The Los Angeles Dodgers are going to have to get aggressive in free agency this winter, but which targets make the most sense?
This was supposed to finally be the year for the Los Angeles Dodgers to end their three-decade World Series drought. The Dodgers roared through the National League with 106 wins in the regular season, got historic seasons from MVP Cody Bellinger and Cy Young runner-up Hyun-jin Ryu and entered the playoffs as the overwhelming favorites to take down a flawed field of National League contenders.
Instead, the Dodgers were unceremoniously dispatched in the NLDS by the Washington Nationals, blowing a 2-1 lead and watching Clayton Kershaw melt down once more in October. Every season that does not end with a title now has to be considered a lost year for the Dodgers. They’ve spent too much and developed too many homegrown All-Stars to think about it any other way.
It feels different this year, however – more desperate. The Dodgers are getting older, and quickly. Kershaw looked mortal at times last year, closer Kenley Jansen was hit hard at times and All-Star third baseman Justin Turner is 35 and in the final year of his contract. The farm system has also delivered the last of its biggest names in Gavin Lux and Dustin May. It really is now or never for the Dodgers for this era.
Unlike recent offseasons that saw the Dodgers retain their own free agents and pick a few lesser names from the mid-tier ranks, the team has the need and the financial capital to land one premier free agent this winter, but which one?
5. Rich Hill
With Hyun-jin Ryu and Rich Hill hitting free agency, the Dodgers are potentially looking at having to fill two spots in their starting rotation for next season. Kenta Maeda, Dustin May and Julio Urias are all potential options to move into one of the open slots, but all three also offer very high value as shutdown relievers. If the Dodgers can use two of the trio out of the bullpen, it sets them up much better for October.
The Dodgers are not going to entertain Ryu’s desire for a long-term deal, but should be open to bringing back Hill for at least one more year to finish out his career. The veteran left-hander will be 40 next year and appears ready to give it at least one more season before retiring. He is coming off a three-year, $48-million deal that saw him post a 3.30 ERA in 327 innings with 10.7 strikeouts per nine. The Dodgers have had the luxury of allowing Hill to ramp up slowly and prepare for the playoffs, where he is 1-1 with a 2.70 ERA in 50 innings since coming to Los Angeles.