Free Agency Looms for the Dodgers, Which Players Are Staying and Going?

With business taken care of for the 2020 season, it’s time for the Los Angeles Dodgers to focus on what’s next, building to defend their world championship in 2021.

Seven Dodger players were declared free agents on Wednesday, the day after the World Series concluded: Justin Turner, Joc Pederson, Kiké Hernández, Alex Wood, Blake Treinen, Pedro Báez and Jake McGee.

What They Did for the Dodgers in 2020

Justin Turner

The centerpiece of COVID-19 scandal following the World Series, Turner, who turns 36 on Nov. 23, just finished a four-year, $64 million contract that paid him $20 million in 2020.

He hit .307/.400/.460 in 42 games this season, hitting four home runs (would be predicted to hit 15 in a full 162-game season), 23 RBIs (88), striking out 26 times (100) and received 18 bases on balls (69).

In the postseason he hit .250 (17-for-68) with three HRs, six RBIs, with 15 strikeouts and seven walks. He became the franchise’s postseason leader with his 12th home run, passing Duke Snider, and also for hits with 79, passing Steve Garvey.

The knock on Turner at this point of his career is his ability to stay on the field. He missed 18 games due to a hamstring injury, and at most hasn’t only seen more than 135 games in a season once in 2016, when he played in 151.

Let’s have a look at his games played over the years:

  • 2009 (Baltimore): 12
  • 2010 (BAL/New York Mets): 9
  • 2011 (NYM): 117
  • 2012 (NYM): 94
  • 2013 (NYM): 86
  • 2014 (Dodgers): 109
  • 2015 (LA): 126
  • 2016 (LA): 151
  • 2017 (LA):  130
  • 2018 (LA): 103
  • 2019 (LA): 135
  • 2020 (LA): 42 (70 percent of the season, or 113 games in a full year)

Turner loves the Dodgers and it wouldn’t be too much of a surprise to see him give the team a discount. He becomes way more attractive if the universal DH remains going forward as he would no doubt have a place in the lineup every day. He showed in the playoffs that he can still make brilliant plays on the field, but he’s trending on the wrong side of 35.

As far as his contract goes, we look to Todd Frazier’s in 2017. He signed with the Mets for two years, $17 million after hitting .213/.344/.428 with 27 HRs and 76 RBIs.

Another comparison is Zack Cozart, who hit .297/.385/.548 for the Reds that same year and then signed with the Angels for three years, $38 million.

Averaging those contracts out you get an average annual value (AAV) of $10.58 million/season. Inflation from 2017 to 2020 is up just under 6.2 percent according to the Consumer Price Index, which brings the AAV to $11.23 million according to inflation.

Turner, depending on how long he plans to continue playing could be looking at a contract in the range of $12-15 million/season.

Joc Pederson

To think, the 28-year-old slugger enjoyed another “Joctober” for the ages. He hit .382 (13-for-34) with two HRs and eight RBIs in 16 games played. He has responded when the team needed him. This almost never happened, as he was to be traded to the Angels in February before Arte Moreno, owner of the Angels, nixed the deal.

Pederson was awarded $7.75 million for the 2020 season after losing an arbitration hearing with the Dodgers and hits free agency for the first time, but statistically did not produce in 2020.

He had asked for $9.5 million after hitting .249/.339/.538 with 36 HRs and 74 RBIs (all career highs) in 149 games played.

This year was quite the opposite. He hit .190/.285/.397 with seven HRs (24 in a 149-game season to compare with a year ago), 16 RBIs (55), 34 strikeouts (117) and 11 walks (38), all way down from a year ago.

Kole Calhoun got a two-year/$16 million contract from the Arizona Diamondbacks after hitting .232/.325/.467 with 33 HRs and 74 RBIs in 152 games, numbers just under what Pederson accomplished that same year.

Inflation doesn’t add to much from last year to this year, but it sets Pederson’s comparable value to about $8.144 million/season, just above what he made in 2020. A team is likely going to overpay if they feel they’d like Pederson’s bat in their lineup. The average might scare teams away though.

Don’t be surprised if he returns on a one-year deal to resume his platooning duties.

Kiké Hernández

To say each Dodger isn’t a fan favorite says a lot, but then there’s Kiké, who is among the popular choices with the ladies in the stands, and an account you must follow on social media if you don’t already do.

On the field, it’s all about his versatility, and this season he played at first base, second, shortstop, left field, center field and right field, also serving as a DH in two games. He does it all.

He played in 48 games and slashed .230/.270/.410 with five HRs (he played in 130 games in 2019, so that projects to 13 HRs in that timeframe this season), 20 RBIs (54), 31 strikeouts (83) and six walks (16). We compare that to .237/.304/.411 with 17 HRs, 64 RBIs, four stolen bases (he had none in 2020), 97 strikeouts and 36 walks a year ago.

