The front office led by Andrew Friedman has built a roster of depth that can sustain an injury to a top starter. Injuries have decimated the starting infield this year and have placed Logan Forsythe and Justin Turner on the disabled list this year and also caused Corey Seager to miss some time recently. The outfield has not been immune either. Joc Pederson suffered a concussion and missed substantial time. Andre Ethier has not played a single game this year but in stepped Andrew Toles. When Toles was lost to a season ending injury, in stepped Cody Bellinger earlier than expected. Bellinger has been a revelation this year as few people expected him to make an impact in the 2017 season, let alone be a player that leads the National League in homeruns and has won 2 National League Player of the Week honors. Many expected him to be the heir apparent to the first base position once Adrian Gonzalez’s contract expires at the end of the 2018. But the 2017 version of Gonzalez is not the one that Dodger fans have known since he came to Los Angeles in a 2012 blockbuster trade.
For years, he has been a stable, consistent, middle of the order bat that has also won 4 Gold Glove awards. For the first month and a half of the season, Gonzalez was performing well below his normal standard. His power numbers were almost non-existent as he tallied only 1 home run in 49 games played. He also saw a significant drop his batting average from his career numbers. Many were questioning if Father Time was finally catching up to him as has averaged nearly 159 games played every year since 2006. When he went on the disabled list earlier this year, it marked the first time in his career that he made such a trip. He is now on the disabled list for a second time and is not expected to return until after the All Star break. As every day passes, Gonzalez nears a return to action and the front office faces quite the dilemma with how they will deal with him. There are three options for the front office to choose from:
1) Return him to first base: As a veteran player, he has earned right to prove that he is still productive in an everyday role. However, barring an unforeseen injury or decline, Bellinger is going to demand every day at bats. His versatility allows him to play the outfield but the outfield is not only crowded, but the group is also producing. Pederson and Yasiel Puig have been heating up as the season passed its midway point. Chris Taylor has been one of the team MVP’s this season although he has been cooling off recently. Top prospect Alex Verdugo is also making a strong case to make the big league club. Because the team has much depth to cover his absence, this would allow Gonzalez to take extra time for healing and recuperation.
2) Make him a bench player: The Dodgers could decide to leave Gonzalez on the bench. He would provide a quality left-handed bat in late inning situations but there is no evidence that he would be successful in this role as he has always been an everyday player getting consistent at bats.
3) Trade or DFA him: As noted earlier, Gonzalez is signed through the end of next year at 21.5 million per year. That makes him nearly impossible to trade without absorbing nearly all the money, and even then, the return would probably be minimal. They might also choose to DFA him along the lines of Carl Crawford last year. However, having so much dead money tied up to players is not the best recipe for success. If he is getting paid regardless, it would probably make more sense to see if he can return to his normal, healthy production.
Although the Dodgers have been able to sustain the loss of Gonzalez for an extended amount of time, if he is performing at his normal levels on a daily basis, the Dodgers are a better team. Not only does he lengthen the lineup, but he also provides a veteran presence for the team. Expect the Dodgers to give him a chance to succeed as he returns. However, the leash will be short as the Dodgers have one of the deepest rosters and minor league systems in the game.