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What’s Next for The Dodgers

Dec 10, 2018; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Signage as seen during the MLB Winter Meetings at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Clark-USA TODAY Sports

The Dodgers left the Winter Meetings with Joe Kelly and a mountain of rumors. Names from Corey Kluber and Bryce Harper to DJ LeMahieu and Francisco Cervelli were all connected to the Dodgers. There were also rumors of trading Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Joc Pederson, Alex Verdugo, Rich Hill, Alex Wood, and Ross Stripling. Though so far, those have all just been rumors.

Most of the rumors probably have some truth to them. The Dodgers always cast a wide net to find potential deals to upgrade the team. For front offices, the Winter Meetings have become more of a time for collecting information than actually making deals.

The Dodgers have been busy talking to agents and other general managers. Andrew Friedman confirmed it in the most Friedman way possible.

Although no trades or major signings were completed, they’re coming. Friedman said their main goals this offseason are to add to the bullpen, add a catcher to pair with Austin Barnes, and clear some of their excess depth in the outfield and rotation. They already made their major bullpen acquisition in Kelly, but there is more work to do. They will return to Los Angeles and figure out what deals are best for the team. So what’s next on their list?

Catcher

If you’ve followed the offseason at all, you know the Dodgers have been connected to almost every available catcher. There have been multiple reports of trade talks for JT Realmuto, Francisco Cevelli, and Tucker Barnhart. They are also reportedly interested in free agents Wilson Ramos, Martin Maldonado, and Nick Hundley. Don’t expect the team to land Realmuto as the Marlins have been asking for Cody Bellinger in the deal. They also likely only want a stopgap as 2 of their top 5 prospects are catchers and both are pretty close to making their debuts.

The player that makes the most sense is Cervelli. He shouldn’t be too hard to acquire because he has 1 year left and the Pirates already have their replacement. Cervelli is coming off a strong season where he hit .259/.378/.431 with 12 home runs, a 125 wRC+, and a 3.3 WAR in 104 games. He is due to make $11.5 million next season. Pirates beat writer John Perrotto is reporting that the teams are in talks for a trade. He also said the trade could include Ross Stripling. A deal of Stripling for Cervelli and Richard Rodriguez or Adam Frazier could make sense for both teams. Rodriguez would help strengthen the bullpen and Frazier would be a nice platoon bat for second base.

Outfield

We all know the Dodgers have about 170 outfielders who deserve playing time. Ok, maybe it’s only 8. But the point stands that they have way too many for the roster and need to trade at least 2. They’re also reportedly trying to acquire Bryce Harper, which makes a lot of sense, even though they have a crowded outfield.

The two outfielders who are most likely to be traded are Puig and Kemp. Puig is going to make about $11 million next season and Kemp is going to make $20 million. The Dodgers would love to clear that salary for their pursuit of top level players such as Harper and Corey Kluber. They’ve reportedly discussed a deal with the Reds which would send Kemp and Wood to Cincinnati for Homer Bailey and prospects. This deal would open up about $12 million for the team. They’ve also been shopping Puig to just about every team looking for an outfielder.

If they’re serious about their pursuit of Harper, they need to move 3 outfielders. The 3rd most likely outfielder to go would be a tie between Pederson and Verdugo. They have held onto Verdugo in every trade discussion but they also haven’t been in a rush to open a spot to play him like they did with Seager, Bellinger, Urias, and Buehler. He also has more value than Pederson in a trade. It’s really hard to get a gauge on their plans for him. They need to let him start or trade him. If they decide to trade Verdugo, he could be the key piece to land Kluber.

If they want to keep Verdugo, that would mean Pederson is the odd man out. He has 2 years of team control left and could be a decent piece for a team who wants to add some power to their lineup.

Why Harper makes sense

Watch this video.

Now for the real reasons. The Dodgers have a lot of outfielders, yes, but they don’t have any true impact outfielders. Bellinger (120 wRC+, 3.6 WAR) has that potential but he isn’t there yet. Pederson (126 wRC+, 2.7 WAR) and Puig (123 wRC+, 1.8 WAR) are solid players but replaceable. Verdugo is still pretty unknown since he hasn’t produced at the major league level. Kemp is a DH that struggled to produce offensively down the stretch. There are a lot of questions for the outfield and no real long term plan.

