Dodgers get jump on Meetings with Iwakuma, Utley
Reports also indicate deal with Utley, pursuit of Chapman
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Scrambling after losing Zack Greinke to the D-backs, the Dodgers on Sunday reportedly agreed to a three-year deal with free-agent pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma and on Monday reportedly traded for Cincinnati closer Aroldis Chapman at the Winter Meetings.
The Dodgers did not confirm any of the reports, and the free-agent agreements would be pending physical exams.
Reports have Iwakuma agreeing to a three-year, $45 million deal, a response to the loss of Greinke, as it will mean forfeiture of the Dodgers' first-round Draft pick because Iwakuma rejected a qualifying offer from the Mariners. He was 9-5 with a career-high 3.54 ERA in 2015, and he will be 35 years old next season. The Dodgers did receive a compensatory pick after the first round for losing Greinke.
Utley -- who still has a suspension pending for his notorious takeout slide that broke the leg of Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada in the National League Division Series -- reportedly agreed to a one-year, $7 million contract. He is expected to join Enrique Hernandez (coming off shoulder surgery) and Jose Peraza in the mix at second base while providing veteran insurance at third base behind Justin Turner, who is recovering from serious microfracture left-knee surgery.
The 27-year-old Chapman would give the Dodgers a second elite and expensive closer to go with Kenley Jansen, a surplus that could mean one of them gets traded, or they become a nasty twosome at the back end of games. Both can be free agents after the 2016 season.
Iwakuma would join Clayton Kershaw, Brett Anderson and Alex Wood in the rotation, with Hyun-Jin Ryu a question mark as he tries to return from shoulder surgery. The Dodgers are expected to continue shopping for starting pitching, most likely via trade, and have already been rumored to be interested in Miami's Jose Fernandez, among others. ESPN reported that the Dodgers are among three teams to talk to the Marlins about Fernandez, but that a deal is a long shot because of Miami's high asking price.
Many of the better free-agent starting pitchers (David Price, Jordan Zimmermann, Jeff Samardzija, John Lackey) have already gone to other clubs.
Because the needs are now so great, management might have no choice but to fill holes through trades, perhaps involving outfielder Yasiel Puig or Jansen. Outfielders Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier, as well as infielder Alex Guerrero, could also be shopped.
The right-handed Iwakuma battled injuries the past two seasons -- a sprained finger in 2014 and a strained lat muscle in 2015 -- limiting him to 179 and 129 1/3 innings, respectively. But when healthy, he has pitched well, going 47-25 with a 3.17 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in four seasons with the Mariners after a 12-year career in Japan. He also tossed a no-hitter this past season.
Second base could see some dropoff in offensive production, as Utley hit only .212 with eight homers and 39 RBIs last season while battling injuries. Howie Kendrick, now a free agent, hit .295 with nine homers and 54 RBIs as the club's starting second baseman in 2015.
Kendrick was acquired as part of the trade that sent Dee Gordon to the Miami Marlins and top Miami pitching prospect Andrew Heaney to the Angels. The Dodgers did net setup reliever Chris Hatcher, Hernandez and third-string catcher Austin Barnes.
Chapman recorded 33 saves and posted a 1.63 ERA through 66 1/3 innings last season, earning his fourth consecutive NL All-Star nod. News of interest in Chapman came after the Dodgers pursued, but were unable to sign, free-agent relievers Darren O'Day and Ryan Madson.
MLB.com and MLB Network will have wall-to-wall coverage of the 2015 Winter Meetings from the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, with the Network launching 35 hours of live Winter Meetings coverage. Fans can also catch live streaming of all news conferences and manager availability on MLB.com, as well as the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday at 7 a.m.
New manager Dave Roberts will hold his first Winter Meetings media session on Tuesday, and dodgers.com will be there to cover all the Winter Meetings action.
Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
With a lifetime 3.17 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP, Iwakuma has proved that he can be a major asset to mixed-league rotations. A move to the Senior Circuit and pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium should ensure that the 34-year-old continues to provide helpful ratios in 2016. Iwakuma ought to win his share of games for a Dodgers club that expects to contend for the NL West crown, and the league switch may help him improve on his career 7.6 K/9 rate. Having spent time on the disabled list in each of the past two seasons, the right-hander needs only to stay healthy in order to be a valuable mid-rotation mixed-league starter.