Roughly 24 hours from the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, the Los Angeles Dodgers still have areas in which they can improve their roster even after acquiring All-Star shortstop Manny Machado.
For starters, the Dodgers are once again amongst the league’s top contenders. Even with Corey Seager out for the season and Clayton Kershaw not being his usual self for much of the season, this rag-tag group of all-stars and cast-offs (including some projected All-Star cast-offs) has muscled and mashed their way back into contention.
With their atrociously slow start deep in the rearview, this is once again a team with World Series aspirations. Beyond that, however, there’s also the fact that the Dodgers front office has historically been among the most active groups around this time of season.
Last year, of course, was the Yu Darvish trade that was consummated just minutes before the clock ran out. It overshadowed two smaller trades made on the same day, in which the Dodgers acquired Tony Cingrani and Tony Watson.
In 2016, they added Rich Hill, Josh Reddick, Josh Fields and Jesse Chavez. And in 2015? How about Alex Wood, Luis Avilan, Mat Latos and Jim Johnson, among others.
The point being: president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and his front office isn’t a group that likes to sit on their hands. Even when an obvious move isn’t staring them in the face.
So with that all as a backdrop, the question we’re asking today is: what might be on the horizon for 2018’s deadline?
For nostalgia purposes, any chance the Dodgers might try to bring back Adrian Beltre at the deadline (if the Rangers pick up salary of course), and try to move Forsythe? If the money works out, Beltre might finally get his chance at the WS, we’ll have an impact bat in the lineup not to mention it might help in getting Beltre to choose Dodger Blue when he enters the Hall.
It’s an interesting thought for sure, and one that I – as an Adrian Beltre believer — enjoy entertaining. But my initial reaction was: do the Dodgers need Beltre? Of course the Dodgers would love to have Beltre’s bat, but first they’d need to find a place to put him.
With Max Muncy moonlighting at second base, I’m not sure there’s an obvious place for him now. Yes, Justin Turner is on the disabled list, but Chris Taylor and Machado are manning the left side of the infield just fine.
That said, this question made me wonder: if the Dodgers were going to be active at the deadline, where on the roster might we see changes? Recent history tells us changes are coming, so here are my three best guesses for where improvement might be found:
This is the obvious one for two reasons: first, because the Dodgers have added bullpen pieces (and pretty significant ones at that) each of the last three years and second, because this is a unit that could use some help.
As it stands, the Dodgers bullpen has the fourth-most losses, ranks 18th in the Majors in WAR and 20th in ERA.
Now, to be fair, this is a unit that has improved of late. In the last month, they’re 16th in WAR, second in ERA and 14th in losses — numbers that are definitely better, but still not where the front office would like them to be.
Remember, that this has been an organization that leans on the depth and ability of their bullpen in recent years.
Some high-end names that were available were Zach Britton, Brad Brach and Brad Hand. Meanwhile, middle-of-the-pen options such as Tyler Clippard and Brad Ziegler could also be on the block.
In recent years the Dodgers haven’t splashed with a big-name reliever, could that change this year? Or maybe there’s another Cingrani out there in need of a minor tweak in order to unlock entirely new levels?
After number one, I’d warn that there’s a major drop off in likelihood, but if the Dodgers did go for a hitter it would make the most sense here — albeit in a platoon role.
The good news here is that Max Muncy has started to see some time at second, but the team could still use someone to start against lefties.
Up until now, Muncy has seen the bulk of his at-bats this season against right-handed pitching, and the next two options on the depth chart don’t fare well against lefties.
So far this season, Logan Forsythe is hitting just .183 against lefties, while Chase Utley has hit over 30-points worse against them for his career.
Now, one bit of optimistic news is that Forsythe has hit .275 against lefties for his career. The bad news? Forsythe has been significantly worse than his career numbers ever since arriving in Los Angeles, so it’s hard to assume that will change in the next few months.
In summary, while this is the position in most need of reinforcement, it’s also a position the Dodgers are already heavily invested in — which makes a move here seem unlikely.
While the first two groups present pressing needs, this third group has more of a wait-and-see feel. Before any new starters are added, the Dodgers will need to see evaluate and project with Rich Hill, Walker Buehler, Kenta Maeda and Ross Stripling, among others.
Assuming health doesn’t become an issue, the Dodgers already have an excess of starting pitchers on their roster.
In this year’s pool of potentially available arms, arguably the most fascinating name is Chris Archer. He’s someone the Dodgers have been linked to in the past and again this season.
There would be some salary maneuvering that would need to take place, but I don’t think a little math has ever scared off Friedman and Co. before.
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