LOS ANGELES -- If we’ve learned one thing about the Los Angeles Dodgers’ plan this offseason, it’s that they’re all-in for 2017.
At least that’s what it looks like after the Dodgers continued to add to a treasure trove of minor league talent in a three-team trade involving the Cincinnati Reds and Chicago White Sox Wednesday. The Dodgers could have held on to the best player in the trade, Todd Frazier, but the fit wasn’t perfect with Justin Turner coming off knee surgery and unable to move to second base and the team unsure if Frazier would happily move to left field.
So, Frazier goes to Chicago and the Dodgers stick with the youth movement they told us about months ago, but nobody seemed to believe. All three of the players they got look like they could play some in 2016, but their true impact figures to come in future seasons.
That might make it a curious move for a team that figures to go into next season with a $230 million payroll and, potentially, some frustrated season-ticket holders. But stay tuned, Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman hinted. Bigger moves could be on the horizon.
Most prospect insiders seem to think the Dodgers got the better end of what proved to be, for them, a three-prospects-for-three prospects trade. They moved Jose Peraza, Scott Schebler and Brandon Dixon and wound up with Frankie Montas, Micah Johnson and Trayce Thompson.
They think Montas, who has the classic fastball-slider combination that used to be the standard repertoire of power pitchers, could be the elite arm that might take the sting out of losing Zack Greinke, and in as few as six months. They think Johnson can be a serviceable backup infielder or platoon player. They are confident Thompson can be a good fourth outfielder and think he has the upside to be a lot more than that.
But they continue to dangle hints that it might not be worth getting to know these guys too well. In fact, don’t get too attached to Julio Urias, Jose De Leon or any of the other top prospects in the system while you’re at it, because they might not be Dodgers assets for long.
Friedman and his front office view prospects as gold not only because they can replenish an aging roster on the cheap, but because they are the only currency nearly as valuable as actual currency. The Dodgers are shifting to a model where they’re more willing to give up the former than the latter, it seems.
The Dodgers are continuing talks that would send prospects somewhere -- maybe Oakland or Miami -- for a starting pitcher who could help them in 2016 and beyond -- maybe Sonny Gray or Jose Fernandez. Gray might be harder to pry loose than Fernandez, because Oakland president of baseball operations Billy Beane is said to be particularly attached to Gray, but the latter wouldn’t come cheap, either.
Thus, the Dodgers are stockpiling assets that low-revenue teams covet. No second trade is imminent, a source said, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t brewing. Should the Dodgers fail to land an elite young starter, the fallback plan might be to revisit the Aroldis Chapman deal with Cincinnati, which isn’t dead, only dormant. The original trade, which involved Peraza, was scuttled when a police report surfaced of an incident in October in which Chapman allegedly choked his girlfriend and then fired off shots in his garage. Major League Baseball is investigating the incident under its domestic violence policy.
“Obviously, we’re having a lot of conversations that involve us potentially trading some prospects in different-type scenarios,” Friedman said. “This wasn’t necessarily directed at that, but it’s connected in the same way every move we make has some connection. Expanding our talent base is helpful on multiple fronts.”
Down the line, Wednesday’s three-team trade could mushroom into a four-team or even five-team trade. Those were the kinds of indications Friedman was giving in a conference call with reporters Wednesday afternoon. If he doesn’t pull off an impact trade in the next couple of months, he’ll have some explaining to do on Feb. 19, the day pitchers and catchers report.