Rosenthal: What I’m hearing about the Dodgers and Dansby Swanson


A path exists for the Dodgers to sign free-agent shortstop Dansby Swanson. Not an obvious path. Not an especially likely path. But the Dodgers could significantly alter their up-the-middle defense if they add Swanson and complete their efforts to trade for a young center fielder.

The Dodgers, fearing they might owe tens of millions in salary and luxury-tax penalties if an arbitrator reduces or overturns Trevor Bauer’s two-year suspension, are proceeding with caution this offseason. They are not unwilling to spend amid the Bauer uncertainty, as evidenced by their addition of Freddie Freeman last March and recent bid for Justin Verlander. But club officials view the roster as deep enough for them to pursue free agents in their usual manner — at their price.

Swanson, entering his age 29 season, hardly figures to be a bargain at the current market rates for shortstops. Some with the Dodgers view Gavin Lux as a potential above-average defender at the position. Some rival executives, however, are skeptical the Dodgers will commit to Lux, a left-handed hitter who recently turned 25.

Perhaps the Dodgers will become a serious suitor for Swanson if the Cubs, Red Sox and Twins won’t pay him what he wants, and if he prefers to join a team more likely to be competitive. But in that scenario, Swanson might prefer to return to his previous club, the Braves.

Shortstop is Lux’s natural position. He made 50 starts at short in 2021 after Corey Seager fractured his right hand. Still, one rival executive asks a series of questions that might give the Dodgers pause:

Won’t the team at least need a platoon partner for Lux at short? (Lux in 230 career plate appearances against lefties has batted only .214 with a .587 OPS) Who would be the backups? (The leading internal alternatives are Chris Taylor, 32, and slick-fielding Jacob Amaya, 24) What happens if Lux flops? (The top free-agent shortstops next offseason are Miguel Rojas and Amed Rosario).

The Dodgers are keenly aware they lack a safety net for Lux. But between July 2020 and March 2022, they signed Mookie Betts, Bauer and Freeman to deals worth a combined $629 million. They’ve carried the sport’s highest luxury-tax payroll the past two seasons. And while they currently are about $32 million under the lowest threshold, the signing of Swanson and any payment they make on Bauer might put them over again.

Obviously, the Dodgers want to compete, as they repeatedly have demonstrated under the Guggenheim ownership. But if they can compete while mixing in young players and re-setting their luxury-tax penalty rates, it would position them that much better to spend in the future. Their best pitcher, Julio Urías, is eligible for free agency at the end of the season. So is Shohei Ohtani, whom the Dodgers — and other clubs — absolutely covet.

So, maybe a path opens for Swanson, and maybe it doesn’t. In the meantime, the Dodgers are actively pursuing trades for a center fielder. Taylor, James Outman, Trayce Thompson are their current options to replace Cody Bellinger, the worst-hitting center fielder in the majors the past two seasons. The Pirates’ Bryan Reynolds, Diamondbacks’ Alek Thomas, Cardinals’ Dylan Carlson and Mariners’ Jarred Kelenic are among the trade possibilities, and all fit the Dodgers’ need for a left-handed or switch-hitter.

Carlson could be the Cardinals’ odd man out with Lars Nootbaar a viable option in center, and Jordan Walker and Alec Burleson nearly ready to join the team’s outfield.

Thomas might be difficult to pry away from a division rival. The Pirates are telling teams they will not trade Reynolds unless they are overwhelmed. And the Mariners might be afraid to sell low on Kelenic, who is better defensively on a corner, anyway.

The Dodgers do not need to decide any of this right away. If they do not acquire a center fielder before Opening Day, they can try again at the deadline. And if they do not land Swanson, they could go with Lux at short to start the season and also incorporate rookie Miguel Vargas, who has been working out at second base all winter, into their infield. Perhaps the Brewers will make shortstop Willy Adames and starting pitchers Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff available at the deadline. A variety of other options could emerge.

The Dodgers will be quiet for only so long.

Zack Greinke (David Berding / Getty Images)

• Before signing left-hander Ryan Yarbrough to a one-year, $3 million free-agent contract on Tuesday, the Royals were the only club that had not made a trade or signed a major-league free agent this offseason. Yarbrough, non-tendered by the Rays, wasn’t a particularly glamorous addition, either.

But the Royals, like a number of low-revenue clubs, should be more active in the coming weeks. For starters, they want to re-sign free-agent right-hander Zack Greinke, who worked 137 innings in 2022, his lowest total in a full season since 2007, but produced an adjusted ERA that was 11 percent above league average.

What’s the delay? Uh, have you noticed the eruption in the starting-pitching market? Greinke, 39, has earned more than $330 million in his career, but will not want to sign for less than he believes he is worth. He earned $13 million last season. A return to the Royals on a relatively low base salary with significant incentives still seems the most likely outcome.

In addition, the Royals could make several trades, both to free up money and create opportunities for younger players. Hunter Dozier, 31, is among the players they have made available. Dozier is under contract for $7.5 million in 2023 and $9.25 million in 2024, and his deal includes a $10 million club option or $1 million buyout for 2025

Club officials believe Dozier is best at first base or in right field, but if they are unable to find a taker they will play him at third base. One thing is clear: Bobby Witt Jr. will be the team’s everyday shortstop. The Royals do not want to hinder his development by continuing to move him between short and third, as they did last season.

