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Dodgers: A Shopping List For The Winter Meetings

Some Thoughts On What The Dodgers Need For 2020

HOUSTON, TEXAS - OCTOBER 29: Anthony Rendon #6 of the Washington Nationals throws out George Springer (not pictured) of the Houston Astros during the third inning in Game Six of the 2019 World Series at Minute Maid Park on October 29, 2019 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

The Winter Meetings start on Sunday in San Diego and many of us are hoping the Dodgers can make some improvements. The Dodgers, as currently constituted, are already a very good team. However, we all saw them lose in game 5 of the National League Division Series (NLDS) to the Nationals.

We then saw the Nationals go on to win the World Series and wondered what could have been.

Coming off of a franchise-record 106 win season, the Dodgers have already lost David Freese to retirement — his right handed bat will be severely missed along as his role of step-dad. Moreover, Cy Young runner-up Hyun-Jin Ryu is currently a free agent along with Rich Hill and Russell Martin.

This article will look at what the Dodgers need to address at the Winter Meetings.

Upper Level Starting Pitching

It is looking more and more like Hyun-Jin Ryu could be signing with another team this off-season. Even if he comes back, LA’s top level starting pitchers did not match up against the Nationals and probably wouldn’t have against the Astros. The fact that Clayton Kershaw is beginning his decline and that they started an injured Rich Hill the playoffs shows that the rotation, after Walker Buehler, is not playoff worthy yet. The way the Dodgers offense performs in the playoffs (we talk about that later) means the pitching has to be very good.

If the Dodgers re-sign Ryu I see him and Kershaw as the 3 and 4 starters in the playoffs. Buehler is the clear number one type playoff pitcher. A Gerrit Cole, Steven Strasburg or some trade candidate is needed.

We also could see someone like Dustin May, Julio Urías or Tony Gonsolin step it up a lot. However, a problem with those pitchers is that they will all be on some type of innings limit. How long will the Dodgers be satisfied going into the playoffs with an incomplete starting rotation? With Ryu still a free agent, there are two spots remaining in the playoff rotation for 2020.

Late Inning Bullpen Help

Based on what happened in the postseason, Kenley Jansen clearly does not have a lock on the closer’s role. The back end of the Dodgers bullpen currently consists of Jansen, Pedro Baez and Joe Kelly. Their best reliever in the playoffs, Kenta Maeda is either heading back to the rotation or another team. Julio Urías is expected to be in the starting rotation for the whole 2020 season. Adam Kolarek, a lefty specialist, will need to get more than one out with the new pitching rules in 2020 but right handed batters crush him.

There are a couple of candidates that were non-tendered that come with their own question marks in Blake Treinen and Kevin Gausman. Treinen was a easily one of the top relievers in 2018 but his numbers fell off a cliff in 2019. He is my number one candidate for improving the back end of the bullpen. If he’s close to where he was in 2018 then he is excellent insurance for the closer spot. Gausman is a converted starter and it sounds like the Dodgers are interested. My under-the-radar candidate is the in-house option of Tony Gonsolin. His fastball/splitter combo is an excellent mix for a closer-type.

Infield Defense

I did an article about the infield defense last month that found it being barely average, even while excluding the Joc Pederson at first base experiment. Max Muncy at second and Justin Turner at third were weak spots and Corey Seager at shortstop wasn’t more than average either. There have been rumors of the Dodgers being interested in free agents Anthony Rendon and Josh Donaldson to player third base with Turner moving to first. Both Rendon and Donaldson are very good defensive players at would make third much better. That would move Muncy to second on a more permanent basis so that is the negative.

There have been rumors of the Dodgers being interested in Francisco Lindor to play shortstop. Unlike Rendon and Donaldson, the Dodgers would have to trade for Lindor. A shortstop like Lindor makes the whole infield better with his range alone as he can help cover up for the lack of range of others. The better the infield defense, the less a pitcher has to work. The Dodgers are decent at making the basic plays but none of the main infielders in 2019 are known for making plays that require a lot of range. If Gavin Lux ends up at second then he would upgrade the defense a bit also with some athleticism.

Right Handed Lineup Balance

The Dodgers went out and got A.J. Pollock last off-season to try and fill the need of putting another right handed hitter, along with Justin Turner. The Dodgers are filled with left handed hitters like Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy, Corey Seager, Alex Verdugo, Joc Pederson, Matt Beaty, and Gavin Lux. Too many times the Dodgers seems to overly pinch hit due to some of the in-balance. There are still those moments when many Dodgers hitters revert to strikeout mode as evidenced in the NLDS and the last few playoff series.

Players mentioned previously like Rendon, Donaldson and even switch-hitting Lindor would help with the lineup. There have been Mookie Betts rumors but he, like Lindor, would cost a lot in a trade. Wouldn’t it be great to have the heart of the lineup look something like this?

