Dodgers and CF AJ Pollock Ink 5 Year Deal, Are Out On Harper, Will Probably Move Pederson and What This All Means

MLB Trade Rumors:

The Dodgers have reached an agreement with free agent outfielder A.J. Pollock, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reports (via Twitter).  The contract is a four-year deal “filled with incentives, escalators and opt-outs,” according to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, with Fancred Sports’ Jon Heyman (Twitter link) reporting the price tag at more than $55MM.  The deal will become official when Pollock passes a physical.  Pollock is a client of Excel Sports Management.

Pollock was linked to the Dodgers earlier this week, and his signing helps solidify a Dodgers outfield that already underwent one shakeup when Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp were traded to the Reds.  While Pollock could end up seeing time as a corner outfielder depending on how the Dodgers shuffle their versatile lineup, the expectation is that Pollock will spend the large majority of his time in his usual center field position, flanked by some combination of Chris Taylor, Max Muncy, Cody Bellinger, Enrique Hernandez, Joc Pederson, Andrew Toles, and/or top prospect Alex Verdugo in left and right field.  Perhaps more importantly than just his position, Pollock also gives the Dodgers an everyday right-handed bat to help balance out their lefty-heavy lineup.

Perhaps just as notably, adding Pollock would seem to put to rest any chance of Bryce Harper landing in the Los Angeles outfield.  The Dodgers were long seen as potential suitors for Harper, particularly after they cleared some extra payroll space in the Puig/Kemp trade.  Adding approximately $14MM in average annual value on Pollock’s reported contract terms, however, would keep L.A. just barely under the $206MM Competitive Balance Tax threshold, as per Roster Resource’s calculations of the Dodgers’ salary commitments.

This doesn’t mean the Dodgers ultimately won’t end up crossing the luxury tax line this winter, depending on what other moves could still be in the offing.  (For instance, Nightengale reports that the team is in “intensive ongoing talks” with the Marlins about J.T. Realmuto.)  Given the Dodgers’ reported reluctance to again cross the CBT line, however, they could only surpass the $206MM threshold by a minimal amount.  Spending between $206MM and $226MM would subject the Dodgers to only a first-timer penalty of a 20% tax on every dollar spent in overage, so it could be that $226MM is the real barrier for the team this offseason, and they could then duck back under the $206MM line next offseason once some big contracts come off the books.

Since Pollock rejected the Diamondbacks’ qualifying offer and signed a deal for more than $50MM, Arizona will receive a compensatory draft pick that will fall after the first round of next summer’s draft.  The D’Backs have already received such a compensation pick when Patrick Corbin signed with the Nationals, giving Arizona a whopping six picks in the first 79 (or so, depending on what other compensatory picks are awarded) selections in the draft.

For signing a qualifying offer free agent, the Dodgers give up $500K from their international draft bonus pool, as well as their second-highest selection in the 2019 draft.  That pick will be the 31st overall selection, which the Dodgers received as compensation for failing to sign 2018 draft pick J.T. Ginn.

And now we’re cooking with lighter fluid!!!  This is a nice domino to fall for the Sox for 2 reasons:

1. It means Joc Pederson is all but traded, and hopefully all but traded to the White Sox.  As much as I can’t stand watching him play the game of baseball and his diva act, he’s a good player and will be a major improvement in CF and the meat of the lineup should he land in Chicago and

2. This takes a player out of the Harper sweepstakes.  Realistically there are 2 or 3 teams in play for Harper’s services at this juncture: Philly, Washington and the White Sox, the latter of which are on the outside looking in.  So now that Boras can’t use LA as leverage against Philly and Washington saying they’re done spending, the natural course of progression would say Harper to Philly and Machado to the Sox.

*** Insert Bob Nightengale “Mystery Team” Rumor ***

But… if only if it were this easy.  I was hoping everything would be wrapped up last week, but now it’s looking like it could drag out to February or even beyond.