Adding a 26 year old Harper would be an instant upgrade for the offense and help stabilize their outfield for years to come. In a down year, Harper hit .249/.393/.496 with 34 home runs, a 135 wRC+, and 3.5 WAR. In his best year, he hit .330/.460/.649 (!) with 42 homers, a 197 wRC+ (!!) and 9.3 WAR (!!!). This is a guy you want to have in your lineup for a long time.

Rotation

The Dodgers have 9 starters for 5 spots and they want to add another ace to that. So the team is going to need to move a few starters. Buster Olney said they are prepared to move Alex Wood ($9 million) and Rich Hill ($16 million).

Wood seems the most likely to go. He only has 1 year remaining and he doesn’t have a spot in the rotation. The Hill rumor is surprising because he’s been one of their best starters since being acquired but moving him does open up a lot of payroll space.  There was also the Stripling rumor that was discussed earlier. If they move all three of them, the rotation would have Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Kenta Maeda, Julio Urias, and Dennis Santana. They would need to get that deal done for Kluber or add someone else. The most likely scenario is Wood and Stripling getting traded. Hill is probably worth more to the team than he is in a trade. There is also a good chance that they end up acquiring Kluber which would give them the best rotation in baseball.

Second Base

The team has to decide who they plan to play at second base. If they decide to go with their in-house options, they should look to acquire a left handed hitting platoon option. I mentioned Adam Frazier earlier and he would be a really good fit for the team. They could also have some interest in Derek Dietrich as a platoon option. They could also look to sign an everyday player from free agency. Jed Lowrie, DJ LeMahieu, Asdrubal Cabrera, Daniel Murphy, Josh Harrison, and Brian Dozier are the top free agents available.

From that list, DJ LeMahieu is the guy that stands out as an intriguing target for the team. Hearing that and depending on your view analytics, you’re either thinking “Why? He isn’t good at all,” or “Yes! They need more players like him!” If you like him as a player now, you’re already sold on the idea and you can skip the next paragraph.

If you’re more analytically inclined, you should hear me out. What if I said he could be the next breakout star? LeMahieu has the 6th most batted balls with an exit velocity above 95 mph since the start of 2017. The players ahead of him are Manny Machado, Christian Yelich, Francisco Lindor, Mookie Betts, and Marcell Ozuna. That’s a pretty good list to be a part of. He also has an incredibly high contact rate. His main problem is he hits too many ground balls and goes to the opposite field too often. If he could get his launch angle up and start pulling the ball more, he could be a clone of Justin Turner.

Obviously it’s easier said than done so there is a lot of risk in signing him, but he has a lot of breakout potential if he can change his swing. He’s also an elite defender so that only adds to his value. He could be the steal of the offseason.

I expect the team to go with Taylor or Hernandez at second base but if they do decide to acquire someone, LeMahieu could be their guy.

Recap

There are a lot of potential deals in play for the Dodgers. Most of them are connected to each other so expect a flurry of moves after the 1st one happens. Based on all the rumors, the team is looking to add impact players. Friedman still has a lot of work to do but this is an exciting offseason to be a Dodger fan.

My best guess

If I had to guess their moves, I would say they trade Kemp, Puig, Verdugo, Wood, and Stripling while acquiring Harper, Cervelli, and Kluber. Here is what the team would like if this happens:

Lineup:
  1. Corey Seager SS
  2. Bryce Harper RF
  3. Justin Turner 3B
  4. Max Muncy 1B
  5. Enrique Hernandez 2B
  6. Cody Bellinger CF
  7. Francisco Cervelli C
  8. Joc Pederson LF
Rotation:
  1. Corey Kluber
  2. Clayton Kershaw
  3. Walker Buehler
  4. Hyun-Jin Ryu
  5. Rich Hill
Bench:
  1. Austin Barnes C
  2. Andrew Toles OF
  3. David Freese 1B/3B
  4. Chris Taylor Utility
Bullpen:
  1. Kenley Jansen
  2. Joe Kelly
  3. Pedro Baez
  4. Dylan Floro
  5. Kenta Maeda
  6. Caleb Ferguson
  7. Scott Alexander
  8. Tony Cingrani

Of course everything in the offseason can change in a minute.

