The biggest free agent signing of the offseason took place with less than a week until pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training, as Yu Darvish reportedly agreed to a six-year, $126 million contract with the Chicago Cubs.
The Los Angeles Dodgers were believed to be in on Darvish until the very end, although with their desire to remain below the luxury tax threshold prevented them from matching the Cubs’ massive offer. Additionally, the Dodgers’ offer reportedly was on their first shedding salary.
So despite a reported desire to return to Los Angeles, Darvish could now be pitching against them in postseasons to come. With the right-hander off the market, the Dodgers will need to shift their focus elsewhere if they’re to improve the roster.
That can come in free agency or the form of a trade. Other starting pitchers still available include Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn, while Tampa Bay Rays ace Chris Archer may be the best arm that could be available in a trade.
Should the Dodgers now shift their focus to any of them, or are the starters already on the roster good enough to get them to the trade deadline or even potentially through the entire season? Our staff debates in the latest Dodger Blue roundtable:
Daniel Starkand (@DStarkand):
The Dodgers front office seems to have a plan in place for the near future, and I don’t think losing Darvish to the Cubs should trigger a panic move like signing Jake Arrieta to a nine-figure contract.
A rotation of Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Alex Wood, Kenta Maeda and Hyun-Jin Ryu with Walker Buehler, Brock Stewart and Ross Stripling providing depth should be good enough to get the Dodgers at least until the trade deadline.
With the Dodgers farm system still as strong as it is, they then have the ability to acquire a front-of-the-line starter at the deadline, much like they have the last two seasons with Hill and Darvish.
Chris Archer is the immediate name that comes to mind, but every year there are also other big names that end up being shopped when teams don’t perform as planned, so I think waiting to see how things play out in the first half of the season would be the best course of action to take.
Matt Borelli (@mcborelli):
I don’t believe the Dodgers will tap into the free-agent market for a starting pitcher, given their luxury tax concerns. That’s precisely why Yu Darvish wasn’t re-signed. Not only that, but the best remaining starters (Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb, Lance Lynn) all have qualifying offers attached to them, meaning the Dodgers would have to yield a draft pick to sign one.
That being said, I think the Dodgers will continue monitoring the trade market. Whether it’s now or at the trade deadline, there are plenty of options on the table. The Dodgers have enough depth to last them through July 31, so there’s no urgency in completing a deal before Opening Day.
It’s hard to speculate on who might become available, but some names that come to mind include the Tampa Bay Rays’ Chris Archer and Toronto Blue Jays’ Marcus Stroman. Their availability is likely contingent on how well those clubs perform during the first half of the season, though.
Eric Avakian (@EAvakian5):
Although I believe the front office is committed to staying under their luxury tax situation, there are a couple of names that stick out in a potential trade market. In terms of pitching, Chris Archer seems like the ideal fit in a rotation that is supported by southpaws.
Archer would line up as a co-ace next to Clayton Kershaw, much like Zack Greinke did during their days together. While Archer would likely demand quite the payday after his contract is up, he still has two more years with his current contract that amount to just over $14 million in total.
The front office has demonstrated before that with some maneuvering they can make many things happen. With one of the premier farm systems in baseball, they could provide quite the enticing package to the Tampa Bay Rays, a team Andrew Friedman has done multiple acquisitions with before.
Farhan Zaidi and Friedman have quite the creativity and are always open to many possibilities, which could also line up towards the Dodgers not doing much and waiting towards the beginning of the season. Seeing their two main free agents leave for a fellow contender is a huge blow, but could also propel the Dodgers to become more active in the market as well.
Matthew Moreno (@MMoreno1015):
Although the process seemingly dragged out until the very end, I never truly believed the probability was high that the Dodgers would re-sign Yu Darvish. Now that it’s no longer a possibility, I think the team should zero in on a trade candidate.
At the forefront of that are Chris Archer and Jacob deGrom. Of course, Archer has been linked to the Dodgers for multiple years running, and Andrew Friedman has shown a propensity to work deals with his former Rays club.
That being said, I’m not convinced any trade for either pitcher, or another, will occur before Opening Day. And that’s perfectly fine. The Dodgers are in good enough position to succeed until the non-waiver trade deadline, when they can make their splash — just as they did by acquiring Darvish.
Jeff Spiegel (@JeffSpiegel):
I get the frustration and the unrest of fans longing for the Dodgers to make a big splash in the off-season, but the simple reality is that they just don’t need to.
Would they have been better with Yu Darvish? Probably, sure. But would he have dramatically increased their odds of winning a World Series? Probably not. And it’s for that reason that I’m content with the Dodgers standing pat until the trade deadline.
Why commit to a guy for 6 years and a ridiculous amount of money when they have the prospects available to go and get an equivalent (probably even better) player for a shorter period of time and at the point of the season when he’s needed most? As it stands, the Dodgers are projected to be the best team in the NL (and by a large margin), so while it’s more fun when the team is making big moves, the smart thing to do for now is to relax and be patient.