Possible 2013 Free Agent Targets in LA

A collective sigh of relief spread across the baseball community last night, as Frank McCourt officially sold the Los Angeles Dodgers to the partnership group headlined by former Laker great Magic Johnson.

The deal is historic for many reasons. It marks the end of the McCourt era in Los Angeles, in which he ran one of the most storied franchises into the ground and transformed it into a laughingstock across the league (and, unfortunately, still made a healthy profit in the end). The final sale price of $2.15 billion also is the most any U.S. sports franchise has ever commanded.

For more information about the details of the sale, be sure to read this article written by Mike Axisa.

This transition of ownership should not only translate into a more professional baseball franchise, but it also should signify the end of thriftiness in Los Angeles. Ned Colletti should no longer be cash-strapped when attempting to accumulate talent to build a winning team. No longer sitting on the sidelines while other big-market organizations acquire talent such as Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, and Jose Reyes. Starting next winter, the Los Angeles Dodgers project to be serious players in the free agent market once again.

But which players could the Dodgers target next offseason?

Unlikely Targets

First and foremost, let us eliminate the plethora of potential free agents that will likely have their 2013 options exercised by their respective teams. That includes high-profile players such as Brian McCann, Robinson Cano, Ian Kinsler, Curtis Granderson, Dan Haren, Ervin Santana, and James Shields.

The remainder of the unlikely targets:

Brandon Phillips — The second baseman has been at least a +3 win player in each of the last five seasons. He possesses a very good glove and profiles as a potential 20+ home run player every single year. The Dodgers are unlikely to get a chance to bid on the 30-year-old, however, as the Reds have made it very clear that they wish to hammer out an extension prior to his reaching free agency.

B.J. Upton — With Matt Kemp in center field, the Dodgers have very little need for another center fielder.

David Ortiz — While the Dodgers could certainly use some pop in the center of the batting order, especially at first base, the idea of Big Papi signing a contract to play over 100 games as a first baseman is humorous. The slugger will remain in the American League, as long as a team wishes to pay him to DH.

Possible Targets

David Wright — This target obviously hinges on whether the Mets exercise Wright’s $16M option for the 2013 season. If the Mets pass, however, you can be sure the Dodgers will throw their hat into the ring. He no longer plays a stellar third base, but the 29-year-old still provides value with the bat. His .342 wOBA was well above the league average of .309 amongst third baseman last year.

Miguel Montero — Though the Dodgers do have a young catcher in Tim Federowicz, who should split time with A.J. Ellis this season, the organization could still look to upgrade their offense by targeting one of the top catchers on the market. After all, Montero posted the second-best wOBA amongst National League catchers last season and will only be 29-years-old when he hits free agency.

Francisco Liriano — The left-hander is no longer a generational talent, which appeared to be possible prior to his Tommy John surgery, but it’s easy to forget he is one season removed from a +6 win campaign. If he can once again flirt with a F-Strike% mark above 60% (which has been the case during his two phenomenal seasons), Liriano could be a hot commodity on the free agent market.

Brandon McCarthy — While certainly not as overpowering as many of the potential free agent pitchers, he is coming off a +4.7 win season, in which he posted a 2.86 FIP. The right-hander is only 28-years-old, possesses a tremendous ground ball rate, and has become one of the burgeoning aces in the American League. With another +4 win season, he could be a top target for multiple teams next winter.

Likely Targets

Joey Votto — Not a free agent, but even after the Reds decided to hang onto their star first baseman and try to make a run at the playoffs while he’s still on the roster, they might not have any choice but to trade him next winter. Prince Fielder’s contract raised Votto’s odds of getting a $200M+ deal, and that’s probably not something Cincinnati can afford. Votto would be the perfect left-handed first baseman to complement Matt Kemp in the line-up, and would give the Dodgers another franchise player to team with Kemp and Kershaw. He’ll be the most coveted player available this winter, so they’ll have to outbid other teams for his services, but their ability to offer up young talent and a monster contract extension should make them the favorites to land him next off-season.

Mike Napoli — The Dodgers will be in the market for an impact bat next season. It does not get much more “impact” than the .444 wOBA Napoli compiled last year for the Texas Rangers. The 30-year-old may not hit free agency if the Rangers come knocking with an extension offer, but momentum has not picked up on that front all spring. Napoli should be one of the two biggest bats hitting the market next winter.

Josh Hamilton — Any talks of a contract extension seemingly fell through when Hamilton unfortunately had a few drinks at a bar over the offseason. It highlighted the fragile position in which Hamilton has always found himself. On the field, however, he still has been a +4 win player in three of the last four seasons. The Dodgers could sign Hamilton to finally solve their left field conundrum and anchor the batting order with superstar Matt Kemp.

