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Chris Taylor, D.J. LeMahieu And More Internal & External Options Dodgers Could Turn To For Solution At Second Base

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

It’s weird to think that it’s already January and the Los Angeles Dodgers roster has just as many question marks as it did when the 2018 season ended. Besides the trade completed with the Cincinnati Reds, which sent Matt Kemp, Alex Wood and Yasiel Puig packing in exchange for a pair of prospects, all the Dodgers have done is sign relief pitcher Joe Kelly.

In the meantime, their hole at catcher and second base remain unaddressed. While there may be reason for optimism with the mysterious Austin Barnes, what about finding a solution at second base — either internally or via free agency?

To do that, let’s play a game. Below are four players — take a look at their splits and let me know how you’d prefer to patch them together if you were in charge.

(Note: UZR/150 is a statistic that measures a players defensive ability by noting how many runs above or below average a player is per 150 games)

Player A

vs. LHP: .260/.335/.445, 113 wRC+, 9 home runs (200 at-bats)

vs. RHP: .252/.338/.495, 123 wRC+, 12 HR (201 AB)

UZR/150: -8.2 (212 innings)

Player B

vs. LHP: .232/.327/.427, 108 wRC+, 7 HR (185 AB)

vs. RHP: .265/.333/.453, 116 wRC+, 10 HR (351 AB)

UZR/150: -19.6 (50 innings)

Player C

vs. LHP: .265/.333/.453, 99 wRC+, 4 HR (189 AB)

vs. RHP: .273/.365/.477, 133 wRC+, 19 HR (407 AB)

UZR/150: 5.6 (1,177 innings)

Player D

vs. LHP: .330/.360/.540, 124 wRC+, 6 HR (176 AB)

vs. RHP: .249/.303/.373, 67 wRC+, 9 HR (357 AB)

UZR/150: 12.5 (1,115 innings)

Fascinating list, huh? Two of the players mentioned above are already on the Dodgers roster — the other two are currently free agents.

Player A was clearly the most consistent hitter from both sides of the plate in 2018, but has minimal experience at second base. And when he did play there, the defense was below average.

Player B was a much better hitter in 2017 (not listed), and was a marginally better fielder as well. But even still, he still posted above average offensive numbers from both sides of the plate last season.

Player C mashed righties, was average against lefties and posted above-average defense last season.

Player D was almost the opposite — mashing lefties (something the Dodgers could use more of) — while being borderline unplayable against righties, albeit with the best defense of the group.

The four players listed above are Kiké Hernandez (A), Chris Taylor (B), Jed Lowrie (C) and D.J. LeMahieu (D).

The two Dodgers are fascinating for opposite reasons: one had a breakout season in 2018 (Hernandez), while the other regressed mightily (Taylor). Did Hernandez finally learn to hit right-handed pitching? Was Taylor’s breakout season in 2017 a total fluke?

These are the types of questions that have to be dominating the thoughts of Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and Co. On paper, it appears as if the answer at second base may already be on their payroll.

Sure, the defense hasn’t been pretty, but if either of those options were to go into the spring with just one position to focus on, it can be presumed things would improve dramatically. Especially since both Hernandez and Taylor are more natural infielders than outfielders.

But what about the free agents?

Lowrie is nearly 35 years old, but has been a model of consistency and durability over the past two seasons. Only two second basemen in the league have posted a higher WAR than Lowrie over the last two seasons (in which he has missed just 14 games).

LeMahieu, on the other hand, is 30 and is known more for his defense than his offense. Although, the latter improved dramatically over the past few seasons (including the 2016 batting crown).

For what it’s worth, projections at the beginning of the offseason had Lowrie netting a three-year, $30 million contract; while LeMahieu would get two years and $18 million.

If it were up to me, I’d prefer the Dodgers give Hernandez every chance to win the starting job this spring. Let him focus defensively on second base and see if his improvement against righties (he has always dominated lefties) is truly sustainable.

With the outfield still crowded (Cody Bellinger, Alex Verdugo, Joc Pederson and Andrew Toles), I’d like Hernandez to get as many at-bats as possible, which makes second base such a perfect fit.

If Hernandez can’t make it work, you’ve got Taylor (or even Max Muncy to a lesser degree) as a backup option. And if that doesn’t work? Then make a move in the middle of the season or give 21-year-old Gavin Lux (the Dodgers’ No. 4 prospect) a shot.

And who knows, maybe that extra $10 million to go to a certain outfielder who makes a ton of sense for the Dodgers.