What the San Francisco Giants Can Learn From the Dodgers
Farhan Zaidi had done much of the heavy lifting by the 2016/2017 offseason by clearing cap space, but this was his opportunity to show everyone what he can do with some money. The expectations for the Dodgers were high as many of the questionable moves Zaidi made to start his tenure paid off and the Dodgers continued to win.
So, Farhan Zaidi goes out and signs Rich Hill to a three year $48 million extension? Excuse me? In simpler terms he signed a 37 year old journeyman LHP who has chronic blister issues and doesn’t usually pitch beyond the fifth inning in any of his starts. Weird move, but okay.
Then Zaidi signed Justin Turner to a 4yr/$64 million extension. This one makes more sense. Justin Turner not only emerged as an emotional leader and All-Star player for the Dodgers, but he performed in the Postseason and carried the Dodgers at times. One could argue that he had gotten paid more because of his recent accomplishments and a thin free agent market, but Turner continues to produce at a high level.
Following that, Zaidi signed Kenley Jansen to a 5yr/$80 million extension. This signing is hard to argue either way even in hindsight because Kenley Jansen went on to have the best season of his career in 2017 and then the worst season of his career in 2018. Plus his contract is backloaded for payments of $18 million in 2019 and 2020, then $20 million in his final year of 2021. Jansen may have been another case of rewarding past performance but the amount of money going out in the later years of this deal are questionable.
Then a couple of the Dodgers other key acquisions in the 2016/2017 offseason were a trade for Logan Forsythe, utility infielder from the Tampa Bay Rays. They signed Brandon Morrow a hardthrowing journeyman starting pitcher for the veteran minimum, signed our beloved Sergio Romo and re-signed certified jerk, Chase Utley. Oh, they also got this weirdly shaped second baseman off the scrap heap name Max Muncy.
The Dodgers went into the 2017 season on a mission. They ran away with another NL West title and despite a slow start. The continued brilliance of second year short stop Corey Seager and the emergence of Cody Bellinger carried the Dodgers offense. They were also sparked by Chris Taylor who was traded for in a minor league deal the previous season and Austin Barnes (from the Dee Gordon deal) who both had breakout offensive seasons. They were also anchored by solid contributions from Yasmani Grandal and the journeyman Brandon Morrow found a home in the Dodger’s bullpen and pitched lights out most of the season.
This was also the second time that Farhan Zaidi pulled the trigger on some major in season moves. He traded for Texas Rangers’ ace Yu Darvish and the Pirates lefty bullpen specialist and beloved current Giant Tony Watson. They also traded for Curtis Granderson to provide some left-handed pop off the bench. Granderson went on to do the exact opposite. I hope you’re starting to see why I’m doing all of this. If you don’t, there is a point I promise!
The Dodgers went into the postseason and crushed the Diamondbacks in the first round and then did the same to the shell of what the Chicago Cubs were the previous season. The Dodgers advanced to the World Series and then got their hearts ripped out by the Houston Astros. It was pretty great. In the end it was the Dodgers lack of clutch pitching, questionable match up decisions, and shoddy bullpen that cost them in the end.
The Dodgers were a great team, but they were also deeply flawed and their match up against the Astros proved that. With the exception of Jansen, their bullpen was highly suspect, their starters did not have great postseason track records, and their reliance on platoons in most positions didn’t match up well against a team full of undisputed, match-up proofed stars. The Astros offensive talent and their gritty pitching rose to the occasion snuffing out the Dodgers hopes of a title. I was very happy to see this.
Despite their spending and trading, The Dodgers ended 2017 with a payroll of $184.2 million and $41.4 million due to traded or released players. Zaidi was shedding the dollars like the first few pounds on a new diet and got the Dodgers back to their first World Series in almost 30 years.