The World Series is over, meaning a total of 121 players became major-league free agents today.
Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez, who seemed destined for a contract extension a year ago, now seems destined to receive a $15.3 million qualifying offer. He headlines the Dodgers’ group of seven free agents, and is the only one with a chance of receiving a qualifying offer. Josh Beckett, Kevin Correia, Roberto Hernandez, Paul Maholm, Chris Perez and Jamey Wright are the others.
Some of the bigger free-agent names you’ll hear discussed this winter: Starting pitchers Max Scherzer, Ervin Santana, James Shields, Jake Peavy, Justin Masterson and Jon Lester, relievers Sergio Romo, Andrew Miller and Jason Grilli, catcher Russell Martin, first baseman Kendrys Morales, third basemen Pablo Sandoval and Chase Headley, outfielders Ichiro Suzuki, Norichika Aoki and Michael Morse.
Of these, pay attention to Miller and Martin. The Dodgers were reportedly the runners up on Miller at the trade deadline, before he was ultimately dealt to the Baltimore Orioles. The 6-foot-7 left-hander was taken one spot ahead of Clayton Kershaw in the 2006 draft (sixth overall) but did not firmly establish himself as one of baseball’s dominant set-up men until this season.
Martin, 31, is expected to receive a qualifying offer from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Assuming he rejects the offer — no player has ever accepted one in the three years it’s existed — we’ve explored what it might take for the Dodgers to bring him back.
The Dodgers’ starting rotation is presently down to three: Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu. It’ll be at four if Dan Haren exercises his player option for 2015, which is likely. It’ll be at five if the team picks up Chad Billingsley‘s $14 million option for 2015, which is not likely. So keep an eye on Scherzer, Santana, Peavy, Shields, Masterson and Lester too. However, with the team expected to reduce its bloated payroll in the coming years, don’t expect the Dodgers to engage in a bidding war for a top-tier starter.
Another possibility is Japanese pitcher Kenta Maeda. The 26-year-old right-hander has not been posted by his NPB team, the Hiroshima Carp. Though he reportedly projects as a fourth starter, he might also command a salary large enough to scare off Andrew Friedman.
As for the Dodgers’ in-house free agents, these break down along pretty clear lines. Beckett is retired. Correia, Hernandez, Maholm (when healthy) and Perez did little to justify a return to Los Angeles.
Wright, 39, had a respectable 3.47 FIP over 61 appearances this season. His lefty/righty splits (.299/.362/.375 vs. righties; .238/.317/.303 vs. lefties) make him hard to peg down, and it’s difficult to see the Dodgers extending a contract to a left-handed specialist who turns 40 in December. Stranger things have happened.
More eyes will be on Ramirez. Let’s say the Dodgers make a qualifying offer. If Ramirez accepts it, he will essentially be taking a voluntary pay cut. That’s not likely to happen. If he rejects the Dodgers’ qualifying offer and signs elsewhere, the Dodgers would receive a supplemental-round draft pick next June and must find a way to fill the shortstop position in the meantime. We wrote earlier this month about what that might look like, and that stills hold true today.