We all love A.J. Ellis as a person and as Clayton Kershaw’s best friend, but as a baseball player? Not necessarily; A .191 batting average in 91 games will do that to you. Of course, it doesn’t help that Ellis is also not a good defensive player as he tied for the 27th-best dWAR last season.
But hey, when you’re the best player’s best friend, you deserve a spot on the roster and in the lineup once a week — just nothing more than that.
Wish List: Russell Martin
Obviously, the free agent options at catcher are limited with Martin out there as the only sizable upgrade on the market. There are a few other catchers out there, but if it’s not Martin, I don’t think there’s anyone else out there worth taking a chance on to replace Ellis.
Ultimately, the reason this position is so high on the list is because it’s a unique one in the sense that there’s no player in the Dodgers’ farm system chomping at the bit to burst into the Majors.
It’s a position desperately in need of upgrade and one without a real upgrade in sight outside of free agency.
1) Relief pitching
Bet you didn’t see that coming. After a dreadful postseason plagued by a collapsing bullpen, it’s clear that this is one area the Dodgers will need to address. Unfortunately, it’s not exactly the case that the Dodgers are working with a clean slate.
The good news is J.P. Howell and Kenley Jansen will be back. The bad news is so too will Brandon League and Wilson. Other relievers also under contract and on the 40-man roster are Pedro Baez, Daniel Coulombe, Jose Dominguez, Carlos Frias, Onelki Garcia, Yimi Garcia, Paco and Chris Withrow.
As far as decisions go, everyone in the “other relievers” category listed above still has option years remaining, meaning that the Dodgers are free to send them to the Minors this year without potentially losing them to another team on a waiver claim.
That being said, at some point those relievers need to pitch in the Majors if they’re going to improve and become building blocks for the Dodger bullpen. Now, assuming the Dodgers carry seven relief pitchers in 2015, that leaves room for three more arms to place alongside Howell, Jansen, League and Wilson.
My guess is that one or two of the young relievers make the roster — Baez, Frias and Rodriguez are the favorites with Withrow out until mid-season recovering from Tommy John. The Dodgers may, perhaps should, add one or two high-quality free agents into the mix.
Wish List: Pat Neshek, Luke Gregorson
Neshek was great with the St. Louis Cardinals last season, as was Gregorson with the Oakland A’s. Both relievers won’t be looking for a closer position, so both would be great additions to the backend of the bullpen.
With Howell and Rodriguez both in the mix, I believe the Dodgers will focus on adding right-handers to the bullpen.