Editor’s note: This is the Tuesday, Nov. 24 edition of the Inside the Dodgers newsletter from reporter J.P. Hoornstra. To receive the newsletter in your inbox, sign up here.


The off-season news hit a natural, expected lull over the weekend. I figured it was time for my first question-and-answer newsletter since … 2018? (I’ve seriously lost track of time. Send help.)

When I solicited questions on Twitter Monday, I quickly realized the answers were better served across multiple newsletters. Consider this newsletter Part 1. If you don’t see your question answered here, and you didn’t ask me anything on Twitter, hit ‘reply’ to this email and I’ll answer your question in a future newsletter (or personally, via email).

OK, here we go:

Q: Better chance of trading for Lindor or Arenado? If Dodgers trade for either, do we still re-sign JT as primary DH?

A: Lindor, but I wouldn’t put the odds of the Dodgers acquiring either player above 50-50 (today). More on this in a bit.

As for Turner, it’s not a given the National League will have a designated hitter rule in place next year. Everything I’m reading/hearing indicates players and owners are amenable to bringing it back. In general, it’s hard to imagine a rule being adopted then un-adopted, though not all the only-in-2020 rules (a runner on second base in extra innings, 28-man rosters, the universal DH, expanded playoffs) will return in 2021. There’s also a possibility the two sides punt on this for a year, then attempt to re-work the universal DH into the 2022 Collective Bargaining Agreement. For any team, the question of signing a “primary DH” is moot if no DH position exists.

To your point, it’s hard to disentangle Turner’s value to the Dodgers from the DH rule. Turner made 10 starts at DH in 2020 and 32 at third base. He’s 36 years old as of Monday, so you figure he’ll only get more and more DH days as his career advances, as much as the rules allow. What do the rulebook uncertainties do for this negotiation on a practical level? Maybe it means the Dodgers are more keen on offering option years, rather than guaranteed years, at the end of any multi-year contract to Turner. Maybe it makes selling the farm to acquire Arenado a more palatable option. Arenado turns 30 next year and rates as one of the best defensive third basemen of all-time.

The Dodgers under Andrew Friedman have been known to formulate a Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, etc. in advance of each off-season. Here’s where your question gets tricky. I don’t know what constitutes their Plan A for the third base/shortstop positions in 2021 and beyond. It’s easy to presuppose that re-signing Turner is Plan C, a path the Dodgers only follow if there’s no universal DH, and Plans A and B (Lindor and Arenado, in some order) fall through. But I don’t know this to be the case.

It’s my understanding that the Dodgers have talked to the Indians about Lindor in the past. I’m not certain how close they got to consummating a trade, but my impression is that discussions got past the “tire-kicking” stage. Some things have changed in the meantime. Lindor is a free agent after next season, and there’s a big difference between acquiring a 1-year rental and a player two years away from free agency. The latter is more valuable, and the Dodgers already have a shortstop due to become a free agent after next season. Corey Seager’s resurgent 2020 figures to make the Dodgers motivated to keep him happy and under contract long-term. That might necessarily mean keeping Seager at shortstop in 2021. I don’t regard the idea of sliding Seager over to the hot corner as a given.

So why do I like the Dodgers’ chances of acquiring Lindor better than Arenado?

First, the Indians are a motivated seller. They don’t want to pay Lindor the $22 million salary he projects to make next season, plain and simple. There should be plenty of motivated buyers. Lindor, 27, plays a premier position and he’s been no worse than a 4-WAR player since he broke into the league. He isn’t Mookie Betts, but he’s the kind of star one can imagine Andrew Friedman “getting creative” to acquire. Second …

Q: Is there real momentum towards an Arenado trade or is this more rumor monger nonsense?Q: What are the chances the Dodgers get Nolan Arenado from the Rockies?

