From the moment they took the keys from the awful Frank McCourt in 2012, Guggenheim Baseball Management, with Stan Kasten as President, CEO and organizing force, the plan was to rebuild from the bottom up. To get the Dodgers back to where they were under the O’Malleys and improve upon everything that was already in place. The new stewards would rebuild scouting, the minor league system, modernize the entire Los Angeles operation for the 21st Century and invest in infrastructure to put a new shine on the ballpark at Chavez Ravine.
The goal from the start was to contend every year -- every single year -- tinkering on the fly rather than tearing down to the studs like teams in Houston and Chicago would do. Win as many divisions as is humanly possible, take your best shot in the postseason and bring that piece of metal back to Los Angeles where it belongs.
As of Tuesday night, October 27, the organization has done all that, exactly as laid out in the Dodger blueprints eight years ago. The Dodgers are the 2020 World Series Champions. Onward to 2021.
Management does not have to do a lot to keep the club not only competitive but likely to remain as favorites to repeat next year. Mookie Betts represented the one big splurge. They’re not going to spend $365 million on a single player again. And they don't need to. They’re not going to spend $200 million or $250 million or $300 million, or go over the competitive luxury tax threshold ($210 million in 2021) to win again either. Because they don’t need to.
What L.A. will do is concentrate on their own free agents, in particular Kiké Hernández, Joc Pederson, Blake Treinen and Justin Turner. While I’m not prepared to predict that President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman will bring back all four men, I can assure you that it is being considered. We'll see if the players -- and more accurately, their agents -- are reasonable in their asks.
Playing the 2020 season for a prorated-for-a-short-season $5.9 million and as a short-side platoon utility man, Hernandez can expect perhaps as much as a one-year contact for $8 million or a two-year for $15 million. As a known quantity, I'm confident the Dodgers would welcome him back for those types of numbers, but not for many millions more.
The left-hand slugging Pederson plays a good two thirds of the time in his platoon, primarily in left field, and is a World Series hero. After working for a prorated $7.75 million salary this year, he may be headed toward a three-year deal in the neighborhood of $30 million. I imagine the Dodgers would be comfortable with something along those lines, but would prefer a two-year deal.
I covered Turner's case three months ago and will stick with the figures I proposed then: two years and $35 million, ideally with the universal DH in place come Opening Day 2021.
Treinen may get a Joe-Kelly-like three-year $25 million contract on the open market and I'm not sure Friedman and company would go that far to retain him. They will try to re-sign Pedro Baez, however. The 32-year-old right-hander has allowed some big postseason hits, including more than one soul-crushing home run, but the club thought enough of him to use him in the sixth and deciding game of the World Series and watch as he got two very important outs stepping in between Alex Wood and Victor Gonzalez. The Dodgers know exactly what they get from Baez, which is his 162-game average line: a 3.03 ERA, 68 games, 68 innings, a 3.61 FIP, a 1.096 WHIP and 9.3 strikeouts per nine. Two years at $12 mil gets it done.
If Alex Wood will return for the $4 million he agreed to in January, L.A. might re-up for depth. Of course, for a a similar figure or even less, they can bring back Rich Hill, late of Minnesota. The Dodgers know all about 40-year-old Hill's injury history, and that he continues to perform when he's in there. A dose of the usual in 2020: eight starts, 3.03, 1.164 and 31 K in 31 2/3. For $3 mil, why the hell not? Clayton Kershaw would love it and so would a bunch of other guys in the clubhouse.
Forget about Trevor Bauer. That's not happening. All big-ticket free agents are out this winter, especially with Kersh and Corey Seager's deals expiring next fall. The two mid-level free agents I can see the Dodgers being intrigued by are the 32-year-old right-hander, Oakland closer Liam Hendriks, and 33-year-old lefty-swinging Michael Brantley of Houston. Brantley is only an option if Joc departs, however. And since he was in Cleveland when the Astros were cheating, best not to hold it against him.
Easiest offseason in Friedman's career ahead. He should be done by Thanksgiving, easy. Which is what you get after winning a World Series, when you're the best organization in baseball and as primed for the future as you were in 2020.
A missed opportunity for Justin Turner and what he can do to fix it:
Imagine being minutes away from your greatest achievement and the proudest moment of your life and being unable to experience it as it unfolds around you. Now add hearing the news that you have tested positive for a deadly disease and been told to sit in a room by yourself to the equation. All you want to do is hug someone -- anyone, everyone -- but you're not supposed to do either.
I get where Justin Turner was coming from and I feel for him. But he should have been smarter, he should've taken a beat and been more careful. And the Dodgers should've helped him to do so. That's easier said than done, however. And a difficult task for group of baseball professionals trying to make like public health experts in real time, bursting with all matter of emotion, and without much help from Major League Baseball, which itself is a group of civilians in no great position to assist.
Turner erred and MLB threw him under the bus without taking a thimble full of responsibility, which is no great surprise given the man at the top. The league can investigate if they like, but a solution is more important at the moment.
First, we should let Turner deal with his health issue and wish him Godspeed. The same for anyone else who is infected. Second, club and player should work together to craft a response, which includes a sincere apology and a plan to help others. For an organization well-versed in public relations and community outreach, and a ballplayer who is already a hero in Los Angeles for all his good works, that's easy enough to accomplish.
Since it's my suggestion and I'm good in a pinch, I am happy to volunteer my services to write a statement. Because I'm going to be available and all.
Thank you to Sports Illustrated: Nice segue, huh?
This is my final column for SI's Inside the Dodgers, which ceases publication with this post.
I've known about the change for a month and was given the option to work through October, which I gladly accepted. It was important for me to finish the beat, to cover the Dodgers from the day pitchers and catchers reported through the final day of play. This has been the highlight of my writing career and among the happiest times of my life. The Los Angeles Dodgers are World Series Champions and I was there from start to finish. What more could I ask for?
I would like to thank SVP of Business Development at Sports Illustrated Mark Pattison for giving me the opportunity, VP, Maven Network Ben Beachler for his support and Co-Editor-in-Chief, Sports Illustrated Ryan Hunt for his encouragement throughout. I'd also like to thank my contributors -- Paul Banks, Evan Bladh, Steven Douglas, Andy Frye, Evan Henerson, Ross Newhan, Jake Reiner, John Rosengren and Graham Womack. Special thanks to the three aces, Ian Casselberry, Cliff Corcoran and Tom Wilson (with a big hug for TW). Thanks as well to all who have read and commented. And celebrated along with me. You too are champions.
For news of my next project when I know what it is, and to stay in touch, please feel free to email me. Finally, in closing, as George Washington said in his farewell to his troops: "Farewell, troops."
And remember, glove conquers all.
Howard Cole has been writing about baseball on the internet since Y2K. Follow him on Twitter.