Hernandez too had a down season. He avoided arbitration with the Dodgers and was paid $5.9 million in 2020.

A player that comes to mind here is Marwin Gonzalez, who like Hernandez, plays just about anywhere. In 2018 he finished up a season with the Astros where he hit .247/.324/.409 with 16 HRs, 68 RBIs and two SBs. He did that in 145 games. Bringing those numbers down to 130 to compare with Hernandez you get, 14 HRs and 60 RBIs. It stands as a good middle ground between Kiké’s 2019 and 2020 seasons.

Gonzalez received a two-year/$21 million deal from the Twins after that season and was a year older than Kiké when he signed the deal. That’s probably going to be what Hernandez winds up signing. He might add on another year to that, bringing him to a $31.5 million contract over three years.

The question is, does he come back to continue playing a supporting role, or does he look for a starting position elsewhere?

Alex Wood

The Dodgers took a chance on the soon-to-be 30- (January) year-old Alex Wood, bringing him back on a one-year/$4 million deal. He struggled and statistically had the worst season of his career.

In nine appearances (two starts), Wood posted an 0-1 record with a 6.39 ERA, 1.1816 WHIP, both career-worsts, 11 runs allowed (nine earned) on 17 hits, allowing two home runs, striking out 15 and walking six. His 2019 season was abbreviated even further, when he played just seven games. So let’s look at his 2018 season, when he appeared in 33 games across 151.2 innings. He struck out 135 batters (which compares to a projected 185 Ks) and walked 40 (74). He gave up 14 HRs that season and would have been projected to allow 24 this season. He posted a career-high of 10.7 strikeouts/9 innings, but also allowed a career-worst 12.1 hits/9 and 4.3 walks/9.

He might have saved himself a contract based off his postseason performance, where in four appearances he pitched 6.2 IP, posted a 1.45 ERA, allowing a run on five hits, striking out 8 and walking three (two intentionally).

Wood took a sharp pay cut from $9.65 million in 2019 with the Reds to pitch for the Dodgers.

T.J. McFarland received $1.8 million to pitch one season for the A’s after posting a 4.82 ERA and 1.625 WHIP, allowing 11.4 hits/9 for the Diamondbacks. The season before he had been stellar, with a 2-2 record, an ERA of 2.00 and a 1.194 WHIP, allowing just 8.0 hits/9. He seemed worth the gamble and received just under $2 million.

The Dodgers have two lefties to presumably replace in their bullpen (along with McGee, see below). Wood’s preference to remain a starter may sway him to sign elsewhere and factor into his decision. It’s a situation similar to that of Kenta Maeda, who was used in the bullpen for the Dodgers before getting moved to the Twins and being allowed to start.

Blake Treinen

Another redemption project was Treinen, who is 32 years old, and improved his stats from the year prior in Oakland. He received a significant raise of $10 million (from $6.4 million) as a reward for posting near-perfect numbers in 2018, despite falling back to Earth in 2019.

Treinen was brought to the Dodgers to be a shutdown reliever en route to Kenley Jansen in the ninth. As the season progressed, his numbers fell off.

  • July: 0-1, 0.00 ERA, 1.364 WHIP, 3.2 IP, 4 R (0 ER), 2 H, 2 K, 3 BB
  • August: 3-0, 1.59 ERA, 0.971 WHIP, 11.1 IP, 2 R, 7 H, 11 K, 4 BB
  • September.: 0-2, 7.59 ERA, 1.406 WHIP, 10.2 IP, 9 R, 14 H, 9 K, 1 BB
  • Postseason: 1-1, 4.86 ERA,  0.901 WHIP, 11.1 IP, 6 R, 9 H, 10 K, 1 BB

Is he worth another $10 million/season?

Signs don’t look so good. Dellin Betances signed a $10.5 million contract with the Mets. The 32-year-old had an ERA of 7.71 and WHIP of 2.057 after an injury-riddled season. Will Smith signed a 3-year/$39 million contract with the Braves after two straight seasons where he posted an ERA under 3 and struck out at least 12 batters/9 in each of those seasons.

Treinen was OK, and reliable when he was needed in the playoffs. However, if he returns to the Dodgers, he’s going to need to take a pay cut.

Pedro Baez

People love to hate Báez, and at $4 million earned, he probably doesn’t deserve all the criticism he receives. This postseason the big takeaway was when manager Dave Roberts left him in Game 4 of the World Series after he allowed a 3-run home run to the Rays’ Brandon Lowe and was told he was coming out of the game. Roberts changed his mind. Out came Baez for the seventh inning after the Dodgers had regained the lead, and just like that, Kevin Kiermaier exited the building, tying the game once more.

He’s frustrated fans, and turning 33 next season, he may not be coming back if not for the right price.

