Mailbag: Crowded Outfield, Pitching Depth, and Off-Season Moves

Will the Dodgers trade any of their outfielders before the season starts? How will they utilize their starting rotation depth? What were the best/worst moves this off-season? I attempt to answer your questions in this week’s mailbag.

@gdubss31 asks

Which Outfielder gets traded before opening day? Too many OFs with not many spots available

Actually, I don’t anticipate any trades at this point. Not saying they won’t happen, but nothing stands out. At the beginning of the off-season, I would have said Puig had the best chance to be dealt. After the Dodgers acquired Darin Ruf, Scott Van Slyke seemed like a logical trade candidate. Andre Ethier has been rumored to be a possible trade chip for the last few years now, but his contract and 10/5 rights make it rather difficult. I just don’t see any clear move right now, although anything is certainly possible.

The Dodgers definitely have a plethora of options in the outfield, but I think there’s a way to make it all work. The signing of Franklin Gutierrez really crowded things for a minute, but the Dodgers parted ways with Ruf soon afterwards. Despite targeting a mid-March return date, Trayce Thompson could start the year on the DL as he recovers from his back injury. Perhaps a deal is more likely when he returns. I think the real battle might be in LF, where Andrew Toles, Eithier, Van Slyke, and Gutierrez will all be vying for playing time. How each player performs in Spring Training might dictate where they stand once the season begins. Joc Pederson and Yasiel Puig should have the CF/RF duties accounted for.

Speaking of which, @Malachi_Garcia asks…

Now this is my kind of question. Allow me to step upon my soapbox and proclaim my distaste for lefty/righty platoons. I get into debates all the time with my fellow Dodgers Nation brethren about the use of platoons and why I’m not a big fan of them. Dave Roberts is a fan though, and I suspect we’ll still see some platooning in the outfield, as it’s really become part of an overall strategy to assemble different lineups for any pitcher on a particular day. With that said, I believe Pederson and Puig will get every opportunity to be full-time players, but it will ultimately depend on their production.

In all seriousness, I don’t hate platoons, and can definitely see where they can be beneficial. I just don’t think it’s ideal to have a lineup full of them. In the case of Pederson though, he really hasn’t done himself any favors. He hit .125 vs southpaws last year with only one homerun. As much as everyone would love to see him in the lineup every day, it’s difficult to keep penciling in Pederson’s name when he’s not producing. In only his third full season, Joc still has room for growth, and I don’t think the Dodgers are content with him being a platoon player just yet. But he has to find a way to improve against lefties, or he may find himself sitting whenever the Dodgers face one. And I think I speak for many fans when I say I’d really rather not see Enrique Hernandez out there in center field.

Puig, on the other hand, doesn’t have the pronounced splits like Pederson. His platoon role last year was more predicated on the Dodgers acquiring Josh Reddick at the trading deadline. Once that trade was made and Puig returned from the minors, a platoon situation was really the only way to get both players at-bats. With Reddick gone now, it appears Puig will once again have a chance to earn the everyday right field duties, as long as can produce.

Which leads to another question. @1948425 asks…

This has basically been a reoccurring question over the last couple of off-seasons. Ever since bursting onto the scene in 2013, Dodgers fans have been waiting to see that same version of Yasiel Puig emerge. While he hasn’t been terrible, he surely hasn’t been the player that many expected him to be after his thrilling debut. The term “untapped potential” gets thrown around an awful lot when talking about Puig, and for good reason. His OPS has declined in each of his first four seasons and his overall offensive numbers have been particularly underwhelming the last two years.

The first goal for Puig is to stay healthy. He was hampered by injuries over the last two seasons, which limited his playing time. But that’s only part of it. Off-field issues and clubhouse dynamics have also been areas of concern. I think it remains to be seen whether his trip down to AAA late last year had any real effects to Puig’s behavior, although the front office seems to believe he’s turned the page and moved on.

Personally, I’m a little surprised Puig is still with the club after last year’s fiasco. I really thought they might move him this off-season, but it appears the Dodgers are going to give it another shot, which could pay big dividends if Puig is finally able to break out. His defense alone makes him a valuable asset, and it’s not unreasonable to think he can slash .285/.350/.490 or so, while swatting 20-25 bombs. Puig’s overall potential still seems limitless, but it also remains “untapped.”

@peelerjim asks…

Yes, without question. The depth that the Dodgers currently have wasn’t constructed just “in case” they needed it, but rather by design. At some point in the season they will need it, and utilize it. Julio Urias will obviously be on an innings limit this year. I don’t believe anyone expects Rich Hill to pitch 200 innings in 2017. And as much as Kenta Maeda would like to crack 200 innings, I don’t think the Dodgers feel any need to push him if they don’t have to. I expect to see a few “precautionary” DL trips for some guys this year, if for nothing more than to keep them as fresh as possible down the stretch. That’s where the rotation depth will come into play, and will benefit the Dodgers, especially as the 15-day DL becomes a 10-day DL with the new CBA.

There are many options at the Dodgers disposal to fill out the rotation. Hyun-jin Ryu, Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy, and Alex Wood will all be auditioning for a starting gig. So will young arms like Brock Stewart, Ross Stripling and Chase De Jong. Even if a trade or two is made before the start of the year, that’s still an awful lot of options. At this point, I can’t tell you with any certainty who will win that 5th starting spot. But I can tell you with 100% certainty that more than one of them will play a role at some point in the season, whether it’s out of the bullpen in long relief, or a spot start here and there.

@x_Th3_Truth_x asks…

The best move(s) has to be bringing back Kenley Jansen and Justin Turner. I have to combine both these signings because I really think each one was equally important. Coming into the off-season, many were concerned the Dodgers would only be able to bring one of them back, and be forced to prioritize between the two. If they had lost either player, it would be difficult to say this year’s team wouldn’t be a step-back compared to last year, at least on paper. It was imperative that the Dodgers try to find a way to keep both, and thankfully, they did.

I’m sure many will disagree with me here, but the worst off-season move in my opinion was trading away Jose De Leon. I love his potential and really think he’ll be a good Major League pitcher for years to come. Yes, I know the Dodgers needed a second baseman, and Logan Forsythe is a quality player who can hit lefties. And yes, I know they have a deep farm system to pull from as well. Still though, an overpay is overpay. And I think the Dodgers overpaid here.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it was terrible deal and I understand the need for the trade. I just think trading away your #1 or #2 pitching prospect (depending on who you ask) is a little too much for two years of Forsythe. With that said, I’m certainly glad the Dodgers didn’t pay the reported asking price of the Twins for Brian Dozier. That, by far, would have been the worst move.

Written by Brian Robitaille

Originally from Southern California, and currently stationed in Northern Virginia, Brian is a devoted Dodgers fan, and has been since he was a kid. He's an Active Duty member of the U.S Air Force, and has been serving for the last 16 years. While he loves all things sports related, and supports all his teams (Lakers, Steelers, L.A Kings, & USC) his true passion is the Dodgers, and loves writing about the boys in blue.


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