Fact: no one has repeated as World Series champions since the New York Yankees in 2000. Another fun fact: Nolan Arenado is really good at baseball. But if you’re the Los Angeles Dodgers, your aspirations of repeating don’t go up in smoke without the star third baseman’s arrival.
There’s no questioning Arenado’s talent: he’s a superstar. Arenado flat-out rakes at the plate. From 2015-19 he totaled 199 home runs and 621 RBIs while posting a .937 OPS and a 129 OPS+. He also marvels in the field, making sick plays on his back hand and throwing out runners with conviction.
There have been recurring reports about the Dodgers looking to trade for Arenado with the rival Colorado Rockies since they held up the Commissioner’s Trophy on October 27. This isn’t the first time a trade between the two sides has been mentioned, as the Dodgers showed interested in trading for Arenado last offseason.
Reports and speculation linking Arenado and the Dodgers derive from third baseman Justin Turner and second baseman Enrique Hernandez being free agents.
Turner, 36, hitting the open market gives president Andrew Friedman an excuse to pursue an upgrade at the hot corner, and Arenado is seven years younger than the six-year Dodger third baseman. Here’s the thing, though: the Dodgers have the organizational depth to fill the void and have shown a continued ability to replace from within.
Last offseason they let 2019 National League Cy Young Award runner-up Hyun Jin Ryu leave in free agency because they had a plethora of young arms: Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin, and Julio Urias. All three starters were reliable forces every fifth day and had their moments in the postseason en route to the Dodgers winning the World Series. Moving forward, May, Gonsolin, Urias, Walker Buehler, and Clayton Kershaw form arguably the best all-around starting rotation in Major League Baseball.
Yes, the Dodgers and Rockies are divisional rivals. Simultaneously, Arenado has a player option in his eight-year, $260 million contract for the 2022 season, meaning he could threaten Colorado to trade him or else he’ll opt out and become a free agent; they’d risk losing him for nothing. For a player the Rockies will argue is the best third baseman in baseball, they will most certainly command an enormous haul. Why would the Dodgers meet their demands?
As is, they have a formidable offensive attack spearheaded by Cody Bellinger, Mookie Betts, Corey Seager, Max Muncy, and Will Smith. Their infield depth chart also includes Chris Taylor, Gavin Lux, and Matt Beaty. Meanwhile, top infield prospects Kody Hoese and Michael Busch could see the big leagues in the near future.
The Dodgers don’t need a prominent bat. Heck, they could lose Turner and still have the best offense in the NL.
By trading multiple players from their offensive depth chart and perhaps one of their budding pitchers, the Dodgers would be making an unnecessary transaction for the sake of expediting growth. There’s a fair contrary argument to making such a bold move in that if the Dodgers don’t trade for Arenado someone else in the NL could do so, therefore enhancing their respective chances of winning the World Series.
Here’s another way to look at the situation: the Dodgers sport the highest payroll in MLB ($175.5 million) and will have to pay several critical players in the near future (Buehler, Bellinger, Seager, and Muncy) and have youngsters who could one day garner a lofty contract. Taking on Arenado’s $27-plus million salary for the next six seasons hinders their ability to keep the band together, one that can legitimately be kept for the long haul without outside interference.
Given the uncertain forecast of MLB revenue and payrolls due to the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic, a team committing top-dollar with a high payroll isn’t exactly ideal this offseason.
The prudent move is keeping Turner on a short-term deal or filling the hot corner internally. Maybe Edwin Rios gets the nod or Lux works on playing third in spring training.
Los Angeles should focus on adding more bullpen variety. Maybe it means committing a young starter into a long relief role. Maybe it means getting creative on the trade market. Whatever the case may be, adding more relievers who provide length would further weaponize manager Dave Roberts‘ bullpen, complementing the likes of Kenley Jansen, Adam Kolarek, Brusdar Graterol, and Dylan Floro, among others.
The Dodgers are the best team in the NL. They don’t need to make a blockbuster move for the sake of defending their pedestal; they can do so with the roster they have. Fine-tune the bullpen and continue to grow from within.