[button color=”blue” size=”big” alignment=”center” rel=”follow” openin=”samewindow” url=”https://www.dodgersnation.com/dodgers-lose-a-pair-of-prospects-in-rule-5-draft-th0994/2018/12/13/”]Dodgers Lose A Pair of Prospects[/button]

Written by Blake Williams

I graduated with an Associate's Degree in Journalism from Los Angeles Pierce College and now I'm working towards my Bachelor's at Cal State University, Northridge. I'm currently the managing editor for the Roundup News and a writer for Dodgers Nation. Around the age of 12, I fell in love with baseball and in high school, I realized my best path to working in baseball was as a writer, so that's the path I followed. I also like to bring an analytics viewpoint to my work and I'm always willing to help someone understand them since so many people have done the same for me. Thanks for reading!

21 Comments

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  1. thought provoking article. Regarding catcher options, Cervelli is a huge risk with 4 concussions in last 2 seasons. Possibly one foul tip away from career ending concussion. AND, he makes $11.5MM in 2019 so do not give up Ross Stripling for him. If you want to gamble on Cervelli then trade Alex Wood and Kyle Farmer. Perhaps Andrew Toles and Brock Stewart to Toronto for Luke Maile; or Ed Rios and Stewart to Tampa for Michael Perez; or, Conner Wong to the Redsox for Blake Swihart? Or just sign either James McCann or Todd Hundley.

    • SoCal I think you meant NIck Hundley. Todd would be too good to be true.lol My only wish at C is that we DON’T sign Hundley. Absolutely horrible offensively and defensively. I also don’t think there’s any chance we trade Toles. He has almost no trade value being that he was hurt most of last year. I also love that kid and want to see him get a shot at starting in LF. Joc is the first OF’r I want to see traded. Verdugo would be tough to lose but for Kluber I guess you have too. I saw an article the other day of sports writer comparing Verdugo to Christian Yellich. That’s saying a lot.

      • YEP! Nick, not Todd — that is what happens when an old-timer writes without looking up names. I like Toles, but he is so far down the depth chart I don’t see him as anything more than a 4th OF’er. Joc is an interesting player, many want to see him traded but 2018 stats were very good for only 440 plate appearances including 25 home runs and OPS around .850. Against RH pitching his OPS was right at .900. Those are stats that will be tough to match by Verdugo or any replacement.

      • Well, well well! Greetings to you from me and PD JR. In case ya haven’t noticed in previous pages, this is my new comment home. Realmuto would be nice but NOT if marlins insist on Bellinger. I am all for Muncy being dealt to be honest which brings Belli back to 1st were he belongs! As far as catching thus goes, a stop gap option would be OK until Ruiz, Smith are ready to come up here.

      • Steve, its great to see you on this site. Hope all has been well and that you are getting into hot stove moves. I missed you perceptive comments, and cooking tips. With you, Paul, and SoCal, we are getting back to “the good old days”.

    • Yes SoCal I respect your posts and your “veteran” experience/knowledge 🙂 I’d be just fine w Toles as our 4th OF’r too. He was a savior in 2017 many forget about because of CT3. Joc keeps gaining weight and is too much of a guess hitter for me. Again OK as a 4th OF’r but I think he has some trade value so i’d pull that string. I am still hoping we get Pollock or Brantley. I tend to think our interest in Harper is a smoke screen. Time will tell?

  2. I simply would not trade Verdugo—Joc-Strippling-Toles-Wood-Wong–May — That should get Kluber—I dont think we need a catcher–but we have players that could be used still for another trade
    Verdugo LF
    Seager SS
    Turner 3B
    Muncy 1B
    Cody CF
    Puig RF
    Kike 2B
    Barnes ca

    Bench
    Will Smith Ca
    Freese
    Taylor
    Kemp

    Rotation
    Kershaw
    Kluber
    Buehlor
    Hill
    Ryu
    Bullpen
    Jansen
    BRITTON
    Kelly
    Baez
    Urias
    Maeda
    Caleb
    Fields

    Others–Alexander-Floro-Cingrani-Yimi-

    Thats a better overall team
    Realmuto could be had for
    Ruiz-Santana-DJ Peters-Alverez-Farmer-Sheffield

