In being eliminated from the National League Division Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers shifted their focus to the offseason at a much earlier date than the franchise has become accustomed to over the past several years.
That entails free agency, with the likes of Rich Hill, Russell Martin and Hyun-Jin Ryu due to reach the open market. David Freese was also part of that group but he announced his retirement after 11 seasons in the Majors.
The Dodgers have enjoyed the benefit of having a veteran leader in Chase Utley and Freese during recent years, and president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman is not yet certain how that void will be filled.
Though they also are in the twilight of their careers, Friedman is confident Hill and Martin will remain active in 2020. “I think they’ll definitely play,” he said. But Friedman was hesitant to handicap the odds of the Dodgers possibly re-signing either.
“Getting him at the trade deadline in 2016, the meaningful games he’s pitched for us, how he’s competed on the biggest stage, he’ll always go down as one of my favorites and one of the guys I enjoyed watching take the ball in October,” Friedman said of Hill.
“As far as what that means for next year, I’m not sure yet. There’s still a lot to kind of unpack there.”
During an emotional interview in which he defended Clayton Kershaw and raved about the Dodgers’ talent and trajectory, Hill made it clear he hoped to re-sign with the club. “I would love to get the opportunity to come back here and wear the Dodger uniform again,” he said.
“It was a great honor. Hopefully something will play out and I can come back into this locker room and be part of this club.”
Hill went 30-16 with a 3.16 ERA in 69 games (68 starts) over parts of four seasons with the Dodgers. As Friedman noted, the veteran left-hander excelled in the postseason, pitching to a 2.70 ERA and holding opponents to a .196/.319/.274 batting line in 12 games (11 starts).
Friedman was similarly effusive about Martin while also raising some caution because of the organization’s various options at the catcher position.
“Russ came in and fit a role extremely well for us. He was a great veteran presence, did a lot for Barnesy, did a lot for Will Smith,” Friedman said. “At this point, with our catching depth, it’s a more difficult fit, but that doesn’t mean things won’t play out in a different way.”
Martin didn’t have the bounce-back season he and the Dodgers hoped for in 2019, but he regularly drew praise from teammates and manager Dave Roberts for his contributions off the field, both with the pitching staff and mentoring Austin Barnes and Will Smith, among others.