The Los Angeles Dodgers made their first big trade of the winter, sending Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Alex Wood, Kyle Farmer and cash to the Cincinnati Reds for Homer Bailey and prospects Jeter Downs and Josiah Gray.
There are several moving pieces and layers to the trade, including the Dodgers losing a fan favorite and all-time franchise leader in postseason games played in Puig. The big question many now have is what does this mean for the team moving forward?
Well first, it saved the Dodgers a good amount of payroll. Kemp, Puig and Wood are expected to make roughly a combined $42 million in 2019, the last year of their respective contracts.
Bailey, who the Dodgers are going to release, has $23 million remaining on his contract with a $5 million buyout at the end of the season.
Bailey’s competitive balance tax figure that is taken into account is $17.5 million, so as far as that is concerned, the Dodgers will be saving an additional $5.5 million in payroll on top of the $7 million stemming from players in the trade.
In addition to saving money, the Dodgers also cleared up some of their roster surplus issues. Going into 2019, the only starting position they have traded is Puig.
Kemp, Wood and Farmer are all serviceable but the Dodgers simply did not have a place for them in 2019. Kemp had a great first half this season but faded in the second half, and Wood began the year in the rotation but wound up being demoted to the bullpen, where he did not have much more success.
Now Kemp and Wood will both get opportunities to earn starting jobs with Cincinnati, which wouldn’t have necessarily been the case if they remained with the Dodgers.
And finally, the two prospects the Dodgers acquired are actually quite good. MLB Pipeline already entered them into the Dodgers’ system, and Downs immediately is the organizations’ No. 7 prospect while Gray is not far behind at 16.
Downs is a 20-year-old infielder who possess a lot of tools, most notably speed. Gray is a 21-year-old hard-throwing right-handed pitcher. Both players were high draft picks of the Reds.
With the Dodgers connected to both the Cleveland Indians and Miami Marlins in trades for Corey Kluber and J.T. Realmuto, respectively, Los Angeles can flip either of those prospects in deals, or they can both help replenish the farm system if other prospects are traded.
Also, with more money to spend, the Dodgers can now be considered in on all the big-name free agents, most notably Bryce Harper.
Puig has been the team’s starting right fielder for a better part of the last six years. But with him now headed to Cincinnati, the Dodgers are in search of a new right fielder and Harper may be a perfect fit.
They have been connected to Harper throughout much of the offseason, although reports indicate the Dodgers would prefer to do a short-term deal as opposed to the 10-year pact he reportedly is looking for.
While signing Harper would likely require the Dodgers to go over the luxury tax threshold, the possibility of him ending up in Los Angeles is certainly greater today than it was yesterday.
Even if the Dodgers don’t sign Harper, trading both Puig and Kemp creates a need to add an outfielder. Even if president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman is confident in the remaining depth.
A cost-effective alternative to Harper could be A.J. Pollock, who is a free agent that the Dodgers are very familiar with due to the time he spent with the rival Arizona Diamondbacks.
Pollock is 32 years old and has an extensive injury history, but is still said to be seeking around five years and $80 million in free agency. That is significantly less than committing to 10 years and $300-400 million for Harper. Signing Pollack to such a contract would allow for the Dodgers to remain below the luxury tax.
While it is unclear what their exact plans are for the remainder of the offseason, the trade with the Reds gives Friedman a world of possibilities moving forward, which should make for an exciting offseason.