Matt Cain — The right-hander will be 28-years-old if he hits free agency this winter, and his FIP has improved in each of the last four seasons. Contract talks continue between Cain and the Giants. The latest reports, though, suggest the Giants have been lowballing him with underwhelming offers. The Dodgers have some young pitching marching through their system, but the organization could look to pair another top-flight pitcher with Clayton Kershaw atop their rotation and move some pitching for an impact bat.

Cole Hamels — More and more players have seemingly signed contract extensions with their current teams and have opted out of free agency. Hamels, however, appears excited to test the waters. The southpaw took a step forward to becoming a legitimate ace last season, compiling an impressive 2.79 ERA over 216 innings. He and Kershaw could give the Dodgers a scary two-headed monster atop the rotation.

Zack Greinke — The Milwaukee Brewers have been doggedly pursuing an extension with the enigmatic right-hander, though nothing concrete has come to the surface. In fact, Greinke still has no agent whatsoever to represent him in contract talks. If he does hit the open market and his run prevention can match his peripheral numbers (2.98 FIP in 2011), the Dodgers could come calling with a lucrative contract offer to bring his talents to the West Coast.

Anibal Sanchez — Aside from the trio of pitchers mentioned above, the under-the-radar arm to test free agency next offseason is Sanchez. He has finally overcome injuries that limited him from 2007-2009 and put together two (roughly) +4 win seasons over the past two years. The right-hander is not in the same class as Cain, Hamels, and Greinke, but FIPs of 3.32 and 3.35 in 2010 and 2011, respectively, should certainly not be overlooked.

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J.P. Breen is a graduate student at the University of Chicago. For analysis on the Brewers and fantasy baseball, you can follow him on Twitter (@JP_Breen).

37 Responses to “Possible 2013 Free Agent Targets in LA”

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  1. Ray says:

    Kemp fits better in RF, so Upton would make sense

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  2. Psst says:

    Votto is getting 17Mil in 2013 from Cin

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  3. colin says:

    So we are just going to assume that a group that just blew threw 2 billion will have cash to spend big? The market itself probably will allow them to spend a bit more than other teams but I wouldn’t expect them to try and run this business with negative cash flow even just starting out.

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    • Tom says:

      True, but with the momentum of new ownership, they’re going to want to put keesters in seats and win some games. If Ethier decides to jet too, they’re going to need to get someone else who can help them be competitive.

      It won’t be like what Miami did this past winter, but it’s hard to imagine them going out and getting someone big.

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      • Tom says:

        Of course, I meant it’s hard to imagine them NOT going out and getting someone big. Ownership is going to want to make their mark right out of the gate.

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    • jim says:

      you don’t pay that much money to not increase payroll

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  4. Dirtbag says:

    With Matt Kemp in center field, I’d say the Dodgers have a lot of need for another center fielder.

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  5. Ian says:

    I am still hoping that Dombrowski’s secret plan was to flip Fielder to the Dodgers after one year – keep the Tigers in contention while V-Mart was out, and get the heck out from under that long, painful contract after one very-cheap and productive season. We have other holes to fill – like leadoff. And 2nd base. And 3rd base. And shortstop once Peralta goes all Carlos Guillen on us. And we have to pay a bunch of young SPs soon. Fielder for a bag of balls, and let us have some flexibility back!

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  6. Dekker says:

    I imagine Kershaw will have some good company for 2013.

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  7. Craigary says:

    To be fair, the Dodgers didn’t exactly “sit on the sidelines” when it came to Prince Fielder, from everything I’ve heard. If it weren’t for Martinez’s injury in Detroit, which made them desperate spenders, LA might have landed him. But yes NedCo was probably a little hamstrung there and at many other times. For the Dodgers’ sake I still think they should move on to a new GM, and possibly will after this season, though maybe Kasten being acquaintance of Colletti will help his cause. Will be interesting segue this year, that’s for sure.

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    • San Jay says:

      I agree with your second point about Colletti. Unless he was actually handcuffed by the financial mess McCourt was in, there is no excuse for most of his signings/acquisitions (i.e. Santana-Blake. /barfs).

      As for the Dodgers “seriously” making a run at Fielder, it seemed too conveniently after the fact.

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      • Taylor Maricle says:

        Well, Colletti’s always played things close to the chest, we rarely get rumors, instead we find out as things happen. So it’s not unreasonable to believe it. Scott Boras said something recently about Colletti’s recruitment meeting for Fielder being the best he’d ever seen.

