By: Noah Wright
One of the most puzzling free agent acquisitions over the 2018-2019 off season took place on January 26th, 2019. That day, the Dodgers signed center fielder A.J. Pollock to a 3 year, $60 million deal with a player option for a 4th year. The deal was a bit questionable at the time, and more so now.
The first thing that made the deal questionable is the amount of years/money dedicated to a player who has only played more than 140 games once in his career. That came back in 2015 when he played 157 games. In the 2 seasons prior to 2019, Pollock has played just 112 games in 2017, and 113 games in 2018. He even missed all but 12 games of 2016 as well.
It’s also worth noting that Pollock wasn’t any sort of superstar when he was healthy. In 2017, Pollock posted a .266/.330/.471 line with 14 long balls, 20 stolen bases, and 103 wRC+ in 466 PA’s. Defensively, the former Diamondback had garnered 8 DRS, a 1.7 UZR, and 1.0 dWAR. 2018 was extremely similar to 2017. Last season, he had a .257/.316/.484 line with 21 home runs, 13 stolen bases, and a 110 wRC+ in 460 PA’s. Likewise, his defense was similar produced 6 DRS, -.7 UZR, and .8 dWAR.
The deal was also puzzling in the fact the Dodgers had plenty of centerfield capable options. Cody Bellinger had ample amount of time in center field in the season prior. Enrique Hernandez also has spent most of his career as a CF. Chris Taylor is a third option who has had both time in center as well as in the majors in general. Even then, that’s not the end of the list of internal options they have. Top prospect Alex Verdugo could have taken over in center, or moved into right field, pushing Bellinger to center field. Right now, he’s off to a hot start having a .984 OPS in 72 PA’s. Andrew Toles could have also had been a decent option to take over in center field. All of these options could have at least have came close to Pollock’s average overall line the past 2 seasons of .260/.325/.475.
With so many internal options, the money could have been spent elsewhere. The team needed a set-up man, and more bullpen to support Kenley Jansen in the pen. While Dylan Floro has been a nice surprise, Joe Kelly has been downright awful in his early time with the Dodgers. In contrast, the Dodgers could have signed former rival Rockie setup man, Adam Ottavino. They could have also made a push for lefty Zack Britton. Both of them went for less than Pollock signed for. Kelvin Herrera, and Greg Holland are also performing very well, and are getting paid less than $10 million in 2019. Though they are off to rough starts in 2019, both David Robertson and Jeurys Familia would have also made nice set-up men to Jansen.
The Dodgers signing A.J. Pollock over the off season is one of the more recent examples of signing a player that you don’t have a need for. There was just no need for him. If they wanted an outfielder with a decent glove, there are plenty the team could have gotten, or traded for. However his overall offensive production is solid, but nothing more than that. It’s easily something they could have gotten from internally. Plus with the money they would have saved with Pollock, they could have acquired a piece they needed.