The general managers meetings, the first of Major League Baseball’s two offseason summits, began this week. It will double as the ignition for a rumor mill that, based on the last few years, could extend into spring training. Minor moves will be made. Negotiations for bigger deals will get underway. Most will be drawn out over the winter.
The Dodgers’ offseason activity in recent years has been steady, if not splashy. Trades have been executed with payroll in mind. They haven’t given a free agent from another club a contract worth more than $60 million. They’ve operated with discipline.
But Andrew Friedman, the team’s president of baseball operations, insisted the organization has not shied from acquiring expensive, premier talent. He also maintained he has not been directed to stay under the competitive-balance tax threshold of a $208-million payroll after not eclipsing the line the last two seasons.
“We just don’t have hard-and-fast rules,” Friedman said. “We’re open to different avenues and different levers of how to get better. And I can’t sit here right now and tell you what that means because I don’t know.”
One option the Dodgers are considering is signing free-agent third baseman Josh Donaldson, according to people with knowledge of the team’s thinking. MLB.com has reported that the Washington Nationals, Texas Rangers, Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves are also pursuing Donaldson, the 2015 American League most valuable player and three-time All-Star.
Donaldson, who turns 34 next month, is coming off a rebound campaign with the Braves after battling calf and shoulder injuries the previous two years. He hit 37 home runs with a .900 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 155 games as the Braves won their second consecutive National League East title before losing in a Division Series. He reestablished himself on a one-year, $23-million contract, effectively betting on a bounce-back season before reentering free agency.
Donaldson has until Thursday to decide on a one-year, $17.8-million qualifying offer from the Braves. He is expected to decline it. As a result, the Dodgers would surrender their second-highest pick in June’s draft and $500,000 of international bonus pool money to sign him.
Donaldson and Anthony Rendon are the two top third basemen and arguably the best two position players on the free-agent market. Rendon is nearly five years younger, an NL MVP finalist, and led Washington to a World Series title two weeks ago. He will attract longer, more lucrative offers after declining the Nationals’ qualifying offer. That could turn the Dodgers to Donaldson, who is in the market for a contract in the range of three to four years.
Donaldson, or Rendon, would give the Dodgers another elite right-handed hitter alongside Justin Turner to complement their array of premier left-handed batters headlined by Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy and Corey Seager.
Signing either third baseman would mean moving Turner to first base or second base and would create a crowded infield. Muncy also plays first and second, Seager is the incumbent shortstop and premier rookie Gavin Lux is a middle infielder. Turner turns 35 this month, battled injuries in 2019 and is entering the final year of his contract. Acquiring Donaldson or Rendon would provide insurance for 2020 and beyond should Turner not re-sign with the team.
Friedman confirmed that Mark Prior will replace Rick Honeycutt as pitching coach. Prior was the bullpen coach the last two seasons. ... Friedman said he is unsure whether the organization will hire a general manager to work under him. The Dodgers have been without a general manager since Farhan Zaidi departed last November to become the San Francisco Giants’ president of baseball operations. ... Utilityman Kristopher Negron announced his retirement Tuesday, three days after the Dodgers released him. The 33-year-old appeared in 30 games at six positions for the Dodgers after they acquired him from the Seattle Mariners in July.