Amid the flurry of warm, nurturing advice over the past week that followed the Dodgers’ World Series defeat, there was the Facebook commenter who had all the answers, perhaps most notably: “Sign FOUR no. 1 ace starters.”
Facebook commenter's advice for the Dodgers: "Sign FOUR no. 1 ace starters." pic.twitter.com/jgg7oVkjSo
— Jon Weisman (@jonweisman) November 1, 2018
That seemed like amazingly good counsel, but whether it’s feasible, I wasn’t quite sure. So I decided to check the lists of top 2018-19 MLB free agents and explore — not only in pitching but among position players as well — the top names that might help the Dodgers.
Keep in mind that the Dodgers will always be looking for under-the-radar gems, but that doesn’t mean they might not grab a headline ballplayer or two …
In the fold (10): Walker Buehler, Caleb Ferguson, Rich Hill, Clayton Kershaw, Kenta Maeda, Dennis Santana, Brock Stewart, Ross Stripling, Julio Urías, Alex Wood
Qualifying offer: Hyun-Jin Ryu (can accept a one-year, $17.9 million contract for 2019 by 2 p.m. November 12 or become a free agent)
Top free agents: Patrick Corbin, Dallas Keuchel, Nathan Eovaldi, Charlie Morton, Wade Miley, Yusei Kikuchi (Japan), Lance Lynn, J.A. Happ, Anibal Sanchez, Gio Gonzalez, Matt Harvey, CC Sabathia, Clay Bucholz
Passing thought: Quantity in-house is not an issue for Los Angeles, so the only question is whether someone out there offers more quality. Kikuchi might be the most intriguing, but five names probably stand out to Dodger fans:
- Corbin, 29, a division rival with the Diamondbacks since 2012, pitched 200 innings with a 3.15 ERA (137 ERA+) in 2018.
- Keuchel, 31 on New Year’s Day, a past Cy Young Award winner who led the American League with 34 starts, with a 3.74 ERA (108 ERA+).
- Eovaldi, 29 next season, is the one-time Dodger prospect who went to the Marlins in the Hanley Ramirez trade, only to return as a force boosting Boston to a championship.
- Morton, who turns 35 this week, had a 1.74 ERA against the Dodgers in the 2017 World Series, then a 3.13 ERA (129 ERA+) in 2018.
- Miley, about to turn 32, was pitching himself out of baseball until he had a turnaround with the Brewers (2.57 ERA in 80 2/3 innings) that was topped off by a 1.23 ERA in 14 2/3 postseason innings.
Of that quintet, Eovaldi and Morton are the only right-handers, which would be key — especially if Ryu were to take the Dodgers up on that contract.
In the fold (12): Scott Alexander, Pedro Baez, JT Chargois, Tony Cingrani, Josh Fields, Dylan Floro, Yimi Garcia, Erik Goeddel, Kenley Jansen, Tom Koehler, Zac Rosscup, Pat Venditte
Top free agents: Jesse Chavez, Adam Ottavino, Jeurys Familia, David Robertson, Zach Britton, Kelvin Herrera, Craig Kimbrel, Joe Kelly, Andrew Miller, Cody Allen, Joakim Soria, Brad Brach
Passing thought: In the wake of the Dodgers’ blown leads of 2018 and their failure to repeat the Brandon Morrow phenomenon, many Dodger fans are out for blood here — despite the fact that paying big money for relief pitching is notoriously risky. Beware: There are many big-name, likely overpriced past-their-prime closers here. Some might say that the best of the bunch is old friend Chavez, who allowed only 31 baserunners while striking out 42 in 39 innings following a midseason trade to the Cubs.
In the fold (5): Austin Barnes, Kyle Farmer, Rocky Gale, plus minor-leaguers Will Smith and Keibert Ruiz
Qualifying offer: Yasmani Grandal (can accept a one-year, $17.9 million contract for 2019 by 2 p.m. November 12 or become a free agent)
Top free agents: Wilson Ramos, Martin Maldonado, Kurt Suzuki, Brian McCann, Jonathan Lucroy
Passing thought: Given the dearth of catching around MLB, Grandal is more than likely to become a free agent. A year ago, Barnes would have been expected to pick up the starting job, but now the Dodgers might need a transitional catcher to get them to Smith and/or Ruiz. While this article isn’t looking to explore the trade market, it’s hard to ignore the Marlins’ J.T. Realmuto as a potential target.
In the fold (7): David Freese, Kiké Hernández, Tim Locastro, Max Muncy, Corey Seager, Chris Taylor, Justin Turner
Top free agents: Manny Machado, Jed Lowrie, Josh Donaldson, Jose Iglesias, Mike Moustakas, Asdrubal Cabrera, DJ LeMahieu, Brian Dozier, Ian Kinsler, Marwin Gonzalez, Freddy Galvis
Passing thought: The idea that Machado would stick around, with either Seager or Turner shifting to the other side of the infield, has evaporated. The Dodgers don’t actually need to do anything here, and even if they’re not sold on their situation at second base, I don’t see a name that offers clear improvement. Lowrie has had back-to-back seasons topping an .800 OPS (120 OPS+), but that simply puts him in the same neighborhood as the younger Taylor and Hernández — and Lowrie will be 35 next year.
In the fold (6): Cody Bellinger, Matt Kemp, Joc Pederson, Yasiel Puig, Andrew Toles, Alex Verdugo
Top free agents: Bryce Harper, Michael Brantley, A.J. Pollock, Andrew McCutchen, Nick Markakis, Adam Jones
Passing thought: Bellinger would seem to be the starter in center field unless the Dodgers sell high on Muncy — which, I have to say, is something I would consider. Harper is of course the dominant figure, one that would trigger as big a domino effect as we’ve seen in these parts in some time. (MLB Trade Rumors sallied forth with a mindblowing 14-year, $420 million deal, which I like to think of as $60 million per year for seven years, with half the money deferred.) For those who would like to see the Dodgers reduce their strikeouts, Brantley (32 next season) whiffed only 60 times in 631 plate appearances for Cleveland in 2017. Any attraction to Brantley depends on how much faith the Dodgers have in Verdugo. Pollock (31 next season) would be the top right-handed bat in the outfield, though again, you have to ask whether an .800 OPS moves the needle. Pollock has topped 120 games once in the past five years.