Let’s make all of the Dodgers free agents

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Now we know this isn’t going to happen. But I thought this would be fun. It’s May 31… the Dodgers miss payroll and MLB, not realizing it, is a few minutes late in stepping in to pay the players. Every Dodger player now has the right to elect free agency.

There’s two thoughts here: first, being the middle of the season, most teams don’t have nearly the financial flexibility that they would in the offseason. Budgets are set and many GMs would have to get creative in making contract proposals to the free agents. Odds are that the non-superstars wouldn’t do as well financially as they would as offseason free agents.

Second, while guys like Casey Blake and Jon Garland could take financial hits, leaving might be preferable to sticking around a Dodgers team suddenly reduced to rubble by key departures. So, I’ll work under the assumption that if it’s close, the player is going to move on.

Now the fun part… who goes where.

Clayton Kershaw – This one is obvious, right? No one is going to outbid the Yankees for Kershaw’s services. At 23 and already a dominant force, having posted a 3.19 ERA in 90 career starts, Kershaw is one of the most valuable properties around and it’s make perfect sense for the Yankees to go all in for him. Still four years away from actual free agency, Kershaw would stand to benefit more than anyone from this chain of events. The injury risk is significant, but I imagine he’d get at least $100 million for six years as a free agent. Prediction: Yankees – six years, $108 million

Matt Kemp – In the midst of a bounce-back season, the 26-year-old Kemp is hitting .352/.423/.566 with six homers and 10 steals in 32 games. Making a modest $6.95 million this year, he’d be extremely attractive if the Dodgers decided to turn him into trade bait. However, I’m not sure who would step up and offer him the $18 million-$20 million he’s worth if he became a free agent. The Yankees (with Kershaw), Phillies, Red Sox and White Sox are pretty much tapped out now. The Nationals would make a lot of sense, given their modest $64 million payroll, but they might be gunshy after just adding Jayson Werth. How about the Royals? They’re spending just $36 million this year, so they can take the money, and for all of their prospects, they’re missing a long-term center fielder. What better way to say they’re serious about contending in the AL Central than by signing Kemp? Prediction: Royals – four years, $76 million

Andre Ethier – A good friend of Dustin Pedroia’s, Ethier has been mentioned as a possible Red Sox target several times, and Boston will be looking for a right fielder for 2012 and beyond. Ethier, though, is poor defensively and might be better off as a long-term first baseman. How about the Nationals sign him and move him to first base once Bryce Harper is ready? If he’d rather join an immediate contender, perhaps he could sign a short-term deal with the Rays or Rangers that would allow him to become a free agent again after 2012. Prediction: Nationals – four years, $56 million

Chad Billingsley – Billingsley just inked a three-year, $33 million extension that would keep him in Los Angeles through 2014. However, he could almost surely do better on the open market with so many teams needing pitching. The Mets and Cubs may not have much flexibility for this year, but with all of the contracts they have coming off the books, they could afford to pay Billingsley $15 million per year starting in 2012. The Orioles should also consider a strong bid. Prediction: Orioles – five years, $75 million

OK, let’s go to the lightning round now. I’ll list players with their current salaries.

