Dodgers Trade with Cincy. Clearing Room for Harper?
December 24, 2018

Poor Turner Ward. He's been the hitting coach of the Los Angeles Dodgers for the past three years. Early in this off-season (which was only about six weeks ago), he left the organization to become the hitting coach of the Cincinnati Reds. Perhaps they offered him more money. It was reported at the time that Ward lives in Alabama, so the new job would keep him closer to home. But maybe he took the Cincy gig to get away from Yasiel Puig. If that's the case, he should have stayed where he was.

Actually, Ward became Puig's guru and mentor. The two are very close, but you know Ward could probably do without the kiss on the cheek from Puig every time Puig hits a home run. That became a thing, and a required TV shot of the dugout after Yasiel went yard, which happened 23 times this year, and 108 times since his June call-up in 2013. He also stole 60 bases, and has a cannon of a arm. Puig will be kissing Ward on the cheek again in 2019. He's been dealt to the Reds.

That was the big blockbuster deal on Friday. The Dodgers sent Puig, outfielder Matt Kemp, pitcher Alex Wood, catcher Kyle Farmer, and seven million dollars in cash to Cincinnati for pitcher Homer Bailey and two minor leaguers. Bailey was immediately released, and can now sign with any team for the major league minimum with the Dodgers picking up the remainder of his 28-million dollar contract.

Yes, money was the reason for this trade. For both teams. Puig, Kemp, and Wood will all be free agents after 2019, and even with the Dodgers still paying Bailey, it reportedly frees up about 11 million dollars in payroll. Another trade, maybe involving pitcher Rich Hill could free up some more dollars, and perhaps the Dodgers could use that money to acquire free agent slugger Bryce Harper.

The Dodgers are downplaying a Harper deal, of course. He's reportedly asking for more than 300-million dollars over ten years, and despite having (probably literally) tons of money available, that's not the way current ownership operates. Harper is left-handed, and with Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, Max Muncy, Joc Pederson, and Alex Verdugo (who would likely be the right fielder now if no other trades are made), the Dodgers will tell you they might not want to have such an unbalanced lineup.

That's all nonsense. You know the Dodgers would love to have Harper. They probably still won't offer the 300 million to get the 26 year-old, but some sort of opt-out after, say, five years, is not only doable, it's probably been offered already. Harper is from Las Vegas, and would instantly become billboard material in LAŚright next to Lebron James and Mike Trout. Harper's agent, Scott Boras, is undoubtedly counseling his client to take more money, say from the Cubs, Phillies, and possibly even the White Sox. The Yankees also keep acting like they're not interested, which is a dangerous sign.

As for the left-handedness of the Dodgers, they still need to sign a catcher and a second baseman, so they could get right-handed bats there. They also have Justin Turner to hit between Seager and Harper, and Chris Taylor and Kike Hernandez to plug in anywhere.

With all the downplaying and denials, it seems like there is more than just a remote possibility that Harper could be wearing blue when spring training camps open in a couple of months. If that happens, expect coaches to be kissing him on the cheek every time he goes deep.

Holy Holidays Batman!: Last year in this space, we wrote that the only night of the year that remained sacrosanct in the world of sports was Christmas Eve. It turns out that's apparently only when it's convenient for ESPN. Christmas Eve is a Monday this year, and that means the NFL and Monday Night Football. The Raiders host the Broncos in what could be their last game in Oakland. The Raiders' status is up in the air for next year before they move to Las Vegas in 2020... The Utah Jazz do not play a home game on a Sunday this year. The owner is Mormon, and with the LDS church headquartered in Salt Lake City, very few sporting events are played on Sunday for religious reasons. However, that didn't stop ESPN and the NBA for scheduling a home game on Christmas night! The Jazz host the Portland Trailblazers (7:30pm PT) as the final game of a ESPN/ABC Christmas quintupleheader.

Grievous omission: A big thank you to former Gold Sox owner Tom Lininger for texting me nice words about my December 10 column about the Gold Sox, but also pointing out that I missed a former player that made it to the big leagues. I remember Drew Anderson from Golena High School in Reno, who pitched two scoreless innings for Marysville in 2012, but I didn't realize he made his major league debut with Philadelphia in 2017. That makes nine Gold Sox who have made it to the majors. Anderson pitched two games for the Phillies in 2017, and made five appearances this year, including one start. Anderson was a 21st round pick by the Phillies in 2012, and pretty much used his Gold Sox appearance as a pre-draft audition for major league scouts... Meanwhile, former Gold Sox pitcher Cody Anderson (no relation to Drew) avoided arbitration with Cleveland and will make about 685-thousand dollars this coming year. Anderson hasn't pitched in two seasons because of elbow surgery, but could be in the Indians starting rotation in 2019, especially if Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer is traded.

Egregious error: In the litany of college bowl games that we ran down last week, we forgot about the biggest bad boy of them all. That, of course, would be the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl. Marshall beat South Florida 38-20 in Tampa.

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