    • I’m so glad to hear that someone else really agreed with me. I’m so sick of 2 things. The first is getting the injury prone and half-hearted players like BRYCE HARPER. REMEMBER THAT HE GOT Chocked during a Nationly telvised game. HE’S not A team player. He’s SELF and self-centered. THAT’S just not Dodger’s Baseball. The second thing is go after the impact players and Stop thinking that you’re going to find a cheap bargain all the time. This is a Team that is expected to WIN.THIS IS The Icons of the National League. Andrew Friedman seems to forget HE’S not in Tampa anymore. Trade Puig and Pederson get a Catcher. Sign Josh Harrison or Really go with a plattoon. MaN YOU DIDN’T RESIGN MANNY SO DON’T TAKE STUPID PILLS AND GIVE BRYCE HARPER WHAT IS A RIDDICULOUS AMOUNT OF MONEY JUST FOR HAVING 2 1/2 years of really unproven baseball

    • Playing Muncy at 2nd is NOT a good idea defensively. Muncy will NOT have the year he had last year and including him in a deal would ease the OF log jam because Bellinger can return to 1st.

  3. Great article. The proposed lineup would be fantastic. The only
    minor complaint would be how left handed that lineup would be.
    Would also like to have better RH options at 2nd and outfield, but that is clearly nitpicking.

  4. I’m very impressed by this article. Reminds me of my boys at dodgers digest. Good work, Blake. I’m looking forward to more material from you.

    • Thank you for that, it means a lot to me. I’ve read a lot of their work at Dodgers Digest, they’re all great writers who I look up to.

  5. Please, for the love of gawd, no Bryce Harper.
    Over-priced. Selfish. Injury prone. And just plain unlikable.
    His negatives far outweigh any positives he might have.
    Just no.

  6. All I can hope for is that Dodgers somehow balance out the lineup with enough RH sock. As of now we are too LH dominant and I guarantee ya that Dodgers will see a lot of LHP in 2019 at least at the start and partly based on Dodger’s WS performance against Boston’s LHP.

  7. Good Saturday morning all, especially PD Jr. It would appear that the Dodgers are hot on the tail of Bryce Harper and that is wonderful!!!! I must admit, I am a big supporter of Puig. If we can add Kluber to the mix, so much the better. I do not think Realmuto should factor into our future. We need a bridge til Ruiz, Wong, and company can join the Blue Crew. A solid second baseman would be nice, but I have no issue with MM. To even think about reacquiring Dozier is folly!!!!

  8. Hi all! Coming at you from Oregon, with lights out…lol. Thank you DodgersLou. I agree, there is no problem with Muncy at 1st or 2nd. He proved it in Aug, Sept, and Oct. including the WS, even at 2B, with no advance notice, and with little time at 2B in 2018. I am not so keen on his time at 3B, but he did save the day, and the regular season, and the Post-Season, and has a killer rocket arm with spot on target, from any direction
    PaulDodhetFan, as for,Belli, he is proving his new Gold Glove destiny to be in the OF, as 2 of the top 5 Defensive team plays of 2018 were by Belli in Post-season OF. Gold Glove worthy. He also has the speed, long legs, height, and cannon arm for the OF. He is much more valuable in OF than 1B.
    As for Hundley, isn’t he the punk (yes, punk) from the Giants, that loves to instigate bench-clearing epidodes? If so, I say a BIG FAT NO! If not, I plead forgiveness. And we certainly don’t need Realmutto, and the Marlins can pound sand if they think their guy is worth a King’s randsom. Our FO I’m sure is seeing better Catchet options, clearer, short-term Catching needs, and higher Trade priorities.
    As for Pitching, I really don’t want to lose Rich Hill. That would he a stipid move, when, despite age and/or FA coming soon, he is performing at his best, and is in great health. He is worth his pay. I listened to his 30 min. Interview on a Boston station about a week ago, and I recommrnd all listen to it.. very candid, in depth, and insightful, both personal and profesional. I believe Dodgers Nation has the link.
    Goodnight! 🙂

    • Hey there, Pacificrk. I too reside in Southern Oregon and have been since Feb.1, 2004. IDK, but if Muncy and a few others can net a return for other needs, I am for that. In any event, we do have an OF log jam and getting Bellinger back to 1st would at least clear up some of that but it looks like at least 2 other OF will be moved.

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