Rod Barajas ($3.25 million) – The Red Sox, Royals and Rockies might be tempted by his power and solid glove. He’d probably go.
Casey Blake ($5.25 million) – On the shelf with an elbow infection. Still, with so many teams needing third basemen, he’d likely depart, maybe for San Fran.
Jonathan Broxton ($7 million) – With iffy elbow, he’ll stay put and try to rebuild his value.
Rafael Furcal ($12 million) – A broken thumb means he’ll stay put and wait for free agency at season’s end.
Jon Garland ($5 million) – Vesting option for $8 million if he throws 190 innings. He might prefer to stay and get his money.
Matt Guerrier ($2.25 million) – The Dodgers made the biggest offer over the winter, signing him for $12 million over three years. He’ll stay.
Kenley Jansen ($0.4 million) – Struggled with command this year, but big-time arm. It’d be worth a Guerrier-type deal to control him for the next six years.
Hong-Chih Kuo ($2.275 million) – He’d be a big risk on a long-term deal, but if healthy, he’s a potential difference maker in October. The Red Sox or Yankees would give him a raise.
Hiroki Kuroda ($12 million) – Likes L.A. and passed up long-term deals as a free agent in the offseason. He’ll stay.
Ted Lilly ($7.5 million) – He’s due $25 million between 2012-13. Off to a poor start, he probably wouldn’t match that as a free agent. Stays.
James Loney ($4.875 million) – Would anyone want him? He’s not worth his salary with the way he’s played the last two years.
Vicente Padilla ($2 million) – Looking impressive in his stint as a short reliever. Some other NL team would want him as a setup man.
Jerry Sands ($0.4 million) – Everyone would be interested in a 23-year-old with his power. It’d probably take at least $16 million-$20 million for four years to sign him.
Juan Uribe ($5 million) – No one is going to match the three-year, $21 million the Dodgers gave him over the winter. Stays.

And That Happened: Friday’s Scores and Highlights

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Friday’s weekend series kicked off with Gift Ngoepe’s first major league start, Mike Trout‘s important anniversary and an informal home run derby between the Yankees and Orioles. Here are the rest of Friday’s scores and highlights:

Yankees 14, Orioles 11 (10 innings): Manny Machado may have hit 2017’s longest home run on Friday night, but he was forced to share the spotlight as the Orioles and Yankees combined for eight home runs in their 10-inning slug-fest. In the end, the only home run that mattered was the last one of the night: a walk-off, three-run 411-footer by Matt Holliday to clinch the Yankees’ first win of the series.

Mets 7, Nationals 5: In a battle of elite arms, the Mets took the lead with Jacob deGrom‘s 12-strikeout performance. Max Scherzer struck out seven over six innings, but a couple of timely knocks from Travis d'Arnaud in the second and fourth innings unraveled the Mets’ flimsy one-run lead and eventually, their hold on the game altogether.

Rays 7, Blue Jays 4: Home runs are swell, as are late-game comebacks and solid pitching performances, but it’s not every day that you get a full highlight reel’s worth of plays from Steven Souza Jr.:

Red Sox 5, Cubs 4: Visiting Cubs fans monopolized a good section of Fenway Park on Friday, and the Cubs played nearly as well as if they were playing against the ivy backdrop of Wrigley Field. Although the Sox jumped out to an early five-run lead in the first inning, the Cubs worked a four-run comeback and put the game-tying run on second base when Ben Zobrist lined a double in the ninth inning. That’s as far as they got, however, leaving Zobrist stranded to drop their second consecutive loss of the week.

White Sox 7, Tigers 3: The White Sox extended their win streak to five consecutive games on Friday, clinching first place in the AL Central after a shutdown performance from the bullpen and a late-game comeback spearheaded by Geovany Soto and Tim Anderson. Tigers’ third baseman Nicholas Castellanos helped, too, committing three errors in the sixth and eighth innings to facilitate the White Sox’ rally and cement their 12th win of the year.

Pirates 12, Marlins 2: If you haven’t gotten up to speed on Gift Ngoepe’s intriguing path to the major leagues, do yourself a favor and peruse this excellent 2009 profile by Sports Illustrated’s Gary Smith. Ngoepe was promoted to the bigs last Wednesday and has already garnered some attention for hitting a single in his first career at-bat. He was no less impressive on Friday, going 3-for-3 with two base hits, two walks and an opposite-field triple that just cleared Giancarlo Stanton‘s head at the wall.

Mariners 3, Indians 1: The Mariners may be short one Felix Hernandez, Mitch Haniger and Nelson Cruz, but they looked more than capable of taking on the Indians during Friday’s series opener. Robinson Cano and Ben Gamel combined for a three-run lead on two home runs and Ariel Miranda allowed just one run in 5 1/3 innings, effectively stifling several rally attempts by the Indians and clinching his second win of the year.

