With the 2016 baseball season behind us now, owners, players and fans now enter one of the most exciting offseasons the wide world of sports has to offer. Every team is to be represented at the Winter Meetings this December 4th through 8th. At these meetings, teams will be exploring all possible opportunities to improve their personnel, whether by trade or free agency.
No two teams’ needs are ever alike, however. So let us explore some of the things Dodgers’ execs may have on their agenda this winter.
Establishing The 40-Man Roster.
At this time during the offseason, teams are met with a deadline by which they must set their 40-man roster. Any player left off the 40-man roster is subject to the Rule 5 Draft. Any team can claim a player outside another team’s roster for a fee of $50,000. However, the draftee must remain on the drafting team’s 25-man active roster, or else they must offer the player back to the original team at half price.
At this point in the year, teams essentially select the top 40 players within their entire system to prevent losing any prospects or stars in the Rule 5 draft. Through this process, fans can take a look at each roster and ponder each man’s role during the next season. (Especially the prospects.)
A couple of names caught my eye in particular this year. Pitchers Chase De Jong and Jacob Rhame have been prospects in the Dodgers’ system for a few seasons now and both have been developing nicely in the minor leagues. I wrote spotlight articles on both pitchers last February which can be viewed in the links provided.
The Dodgers did a fantastic job of finding great value and production in their bullpen signings last year. President Andrew Friedman and general manager Farhan Zaidi displayed some impressive foresight by signing Joe Blanton, who quickly became the Dodgers’ best relief option out of the pen.
Management also traded for 28-year old minor leaguer Grant Dayton in 2015. Dayton posted fantastic numbers out of the pen last year, boasting an ERA of 2.05. It’s the same case for LHP Adam Liberatore who was also an extremely effective reliever before succumbing to a season-ending injury.
De Jong and Rhame are both still in their early twenties, but could they still be on the fast track towards the majors? The Dodgers certainly think enough of them to keep them out of the Rule 5 Draft and on their 40-man roster. Could they be the next diamonds in the rough?
Some other noteworthy prospects on the 40-man roster include 2B Micah Johnson (#21 prospect) and catcher Kyle Farmer(#24 prospect).
Find A Player Who Can Hit Left-Handers.
When it came to hitting against lefties last year, the Dodgers were nothing short of hot garbage. On the season, the team hit a meager .213 versus LHP and only 37 of their 189 homers came against lefties. There is no doubt that the Dodgers can handle right handers, hitting .264 as a team versus RHP last year, but with such a weak free agent market this offseason, the Dodgers are likely candidates to fix this discrepancy via trade.
Earlier this month, The Dodgers were rumored to be discussing a possible trade for Brian Dozier with the Twins. However, talks have fallen pretty silent according to Twins beat writer Mike Berardino. Even if no trade with the Twins is imminent, the fact remains that Brian Dozier would be the perfect remedy for the Dodgers’ allergy to lefties. In his career, Dozier is batting .270 versus LHP with an OPS of .854.
Also linked to the Dodgers in trade discussions are infielders Ian Kinsler and Logan Forsythe. Forsythe has had similar numbers to Dozier against LHP minus the homers. Ian Kinsler, on the other hand, has absolutely obliterated left-handed pitching. For his career, the 34-year old is batting .306 versus LHP with an OPS of .879.
WHO IS GOING TO PLAY SECOND BASE?
For a couple offseasons now, the Dodgers have gone into the Winter Meetings without a clear answer as to who will start at second base. Gordon was shipped to Miami in December 2014. The Dodgers instead acquired Howie Kendrick from down the freeway in Anaheim. Last offseason, the Dodgers re-signed both Kendrick and Chase Utley without really naming either one as the starter until much later.
This offseason, there is still no clear answer at second base. The Dodgers have said that they are open to bringing Utley back for 2017, who turns 38 in December. Typically, you don’t see a lot of contracts being offered to 38-year olds across the market, but Utley is the exception. Utley was still able to bat .252 at the plate, hitting 14 home runs. While he has lost a little bit of range on defense, he is by no means a liability at the position as he posted nearly league average defensive metrics.
While he may have a reduced role in the event that the Dodgers acquire another second baseman, he has been the veteran presence that the Dodger clubhouse needed. The duo that he and Corey Seager make up the middle has been the definition of “dynamic.” Corey’s talent and potential has earned him NL Rookie of the Year honors, but some credit could go to Utley for taking the young man under his wing and instilling good habits at the plate and on the diamond. It should also be considered that both the league and the players association would like to add a 26th man on each roster in their new collective bargaining agreement. This can afford the Dodgers more room to consider offering a contract to the veteran.
