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Dodgers Dugout: Losing Max Scherzer and Corey Seager is not the end of the world

Dodgers pitcher Max Scherzer and shortstop Corey Seager.
The Dodgers lost two of their top players to free agency on Monday, with pitcher Max Scherzer, left, signing with the New York Mets and shortstop Corey Seager joining the Texas Rangers.
(Associated Press)

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell and let’s take a look at free-agent activity, because there might not be any more signings for a while.

The big news: Max Scherzer signs with the New York Mets for three years, $130 million and Corey Seager signs with the Texas Rangers for 10 years, $325 million.

The reaction here: Yawn.

Let’s take them one at a time.

Max Scherzer is a great pitcher. Finished third in NL Cy Young Award voting. A future Hall of Famer. But he’s 37 years old, is coming off a “dead arm” and is not worth $43 million a season. He signed with a team desperate to make a splash. The Dodgers are not a desperate team. He came here, did what he was supposed to do, wore out in the playoffs and we wish him well in the future against everyone other than the Dodgers.

Corey Seager leaving hurts a little just from the standpoint that he started here, we watched him mature into a solid player and it’s sad to see him go. At one point during spring training, the Dodgers offered him eight years, $250 million. He said no.

Seager is really good when he plays, but the question is how much he will play. He’s injury prone. The Dodgers played 546 games over the last four seasons. Seager played in 307 of those, or 56.2%. He was injured almost as much as he was healthy. He is average at best on defense. And the Dodgers have someone ready to replace him: Trea Turner.

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Let’s compare Turner and Seager since 2016, which is Seager’s first full season in the majors. In parentheses will be where they rank among the 23 shortstops who had at least 2,000 plate appearances in that time.

Batting average
Seager: .295 (3rd)
Turner: .304 (1st)

OB%
Seager: .364 (1st)
Turner: .359 (3rd)

SLG%
Seager: .501 (2nd)
Turner: .495 (3rd)

Home runs
Seager: 100 (9th)
Turner: 102 (8th)

Stolen bases
Seager: 10 (23rd)
Turner: 201 (1st)

WAR
Seager: 19.7 (10th)
Turner: 24.5 (5th)

Defensive WAR
Seager: 2.3 (17th)
Turner: 4.3 (12th)

Fielding %
Seager: .969
Turner: .973

They are pretty evenly matched. And while it would be better to have Seager and Turner in the lineup, the writing was pretty much on the wall as far as Seager goes when the Dodgers acquired Turner. They must have seen this coming.

The Dodgers don’t win the 2020 World Series without Seager. He deserves a hearty ovation when he returns to Dodger Stadium one day. But the Dodgers will be fine without him.

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For those of you upset, thinking the Dodgers aren’t nearly as good as they were, you are correct. As of this moment, they aren’t as good as last year’s team. But the offseason isn’t over yet, and you can bet they don’t begin spring training with the roster they have today. There are still a couple hundred free agents out there. Before we throw in the towel on next season, let’s wait and see what the team looks like in spring training.

The good news is the Dodgers did re-sign Chris Taylor to a four-year, $60-million deal. This brings back one of their most valuable players. The importance of his return can’t be overstated.

That leaves us with Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen as the big Dodgers names still out there. Kershaw is deciding between the Dodgers and Texas Rangers. Jansen is in talks with the Miami Marlins.

Let’s look at a potential starting lineup if the season started today:

C-Will Smith
1B-Max Muncy
2B-Chris Taylor
3B-Justin Turner
SS-Trea Turner
LF-AJ Pollock
CF-Cody Bellinger
RF-Mookie Betts

Here’s the problem area: The rotation. Let’s look at the official depth chart on dodgers.com:

Walker Buehler
Julio Urías
Tony Gonsolin

And that’s it. That’s a little thin. You can round it out with Andrew Heaney, David Price, Andre Jackson and that’s about it. Dustin May should be back after the All-Star break.

But again, keep in mind the big takeaway: It’s the first week of December. This is not the roster the Dodgers will have when the season begins. No reason to panic or worry. Yet.

