LAS VEGAS -- The loss of general manager Farhan Zaidi to the Giants hasn't kept the Dodgers from being linked to marquee acquisitions, from Bryce Harper and Corey Kluber to Yusei Kikuchi and Jose Abreu.
President of baseballl operations Andrew Friedman said again there's no rush to replace Zaidi. Friedman and club exec Josh Byrnes know the Winter Meetings drill with 17 years combined as GMs. They head up a large front office with fairly obvious needs/wants for a club coming off back-to-back World Series appearances: a rotation upgrade that can win in late October, a short-term catcher to replace Yasmani Grandal, bullpen reinforcements and possibly a right-handed bat.
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As usual, most of the rumors will prove to be nothing more than that. Unless his market craters and he'll sign short term, a Harper deal for hundreds of millions of dollars would be a total and complete departure from everything this ownership has done since it bought the club. Adding Kluber alongside Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler would give the Dodgers their best top three in at least a half-century, but why would the Indians trade Kluber?
Abreu seems a longer shot after the sudden emergence of Player Page for Max Muncy at first base, although Muncy could slide over to second base. Either way, Muncy figures to be playing almost every day.
With their lineage of successful Japanese pitchers, the Dodgers are an obvious landing spot for Kikuchi, whom many scouts consider to be a No. 3 MLB starter. A bullpen upgrade would be helpful, but Friedman prefers to find bargains than overpay at the position. And, the surplus of starters could turn Thomas Stripling or Kenta Maeda into full-time relievers.
To date, the Dodgers have focused on extending the contracts of Kershaw and manager Dave Roberts and replacing departures from Roberts' coaching staff. Now the fun begins.
The Dodgers have plenty of starters, but Kluber would be a game changer. The free-agency departure of Grandal leaves a critical need for a veteran primary catcher to team with Austin Barnes as a bridge until the pipeline of prospects produces a Major Leaguer. J.T. Realmuto is the big fish, but the Marlins' asking price is high, so free agent Nick Hundley could be an easier fit. The bullpen needs improvement, even if Kenley Jansen bounces back 100 percent. There's rumored interest in free agent DJ LeMahieu, even though some in the organization believe Muncy should share second base with Hernandez when Muncy doesn't start at first.
Whom might they trade?
The polarizing Yasiel Puig is one year away from free agency, but his trade value has steadily diminished since his meteoric arrival. The Dodgers couldn't move Matt Kemp's contract last offseason, but they'll try again with only one year left. With the exception of Cody Bellinger, it's hard to imagine management would hesitate moving any of the other outfielders in the right deal, including Alex Verdugo. Rich Hill and Alex Wood are the most likely starters to be dealt if a perceived upgrade is acquired. Cuban pitching prospect Yadier Alvarez was protected, but the jury is out on his future with the organization.
Prospects to know
There's a deep farm system from which to deal, headed by a surplus of catching prospects (Keibert Ruiz, Will Smith, Diego Cartaya and Connor Wong). The 23-year-old Smith or 20-year-old Ruiz could arrive in the big leagues at some point in 2019. Dustin May and Dennis Santana are MLB Pipeline's top-rated pitching prospects in the system, which doesn't appear to have a Buehler-type Rookie of the Year candidate this time.
Rule 5 Draft
The roster is at 40.
There is roughly $150 million already committed for 2019, with 10 arbitration-eligible players that figure to add another $42 million. That would leave the club $14 million below the $206 million Competitive Balance Tax threshold (not counting players with zero to three years of service), assuming that's the unofficial, self-imposed target.