As prices rise for Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen, Dodgers show interest in Royals closer Wade Davis
On Monday morning, as the industry gathered for its annual ritual of bartering and bluffing known as the winter meetings, reports surfaced about Miami’s willingness to offer a five-year, $80-million contract to Kenley Jansen.
In the afternoon, Aroldis Chapman expressed his desire for a six-year deal worth $100 million.
In between, San Francisco finalized a four-year, $62-million contract with Mark Melancon, who will serve as the temporary owner of the sport’s richest contract ever for a closer, with Jansen and Chapman expected to shatter that mark in the coming days.
The Dodgers did not approach Melancon with much aggression. Their history with Jansen is lengthy. Their interest in Chapman is keen. But as the team searches for a closer for 2017, the club may opt for less costly options in trades.
“We’ve had a lot of different conversations,” said Andrew Friedman, the team’s president of baseball operations. “There are a number of different guys on the trade market, and two elite guys on the free-agent marked. Everything is intertwined. We feel as prepared as we can be heading into these meetings.”
The combination of the team’s financial might and its surplus of prospects provides Friedman a plentiful palette in discussions with other clubs. So as the industry awaits to see if the Kansas City Royals will commence a fire sale, the Dodgers have expressed interest in All-Star closer Wade Davis, according to people familiar with the situation.
The Dodgers have also shown interest in former All-Star center fielder Lorenzo Cain, who finished third in the American League most-valuable-player voting in 2015, but played only 103 games last season because of injuries to a hamstring and wrist. Like Davis, Cain will be a free agent after this season.
The two sides may match up for a deal but consummating one is never easy. The Dodgers lack interest in losing top-level prospects like Julio Urias, Cody Bellinger and Alex Verdugo. The team possesses an enviable amount of prospect depth, including pitchers like Jose De Leon and Walker Buehler, but parting with any of those players would be painful.
The gap between Davis and his free-agent counterparts is not significant. During the last three seasons, Davis has a lower earned-run average (1.18) than Chapman (1.72) and Jansen (2.32). He ranked fifth among all relievers in FanGraphs’ version of wins above replacement. In 20 postseason appearances in 2014 and 2015, he surrendered two runs.
A caveat exists in the comparison: Davis sat out several weeks in 2016 because of arm injuries spread across two stints on the disabled list. He experienced a forearm strain at the start of July. Later in the month, as the Dodgers gauged Kansas City’s interest in a trade, Davis strained the flexor mass connected to his right elbow.
“It wasn’t the ligament,” Royals Manager Ned Yost said. “It was muscle soreness.”
Neither Chapman nor Jansen arrives with such an obvious physical red flag. But both will cost far more than Davis. Jansen has expressed his preference to remain a Dodger, but has shown a willingness to be courted by other suitors. And Chapman is willing to put a number on his value.
“The only thing I have expressed is that I would like a six-year contract,” Chapman told ESPN’s Marly Rivera. “I know that doesn’t mean that I will get it, but that’s what I would like to sign. There are rumors out there that I requested $100 million and that’s not true at all. I believe he who deserves something does not need to demand it.”
The Dodgers may prefer Chapman to Jansen, in part because the team would receive a compensatory first-round pick if Jansen signs elsewhere. But during his time in Los Angeles, Friedman has never given out a contract worth more than $48 million. He will have to break that record if he wants to sign either closer.
Which is another reason a trade might make more sense for the Dodgers.
“I think things are starting to bubble to the surface, a little bit, as far as timing,” Friedman said. “I’m not sure. But we feel good about the market, and how it will play out.”
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