State income tax

Another reason Seager might have taken the Texas deal: Texas has no state income tax. California has the highest state income tax in the nation. In order for Seager to sign with the Dodgers and make the equivalent money he is getting with the Rangers, the Dodgers would have had to give him $401 million. An extra $76 million. There’s no reason to blame Seager for taking the money and running. There are cries of “disloyal” out there. Loyalty is a two-way street. The moment a player has no more value to a team, they release that player. It’s a business, might as well realize that and accept it for what it is.

Lockout

The collective bargaining agreement expired at 9:01 p.m. PT on Wednesday, and the owners voted to lock out the players. That means no more free-agent signing or trades until a new collective bargaining agreement is reached. No contact between players and teams at all. Players can’t work out at team facilities.

Again, not a time to panic. No one is really losing that much money when there’s a lockout during the offseason. If the lockout extends to spring training, then there’s trouble.

A couple of things that will probably be agreed to with the new contract: Expanded playoffs (either 12 teams or 14) and a DH in the National League.

Here’s the big problem with a lockout though, especially if it extends into spring training or the season. We are (hopefully) nearing the end of a global pandemic. Almost a million people have died in the U.S. alone. Tens of thousands of people lost their jobs when businesses shut down, and many of those jobs didn’t return. People have been struggling with trying to make ends meet and with the loss of loved ones. The last thing most people want to see are billionaires and millionaires fighting over who can make more money. Yes, the baseball dispute is far more complex than that, but that is how the majority of fans view it.

Baseball is supposed to be a distraction from life’s struggles, not a reminder of them. Let’s hope there are people on both sides who remember that and that a fair and equitable solution is reached soon.

Max Muncy

Turns out Max Muncy, who injured his elbow on the final day of the season, was hurt more than he was letting on. He had a torn UCL in his left elbow. “Torn UCL is a slow process,” Muncy said during an MLB Network interview with Alanna Rizzo. “But we’re coming back, everything’s going according to plan, and thankfully, it is the offseason, so we can come back from that.”

If Muncy is out an extended period of time and misses the first part of the season, that would open up some playing time for Gavin Lux.

Max Scherzer speaks

During his introductory news conference with the Mets, Scherzer blamed pitch counts on his dead arm during the playoffs.

“We made decisions to give extra days out on a consistent basis and watch our pitch counts for the postseason,” Scherzer said. “I just feel like that lowered my capacity so that when I tried to do the 2019 formula of being able to pitch out of the ‘pen, my arm wasn’t able to respond to that because I came from a lower pitch count, per se. That’s why I didn’t get hurt. That’s why I didn’t hurt myself, but I was definitely compromised trying to execute what I was trying to do in 2019.”

Daniel Hudson returns

The Dodgers signed right-handed reliever Daniel Hudson to a one-year, $7-million deal. He was with the team in 2018, going 3-2 with a 4.11 ERA in 40 games. Last season, he was 5-3 with a 3.31 ERA for Washington and San Diego. He will basically replace Corey Knebel, who has agreed to a deal with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Hall of Fame

Balloting for the Dodgers Dugout Dodgers Hall of Fame is now closed. We received 8,293 ballots. It will take me a few days to finish processing them, so results will be announced some time next week. Thanks to everyone who voted. Unless there is a surge in voting for a couple of players in particular, it looks like six people will make up the inaugural class.

In case you missed it

Chris Taylor to remain with Dodgers after agreeing to multiyear deal

Max Scherzer says his dead arm in postseason was result of Dodgers’ pitch count

Dodgers tender contracts to Julio Urías, Trea Turner and Cody Bellinger

Pie fights amid the holiday lights. The impending MLB lockout explained

Playoffs in peril? Dodgers operating in new reality after free-agency massacre

Dodgers’ Max Muncy reveals he tore a ligament in left elbow at end of regular season

Corey Seager joins Rangers on 10-year, $325-million deal; is Clayton Kershaw next?

Did the Trevor Bauer uncertainty lead to Max Scherzer signing with the Mets?

And finally

Corey Seager discusses signing with the Rangers. Watch and listen here.

Until next time...

Have a comment or something you’d like to see in a future Dodgers newsletter? Email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.


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