As the winter meetings approach, trade rumors continue to heat up, and there’s plenty of speculation about who’s going where. The Dodgers are right at the forefront of these rumors, and there’s no secret that they currently have a surplus of outfielders that could be on the trading block. Any trade they make, whether it’s for a front-line starter, a reliever, or a catcher, will likely include one or several Dodgers outfielders.
Below, we break down the each outfielder, and list them by who offers the most value, and could provide the biggest return in any deal.
#7 Andrew Toles
Toles didn’t get much of an opportunity in 2018 due to an already crowded outfield, as well as an early season injury that shelved him for a while. He only got 30 ABs with the Dodgers, but did well all year down at AAA, hitting .306/.345/.461 with a .807 OPS. He’s shown some offensive potential when he’s had the opportunity, and at only 26 years old, he has plenty of room to improve.
As far as value goes, Toles is still an unknown asset. He could be a full-time major-league player, or he could be nothing more than a platoon or bench guy. There’s just no telling right now. Any return in a trade would likely be minimal, so the Dodgers might be better off holding on to Toles and seeing how he develops.
#6 Chris Taylor / Kike Hernandez
Why are Taylor and Hernandez grouped together you ask? Well, they’re practically the same player and offer the same kind of value. Both Taylor and Hernandez played all around the infield and outfield last season, and figure to do the same next year. They put up similar offensive numbers as well, with Taylor slashing .254/.331/.444 and Hernandez at .256/.336/.470.
The versatility that Taylor and Hernandez provide the Dodgers is invaluable. Although other teams could undoubtedly use that type of versatility, no one is going to offer a huge return for a utility player. The value that each guy gives the Dodgers will almost assuredly out-weigh any return they could get in a trade, so it’s likely that neither player is going anywhere right now.
#5 Matt Kemp
The 2018 N.L Comeback Player of the Year, Kemp had to surprise most with his production last year. Acquired initially to simply off-set some salary, not many expected him to even make the opening day roster. He responded with an unbelievable first half of the season, and made the All-Star team. Although his numbers fell off in the second half, Kemp still put up a slash line of .290/.338/.481 with 21 homeruns and a .818 OPS.
Kemp’s value isn’t very high for a few reasons. One, at 34 years old, his prime days are probably behind him, and defensively, he’s well below average. More importantly though, it’s that $18 million dollar price tag that would probably limit his value in any trade. Not many teams are going to want to take on that contract for a declining player.
However, if the Dodgers could find an A.L team who was willing to assume at least some of that contract, they might be able to make a deal. As he proved last year, Kemp can still hit, and a role as a DH might prolong his career further. Still, the return, if any, would be minimal for the Dodgers.
#4 Joc Pederson
Pederson quietly had a pretty productive year in 2018. His .843 OPS and 126 wRC+ were good for 3rd on the team in both categories, behind only Max Muncy and Justin Turner. His struggles against left-handed pitching (career .583 OPS) have relegated him to a platoon player, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. With so many teams going with particular lineups and matchups, a platoon player can still offer plenty of value.
Only 26, Pederson still has some room to grow, and with two more years before he hits free-agency in 2021, he would certainly garner some interest from teams. He may not be a centerpiece in any deal, but he could surely be a nice addition in any trade package.
#3 Yasiel Puig
It seems crazy to think that next year would already be Puig’s 7th season with the Dodgers. The Wild Horse has been the subject of trade rumors practically every year, and this off-season has been no different. Puig is coming off a productive season, in which he hit .267/.327/.494/ with a .820 OPS and 23 homeruns. His defense slipped a little according to the metrics, but he still provides plus value there, and has one of the best arms in the game.
Puig is entering his last year of arbitration, and will be an unrestricted free agent after next year. And that’s why his value takes a bit of a hit right now. Any team looking to trade for him knows that they only have one year of his services guaranteed. After that, they’d have to hope to re-sign him, and even if they do, it would be at a substantial salary increase.
Puig is still only 27 years old and his talent is undeniable. But in such a crowded outfield, you could argue that he’s expendable from the Dodgers standpoint. Even with only a year on his contract, the Dodgers could use Puig as a key part in any a trade package. He probably wouldn’t be the only piece for a big return, but he still has plenty of value.
#2 Alex Verdugo
Surprised Verdugo is this high on the list? Don’t be. Remember, we’re not ranking players by who’s currently better than the next. We’re ranking value, and Verdugo has plenty of that.
One of the organizations tops prospect for the last few years now, the Dodgers are at a crossroads with Verdugo. They need to make a decision on whether to trade him or play him. He’s ready for a shot. In fact, he was probably ready at the beginning of last year after tearing up AAA in 2017, but the Dodgers didn’t have room for him. So, Verdugo spent most of 2018 back at OKC, and tore it up some more, hitting .329/.391/.472 with a .863 OPS.
There are no sure bets in baseball when it comes to prospects. Verdugo may not turn out to be a star at all. But the consensus from scouts is that although his ceiling may be a little lower than some, his floor is a lot higher. His approach and plate discipline should translate well to the major leagues. But what really makes Verdugo’s value so high is how much control a team would have with him. He would be very cheap for years to come.
If the Dodgers do decide to part with Verdugo, the return would be significant. If we’re talking top tier players like Noah Syndergaard or Corey Kluber, someone of Verdugo’s caliber would certainly need to be included. He probably wouldn’t be the only big chip in a trade of that magnitude, but Verdugo would certainly be a key piece.
#1 Cody Bellinger
Coming off his 2017 Rookie of the Year campaign, Bellinger took a step back in 2018. His OPS declined over 100 points, from .933 to.814, and his power numbers dipped as well. Despite almost 100 more ABs in 2018, he hit 25 homeruns compared to the 39 he hit in 2017. He also struggled against left-handed pitching, something he didn’t do in his rookie year. Bellinger hit only .226/.305/.376 with a .681 OPS against southpaws in 2018.
Even if you want to call last season a “sophomore slump,” Bellinger was still productive. He could easily bounce back and be the player that was 10th in the league in OPS in 2017. And at only 23 years old, he’s still one of the top young players in the game. Bellinger also showed his versatility last year with the emergence of Max Muncy. He switched over from first base and played 81 games in the outfield, providing solid defense.
There’s no doubt that Bellinger carries very high value, perhaps most among the entire team. It would take an absolute monster return for the Dodgers to consider parting ways with their prized young superstar. Could it happen? Sure, but probably not for the likes of a J.T Realmuto, as the rumors suggested a few weeks back. It’s not likely the Dodgers part with Bellinger, but if they chose to do so, the return value in any deal would be enormous.
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