Center fielder Michael Taylor, under contract for $4.5 million entering his walk year, is another player the Royals are willing to move. The Royals want to play Drew Waters and Kyle Isbel in center. Taylor, a below-average hitter and above-average defender, could appeal to contenders as a fourth outfielder. The Braves pursued him at the deadline last year, seeking protection in the event Michael Harris II got injured. The Astros liked Taylor the year before that.

Finally, there’s shortstop Adalberto Mondesi, whom the Royals previously said was untouchable. Mondesi, under contract for $3.045 million in 2023, has appeared in only 50 games the past two seasons, and his career-high is 102. He could be an option for one of the teams that strikes out on the free-agent shortstops, but his injury history makes him less than reliable.

• The Yankees’ signing of Carlos Rodón was the fourth of at least $162 million Scott Boras negotiated in a span of eight days, bringing the agent’s total for the offseason to $1.172 billion. At the standard 5 percent commission, Boras’ firm on those deals alone will collect $58.6 million.

Boras’ super-power is his ability to lock in on teams that are near-desperate and/or eager to spend. The Padres invested $285 million in Xander Bogaerts after striking out on Trea Turner and Aaron Judge. The Giants went to $350 million on Carlos Correa after striking out on Judge and Kodai Senga.

In several of Boras’ deals, it’s not clear if the next-highest bid was even close. The Twins, for example, were outbid by $65 million for Correa. Was another team within a similar range for Bogaerts? For Rodón? For Masataka Yoshida?

“We have discussed his playbook during MLB meetings, but the owners all think the sucker is the other guy, when often, it is him. Me included,” said former Marlins team president David Samson, who signed a Boras client, left-hander Wei-Yin Chen, to a five-year, $80 million contract in 2016.

The Marlins’ current ownership released Chen with one year left on the deal. In four seasons with the club, Chen dealt with injuries and inconsistencies, going 13-19 with a 5.10 ERA.

• For all of the Padres’ flash under owner Peter Seidler and general manager A.J. Preller, rival executives continue to question their direction short- and long-term.

One exec points out the Padres would have been better off signing first baseman José Abreu, who went to the Astros on a three-year, $58.5 million deal, than Bogaerts, whom they signed for $280 million at a position where they already had quality alternatives.

The Padres do not necessarily disagree with that assessment — Abreu was their No. 1 target at the start of the offseason. Bogaerts should provide comparable offense, but the team will be weaker defensively with him at short with Ha-Seong Kim moving to second. The move of Jake Cronenworth from second to first, meanwhile, will diminish his overall value.

Long-term, Bogaerts helps protect the Padres against the potential opt-out of Manny Machado after 2023 and the potential loss of outfielder Juan Soto to free agency after 2024. But the Padres face pitching concerns as well. Starters Yu Darvish and Blake Snell and closer Josh Hader all are eligible for free agency after 2023.

For now, the Padres are looking for another starting pitcher and another hitter, with Justin Turner among their possibilities in the latter category.

• The industry criticism of the Red Sox’s five-year, $90 million deal with Yoshida is largely a reflection of the price.

One rival executive said, “I love the swing,” and predicted Yoshida would hit well against right-handed pitching. But the same executive said Yoshida was a below-average defensive outfielder, and questioned whether he would hit left-handed pitching and hit with power.

Yoshida, the exec figured, would top out at $40 million on the open market. He got more than double that. The Athletic’s Jen McCaffery wrote about the Red Sox’s gamble.

• The Rangers, seeking a corner outfielder, are among the clubs interested in free agent Michael Conforto, who also is on the radar of the Mets, Astros and, according to the New York Post, the Marlins.

Conforto, who turns 30 on March 1, did not play at all last season because of a shoulder injury that required surgery. Boras, his agent, told reporters at Brandon Nimmo’s news conference Thursday that the outfielder is seeking a deal that is, “short-term, probably a couple of years with an opt-out.”

The Astros, as first reported by USA Today, explored a trade for Diamondbacks’ Daulton Varsho, but believe the price is too high. The return of Michael Brantley remains possible.

• The Tigers are confident their rotation will be solid following their one-year additions of free-agent left-hander Matthew Boyd for $10 million and righty Michael Lorenzen for $8.5 million. The Lorenzen deal, in particular, could prove a bargain if he can build on his first year converting from a reliever to a starter; he pitched only 26 2/3 innings after July 1, missing two months with a strained right shoulder.

In addition, righty Spencer Turnbull is set to return from Tommy John surgery, and lefty Tarik Skubal is expected back at some point in the first half after undergoing flexor tendon surgery in mid-August. The next step for the Tigers is to find offense. They averaged a major-league-low 3.4 runs per game last season, the fifth lowest by a team since 2014.

• Before getting Kyle Farmer from the Reds, the Twins expressed interest in acquiring shortstop Miguel Rojas from the Marlins. The Red Sox asked about Rojas more recently, but the Marlins value their pitching and defense. Rojas ranked second at short last season in defensive runs saved and was tied for sixth in outs above average.

In theory, the Marlins could sign a free agent such as Elvis Andrus if they trade Rojas. For Rojas, who is under contract for one more year at the bargain rate of $5 million, they almost certainly would require a major-league-ready player in return.

• And finally, left-hander Brett Anderson is seeking to make a comeback and working out with former Dodgers teammate Clayton Kershaw in Texas, as he has done in the past.

Anderson, who turns 35 on Feb. 1, last pitched in the majors for the Brewers in 2021, producing a 4.22 ERA but working only 96 innings in 24 starts, an average of four per start.

(Top photo of Dansby Swanson: Steph Chambers / Getty Images)


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