One of the big off-season tasks that the Dodgers need to work through is arbitration. Players with at least 3 years of experience but have not reached 6 years for free agency are eligible for arbitration. Also, some with more than 2 years of experience are also eligible based on some parameters set by the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). MLB Trade Rumors has presented their estimates for what players will probably get in arbitration. Last year their estimates were pretty low for some of the Dodgers as I documented when they were all settled.
This article will take a look at each player and what their future may hold for them this off-season in regards to arbitration. One important note is that players who are not offered a contract by before December 1st are automatically free agents and are no longer in control of the Dodgers.
Eligible For Free Agency After 2020
Pedro Baez ($3.3M estimate, age 32 in 2020)
Baez had one of his better seasons in 2019 as he became a very reliable reliever after two seasons of some amazing inconsistencies. With his impending free agency it is possible the Dodgers could look to get something for him in a trade. It would be touch to get a reliever as good as Baez for just $3.3M though so I expect him to stay. His age is something to consider but if the Dodgers were to offer him a 2 year/$7M contract he might take it.
#dodgers Pedro Baez arbitration eligible. let's bring him back with a raise. he continues to deliver
— John Breneman, Jr. (@JohnBrenemanJr) October 8, 2019
Kiké Hernandez ($5.5M estimate, age 28)
Kiké brings value with his versatility and some pop with his bat, especially against left-handed pitchers. With any position he plays he brings above average defense. He’s really not particularly fast but has an outstanding arm. I can envision him being impactful in the same role for a few more years with the Dodgers. Since he can be a free agent he could end up leaving to try and be a starter. I spoke about him possibly moving on a few days ago. At $5.5M for 2020, that is good value for the Dodgers.
Joc Pederson ($8.5M estimate, age 28)
Joc was also included in my article about possibly moving on but a one year contract of $8.5M for his production is good deal. There were some noticeable improvements in 2019 and, in the year before he can be a free agent, I expect more from him in 2020. The player that Pederson has become is a platoon player against right-handed pitchers who can play an above average left field and an average right field. He smashed 36 home runs in 2019. The balls may not fly out as much in 2020 but most of Joc’s home runs were well beyond the outfield wall.
Eligible For Free Agency After 2021
Yimi Garcia ($1.1M estimate, age 29)
Yimi was not part of the playoff roster due to his horrible home run rate. In 62.1 innings pitched he gave up 15 of them.
Name a more iconic duo than Yimi Garcia and solo tank shots. I dare you.
— AJ Gonzalez? (@AJontheguitar) August 15, 2019
Almost all of his other numbers were very strong. Here is the big question though. If the baseball is “de-juiced” in 2020 does Garcia get a lot better? It is possible, so I think a $1.1M gamble is worth it. Garcia doesn’t hold much trade value but I could see some team grabbing him and finding something that makes him for effective. For now, I recommend holding on to Yimi.
Chris Taylor ($5.0M estimate, age 29)
CT3 missed over a month with a broken wrist but ended up having a nice season with a slash of .262/.333/.462 (AVG/OBP/SLG) despite a horrible April. He filled in well at shortstop when Corey Seager missed a month with an injury. Like Hernandez, Taylor plays many positions well and is one of the fastest players on the team. With two years to go before free agency, CT3 will be a bargain for at least 2020. One issue with Taylor, he should be a starter with somebody. I could see teams going after him in a trade.
Corey Seager ($7.1M estimate, age 26)
Fan favorite and former Rookie of the Year, Corey Seager, is one with a lot of expectations for him. In his comeback year he slashed .272/.335/.483 which doesn’t match his first two years with the Dodgers. Now there are even some trade rumblings about him but I doubt that it happens. One thing to remember, his agent is Scott Boras so negotiating an extension is doubtful. What could happen is a position change, depending on what the Dodgers do with Justin Turner and Gavin Lux. No matter what, I think the $7.1M estimate is a bit low. My expectation is $8.5M and it will be well worth it. I expect Seager to have a monster year in 2020. He did have an awful 2019 post season and is looking for some redemption.
Eligible For Free Agency After 2022
Ross Stripling is a very versatile pitcher who gets hurt by his versatility. I’d like to see the Dodgers give him just one role and see what happens. I’d like to see if he can find that 93-94 MPH fastball he had in the first half of 2018. If he does then he will be an incredible bargain at $2.3M. He did have the issue of tiring out in 2018 so his innings need to be managed a bit.
With so much pitching depth with the Dodgers he could get traded but I think that would be regretted later. Even if he just repeats his 2019 season he will be an excellent bargain.
Austin Barnes ($1.3M estimate, age 30)
I fully expect Will Smith to be the starting catcher in 2020. Austin Barnes is probably the favorite to be the backup in 2020. I do believe he would benefit from a change of scenery and I would not be surprised to see him traded. A $1.3M salary seems fair for a good defensive backup catcher. He will be interesting to watch this off-season.
Scott Alexander ($1.0M estimate, age 30)
Scott Alexander was acquired from the Royals after the 2017 season to be the cheap version of Zack Britton. He did show some potential in spurts in 2018 but 2019 was a disaster for him. His command has been an issue as he tries to get control of his sinker. Sometimes, it seems it takes a batter or two to get the command he wants. His 2019 ended early after arm issues led to surgery in September.
For $1M, the Dodgers need to determine if it is worth the small risk to offer him a contract. Even with mid-season acquisition Adam Kolarek still on the squad, I believe Alexander is worth the risk. Moreover, the front office took similar risks with Tony Cingrani and Josh Fields last off-season… although both were flops.
Max Muncy ($4.6M estimate, age 29)
One of the greatest finds for the Dodgers, Max Muncy slugged 35 home runs despite missing significant time in September with a fractured wrist. His slash line on the season still finished at .251/.374/.515. He has become one of the Dodgers top clutch players and is now firmly established as a mainstay. He has also learned to play some passable defense at second base. I feel he would best be suited to play third base with Justin Turner shifting to first. We’ll see what happens there. If Muncy makes anywhere near $4.6M he is a bargain.
Eligible For Free Agency After 2023
Cody Bellinger ($11.6M estimate, age 24)
The probable National League MVP is going to set a record for a first year arbitration eligible player with somewhere around the $11.6M estimate. Like many of us, I would like to see the Dodgers lock up Bellinger for a long time. There are two road-blocks though; his agent and the Dodgers way of doing business. His agent is Scott Boras and he likes to take his star players into free agency. The Dodgers do their best to keep the cost down on their players before they reach free agency. If they feel they can keep Bellinger at a lower cost via arbitration then they won’t work on a long-term deal. They also rely heavily on the average annual value (AAV) of the contracts so a long-term deal with any player raises the AAV for them immediately.
Julio Urías ($1.7M estimate, age 23)
Urías had a strong first full season on the field but had a domestic violence arrest and suspension off the field. It is also possible that he may not qualify for arbitration this season. If he does and his arbitration number is $1.7M that will probably be a bargain. If he’s not traded then he’s expected to be in the starting rotation. He’ll probably still have some type of innings limit (150?) but should have the opportunity to show his potential in 2020.
As the Dodgers get ready for an eventful off-season it is essential they figure out their arbitration eligible players. At the end of the day, how much these players get paid will determine the parameters for how much the Dodgers will have left to spend on free agents and trades. If all the arbitration estimates are correct the Dodgers would have $46M to spend this off-season. Let’s hope they spend the money a bit more wisely than they did on free agents after 2018.