After executing a seven-player trade that sent outfielders Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp, as well as left-hander Alex Wood and catcher Kyle Farmer to the Cincinnati Reds, many figured the Los Angeles Dodgers had another significant transaction up their sleeve. While it took over a month, one of those transactions turned out to be signing former Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder A.J. Pollock.
Thursday morning, The Athletic‘s Ken Rosenthal reported that the Dodgers agreed to a deal with Pollock. According to ESPN‘s Buster Olney, the contract is a four-year, $55 million deal that includes a $10 million player option for a fifth season. And while injuries have been an immense concern over the outfielder’s career, Pollock’s signing fills a void and beefs up the Dodgers roster.
Pollock has appeared in no more than 113 games in each of the last two seasons, started in just 12 games in 2016, and has played one complete season over his seven-year career — which was in 2015. But that year Pollock was one of the most productive hitters in Major League Baseball. Hitting .315 while totaling 192 hits, 20 home runs, and 76 RBIs, he was arguably the toughest out in the D-Backs lineup; he also finished with just 89 strikeouts.
Over the last two seasons, Pollock has hit .266 and .257. With that said, he totaled a career-high 21 home runs in the 113 games he played in 2018.
Pollock deepens a Dodgers outfield rotation that, for the moment, features Joc Pederson, Chris Taylor, Cody Bellinger, and Enrique Hernandez. With that said, Taylor and Hernandez are shuffled around the middle infield, and the bulk of Bellinger’s reps come at first base. While having roster versatility is extremely beneficial, especially when injuries present themselves, having individuals who are solely outfielders has its benefits; Pollock helps that aspect of the Dodgers.The A.J. Pollock signing is one that fills a void in the @Dodgers lineup and beefs up their electric lineup, as @RPStratakos writes.Click To Tweet
Plus, while he’s more accustomed to playing center field, Pollock has played all three outfield positions. If necessary, he’d probably be able to move to a corner outfield position — which would be music to the ears of the versatility devils that are the Dodgers. Pollock has also committed just eight errors in his seven-year career.
There’s also the Dodgers’ financial situation. They’ve been trying to relieve payroll this offseason — which was a vital reasoning for their multi-player trade with the Reds — and not make any substantial long-term commitments. Now, committing a four-year deal worth eight figures per season to Pollock is a heavy investment considering the money they were supposedly trying to strip themselves of. But it’s also important to remember that Pederson and Hernandez are free agents after 2020. After 2020 Pollock will still be on the Dodgers payroll for at least two more seasons.
The Dodgers are fresh off back-to-back National League Pennants, as well as a sixth consecutive NL West division title. Their pitching staff is as potent as ever. They re-signed Clayton Kershaw to a starting rotation that includes Hyun-Jin Ryu, the blossoming Walker Buehler, and Rich Hill. To round out their pitching staff, the Dodgers have the likes of Kenley Jansen, Pedro Baez, Kenta Maeda, Ross Stripling, Pedro Baez, and free agent signee Joe Kelly, among others, coming out of the bullpen — depending on who doesn’t crack the starting rotation.
Offensively, the Dodgers are deep and have continuity. With Justin Turner, Corey Seager — who’s returning from Tommy John surgery — Max Muncy, Bellinger, Hernandez, Taylor, and Pederson in the fold, the Dodgers have proven commodities capable of producing on any everyday basis at the plate. At the same time, that bunch is not as stellar as it once was. With Puig and Kemp now in Cincinnati and Yasmani Grandal — who’s one of the most productive hitting catchers in the sport — signing a one-year deal with the Milwaukee Brewers, the Dodgers will be devoid of some prominent faces from years past. There’s also no guarantee that Seager returns to playing like the All-Star shortstop he was prior to 2018, at least in the beginning stages of the regular season.
Now, they did acquire Russell Martin from the Toronto Blue Bays returning the catcher to where he began his career. And while he’s a steady force behind the plate, Martin has hit .240 or below in each of the last five seasons and hit a career-worse .194 in 2018; he doesn’t make up for the loss of Grandal at the plate. Meanwhile, Pollock is a suitable replacement for Puig and Kemp. It’s not to say that he makes up for both of their departures, but Pollock is a steady hitter who gives the Dodgers another productive bat to insert into their depth chart.
Pollock also has familiarity with NL West pitching, given that he spent the first seven years of his career with the D-Backs. Over the last three years, he’s hit .345 while totaling five home runs and 18 RBIs in 113 at-bats against the Colorado Rockies. Meanwhile, he’s hit .306 whole totaling six home runs and 17 RBIs in 108 at-bats against the San Diego Padres.
Is there valid reasoning to doubt the Dodgers signing Pollock to a four-year deal? Of course, considering his injury history a one-to-two year contract would’ve been safer. But it’s not as if they backed up the truck to sign Pollock. Even if he gives them just 120 starts next season and produces at the rate which he has been over the last two years, a paycheck of nearly $14 million a season is what someone of those results would be in line to receive on the open market.
When the Dodgers executed their seven-player trade with the Reds, many felt that another bold transaction was in the works, such as signing All-Star outfielder Bryce Harper. But the two parties haven’t been linked through much more than speculation.
Harper (26) is a better player and has more upside than Pollock (31) given that he’s more electric at the plate and five years younger. At the same time, signing Harper to a $300-plus million deal would’ve inflated the Dodgers payroll — which is already third in MLB ($189 million). The Dodgers had a need for an outfielder, but it wasn’t to the extent where they had to sign someone and make them the highest, or second highest paid player on their roster when considering the versatility on their roster.
Pollock makes the Dodgers a deeper and better ballclub than they were 72 hours ago. And his contract won’t strap them financially in the coming years.