2B
With the obvious exception of Robinson Cano, the second base market is also weak. The next best options are Kelly Johnson and Omar Infante—and while Infante has had a decent season (3.0 WAR, 115 wRC+), neither has the upside of Guerrero.
The Cuban market is one of the only places the Dodgers can flex their financial might, so signing Guerrero makes a lot of sense.
Ervin Santana, SP
Even including his last two starts, Ricky Nolasco has pitched well since coming to the Dodgers from Miami: 3.14 ERA in 80.1 innings. However, those last two blowups (September 14 versus the Giants and September 19 at Arizona) illustrate exactly why there are issues with depending on him. Like every pitcher who isn't a bonafide ace, he is subject to bouts of inconsistency.
Santana has had an excellent season: 3.16 ERA in 205 innings—the third time in the last four years he has pitched over 200 innings. The righty has struggled with consistency in his career, so the Dodgers wouldn't be signing him to be a dependable member of their rotation; rather, they would be hoping they could harness his high upside (ERA+ over 120 in 2008 and 2013) and get a back-of-the-rotation starter with the potential to be much better.
Another alternative is Matt Garza. Garza, though, has only been a slightly above-average pitcher (career 93 ERA-) when he’s been able to stay on the field—which is not often, as he hasn't made 30 starts in a season since 2011.