Evaluating Ian Kinsler, Brian Dozier And Other Options For Dodgers At Second Base
Evaluating Ian Kinsler, Brian Dozier And Other Options For Dodgers At Second Base
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

With the Winter Meetings just two weeks away, it’s evident that the Los Angeles Dodgers are exploring all avenues in upgrading the second base position.

Having already traded Howie Kendrick to the Philadelphia Phillies and Chase Utley reaching free agency, the current internal options in the organization are Kiké Hernandez, Micah Johnson and Chris Taylor.

While Utley may ultimately return as a utility player, the latter three names don’t seem likely to take over the starting job at second base. Hernandez struggled vastly at the Major League level this season while Johnson and Taylor spent the majority of 2016 with Triple-A Oklahoma City.

As a result, next season’s starting second baseman presumably isn’t on the roster — though there may be a solution in the very near future.

Thus far, the Dodgers have most prominently been linked to Detroit Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler, Brian Dozier of the Minnesota Twins, and Tampa Bay Rays utility man Logan Forsythe.

Ian Kinsler: Kinsler, who will turn 35 years old in June, is still one of the premium players at his position despite his age.

The second baseman is coming off another elite season in 2016, batting .288/.348/.484 (124 OPS+) with 29 doubles and 28 home runs in 679 plate appearances.

On the defensive side, Kinsler recently earned his first career American League Gold Glove Award. He ranked fourth among qualifiers in defensive rating at 10.8 and fifth in UZR/150 at 7.5.

Combining his offensive production and glove work, Kinsler was worth 6.1 Wins Above Replacement in 2016 — the second consecutive season he reached the six-win plateau.

With the Tigers looking to unload salary this offseason, Kinsler becomes a prime trade candidate, given his team-friendly contract and appeal to contenders looking to upgrade the second base position.

Kinsler would solve two problems for the Dodgers should they acquire him.

For one, they’ll be getting a legitimate leadoff hitter (Kinsler batted leadoff 149 times in 2016). His combination of on-base skills, power and speed would be a game-changer at the top of the lineup.

Secondly, Kinsler crushes left-handed pitching — an area in which the Dodgers historically struggled during the season. In 179 trips to the plate against southpaws, he batted .309 with 19 extra-base hits and struck out just 32 times while drawing 15 walks.

Kinsler will make $11 million in 2017 and his contract includes a $12 million club option for 2018. On paper, the Dodgers look like a perfect fit to swing together a trade for him, given their need, strong farm system and desire for short-term roster fits.

However, the Dodgers are one of 10 teams on Kinsler’s no-trade list, and he would only approve a trade to such a club if his contract were extended.

It’s hard to envision the Dodgers agreeing to that demand, considering the front office’s reluctance of handing out long-term contracts to aging players.

Not only that, but top prospect Willie Calhoun isn’t far away from reaching the Majors, though there are questions about whether he could stick at second base defensively.

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Dozier: The Twins’ star broke out offensively in 2016, clubbing 42 home runs and driving in 99 runs over 691 plate appearances. He also hit 35 doubles and sported a terrific .546 slugging percentage to go along with 18 stolen bases.

Defensively, Dozier was middle-of-the-pack among qualified second baseman, finishing the season with a 0.2 UZR/150. He accumulated a 6.5 WAR, largely because of his offensive output.

Unlike Kinsler, Dozier is just entering his prime. At 29 years old he won’t reach free agency until the conclusion of the 2018 season. Additionally, Dozier is owed just $15 million over the next two years, making his contract one of the most team-friendly in all of baseball.

Because of his affordable contract, relatively young age and high offensive ceiling, Dozier won’t be cheap to acquire.

With a new front office in place, the Twins will likely seek multiple top prospects in any deal for their second baseman to speed up the rebuild. And it remains to be seen if the Dodgers are willing to commit to such a price.

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Logan Forsythe: Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman acquired Forsythe from the San Diego Padres during his tenure with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2014, so it’s no surprise that he’s reportedly interested in bringing him to Los Angeles.

The soon-to-be 30-year-old was excellent in 2016, posting a .778 OPS with 48 extra-base hits in 127 games (567 plate appearances).

Over the last two seasons Forsythe has totaled an 8.4 WAR and saw his power numbers rise since joining the Rays.

Forsythe struggled defensively at second base, but his ability to play five different positions makes him intriguing when considering how important versatility and flexibility are in today’s era.

Should Justin Turner depart via free agency, Forsythe would provide the Dodgers a safety net at third base. As a result, it would also keep the door open for acquiring either Kinsler or Dozier for second base.

If Los Angeles wants Forsythe to stay at his usual second base position, the club could then pursue other third basemen on the trade market, such as Chicago’s Todd Frazier or Forsythe’s current teammate, Evan Longoria.

Forsythe under contract for one more season but has a cheap club option for 2018 as well. The total cost over the next two years would amount to just $15.5 million.

In terms of prospects, Forsythe wouldn’t cost as much as Kinsler or Dozier, but he understandably wouldn’t match their production on the field either.

No matter what the Dodgers decide to do, it’s clear that they have multiple creative paths to choose from in order to construct their infield for the 2017 season.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Sean Rodriguez: Like Forsythe, Rodriguez is another player that Friedman is familiar with from his time with the Rays (2010-14).

The 31-year old-hit a career-high 18 home runs for the Pirates in 2016 and crushed left-handed pitching. In 94 such plate appearances, he slashed .286/.415/.519 with nine extra-base hits.

While Rodriguez doesn’t rate favorably defensively, he appeared at seven different positions this season and is one of the most versatile players in the Majors.

Rodriguez, who was a free agent, agreed to a two-year contract with the Atlanta Braves on Thanksgiving.