A: In general, I never got the impression the Rockies are more motivated to trade Arenado than the Indians are to trade Lindor. That can always change. It doesn’t make sense for a team coming off back-to-back losing seasons to hoard a star player making $35 million each of the next four years, assuming Arenado does not opt out of his contract (which seems like a safe bet for now). The basis for every rumor about sending Arenado to Los Angeles revolves around two facts: 1, the Dodgers are among a handful of teams who should be able to afford that contract; 2, Arenado grew up in Lake Forest and comes from a family of Dodger fans (which means less than nothing on a practical level).

For the Rockies, the practical concerns begin with their internal budget and how Jeff Bridich feels about his job security. Bridich is the second-longest tenured GM/president of baseball operations in the National League West. (A.J. Preller became the Padres’ GM two months before Bridich arrived in Denver. One week later, Andrew Friedman took the Dodgers’ job.) What’s the surest way he can make the Rockies’ fate appear worse than it is overnight? By trading his best player to the best team in the division. If the Rockies decide they can’t afford to keep Arenado under contract, the Dodgers are the last team I would expect to get him in a trade.

Q: Any insight on why Omar Estevez was not protected from the Rule 5 draft?

A: Rule 5 decisions are one big risk-assessment game.

What’s the risk in losing that player to another team? More specifically: what are the Dodgers risking in allowing another team to draft the player, pay them $100,000, and keep that player on their roster for a full season? Second, what’s the risk of adding the player to the 40-man roster? Would giving him a roster spot prevent the Dodgers from signing or acquiring a more deserving player? Lastly, how does the player look on your own major-league depth chart for the next year, and really the next six years before he’s eligible to become a free agent?

The answer as to why Estevez was left unprotected lies somewhere in the answers to those questions.

Begin with Gavin Lux. He turned 23 Monday. Estevez turns 23 in February. Estevez reached Double-A in 2019 as a 21-year-old, which isn’t easy to do. That also places him a couple steps behind Lux on the developmental ladder, and Lux’s presence might make Estevez redundant in the organization. Having seen Estevez in person the last few springs, I’ve seen him mature physically into a well-built human, not unlike Lux. Yet in his last full season, Estevez slugged a middling .431 at Double-A Tulsa. Take my amateur scouting assessment and Estevez’s minor league stats with a grain of salt, but I can’t imagine he will hit for power at the major league level anytime soon.

That’s fine on its own. A 22-year-old middle infielder without much power might be added to the 40-man roster, but only if he projects to add value in some other way ― like defense. One scout recently told me Estevez graded out “as basically the worst defensive infielder in professional baseball last year” according to his team’s model. If Estevez projects to become an average hitter with a below-average glove, why should the Dodgers protect him? If you’re a rebuilding team with a bunch of open 40-man spots, you might find a reason. The Dodgers are the defending champions with only four open 40-man spots and a bunch of in-house free agents. It’s just not a great fit right now.

-J.P.


Editor’s note: Thanks for reading the Inside the Dodgers newsletter. To receive the newsletter in your inbox, sign up here.


Sweeter than the honey that replaced the rain.

  • Before Chadwick ― Jackie Robinson played himself in a film, once, in 1952. Baseball Prospectus reviewed that film.
  • Be merry ― Dodger Stadium is hosting a drive-through Christmas display.
  • Next man up Dodgers prospect Michael Busch “earned universal reviews as the top hitter in Arizona,” according to Baseball America.
  • Crystal ball  How do the Dodgers project to fare in 2021 if none of their in-house free agents return? ZiPS has the answer.
  • Money matters  Why can’t an owner worth $4.6 billion afford a $10 million reliever? Baseball Prospectus’ Rob Mains breaks it down.

###

By Kelley Wheeler

Kelley Wheeler is a Metro reporter covering political issues and general assignments. A second-generation journalist, worked with all major news outlet, she holds a vast expeirience. Kelley is a graduate of USC with degrees in journalism and English literature. She is a recipient of Yale’s Poynter Fellowship in Journalism.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *