The Los Angeles Dodgers have a problem — depth. As it currently stands, they have an abundance of versatile players on the current roster and an even more of up-and-coming young talent. It’s not a bad problem to have, but it could be a problem nonetheless.
The Dodgers’ current 40-man roster has Kyle Garlick, Joc Pederson, DJ Peters, AJ Pollock, and Alex Verdugo strictly playing the outfield. Gavin Lux, Zach McKinstry, Max Muncy, Edwin Rios, Corey Seager, Justin Turner, and Tyler White round out the infield. Then there’s Matt Beaty, Cody Bellinger, Kiké Hernández, and Chris Taylor who are capable of playing both infield and outfield positions.
Even if the Dodgers were to send Garlick, Peters, McKinstry, Rios, and White to the minors (which they will), that’s still seven players available to play three outfield positions — or seven to play four infield positions. With Bellinger, Muncy, Pollock, Seager, Turner, and Verdugo being locks to play anytime they are healthy and available, LA essentially has five players vying for the remaining two spots.
— Jason McClure?? (@Jmcclure83) November 25, 2019
Yes, the Dodgers tend to platoon based on opposing pitching and they still want bench availability for situational hitting. However, with David Freese and Kristopher Negrón retiring, as well as Russell Martin and Jedd Gyorko becoming free agents, the roster may have room for some of the previously mentioned players to remain in the majors.
Odd Men Out?
It’s no secret the Dodgers are pursuing a right-handed power bat this off-season. Considering they are looking to find that bat in a third baseman, which would move Turner to 1st, it mitigates the need for two right-handed utility players.
Dodgers have Anthony Rendon on their radar. Earlier they’d been connected to Josh Donaldson. Justin Turner has generously offered to change positions if necessary.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) November 14, 2019
In 2019, Matt Beaty emerged as a solid left-handed hitter that can play the outfield and corner infield. Add in Bellinger, Lux, Muncy, Seager, and Turner as other infield options, and the Dodgers will have plenty of depth with just one right-handed utility player to accompany the potential right-handed power bat they wish to acquire.
So which utility player do the Dodgers part ways with?
Kiké v. Taylor
Kiké Hernández and Chris Taylor have been key utility cogs in the Dodgers machine since 2015 and 2016. They’ve platooned various positions, filled in nicely for injured regulars, and had some huge moments of their own in some big situations. The problem is, they are essentially the same player. They play sound defense at the same positions, post similar offensive numbers, and both bat from the right side.
If Kiké and Taylor are coming back to the team tonight, who will the Dodgers move to make room? pic.twitter.com/SMHvLL87y6
— Dodgers Nation (@DodgersNation) August 20, 2019
Defensively over their careers, Hernandez edges out Taylor in most categories, but Taylor does boast the better overall dWAR. Offensively, Taylor has the better career slash line, .262/.331/.441 to Kiké’s .241/.316/.426 and also averages more runs, RBIs, and walks. However, Kiké does tend to hit more home runs, but he strikes out significantly less than Taylor.
Contract wise, they’re both set to make about the same through arbitration, but Hernandez can become a free agent after the 2020 season while Taylor is under team control for an additional season.
Ideally, the Dodgers will aim to free up $4-6M by offloading one this winter, but it’s difficult to anticipate which one. Kiké Hernandez is a huge fan favorite for his exceptional defensive ability anywhere on the field. Additionally, he has promising power and a fun personality that seems to convince many fans that he should be a Dodger for life.
Fell asleep in the 14th inning, and I’ll never forgive myself for it. Because Kiké Hernandez gave us the greatest windup since Hideo Nomo. pic.twitter.com/tFU3lnl8A8
— Austin Huff (@AustinHuff) July 25, 2018
Chris Taylor is more stoic, but he is still well revered by fans. Known for starting the “barrels are overrated” hand wagging, Taylor’s offense is more consistent and his defense is quite good.
— Linda Ge (@lindazge) September 19, 2018
Which of the two the Dodgers would part ways with is going to depend on who else they give up in a move to fill up other holes on the roster. Taylor has long been preferred over Kiké to be backup shortstop, but Kiké literally fills in everywhere else. That being said, with Matt Beaty serving as backup to the corners — along with an outfield loaded with depth — that leaves Kiké only needed as back up second baseman behind Gavin Lux and Max Muncy.
As stated earlier, both players have been integral components for Dave Roberts and the Dodgers. They’ve had some very big moments and in the words of Doc, “have gotten us there before.” Moving on from either won’t be easy for parts of the fan base, but it’ll be best for the team. With less shared playing time between the two, perhaps it’ll be better for them individually as well.