The Dodgers finally won the World Series in 2020, but that doesn’t mean they’re taking their foot off the pedal just yet. They’ve still got a young core, plenty of top-notch prospects, a newly-extended Mookie Betts, and one more year of Clayton Kershaw and Corey Seager before free agency. The Padres may be gunning for them, but the Dodgers are still the favorites in the NL West for 2021. Although, it certainly wouldn’t hurt if they found themselves a third baseman.
As you may be aware, the Dodgers are currently without their infield stalwart, Justin Turner, who’s now a free agent, and that’s no small loss to their overall offense (he had 141 wRC+ from 2014-2020). And while a reunion is still perfectly possible, the L.A. Times has these two sides still two years apart in negotiations:
Turner seeks a four-year contract on the market, according to people with knowledge of the situation. The Dodgers don’t want to give him a deal longer than two years. Turner is beloved in the clubhouse, on the field and in the community after seven seasons in Los Angeles, but the Dodgers don’t want to commit more than two years to a 36-year-old third baseman
And frankly, I can’t blame them. Turner is a stud offensively, but not many 36-year-old, offense-first corner infielders get four year deals … let alone in the middle of a pandemic … when so many other high-quality infield options are available in free agency and trade this and next winter.
In any case, if the Dodgers fail to find common ground with Turner, the Times believes they could turn to free agent infielder DJ LeMahieu (one of those high-quality infield alternatives). But signing him would likely take the Dodgers back over the luxury tax threshold *and also* they’re considered currently behind the Yankees and Blue Jays in probability for any such deal.
So ultimately, a whiff on Turner likely means a turn to the trade market, where four third baseman are available according to the Times’ sources: Mike Moustakas, Kyle Seager, Eugenio Suarez, and … Kris Bryant. Importantly, the Times points out that any third base target *must* be right-handed, which means both Moustakas and Seager “don’t fit for the Dodgers.”
And that leaves just the two NL Central sluggers remaining:
Bryant is five years younger [than Darvish], but the Darvish deal suggests the Dodgers could acquire another All-Star-caliber player at a discounted rate a year after adding Mookie Betts in a similar situation. Trading for star players, evidently, is the new market inefficiency.
Suárez is also 29. He doesn’t have Bryant’s resume, but he’s emerged as a top power hitter with the Cincinnati Reds. His 124 home runs since 2017 are tied with Nolan Arenado for fourth in the majors behind Mike Trout, Nelson Cruz and J.D. Martinez.
Suarez currently has four years left on a team-friendly deal, which can either works for or against him in a trade for any number of reasons, but Bryant has the sort of positional versatility “the Dodgers covet.” They’re also one of the few teams who could very easily (1) absorb Bryant’s expected $18.6 million arb salary for 2021 *and* (2) give up the sort of prospects the Cubs would like to get without seriously dipping into their top stack. And, hey, perhaps an addition of any kind became all the more likely now that the Padres are nipping at their heels with the additions of Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, Victor Caratini, and Ha-Seong Kim.
But we’re no stranger to this specific rumor, right? Near the end of November, Jon Morosi (MLB.com) included a line about the Dodgers possibly acquiring a short-term third baseman like Bryant in the event things went sideways with Turner, and the Times followed up with the suggestion that the Dodgers could always turn to Nolan Arenado or Kris Bryant on the trade market for the same reason.
At the time, the rumor was a little thin, even if the logic was sound, but seeing it pop up again a month-and-a-half later – with even stronger language and after the Cubs have begun an even more obvious reset/rebuild/whatever you want to call it – has certainly caught my attention.
We shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves. According to this rumor, the Dodgers will turn their attention to Bryant only if they miss out on Turner, fail to lure LeMahieu, and find the overall package more intriguing than trading for Suarez – but this is an important stop on the Bryant-journey that is almost certain to end up in a trade away from Chicago at this point. Unless it doesn’t.