What to do with Kike, JT, and Joc?
It is no mystery that 3 of the key pieces to the Dodgers World Series Championship team are now unrestricted free agents and are looking to increase their yearly income. The Dodger front office has to sit down and analyze all of their wants and needs to determine which of the 3 players, if any, they will seek to employ for the upcoming 2021 season. Here I will try to remain neutral and explain the pros and cons of each move. It is a touchy subject because we are talking about players who have been with the team for many years and have helped make this Championship run a reality. I will start by saying that in a an ideal world we would love to keep all 3 players. However, just as we have seen Paul Lo Duca, Mike Piazza, Yasiel Puig and other team favorites traded or players like Beltre who did not get contract offers even after having a 48 home run season, we have to be prepared of a possible farewell as the Dodgers will do what makes most sense. They may not necessarily make a move based on saving money. They might make a couple of moves to fill holes where they feel they need it most and it might be addition through subtraction in order to create openings for someone they might have their eyes on. Their pursuits can rely heavily on what is currently available in the free market or what is available via trade. If they are able to trade a player who has higher WAR numbers than any of our 3 Amigos, and for far less, it would make sense. Perhaps it costs more, perhaps it costs less. It all depends how much of an upside they see to any prospects. They might also see what they have down in the minor leagues and base their decision off of that. Unfortunately this is the way it goes in baseball. So hang tight, and look at this analysis from a neutral perspective. Try to be an umpire who calls balls and strikes in a neutral fashion. I already said, for me, ideally, keep them all. But I am not the GM.
Let’s start off with Kike. My son’s favorite player. Kike has been phenomenal for the us for the past 6 years. He has a career WAR (Wins Above Replacement) of 9.25 which is pretty darn good given that he has consistently been a Utility player for us at second base and outfield. In 2020, he was contracted for 5.9Million and had his pay was reduced to 2.185Million due to the Covid Shutdown and the shortened season. That was a great return on investment for the Dodgers. He has been very essential over the past 3 World Series runs and had a clutch Home Run in Game 7 against the Braves. He is only 29 years old and plays a great second base, and a stellar outfield when he is called upon. If you look at the math, it pretty much looks like a no brainer for me to sign him for a 3 year contract for about 18-24 million. He is a fan favorite and is an incredible role player. If you look at all this, it sounds like the Dodgers are wasting time letting him wander around the league hearing other offers.
Here is where the Dodgers are going to have a dilemma for Kike. Kike is 29 and he has performed center stage on the biggest platform in the World Series and the playoffs for the past several years. Teams throughout the league can see what we have seen. Kike is an everyday starting second baseman on many teams throughout the league. I can definitely see him receiving a 4 or 5 year offer to pry him away from the Dodgers. Once he does receive an offer from a different team, I do not believe that the Dodgers will want to match a 5 year offer to him given the upcoming negotiations they have upcoming with Seager, Kershaw, Bellinger and Urias. Will the Dodgers match a 5 year deal? He is 29, so that means they are signing him until he is 34. Do they really need him for that long to play the role he is playing? These are questions they will ask themselves.
To conclude, 3 years, 7-10Million per year, for Kike is great deal for the Dodgers because they kill 2 birds with one stone. A good right handed bat that plays excellent defense at 2 different positions. There are many outfielders who will get this money and they cannot fill in the infield the way Kike plays infield. I would do it. But I am biased because I like the energy and flexibility he brings and unfortunately I don’t believe the Dodgers will consider my bias for a longer contract. I think they will let him go if it’s a 4 or 5 year contract that they have to match. I will also say that I will not be mad if he gets a 5 year contract for more money and he goes elsewhere because you have to be happy for that guy. He deserves it.
The next Amigo on the list is Justin Turner. This offseason he entered legendary status with the Dodgers by becoming the all time leader in numerous categories which may not last long actually but for the moment he is the guy who is the number one across the board in Hits, RBIs, Home Runs, Total Bases and a few other categories. Justin Turner is 35 years old and has 10 years of experience in the league. He had a salary of 20Million which was reduced to $8,037,037 due to the shortened season. Next year he will be 36 and if the Dodgers sign him they will most likely sign him for 2 years at most. There are not many teams that will sign a player this late in his career through his 40th birthday. The Dodgers might do 3 years but there is no way they negotiate for 4 years because that would mean that he would be 40. I am not discriminating against 40 year olds because there are many 40 years olds who can still hold their own. The question is do you pay a 40 year old 20 million dollars per year? I don’t think so. The one other reason a 2 year deal works is because when his contract is up in 2022, it will open up space for the Dodgers to lock up Bellinger. At that point, Turner would be 38, and if he did stay he would have to sign at a veteran’s minimum. The Dodgers can manage this and might be willing to do this given his successful background with the club. Although, Justin Turner has been great for us over the years, 20 million per year sounds a bit steep of a price to pay for a player on the tail end of his career. The current market value for a player in his range according to Spotrac.com is $13.9Million per year. A 2 year deal at this price sounds like a no brainer.
