April 18, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Corey Seager focused on Dodgers with free agency looming

Corey Seager reported to spring training this week a World Series MVP, fresh off a historic tear under Major League Baseball’s brightest spotlight in October.

The Dodgers shortstop, healthy for the first time since 2017, solidified himself as one of the sport’s top offensive weapons again in 2020. He is perhaps the best hitter on arguably the deepest team in the majors with several prime years seemingly remaining.

It would, as a result, seem wise for the Dodgers to try to extend his contract before he hits free agency and other clubs bid for his services next offseason. But that appears unlikely at this point. Asked Thursday if he and the Dodgers have discussed an extension, Seager declined to delve into the topic.

“I don’t really want to talk about it, to be honest,” Seager said in a video conference with reporters.

Seager, 26, is slated to be part of the best free-agent class of shortstops in MLB history, joining Francisco Lindor of the New York Mets, Trevor Story of the Colorado Rockies, Javier Báez of the Chicago Cubs, Carlos Correa of the Houston Astros, Marcus Semien of the Toronto Blue Jays, and Andrelton Simmons of the Minnesota Twins.

Correa told reporters this week that he is open to signing a long-term contract with the Astros before the season starts. Lindor said it was too early to talk extension with the Mets but didn’t shut the door.

The Rockies’ recent decision to trade Nolan Arenado signals that Story’s days in Denver are coming to an end while Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer recently said it’s “impossible” to keep Báez, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo together. Bryant’s and Rizzo’s contracts also expire at the end of the year.

Fernando Tatís Jr. set a high bar this week for a long-term deal, agreeing to a 14-year, $340 million contract with the San Diego Padres.

The Dodgers have significant money coming off the books next winter. In addition to Seager, Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen and Joe Kelly are likely to become free agents. Those four will make about $73.5 million in 2021 and the team could deploy those resources to re-sign Seager or turn to another option at shortstop.

Seager is represented by Scott Boras, an agent known to prefer having his clients reach free agency to test the market and maximize their values. That’s likely the case with Seager. Barring a major injury, Seager should garner a substantial deal, especially if over a full 162-game season he replicates his production in 2020 (.307 batting and .943 on-base-plus-slugging averages with 15 home runs in 52 games).

Until then, the mild-mannered shortstop maintained his impending free agency won’t surface as a distraction.

“That’s not my focus,” Seager said. “It’s never been about that. It’s always been about showing up that day and doing what you can to help the team. I don’t want the extra effort to have to talk about that in the media. I just want to go out and do my job and let the chips fall.”

Bauer, Jansen face hitters

Trevor Bauer completed his first live batting practice session as a Dodger on Field 1 as Kenley Jansen, Bauer’s catch partner this spring, threw his first one of 2021 on Field 2.

Bauer drew an audience — Clayton Kershaw, Dustin May and Alex Vesia sat behind home plate for a good view —- as he faced Cody Bellinger,Seager, Justin Turner and Will Smith, who homered off the right-hander. Bellinger, recovering from a dislocated shoulder, stood in the batter’s box twice but only to track pitches. The outfielder isn’t expected to take swings against live pitching until next week.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts’ focus was on Field 2 where Jansen, Julio Urías and Scott Alexander took the mound. Roberts called Jansen’s performance “exceptional.”

“Just the life to the fastball,” Roberts said. “The command was great. The fastball, the cutter, the two-seamer, the breaking ball, everything was really on point today.”

Short hops

Roberts announced left-hander Mike Kickham will start Sunday’s Cactus League opener against the Oakland Athletics. Kickham, a 32-year-old nonroster invite, appeared in six games for the Boston Red Sox last season after not pitching in the majors since 2014. … Roberts said catcher Austin Barnes, outfielder AJ Pollock and utility man Chris Taylor are among the regulars expected to play Sunday. … Joe Kelly, who was dealing with an undisclosed injury, threw about 10 pitches off a mound Thursday. Roberts said the right-hander is “moving in the right direction.”