Farhan Zaidi addressed the Dodgers’ ongoing woes with refreshing frankness on ESPNLA’s Mornings with Keyshawn, Jorge & LZ on Thursday. The young GM got right down to it, stating that there is little excuse for the Dodgers’ performance this season. He went on to state that if play doesn’t pick up soon a change will be imminent. Zaidi offered the following as to what that action may be:
“In the next week or two, we are going to have to start evaluating whether we need…to make a change roster-wise, personnel-wise, whether that’s internally from some of the guys we have playing well in Triple-A [or] continuing conversations around the league.”
He didn’t guarantee any specific plan of action but Zaidi made it clear the front office is starting to consider their options when it comes to righting the ship. However, the Dodgers ongoing flirtation with last place in the NL West makes those options diverse. The front office could very well see “righting the ship” as more of a long, rather than a short-term goal. This leaves open a very interesting debate for fans—should the moves the Dodgers make be focused on saving their season or saving their money?
Barring a 15-game win streak that renders this debate moot, let’s consider these potential strategies and what they would mean for the franchise.
Save the Money
What seemed unfathomable two months ago has become a living nightmare. Each utterance of “It’s still early” rings exponentially more hollow with every loss to a sub .500 team. It may very well be the front office soon finds it necessary to double down on their salary dumping efforts.
The most consistent criticisms of Zaidi have been directed at his offseason efforts—or lack thereof. In their desires to keep payroll beneath the luxury tax threshold, some feel the Dodgers have been left vulnerable, especially in the bullpen. Not resigning solid relief pitchers this season seemed a small price to pay if it meant netting a bigger fish the next. After all, we still had all the other pieces that took us to Game 7. Those plans also resulted in the unexpected redemption of Matt Kemp, brightening 2018’s prospects even more. Prior to April, the biggest worry for most fans was the Dbacks might finish 6 games behind instead of 11.
Giving up on this season and focusing on the future may not seem palatable but it could prove fruitful. The stacked free agent class of 2018 already has most of the league salivating and the Dodgers are no exception. Putting previously not-for-sale players on the trading block may have its upsides. The Atlanta Braves (or a similar team) would likely be interested in shoring up their rotation come August. They have prospect depth and are competing at a level that has surpassed expectations. A solid piece like Rich Hill or Kenta Maeda could prove vital in a tight NL East down the stretch. For the Dodgers part, they could pick up some of that prospect depth. They’d also potentially increase their payroll cushion, providing flexibility in pursuing any combination of Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, or Clayton Kershaw should he opt out of his contract.
If committed to this path the only other contracts the Dodgers might benefit from selling high are painful to consider. Matt Kemp hasn’t been back for long but it seems he’s already re-established his place in fans’ hearts. It’s even more inconceivable to think of parting with Kenley Jansen or Justin Turner. That’s why I wouldn’t make it a serious consideration. But then again, it’s not really my consideration that counts. Will the hope of a big free agent signing and a potential top draft pick be enough to embrace mediocrity?
Save the Season
Despite the unfolding tragedy of this season’s first half, it’s difficult to let go of hope completely. You can’t blame fans who are leaving the Ravine even earlier than usual when the offense isn’t showing up in the first place. But still, baseball is magic, for better or for worse and sometimes all that’s needed to make it better is a dramatic move. A spark in the lineup and a hose in the pen could be the key to turning this living nightmare into a midsummer dream.
Manny Machado is a name that has been on the lips of most speculators. Any trade involving a high caliber player such as Machado is a risk, but from where the team stands today it sure seems the upside outweighs the down. It would not significantly affect their financial flexibility come free agent season. It would also show fans that this ownership group is still committed to winning now (even if that now has had to be postponed a few times). Besides, the last time a guy named Manny moved to LA in the middle of a season things worked out pretty well.
Zaidi has reaffirmed the organization’s commitment to Dave Roberts. He also hasn’t been shy about accepting responsibility for the Dodgers’ poor performance. This probably indicates that Zaidi isn’t thinking about tanking just yet. Even if the Dodgers start winning consistently, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a trade like the one mentioned above.
Dodger fans have been saying maybe next year for 30 years. Last time it didn’t have to be said until the final out of Game 7 of the World Series. It’s not too early to call for a dramatic change. It is too early to call it quits until next year. Not when we know what this team is capable of.
You can listen to ESPNLA’s full interview with Farhan Zaidi here. (The interview starts around the 29-minute mark).Rich Hill, Baseball’s Most Talked About Finger, and You