When you look at Baez’s ERA and WHIP, the numbers didn’t escalate too much (ERA from 3.10 to 3.18, and WHIP from 0.947 to 1.000). However, diving deeper you see that his strikeouts/9 fell by two from 8.9 to 6.9 and his walks/9 went up from 3.0 to 3.7. He would have been projected to allow eight home runs this season (up from six in 2019).

The most concerning stat to look at with Baez is his fastball velocity. Let’s have a look of the pitch over the years:

  • 2014: 95.9 mph
  • 2015: 97.9 mph
  • 2016: 97.5 mph
  • 2017: 97.2 mph
  • 2018: 96.5 mph
  • 2019: 96.0 mph
  • 2020: 94.4 mph

The steep fall in velocity would explain a lot, and it could be enough for the Dodgers to move on from Baez.

Steve Cishek was able to get a raise from the White Sox following a 2019 season that saw his hit rate go up and strikeout rate go down. And what happened to him in 2020? His ERA went from 2.95 to 5.40. His WHIP jumped to 1.500 from 1.203. His hit rate continued to climb from 6.8 to 9.5, and he allowed almost double the amount of home runs/9 going from 1.0 to 1.8.

Baez is not Cishek, but he’s not getting any younger and is likely to regress.

A team is likely to give Baez a chance, but don’t expect it to be the Dodgers.

Jake McGee

There is no way McGee is going to have his $9 million team option exercised. That is probably the most certain thing for the Dodgers this offseason.

He was good for the Dodgers after getting released by the Rockies in July. He posted a 3-1 record, a 2.66 ERA, 0.836 WHIP and struck out 14.6 batters/9, allowing just 6.2 hits/9 and walked just 1.3 batters/9.

McGee continued to be reliable in the postseason for the Dodgers, allowing just one run in 2.1 innings between the NLCS and the World Series.

Could it have been Coors Field that doomed him? The stats say yes. His ERA was nearly three runs better on the road (2.91) than at home (5.95).

He loved Dodger Stadium, posting a 1.59 ERA there, and an ERA of 4.00 away from it.

Atmosphere is everything.

Sergio Romo was able to get $5 million from the Twins. Why can’t McGee get at least that and maybe $6 million?

One thing is for sure, the team isn’t in dire need of his services. Adam Kolarek is under team contract until 2025 and is arbitration eligible in 2022.

Who’s Coming Back?

Turner is the big name at third base on the market, but is likely to return to Los Angeles, especially in the light of the COVID-19 mess than unfolded at the end of Game 6. He’s a team body, loves his teammates and will want to fight hard to defend the trophy so he could celebrate with his boys in 2021.

If he were to take a paycut of at least $5 million, it could help soften the blow for the Dodgers to bring another bag into play, like say George Springer, who is expected to commend at least $25 million/season.

The Dodgers could do worse than to bring Wood back into their bullpen and give him a shot at mop up duties, or just a long reliever who can give the team some much-needed innings from time to time.

We can say the same about McGee, who was brilliant in Dodger Blue. The market for lefty relievers is crowded, with names like Brad Hand, Justin Wilson, Sean Doolittle, Aaron Loup and others. Andrew Friedman knows McGee from his days in Tampa Bay and should get a nice deal completed to bring him back, especially if the team decides to target Liam Hendriks to be its new closer.

Why Aren’t the Others Returning?

It’s hard to say that the Dodgers need to move on from Pederson and Hernandez, but it’s time, and while not popular to say, they need to be allowed the chance to go play regularly somewhere else. Between the two the team will save $13.65 million. If Turner takes a pay cut of $5 million, that’s almost $19 million the team can use to throw at a player like Springer to solidify the outfield.

As the team currently stands, it finished the season with an estimated payroll of $222 million, and stands to be projected at the moment at $189 million. Assuming they’re going to spend the extra $32 million to match the level means Springer allows for $7 million to be spent, and that’s without Turner’s inclusion.

Treinen will get a shot to set up for a closer somewhere else for the price he’s likely to commend. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Angels take a gamble on him. Meanwhile, Baez seems almost perfect for Don Mattingly and the Miami Marlins to be paired up with former Dodger reliever Yimi Garcia.

Any Other Changes Coming?

The team could look to trade Jansen’s $20 million contract to a team willing to take a chance on him. The same could be said about A.J. Pollock, who enjoyed a resurgence in 2020. Pollock is due $19 million in 2021 and has two years remaining on his contract with a player option for 2023.

David Price is likely to be returning to the team in 2021, which effectively takes the team out of any potential Trevor Bauer sweepstakes.

It’s Your Turn

Tell us in the comments. Which free agents would you re-sign? Who would you let go? Any free agents you think would help the team?

We want to hear all about it, fans!

This story was originally published on October 30 at

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