Just like that, within 24 hours, the Dodgers missed out on two key off-season targets. Shohei Otani signed with the Angels, and Giancarlo Stanton was traded to the Yankees. Arguably two very doable deals for the Dodgers have slipped through their fingers. In the aftermath of these two titanic transactions, Dodger fans are wondering, what now? Who can the Dodgers target this off-season? Are any free agents, aside from the obvious re-signing Brandon Morrow, worth signing? Are there any trade targets left for the Dodgers to pursue?
Luckily, there still are unexpected options that could be explored to fill any roster holes. The outfield, mainly left-field, is one of the only arguable holes for the Dodgers. Center-field is set with Chris Taylor, and Yasiel Puig owns right-field. But left-field has no set starter as of yet for 2018. What then are the Dodgers’ options?
Free Agent Targets
In regards to the free agent class this season, there are only a small handful of appealing outfielders. JD Martinez, Lorenzo Cain, Jay Bruce, and Carlos Gomez are the only outfielders worth noting. Only Martinez would be worth considering, but his contract demands could become well out of our price range. Reports indicate he is seeking 7 years, at $210 million per Bob Nightingale:
The J.D. Martinez asking price to teams at GM Meetings:
Seven years, $210 million
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) November 15, 2017
At that rate the Dodgers will most certainly be passing on JD Martinez. As for Lorenzo Cain, the Dodgers likely would not pursue him because of the qualifying offer attached to him. Bruce and Gomez do not have qualifying offers, but neither seem like realistic options.
The free agent class for 2019-2020 is an entirely different story. Michael Brantley, Charlie Blackmon, Adam Jones, Andrew McCutchen, and Bryce Harper are all free agents! Talk about having options! With $60+ million coming off the books next season, you can bet the Dodgers will be strongly considering Bryce Harper as an option. However, that is not until next season. The Dodgers could use an upgrade this season.
The Trade Market
Unfortunately Stanton is now on his way to donning pinstripes, rather than Dodger Blue. So with Stanton off the market, what options are there? Interestingly, the Marlins dangled Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna before Stanton left for the Yankees. Some reports indicate that they were doing so in order to force Stanton’s hand into accepting a trade, but it could be that the Marlins were just doing their due diligence. In any case, the Dodgers could inquire about both outfielder’s availability.
With Marcell Ozuna, you have a right-handed left-fielder that has pop and plays solid defense. His stat-line this year was his best yet: .312/.376/.548, 37 HR, 124 RBI’s. From left-field he has 11 defensive runs saved, and 10 outfield assists. Matt Swartz at MLB Trade Rumors projects him to earn $10.9 million in arbitration this year. If acquired the Dodgers would control him for the 2018 and 2019 seasons.
In regards to what it would take to land him, it will likely be less than what it will take to acquire Christian Yelich. It will probably take at least two top 10 prospects, most likely starting with Alex Verdugo.
Christian Yelich is a more interesting name to consider. Though his stats this season were not as eye-popping, he is a year younger than Ozuna, and locked into a very team-friendly contract. His contract runs through 2021 at $43.25 remaining, with a $15 million option for 2022. He doesn’t have as much pop as Ozuna, but the team control, solid stats, and excellent defense make him a very appealing option. Not only that, but Yelich is a Southern California native. Born in Thousand Oaks, he graduated Westlake Village High School.
If the Dodgers could entice the Marlins with Joc Pederson, Alex Verdugo, and say Jordan Sheffield and Trevor Oaks, they should definitely consider that! If it requires someone like Yadier Alvarez instead of Sheffield and Oaks, that could be considered as well.
This brings full circle to the in-house options. There are three main options to split the time: Joc Pederson, Kike Hernandez, and Andrew Toles (who will be returning from his knee injury).
Despite missing the season with a torn ACL, Dodger fans remember Andrew Toles fondly. He has speed that the lineup somewhat lacked, played solid defense, and was showing surprising pop before going down. Currently FanGraphs is projecting him for a 0.6 WAR, .275/.322/.436 triple-slash. Not superb, but definitely solid for only being projected for 182 plate appearances. Extend that to 500 plate appearances, and you are looking at a 1.65 WAR performance.
Next is Joc Pederson. How he has teased us over the last 3 years. From soaring heights in the first half of his rookie season, to injuries and sub-par performance in 2017, Joc has ridden the roller coaster in the MLB. FanGraphs currently projects him for a 1.6 WAR, .244/.355/.472 triple slash over 352 plate appearances. Very similar numbers that lead to his 3.6 WAR 2016. If he could sustain numbers like that in 2018 over the course of 600 plate appearances, the Dodgers have their left-fielder. The problem is that Joc and consistency have rarely gone together.
The last two in-house options are Kike Hernandez and Alex Verdugo. Hernandez is solid, but only really against lefties. Furthermore, he is better suited as the super-utility man on the roster. Alex Verdugo provides a great deal of intrigue given he is the #2 prospect in the system. His ability to make consistent contact, walk more than he strikes out, and his cannon arm all make him an ideal option. But, he is still 21 years old, and would need something akin to Bellinger’s circumstances in 2017 to take a chunk of the playing time from others ahead of him on the depth chart.
At this point there are multiple ways the Dodgers can approach the outfield situation in 2018. Will they explore a free agent? What about a trade? Or will they stay in-house to handle the outfield?
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