Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell, and since this is the only part of the newsletter that my youngest daughter, Hannah, reads, here's a special message: You can stop reading now and do your homework.
Will Darvish come back?
Yu Darvish is one of the many unsigned free agents out there, and it appears he is holding off signing for another team because he wants to come back to the Dodgers. But in order to do that, the Dodgers need to clear some salary so they can sign him and remain under the luxury tax cap. I've gotten a lot of questions about Darvish. Here are some answers.
Who will the Dodgers trade to make room for him?
The Dodgers would very much like to unload Matt Kemp, who is going to be paid almost $22 million this season. They hope to find a team willing to take him and also willing to pay all or most of his remaining salary. But other teams are apparently skittish of acquiring a guy making that much money who has an arthritic hip, is the worst defensive outfielder in the majors and has a reputation for being a bad clubhouse influence. It's still expected that he will either be traded or released before the start of the season. Other teams also know this and may be saying to themselves "Thanks, but we can just pick him up when you release him."
If Kemp's salary can't be unloaded, then the only other real trade options that would create space for Darvish are Logan Forsythe and Yasmani Grandal. Forsythe is getting $8.5 million this season. He had a bad year at the plate last season, in part because of injuries, but the Dodgers place a premium value on defense and he remains a good fielding second baseman. They also have no real strong options to replace him at second. They don't want to move Chris Taylor out of center, and Enrique Hernandez is best suited in a utility role. And even though Grandal lost his starting catcher job to Austin Barnes near the end of last season, he could win it back in spring training, and the Dodgers are a much stronger team with Barnes/Grandal at catcher than Barnes/Kyle Farmer. Grandal will be paid $7.9 million this season.
Why do the Dodgers even want Darvish back?
Yes, the pain of his Game 7 (and Game 3) starts is still high among Dodgers fans. But, the fact remains that Darvish can be an effective starter, and the Dodgers like to have depth at starting pitching. Right now, the rotation is Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Alex Wood, Kenta Maeda and Hyun-jin Ryu. Adding Darvish makes that rotation better. Of course, that is only true if he has corrected the flaw that has him tipping pitches. I'm not leading the parade to bring him back, but I don't think it would be the disaster some fans believe it would be.
Why not just backload Darvish's contract?
Sure, you could give Darvish a four-year, $80-million deal, with him getting paid only $6 million this season and the rest spread out over the next three years. That makes sense. Then he only counts as $6 million toward the total payroll this season, right? Wrong. MLB doesn't calculate the total payroll that way. They use average annual value of the deal, so no matter how the Dodgers slice up his pay, if they gave him a four-year, $80-million deal, MLB would count that as $20 million for this season.
I ask again, will Darvish be back?
I don't think so. I just don't see a solid option to clear enough payroll for him. Plus, the Dodgers have Ross Stripling, Brock Stewart, Walker Buehler and Julio Urias (back around July), so there is depth there.
The Wasserman Agency terminated their relationship with Yasiel Puig, leaving the Dodgers right fielder without an agent for now. This is rarely a good thing for a couple of reasons. First, Puig is finally entering the phase of his career where he can make big money, meaning a big cut for the agent. Puig is going to be paid $9.2 million this season, then has an arbitration year that could put his salary up to $15 million in 2019, then becomes a free agent in 2020. Agents rarely cut ties with players whose salary is going to go way up. Second, you almost never see an agent cut ties with a player. It's usually the other way around.
There was no reason given for dropping Puig, but it's hard to think of a reason that can be comforting to Dodgers fans. There is much speculation as to what happened, but it's more likely than not that Puig did something bad that caused his agent to throw up his hands and walk away. But what? We all know about some of the immature behavior that has gotten Puig in trouble in the past. But the fair thing to do is to reserve judgment until all the facts are in.
Greatest Dodgers ever
The readers have spoken, and the top 25 countdown will be released one a day in a special newsletter released each weekday. Over the next three weeks, we will countdown Nos. 25-11. That brings us to March 2. Then we will go every other day (skipping weekends) timing No. 1 to be announced on Opening Day, March 29.
I know some of you (about 20% who emailed), wanted two a week, but I have to go with the majority. I promise your inbox won't be overwhelmed. And I will still be bringing you all the Dodgers news you need to know.
Some of you wanted the list released all at once. But I want each player to get their own moment, particularly the men who finished nearer to the end of the top 25 than the beginning. I decided on doing this project because I wanted you guys to feel like you are a big part of the newsletter and to celebrate the rich history of the team. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do putting it together, and I hope those of you who didn't want one each day stick with us and enjoy it too.
Many of you requested a full list of players who received votes. That list is below. I still have about 50 ballots to count, so if you don't see a player you voted for, that doesn't mean I didn't get your ballot. Some of the people below got only one vote, some just missed the top 25. And, of course, the actual top 25 is in here too, just in alphabetical order. Can you pick out the top 25 from this list?
Nancy Bea Hefley
Wee Willie Keeler
Mike Marshall (the pitcher)
Van Lingle Mungo
Roger "Peanut Man" Owens
Pee Wee Reese
Pantone 294, the popular Dodgers fan group, has brought aboard Matt Barrero, the son of a good friend of mine, Jim Barrero, to do some videos for them. Here's one I think you will enjoy.