By remaining below the $197 million luxury tax threshold in 2018, many believed the Los Angeles Dodgers set themselves up to make a significant splash in free agency. The class was expected to include Bryce Harper, Clayton Kershaw and Manny Machado, among other elite players.
Kershaw did not reach free agency, instead agreeing to a three-year contract extension. And after Machado’s half-season with the Dodgers ended in a bit of disappointment and inconsistency, he was considered unlikely to be re-signed.
That left Harper as the Dodgers’ presumed target. Especially after they packaged Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig in a trade with the Cincinnati Reds. But the club instead signed A.J. Pollock, finalizing his four-year contract during FanFest at Dodger Stadium.
On the surface, Pollock is perceived as assuming a starting spot in the outfield that could have belonged to Harper, and one that Puig previously occupied. He’s aware of the comparisons that are ahead but is focused on himself.
“Honestly I’m just concentrating on being the best version of myself I can,” Pollock said during his introductory press conference. “Bryce is an unbelievable player. Puig was a fun guy to watch. And those guys have their own skill set. I’m not gonna try to be anyone else besides me.”
Pollock deferred to president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman when asked if he believed the Dodgers should still pursue Harper in free agency. “He’s a great player. Like I said, I’m going to come in here and do my part and just help this team win ballgames,” Pollock reiterated.
And in terms of replacing Puig, the 31-year-old again emphasized his focus will remain on contributing to the best of his capability. “He’s an exciting player, he had a lot of energy,” Pollock said.
“When you played against him, he was all over the field showing a ton of emotion, which I respect. As far as me taking it personal, I concentrate on what I’m doing and that’s it. I’m here to be the best player that I can be.”