Gerrit Cole is not heading home to Southern California. . New York has been chasing Cole since they made him their first round pick back in 2008. It took 11 years, . The Angels and Dodgers were the runners-up for Cole, though both clubs submitted offers that came up short in years and average annual value, according to Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times. ESPN's Buster Olney reports Yankees chairman Hal Steinbrenner negotiated with Scott Boras directly and the ninth guaranteed year sealed the deal.
The two Los Angeles teams (well, the Anaheim team and Los Angeles team) now have to pivot elsewhere to address their roster deficiencies. The bad news is Cole and Stephen Strasburg, this offseason's two free-agent aces, are off the board. The good news is the Angels and Dodgers both have money to spend given their interest in Cole.
Where do the Angels and Dodgers go from here? Likely very different routes given their rosters. Here's a look at what's to come for the two Los Angeles area clubs.
The Angels: Will they spread money around?
A few hours prior to Cole joining the Yankees, the Angels cleared a little more than $12 million in payroll space when. San Francisco effectively bought a prospect and Anaheim used Wilson to dump Cozart. That money will now be redirected elsewhere.
GM Billy Eppler told reporters, including Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register, that the team can afford to add multiple players making $20 million a year. They have interest in free agent third basemen Anthony Rendon and Josh Donaldson, according to The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal, but the Angels are likely to pursue multiple pitchers rather than a big fish like Madison Bumgarner.
The Halos acquired Dylan Bundy, a fine change of scenery candidate, in a trade with the Orioles earlier this month. The club's rotation depth chart current looks like this (projected 2020 WAR per FanGraphs):
- Andrew Heaney: 3.0 WAR
- Dylan Bundy: 2.3 WAR
- Shohei Ohtani: 2.2 WAR
- Griffin Canning: 1.8 WAR
- Patrick Sandoval: 1.2 WAR
No other Angels pitcher, starter or reliever, is currently projected for 1 WAR. Projections are not predictions, they are an estimate of current talent level, and the projections don't see the Angels as having much talent on the mound, even if Ohtani hits the ground running in his return from Tommy John surgery. Eppler has his work cut out for him.
A case can be made that sinking that much money into Cole would not have been the best use of resources for the Angels. They need multiple pitchers, not one frontline guy like the Yankees, and signing Cole still would've left them thin in the bullpen and at the back of the rotation. Spreading the money around and accumulating depth seems to be the best course of action now.
Expect the Angels to pursue Bumgarner, Dallas Keuchel, or Hyun-Jin Ryu. It is entirely possible they can afford two of those three, which would be a major boost for the rotation. More likely, the plan is to focus on pairing a big name bat (Donaldson or Rendon) with a big name pitcher (Bumgarner, Dallas Keuchel, or Hyun-Jin Ryu) and depth additions (lower-cost starter, relievers).
Value is value, and even though the Angels have a greater need on the mound than at the plate, Donaldson or Rendon would make them a more formidable team next season. This is a team that went 72-90 in 2019, remember. 72-90. They are not one piece away. They need help all over the roster. Expect Eppler & Co. to diversify the portfolio a bit after losing out on Cole.
The Dodgers: Continue big-game hunting?
The Dodgers are much more like the Yankees than the Angels. The Angels need lots of help. The Dodgers are already an excellent team and can focus on adding that one big piece that puts them over the top. Their interest in Rendon is serious enough that Justin Turner, the team's incumbent third baseman, has already agreed to move to first base, according to ESPN's Alden Gonzalez.
Signing Rendon and re-signing Ryu is a possibility, according to The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal, and the Dodgers reportedly shifted their focus to Bumgarner after Cole agreed to join the Yankees. That's wonderful news for fans of baseball chaos. I can't help but wonder whether it's a plant by Bumgarner's camp to create leverage, however. I guess we'll find out.
Thanks to their financial maneuvering the last few years, the Dodgers have about $44 million in wiggle room under the $208 million luxury tax threshold, with players like Joc Pederson and Chris Taylor candidates to be traded to clear more money. They can afford Rendon at $30-something million a year and have a path to signing a $20-something million a year starter as well.
The Dodgers don't need another bat and they don't need another starter, necessarily. They have quality depth and will go into 2020 as the overwhelming favorites to win the NL West no matter what they do this winter. That gives them the freedom to pursue a bat like Rendon or another starter like Bumgarner or Ryu. Look at the current roster possibilities:
|Position Players||Starting Rotation|
RHP Walker Buehler
1B Max Muncy
LHP Clayton Kershaw
2B Gavin Lux
RHP Kenta Maeda
SS Corey Seager
LHP Julio Urias
3B Justin Turner
RHP Tony Gonsolin
LF Joc Pederson
RHP Dustin May
CF A.J. Pollock
RHP Ross Stripling
The Dodgers could trade Pederson and plug Alex Verdugo into left field. They could move Taylor and still have Enrique Hernandez as a super utility player. The Dodgers don't absolutely need to do anything. They can stand pat and be very good, and that allows them to be opportunistic in free agency. There's urgency but not desperation. It's a good place to be.
How's this for an idea: trade for Francisco Lindor. Seager, the incumbent shortstop, could slide over to third base, a position he seems destined to play at some point given his size, or even be included in the trade package to the Indians. The Dodgers have the prospects to swing a Lindor trade and his all-around brilliance is on par with Rendon's.
Of course, Rendon would only cost money, and spending money is preferable to surrendering prospects in a trade. There is some pressure on the Dodgers to make a move this winter given their World Series doubt, but president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman has resisted that pressure before. This winter, there's enough money and high-end talent available to go finally go big.