ESPN’s Jeff Passan is reporting Thursday that the Los Angeles Dodgers have agreed to a deal with free agent outfielder A.J. Pollock. Passan says the deal is expected to be a 4-year pact worth about $55 million.
Pollock will hold a player option on a fifth year that would pay him another $10 million. The deal also includes a $5 million buyout.
Pollock is expected to serve as the Dodgers’ primary center fielder, though he has played both corner outfield spots in the past, as well.
The 31-year-old slashed .257/.316/.484 with 21 home runs, 65 runs batted in and 13 stolen bases in 113 games as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks last season. However, he missed about 2 months of the season due to a broken thumb, and injuries have plagued the former All-Star throughout his big league career to this point.
The Dodgers were in need of some reinforcements in the outfield after trading away Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig last month. The departures of Kemp and Puig, who both went to the Cincinnati Reds in a deal designed to save the Dodgers money, left L.A. short on reliable right-handed bats in the outfield. The addition of Pollock will alleviate that to a degree.
Pollock is expected to share time in center with Cody Bellinger, though Bellinger is expected to spend most of his time at his natural position, first base. The Dodgers also have Chris Taylor and Enrique Hernandez, who have both played center field in the past, as well.
The Dodgers have won the National League in back-to-back seasons, but the franchise is still in search of its first World Series title since 1988.
The Dodgers lost in 7 games in the World Series at the hands of the Houston Astros 2 seasons ago before falling in 5 games against the Boston Red Sox last fall.
At the time of the Pollock signing, the Dodgers were listed at 7/1 to win the 2019 World Series. That ties them with the Astros and New York Yankees for the second-best odds, just behind the Red Sox (6/1).
Los Angeles is once again the odds-on favorite to come out of the National League. The Dodgers are at 7/2 to win the N.L. pennant, which puts them ahead of the Chicago Cubs (11/2), St. Louis Cardinals (6/1) and Atlanta Braves (13/2).
The 2-time defending National League champions have been quiet so far this winter. In addition to the trade that sent Kemp and Puig to Cincinnati, the Dodgers have also signed free agent reliever Joe Kelly, who was dominant in the World Series for the Red Sox in October. L.A. also re-signed staff ace Clayton Kershaw, who opted out of his previous contract at the end of last season.
Many expected the Dodgers to be a potential landing spot for free agent Bryce Harper, but the Pollock signing could be a signal that L.A. is out of the running for the most prized free agent on the market. The Dodgers are also not expected to bring back Manny Machado, who helped the team advance to the World Series after coming over in a midseason deal from the Baltimore Orioles last summer.
Adding Pollock will put the Dodgers right up against the $206 million competitive balance luxury tax threshold. The Boston Red Sox are currently the only team over the threshold. However, because the Dodgers were able to dip under the tax threshold last season, they will only pay a 20 percent tax on their hefty payroll number.
Pollock declined the Diamondbacks’ qualifying offer of $17.9 million back in November as he opted to test the free agent waters instead. The Diamondbacks will now receive a compensatory draft pick right after the first round because Pollock’s deal with the Dodgers is for over $50 million.
Pollock played in just 12 games back in 2016 after breaking his arm sliding into home plate during a spring training game. He also missed about 2 months during the 2017 season with a groin injury.
Pollock has been a strong performer when healthy, but he has struggled to replicate his breakout 2015 campaign. Pollock was an All-Star in ’15 when he slashed .315/.367/.498 with 20 home runs, 76 runs batted in, 39 stolen bases and 39 doubles across 157 games.
Pollock has spent the entirety of his career in Arizona to this point after breaking into the big leagues for the first time back in 2012.
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