Angels 6, Rangers 3: It’s been five years since Mike Trout received his permanent call-up from the minors, and he celebrated in true Mike Trout fashion, engineering an impressive catch on the warning track and collecting a two-run homer against Rangers’ right-hander Nick Martinez:

The Rangers, meanwhile, would have been better off spending their Friday like Yu Darvish:

Braves 10, Brewers 8: Don’t look now, but the Braves are no longer in last place. They relinquished their spot at the bottom of the NL East on Friday, scooting half a game above the Mets after they mounted a six-run rally in the last few innings of a 10-8 win over the Brewers. That’s thanks in large part to their bullpen, which stifled Milwaukee’s comeback attempts with four scoreless frames, giving Ender Inciarte and Adonis Garcia just enough time to clear the bases in the seventh inning and take the lead on Kurt Suzuki’s RBI single in the eighth.

Astros 9, Athletics 4: Consistency isn’t exactly what Charlie Morton is known for, and Friday’s outing was no exception. The veteran right-hander got off to a rocky start in the first inning, putting runners on first and second and watching Khris Davis unleash a three-run bomb for an early lead. While Morton eventually settled down to strike out a career-high 12 batters, Davis still had the righty’s number, and took him deep a second time for the Astros’ fourth and final run of the night.

Cardinals 7, Reds 5: Reason #7 why you should never sleep on the job:

Twins 6, Royals 4: It looked like the Royals finally caught a break on Friday. They built a modest three-run lead early in the game and were able to keep their heads above water even after Miguel Sano brought the Twins within a run of tying the game on a two-run homer in the fourth inning. Everything looked hunky-dory for Kansas City until the eighth, when Joakim Soria loaded the bases for Sano, home plate umpire CB Bucknor took a 92 m.p.h. fastball to the face mask, and the Twins jumped out to a two-run lead to secure the Royals’ eighth consecutive loss.

Rockies 3, Diamondbacks 1: Just as we all predicted, neither the Giants nor the Dodgers are anywhere near the top of the NL West this year. The top two spots appear reserved for the Rockies and Diamondbacks, who have traded first place several times during the month of April. Colorado reclaimed the division on Friday, spearing their 15th win on a one-run outing by rookie southpaw Kyle Freeland and a handful of hits from Carlos Gonzalez, Trevor Story and Charlie Blackmon.

Dodgers 5, Phillies 3: Kenta Maeda is finally looking like the starter the Dodgers need him to be, and not a moment too soon. The right-hander struck out eight over seven innings, holding the Phillies to five hits and two runs in his second winning effort this season. It’ll still take some time to get that ERA below 6.00, however, and the Dodgers have to dig themselves out of a three-game deficit if they want to reclaim first place in the NL West this spring.

Giants 4, Padres 3: So much for rookie jitters. Christian Arroyo has made a comfortable home in the major leagues, slugging .250/.250/.800 through his first four career games and topping it off with his second home run against the Padres on Friday night.

Adam Eaton sustains leg injury after tripping over first base

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Nationals’ outfielder Adam Eaton was carried off the field after stumbling over first base on Friday night. In the ninth inning of the Nationals’ 7-5 loss to the Mets, Eaton appeared to catch his ankle on the bag as he ran out an infield single, suffering a leg injury on the fall. He was unable to put pressure on his left leg after the play and required assistance by two of the Nationals’ athletic trainers as he exited the field.

Eaton is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Saturday, but Nationals’ manager Dusty Baker told reporters that it “doesn’t look too good.” It’s the first significant leg injury the outfielder has sustained since 2014, when he went on the 15-day disabled list with a hamstring strain. He’ll likely be replaced by Michael Taylor in center field for the next couple of games, though that could be a temporary fix as the Nationals seek a better solution during Eaton’s recovery process.