In any case, you can still expect the Dodgers to do everything they can to acquire any one of the options mentioned earlier in the article.
Puig: Should He Stay or Should He Go?
I’m going to save you and I a lot of time by assuming we all know the very, very, very well-documented daytime drama that is Yasiel Puig’s complicated, yet, passionate relationship with the Dodgers.
Let’s fast forward to now. Puig has always had trouble acclimating himself to the major leagues. Disputes with teammates and his inconsistent production have left the Dodgers at a crossroads with Puig. Can they trade his relatively cheap contract for a big enough return, or will they hang onto the 26-year old in hopes he taps into his unrealized potential?
There is no doubt that in order to gain a considerable return, the Dodgers would have to trade Puig as part of a package sent to another team. Also interesting to note, the White Sox are one team to have confirmed their interest in the outfielder. Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan has stated that the Dodgers are considered the favorites to acquire Sale. There is little doubt that Puig’s name would be mentioned quite a bit during any potential discussions with the White Sox.
Of course the Dodgers could hang onto Puig and forgo any trade possibility including Puig. It has been hard to get over the kind of fire he lit for the Dodgers during his debut season. Since then however, Puig has become a much more ordinary bat in the lineup. He batted a quiet .263 with 11 homers in 2016.
Sign Seager To An Extension. NOW.
Corey Seager has exceeded the expectations that industry experts have set for him by achieving all-star and ROY status in his first full season. The 22-year old has made his presence known throughout the league as the next great superstar. Similarly, the Dodgers need to lockup Seager just as the Angels did with Trout.
Seager started hot, stayed hot and finished hot all the way through the Dodgers 2016 playoff run. He batted .306 during the year with 26 homers and in the playoffs, he led off games one and two in the NLDS with home runs versus the Nationals. He has the sort of production and consistency to make him a sure bet as a perennial all-star shortstop.
In 2015, the Angels gave their young phenom, Mike Trout, a 6 year/$144M which ensured his prolonged tenure with Anaheim. The Dodgers need to give Seager the same deal. Seager is eligible for arbitration in 2019 and is to hit the free agent market in 2022. The Dodgers need to sign Seager through that point, if not longer. Seager is the engine the keeps the lineup working and should be made the focal point of the Dodgers’ young core that includes Joc Pederson, Julio Urias and De Leon.
It’s a good bet that Seager would get at least as much as Trout, should the Dodgers ultimately decide to offer him an extension. A good starting point could be around 6 years/$150M, but with super-agent Scott Boras representing him, Corey is sure to gain a number closer to what he wants.
Re-Sign Justin Turner and Kenley Jansen
Two of the most valuable assets to the Dodgers are about to hit the free agent market and they are sure to draw some attention from around the league. Third baseman Justin Turner came back from knee surgery during the offseason and somehow improved on his already impressive 2015 season. He hit a career high 26 home runs, batted .275 and drove in 90 RBI. With such a thin market, he is considered one of the top bats available in free agency this year.
Kenley Jansen has been the Dodgers’ shutdown artist for 5 seasons now. In 2016, he became the new Dodgers all-time saves leader. That number stands at 189 now, but on which team will he continue his already stellar career?
Both players deserve to be paid without question, but can the Dodgers afford to sign both? The record contract for a closer is the 4 years/$50M the Phillies gave to Jonathan Papelbon. However, the price of shutdown 9th innings has risen and Jansen could get something around $20 million annually, maybe even more.
As for Turner, he will surely garner the largest contract of the four available free agents at third base. Other players seeking employment at the hot corner include Luis Valbuena and Daniel Descalso. Of course, he will want this to be the last contract he’ll ever need. His numbers, though, haven’t quite afforded him the ability to name his own number as far as length is concerned. Something around 4 years/$65 million with an option sounds reasonable. It would be less annually than the qualifying offer he rejected from the Dodgers, (1 year, $17M) but it gives him guaranteed money for at least four years.
There is a ton of action already in the rumor mill. The stove has already been hot for some teams. Brian McCann, Josh Reddick and Kendry Morales have already found which jerseys they will be donning in 2017. With such a weak free agent market, all teams will be wanting to improve via trade. Let’s see how the Dodgers’ offseason unfolds this year.