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  8. D4P says:

    “Ned Colletti should no longer be cash-strapped when attempting to accumulate talent to build a winning team.”

    Ned Colletti should no longer be…gainfully employed. Ned has had plenty of money to spend: he just hasn’t spent it very wisely.

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  9. thalooch says:

    so, even though they just spent 2.15 billion, they’re still going to have more to spend on free agents? Didn’t realize Magic and friends had that much money.

    They better sell a lot of Dodger dog’s this year. If they raise the price of parking again, I will be furious.

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    • UKJaysFan says:

      LAD will have plenty of money to spend, don’t forget they still have a new cash cow TV contract to negotiate.

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  10. Atari says:

    As a Dodger fan the 2 guys I would want to target are BJ Upton and David Wright.

    This is how the Dodgers would look in 2013:

    Dee Gordon – SS
    BJ Upton – CF
    Matt Kemp – RF
    David Wright – 3B
    James Loney- 1B
    Jerry Sands – LF
    Juan Uribe – 2B
    Tim Federowicz – C

    BJ Upton is not a #2 hitter, he strikes out too much, but considering the makeup of the rest of the potential lineup he would probably fit best. Dont like Juan Uribe but he still has another year on his contract so what can you do. An upgrade at first would be nice too. If not maybe Scott Van Slyke can fill it, or Jerry Sands can fill it, with another rental/short-term player in LF.

    As far as a the rotation you already threw a ton of money at Wright and Upton. Plus I think it could fill out ok:

    #1 – Clayton Kershaw
    #2 – Chad Billingsley
    #3 – Rubby De La Rosa
    #4- Nate Eovaldi
    #5 – Aaron Harang/Chris Capuano/ Ted Lilly

    Then you still have Allen Webster, Garrett Gould or a couple of the other power arms down on the farm.

    A guy can dream!

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    • vivalajeter says:

      I don’t see Wright as a realistic option. The only way I can see the Mets declining his option is if something major happens this year (devastating injury, or a downright terrible season from Wright). If either of these happens, I’m not so sure you’d even want Wright on your team. He might be trade bait after they pick up the option, but I doubt they’d just let him go.

      I’m not too crazy about the other offensive options (except for Votto, of course). Napoli’s only had one great offensive season, Hamilton’s injury risk makes it a tough long-term signing, and Montero’s a fine catcher but not really a big ticket item. They might be better off trying to sign one of the pitchers, or going the trade route.

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    • Table says:

      Oh come on they can do allot better than that.

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      • Dave S says:

        Yeah, slot Hamels into that #2 spot and push everyone else down a peg. That’s a nice rotation.

        Hamels is a California native, and has always seemed a “California dude” to me. He has performed very well in LA (SSS obviously). I could easily imagine him wanting to go to LA.

        The Phils are already butting up against it with injuries and an aging roster… and a “maxed” out payroll with a lot of guaranteed contracts. Can they afford another huge contract?

        I think Hamels will end up in LA.

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    • Bip says:

      So the Dodgers are going to extend Loney or buy him as a free agent? I hope they do neither.

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  11. Table says:

    Stan Kasten former president of the Braves during their 90’s days is part of the new ownership. Perhaps he’d be interested in challenging that Maddux, Smoltz, Glavine rotation……with Kershaw, Greinke, Hamels

    not to mention the Dodgers could finish off the 4/5 spots with whomever makes it of their many starting prospects

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  12. MauerPower says:

    Do the new owners have any money left?

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  13. Feath says:

    If I had a dollar for every time someone asks whether the owners will have any money left to spend on players, I’d be able to buy the Dodgers.

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  14. Mhad says:

    Well just aim your sights at every damn free agent on the market why don’t you.

    Some analysis would be nice, as opposed to this xmas list.

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    • Taylor Maricle says:

      He’s not saying that they’re going to sign them all. Just that they’ll likely be in talks with those free agents, which is not an unfair statement.

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  15. Daniel says:

    Greinke is unrealistic. He’d much rather take a lower offer than play in a very public market with high expectations, given his social anxiety disorder.

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  16. DodgerRelief says:

    Look for Dodgers to make a run at Matt Cain the same way the Angels took on C.J. Wilson (to gain a top tier starter and take one from their division rival). Of course Ned Colletti already tried that with Jason Schmidt (and theoretically Juan Uribe). Maybe Ned needs to get someone to highlight the AGE and INJURY sections of the free agent reports before they reach his hands. That and make sure he reads more than just the prior season’s stat sheet (there are career stats to consider there Neddyboy).

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