The odds of Bryce Harper transferring to Los Angeles are better now than on Friday. The Dodgers made a big move Friday afternoon, trading longtime fan-favorite Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Alex Wood, Kyle Farmer, and $7 million to the Cincinnati Reds for Homer Bailey and prospects Jeter Downs and Josiah Gray.
It’s a move that was apparently in the works for weeks but it’s finally official. For Cincinnati, it’s a deal that allows them to become more competitive in 2019 with Puig, Kemp, and Wood who are established quality MLB veterans. It also reunites their new hitting coach, Turner Ward, with Puig.
However, things get interesting on the Dodgers’ side of things because it clearly isn’t a trade to improve the team’s chances of a World Series title in 2019. It’s significant because it checks two of the biggest boxes the franchise was looking to fill this offseason: clearing money and the outfield logjam. They did both, and in a big way.
They have opened up space in the outfield by moving two guys that needed playing time. The Dodgers’ primary outfield options are now Cody Bellinger, Alex Verdugo, Andrew Toles, Joc Pederson with Chris Taylor and Enrique Hernandez capable of filling in if needed.
They shipped out Matt Kemp’s $21.5 million and the estimated $22 million Puig and Wood would earn in arbitration for the $23 million owed to Bailey in 2019 ($17.5 million AAV). Factor in that the Dodgers immediately released Bailey, and his $5 million buyout option kicks in, meaning they are paying him $28 million to not suit up for them.
Staying under the luxury threshold has been the Dodgers front office’s long-term goal, and this deal helps them cut money from their payroll, resulting in luxury tax relief.
For luxury tax purposes – which matter to the #Dodgers — they are saving about $26M in 2019 with this trade, again unless $ are moving in the trade
— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) December 21, 2018
The fact that the Dodgers front office has been able to trade away Matt Kemp’s albatross of a contract twice speaks volumes. It’s just another mastermind move by a front office that has done an excellent job swapping dollars yet coming out on top.
Many are speculating that this is just the first step in a larger scheme because President of Baseball Operations, Andrew Friedman, doesn’t make moves without having the bigger picture in mind.
He is always playing advanced chess, which, combined with the personnel and financial flexibility Los Angeles has, is why everyone has their eyes pointed to Hollywood to see what the next domino to fall will be. The immediate name that comes to mind is Bryce Harper.
That sound you hear is Scott Boras laughing as the Dodgers have opened up both a spot in the outfield and payroll room following their trade with the Reds. Let the Bryce Harper-to-the-Dodgers chatter officially begin.
— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) December 21, 2018
But it isn’t as automatic or straightforward as that.
For those shipping the Dodgers and Bryce Harper: After the trade, the Dodgers' luxury-tax payroll is going to be more than $180M, including the money they're sending to Cincinnati. If they want to stay under, Harper isn't happening. If that's not a concern, it's a possibility.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 21, 2018
The odds are higher but the reality of it actually happening is still in question. They could very well be using their newfound flexibility to go after other fish.
Ace Corey Kluber is still in play, as is his talented teammate, Trevor Bauer. Catcher J.T. Realmuto still hasn’t moved either and he would fill a gaping hole behind the plate for the boys in blue. Going for one of these three would help the Dodgers stay under the luxury threshold, as would signing free agent outfielder, A.J. Pollock.
And the Dodgers surely have the assets to pull off a big move. The under-the-radar aspect of the deal with the Reds is because Los Angeles had strengthened an already strong farm system that took some hits for the last two summers due to trades for Yu Darvish and Manny Machado.
Downs and Gray were ranked 7th and 20th, respectively, in a deep Reds ‘ system, and now add depth to Los Angeles’. Downs is one to keep an eye on. Although the 20-year-old just had a .753 OPS during his first full season in the minors, people are high on him.
One NL scout on new Dodger prospect: “Jeter Downs a stud….don’t care what he is ranked…future all-star.”
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 21, 2018
Shortstop Jeter Downs is headed to the Dodgers in the monster deal, sources tell Yahoo Sports. He really impressed scouts this year and has a chance to be a capital-G guy.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 21, 2018
It’s a move that has “Andrew Friedman” written all over it. He solved his two most significant tasks while accomplishing a third, almost like a bonus. We’ll have to wait to see how the Dodgers take advantage of it but it would be money well spent if it turns out well.
Featured Image via Flickr/Keith Allison