At that price, sign him please, and quick. But of course, it is never that easy.
It is entirely possible the Dodgers have something else up their sleeves and at the same time Justin might be shopping around a 3-4 year contract. If he gets a 4 year offer, they should let him walk. Congratulate him and thank him for his time in LA. Justin has a career WAR of 29.41 and that is excellent but the question is: Has it peaked? Is it on the decline? Let’s take a look. His highest WAR number was in 2017 at 5.75. He has steadily been declining since that year. 2020 watched him hit a WAR of 1.3. Yes it was a shorter season but the pattern has been on the decline regardless. If the Dodgers looked at this angle they should be able to combine two players at far less money to add up to the 1.3 WAR. At Wednesday’s press conference Andrew Friedman stated that they were “Looking for a right handed bat…but not just because the guy happens to be right handed, Where that is on the field may vary some.” By reading this quote you would think that JT falls under that umbrella but I am just curious why that sentence didn’t read like “We don’t want to lose Turner because we need a right handed bat”. As you can see it gets left open to interpretation by the media and the fans and it sounds like we are not there yet with JT. That is just my read but perhaps that means the Dodgers are exploring other options. Time will tell. It is definitely something to keep an eye on.
Lastly, Joc Pederson, also known as Joctober, who had a down regular season but shined in the playoff run living up? The whole world knows the power he possesses. His home run power has been put on display during the home run derby, during the playoffs, the regular season, and in the World Series. Surely, he is an everyday player on many teams. He can play center field but I feel that he is now best suited to play left field. In fact, the Dodgers tried him out at first base a few times in his career so he might have a future at first base though highly more likely he plays outfield. Joc is 28 years old, he was due $7,725,000 million but due to the shortened season his adjusted salary was $2,870,370. In 6 full seasons Joc has a career WAR of 10.36 but his WAR numbers for 2020 were -0.43 which was the lowest of his career. This was not the year for him to hit a career low because it takes away from his leverage. It is hard to make the argument as to why the Dodgers should sign him. His market value according to Spotrac.com is 6.5Million which if you think about it is not that bad of a deal of deal for the Dodgers. But is it a good deal for Joc? I will explain what I mean.
Joc Pederson is 28years old. If the Dodgers do decide to extend a 1 year contract to Joc Pederson at 8 million, wil that work for Joc? I tell you why it won’t. He is our 4th guy in the outfield right now. As a Dodger he is a platoon player at best with AJ Pollock where one plays against righties and the other against lefties. How is he going to fatten his stats to negotiate a bigger contract? Under this formula, Joc will never get enough at bats to get hot and put some meat on his offensive production where he can then go into the 2021 offseason and negotiate an even better contract at the ripe age of 29. If Joc’s team is smart they should sign that one year deal with a team that is going to allow him to be an everyday player. The kind of opportunity where he will not be a platoon player. A place where he will have a great opportunity to fatten his numbers. Even if he has to take a small paycut to what he was getting in LA. Just imagine if the Rockies offer him that opportunity at 5Million for one year to be an every day left fielder. You mean to tell me that you as a GM, do not have faith that Joc can hit 30 Home Runs in Colorado where the air is thinner and the ball travels well? As if Joc needed the help, but he could definitely check swing a home run over there. He hits 20 home runs in a full season at least, with a potential to hit 30 or more very easily. Joc has had 4 seasons with 25 or more home runs (26, 25, 25, and 36). This year with limited playing time he hit 7 Home Runs in the regular season and he hit 2 more in the playoffs but in the playoffs against the Padres he batted .400, against the Braves, he hit .389, and .400 in the World Series. Surely, a playoff contender took notice. Like I said, his best option right now is to sign for a one year deal where he can be the everyday left fielder, and that is against right handed and left handed pitching. He can then maximize a long term contract the following year based on his performance in 2021. I just can’t find any viable argument that leads me to believe that Joc stays as long as AJ Pollock sticks around. AJ Pollock made a great case for himself last year and the only way Joc becomes an option is if the Dodgers sacrifice AJ Pollock via trade. If that happens, then I can see Joc Pederson being offered a contract by Friedman. But a lot of things have to happen in order for that to take place so I guess this is a farewell. Best of luck to Joc and thank you for being a great Dodger.
I have made an argument for and against the possible signing of Kike and JT but I just could not get there with Joc. I don’t see it.
I didn’t include Baez, Wood, or Trienan here but the Dodgers will be bringing more than one arm back. A lot depends on what happens with Kanley. Do they see Jansen as our star closer for years to come? Or is it the end of the road for him? He has been declining for sure. I like all three arms that I listed above. Yes even Baez and I swear it has nothing to do with us sharing the same first name. I will leave that for another day.