Cody Bellinger connects at Suntrust Park in Atlanta Georgia.
  • Muncy
  • Rendon
  • Bellinger
  • Turner
  • Seager

Then you surround them with other players like Will Smith, Gavin Lux, Joc Pederson, Alex Verdugo, A.J. Pollock Chris Taylor and Kiké Hernandez. That is a nice supporting cast that offers the Dodgers a chance to have a more balanced lineup. With the new rules about pitchers needed to throw against three batters, having a good left/right balance will take away bullpen weapons for other teams.

Some Options

Gerrit Cole Scenario

In the scenario below the incoming salary would be between $55-60M which necessitates the trading off of some salary. See our payroll page for what each player makes or might make.

  1. Sign Cole (or Strasburg)
  2. Trade for Lindor
  3. Sign Treinen
  4. Trade off some salary for some prospects to help in the Lindor trade

Rendon Scenario

Signing Rendon and Treinen would cost around $40M. The salary for the starting pitcher is unknown so that would dictate how much salary needs to be traded away.

  1. Sign Rendon
  2. Trade for a starting pitcher
  3. Sign Treinen
  4. Trade off some salary for some prospects to help in the trade for a starting pitcher

Non-Big 3 Senario

These three would cost around $50M.

  1. Sign Donaldson
  2. Re-sign Ryu
  3. Sign Treinen
  4. Trade off some salary to help pay for the above.

Betts Scenario

This scenario would approach around $53M in salary.

  1. Trade for Betts
  2. Sign Ryu
  3. Sign Treinen
  4. Trade some existing players to reduce salary and gain prospects to trade for Betts.

Final Thoughts

I remain hopeful that the Dodgers will make a big splash in free agency which could net Rendon, Cole or Strasburg. Maybe they retain Ryu and sign Donaldson. They have around $41.5M before there are any luxury tax penalties. If they unload more salary in trades they could do some good things in free agency. I prefer the free agent route more than the trade route.

I don’t like the idea of giving up excellent prospects when the Dodgers can just spend the money and lose a draft pick. Players like Lindor or Betts would require 2 of the Dodgers top 5 prospects, is my guess. I am not against trading for those but having the option to get top talent via free agency should be exhausted first.

With players like Rendon, Donaldson and Lindor they help with two needs; lineup balance and infield defense. As you can see above, I really want Blake Treinen and he makes too much sense for the Dodgers to not get him. Let’s hope the Dodgers can make a splash and not finish in second or third for all these key players:

“If you’re always rational about every free agent, you will finish third on every free agent.” – Andrew Friedman

Now is the time. Despite my stab at looking at possible salaries, staying under the luxury tax should not stop them from the moves discussed above. Your turn, Andrew.

Dodgers Off-Season Checklist

Written by Tim Rogers

A fan of the Dodgers since 1973 since I got my first baseball cards while living in Long Beach. I came to San Diego for college and never left nor did I ever switch my Dodgers' allegiance. Some know me as the "sweater guy". #ProspectHugger

17 Comments

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  1. Tim, you always write great informative articles thank you. I believe the Dodgers will sign Ryu. I do not understand why you think May or Gonsolin will need to have their innings significantly reduced as they are not coming off of injury. I do understand that the major leagues have a lot more games but steps can be taken that let them sit out a few rotations in the middle and end of the year to keep them fresh this has been done for a long time in baseball.
    The Dodgers should run away with the NL West so they will have the luxury to schedule
    Bullpen days or bring up White or Grey to pitch for evaluation.
    Rendon may be a possibility if he is looking for a shorter-term contract. The Dodgers are very cognisant of clubhouse chemistry and reports are Donaldson is a distraction. Plus Donaldson hit 215 against Left-handed pitching last year and is a year older so how is he of any help? I want them to move Seager to 3rd and Lux to SS his natural position. I believe they will look to trade Maeda if they believe Stripling, May and or Gonsolin can fill that slot. A top-three rotation of Buehler, Ryu, and Urias with Kershaw and May will win a lot of games and get them in the playoffs.

  2. I don’t think Ryu can replicate what he did last year or even come close. Hope they stay away. A stud starting pitcher is needed to keep Kershaw at the #3 slot. We can’t roll into the season or post season as Kershaw as our #2. Highly unlikely, but would like to see a Cole or Stras 3 year deal. Don’t see any moves for a big name infielder either. No need.

