Bryce Harper to Dodgers still seems unlikely
The Los Angeles Dodgers’ massive trade with the Cincinnati Reds on Friday led to speculation that they were clearing room and payroll to make a run at Bryce Harper, but that still seems unlikely.
The Dodgers’ intentions this offseason seem to be to remain under the luxury tax and keep their payroll at a relatively low amount. Including their signings of Joe Kelly and Hyun-Jin Ryu (who accepted his qualifying offer), the Dodgers’ payroll was projected to be around $202 million. Keep in mind that the luxury tax threshold for 2019 is at $206 million.
Trading Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig and Alex Wood for Homer Bailey drops them down by about $20 million into the $182 million range, giving them flexibility to make a few moves. They probably will add a catcher as they’re losing Yasmani Grandal in free agency and traded Kyle Farmer to the Reds. They may want to try and make another upgrade or two.
Even after trading Kemp and Puig, the Dodgers still have plenty of outfield options including: Cody Bellinger, Joc Pederson, Alex Verdugo, Enrique Hernandez, Chris Taylor, and Andrew Toles.
If the Dodgers were so intent on staying under the luxury tax that they got rid of Puig, Kemp and Wood for two prospects and a player they’re planning to dump (Bailey), would they really splurge on Harper, who will likely cost over $30 million per season? That wouldn’t seem to fit with their motive entering 2019, which appears to be keeping payroll down.
Remember, an article from the Los Angeles Times last month said the Dodgers’ appeal to potential investors suggested they intended to keep their payroll at around $185 million the next two seasons. This trade with the Reds gets them to a place where they can add a catcher cheaply and be set going into the 2019 season around their seeming payroll plans.
If the Dodgers break the bank on a free agent this offseason, that would go against their leaked financial plans, not to mention management’s history of not paying out major free agent deals.