It’s been five years since Frank McCourt sold the Dodgers to Magic Johnson, Stan Kasten, and Mark Walter, who more than doubled the club’s payroll almost immediately. Indeed, since 2013, they have had a payroll well over $200 million every year, including a whopping $272 million payroll in 2015. This year, they’re already projected to spend at least $216 million, and that’s before we factor in Kenley Jansen’s new five-year, $80 million contract.
Because their owners spared no expense, the Dodgers have had a great run of success. They made it to the postseason in each of the last four years (the only team in baseball to do that), and to the NLCS in 2013 and 2016. They are the favorites to win the NL West again in 2017.
Yet, it hasn’t been enough. Oh, sure, the playoffs are a crapshoot on a certain level. But, if you’re going to spend more than a billion dollars over the course of four years, you’re going to have some pretty high expectations. And, by not making the World Series, the Dodgers have not met those. Eventually, Andrew Friedman, Farhan Zaidi, and the rest of the Dodgers’ braintrust has to have more to show for their efforts. They need hardware.
And they need it this year.
Yesterday, I suggested that the Dodgers’ offseason was, at best, incomplete. And I want to take some time to explore that further here. Since the start of winter, the Dodgers have been busy. They’ve re-signed free agents Rich Hill and Justin Turner, and agreed to terms with the aforementioned Jansen. They acquired Vidal Nuno for Carlos Ruiz, and traded Howie Kendrick to the Phillies.
These aren’t just good moves; they are necessary ones to keep the Dodgers afloat. Each of the free agents were among the best options on the market, and the Dodgers lacked internal replacements for their production. Nuno is a capable lefty reliever for a bullpen that struggled in the regular season, and has lost J.P. Howell. And Kendrick was exacerbating a corner outfield logjam that also included Yasiel Puig, Andrew Toles, Andre Ethier, and Trayce Thompson.
But none of them actually improves the Dodgers over the club that won only 91 games (on the low end for a division winner) and was bumrushed by the Cubs in the playoffs. And good teams shouldn’t pump the brakes when they’re this close to their ultimate goal.
That’s why the Dodgers really do need to complete the trade for Brian Dozier they’ve been working on with the Minnesota Twins this offseason. Minnesota is said to want to wrap up the negotiations soon, out of respect for their all star (and probably also as a negotiating strategy).
Dozier, who hit 42 homers as a second baseman last year, is a player who addresses unique needs for the Dodgers. He’s a second baseman, for one thing, and would prevent Los Angeles from having to rely on Kiké Hernandez or Micah Johnson.
For another, he’s a big right handed bat to put into a lineup that struggled mightily against left handed pitching in 2016. The Dodgers’ biggest bats, Corey Seager, Adrian Gonzalez, and Joc Pederson are all left-handed. And Yasmani Grandal has historically hit righties harder as well. As a team, the Dodgers hit .213/.290/.332 last year against lefties. Their struggles proved particularly costly against the Cubs, when they faced Jon Lester. Dozier hit .282/.352/.613 against lefties last year, and reportedly made several of them cry.
Dozier is also highly affordable for the next two years, at a total of just $15 million. You’d think that wouldn’t matter much to the Dodgers, with their apparently limitless financial resources and payroll. But the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, while raising the luxury tax threshold, contains severe penalties for teams who go over it, and the club has pledged to reduce their expenditures and overall debt.
Acquiring Dozier, while divesting themselves of either Brandon McCarthy or Scott Kazmir, would allow the Dodgers to keep that payroll manageable, while maintaining a championship-caliber club. And really, after four years of rampant spending and falling tantalizingly short, having a club that’s still capable of winning it all is the only acceptable goal. It’s time to end the staring contest, blink, and get the deal done already.