    • Ryu had shoulder problems in 2014 and still had a good year If you talk to therapists, my daughter is a sports PT and works with Olympic level athletes. She tells me it takes several years to come back from shoulder surgery especially for a MLB Pitcher. Ryu in his career has a an average of 15-9 with a 2.98 ERA with a WHIP of 1.16 which is elite. Plus Ryu has been very good in important games.
      I believe the Dodgers will sign him. And I hope they do.
      A rotation of Buehler, Ryu, Urias, Kershaw and depending if they trade Maeda either Maeda, Stripling, May or Gonsolin will win the NL West. Don’t forget the Dodgers have elite young arms in May and Gonsolin and Grey is coming up fast. It mkes no sense for them to sign a long term deal with a pitcher as they have young talented guys on the 40 man roster.
      If they let Roberts manage the pitching in the playoffs they will lose again so it doesn’t really matter what they do. LOL

      • Dodgers can roll with what they have now and win the NL West. The problem is they have to battle not only the opposite team in the post season but Roberts. They need another stud pitcher to go with Buehler. Neither Ryu or any other starter on the roster fits that spot. Cole or Stras to a 3 year deal (don’t think that would be considered long term) would be great, but not likely. They’ll get a team to sign them to a long term contract.

  3. They should go for the first one sign cole trade for lindor sign treinen but I don’t think they would need other trades cmon they’re in LA just pay the luxury tax and make up for it by winning the WS.

  4. Tim: I love your articles. However, it’s become a Bundt Keats under the Friedman regime that he will never sign a top free agent, NEVER. He treats the Dodgers as a small market team and remaining under the salary cap is more important to him than winning a World Series. Trading for Lindor (2 years left) or Betts (1 year left) isn’t smart unless you can get a contract extension as part of the deal. Also, it’s clear that without the starting pitching and a reliable closer the Dodgers aren’t going to win a World Series, so why trade for Lindor or Betts if you don’t remedy the pitching. My two cents worth.

  5. Kershaw is better than one thinks he isn’t a number one but easily a 2 . they always leave him in too long always have and need to stop doing that. catcher use hill and ruiz makes most sense and saying we need a right handed bat ; belli hits both as does Verdugo and lux and seager isn’t to bad either . Pederson doesn’t muncy is a little weak on lefties and beatty had to small a sample size to tell. Pollack proved he cant hit righties and don’t care what cost is he can’t occupy a roster spot. why do we need pitch limits on the young guys ; they need to pitch to strengthen their arms quit babying them. the only free agent we should go after is Rendon. sign him put him at 3rd turner at first lux at 2nd seager at ss; use muncy, rios and lux to spell the infield as needed also gives a stronger bench. ooutfield of belli, Verdugo, Pederson, beatty, and taylor. get rid of kikiebullpen if madea doesn’t want to be here trade and get a good man for the pen

  6. top of the list…..new manager………over 3 years and same..o….same…o……didn’t have ability to know how to win games ( the players did) and biggest problem is his decision making……hmmm, just another game…..and this will lead us into another dream that turns into another nightmare…….

  7. “They’ve already met with game-changing free agents Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg and Anthony Rendon. Whether that’s a sincere pursuit, or clever public relations, remains to be seen” hat do ya all think about this? Well if Dodgers don’t do something big this off season what old dodger fan says above will be exactly what happens.

  8. Andrew Friedman is still not signed, according to the last report from the LA Times. He could very well be out after the winter meeting, which means all Friedman’s doing now is just helping the Dodgers transition while they’re seeking his replacement.

  9. Really? Walker Buehler is not playoff ready? 0.71 ERA last playoffs and 2.73 career. If he’s not playoff ready then who the heck is? Poor article all the way.

  10. Firstly, need a new manager. Dave does not know how to manage, he is a people person and not a manager. Secondly, get an ace. Buehler is a legit ace, but after him….nothing. Kershaw is a number 3 now and can’t be relied upon in the playoffs. Thirdly, trade Joc and Seager ASAP. Joc can only hit righties?? How did he make it to the majors? Seager is not the player he was. Fourthly, get a closer. Kenley is more focused on how he looks instead of being a nasty closer, he has all this “extra body movement now prior to the pitch. As he put it……”who cares?” Fifthly, why stockpile prospects if your not going to use them? Either trade them for an ace or bring them up. Top 30 prospects: 5-ss, 6-2b, 3-c, 15-p. case in point, refer back to “thirdly”. Overview to win a World Series……..what has been done, hasn’t worked. Shake things up and get aggressive doing it. The fans deserve to celebrate more than second place. It seems as tho the Dodgers have probably the largest (seating-wise) stadiums with the highest ticket prices……………………..???????

    • Your wrong Rick with the assessment of Seager he had 2 operations in 2019 but still put up pretty good numbers his defense was off but that can be all about those operations he had Rendon to third Seager SS Muncy 2nd Turner 1st now that’s a good hitting infield with good defense then get a starter and trade for relief.
      Case Closed Steve

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