After searching and searching to fill one of the few remaining holes on their roster, the Los Angeles Dodgers finally made one of the trades long circulating the rumor mill: sending Jose De Leon to the Tampa Bay Rays for second baseman Logan Forsythe. With the move the Dodgers infield is now complete, and position players will soon report for Spring Training.
Aside from the bullpen (maybe), no positional group entered the offseason with more uncertainty than the infield. When free agency began, the Dodgers were without a second baseman and third baseman. Not to mention the gaping hole that Justin Turner left in the lineup.
Would Turner re-sign? Could the Dodgers pull off a trade for a quality second baseman? These were the questions many asked as the calendar moved toward the new year.
Sure, Corey Seager – the team’s best player – would be back, along with an aging (but still productive) Adrian Gonzalez and a solid and underrated Yasmani Grandal. But who would play alongside them?
The uncertainty ended in mid-December when fans got the Christmas present they were hoping for: a red-headed third baseman wanted to stay at home. Turner inked a four-year deal worth $64 million, solidifying the hot corner for the foreseeable future.
That left only second base as a mystery. For several weeks, trade speculation centered around a deal on De Leon going to Minnesota for Brian Dozier. As time went on, however, it became clear that the teams were at an impasse. The Twins demanded more prospects and the Dodgers refused to budge.
As the potential deal died, all eyes around the league turned to Detroit’s Ian Kinsler and Tampa Bay’s Forsythe — the two remaining second basemen available who are capable of helping the Dodgers win the World Series. The Dodgers, of course, got their man in Forsythe.
So with a full sliver on infielders now under their belt, let’s review where the team stands.
Starting infielders: Yasmani Grandal (C), Adrian Gonzalez (1B), Logan Forsythe (2B), Corey Seager (SS), Justin Turner (3B)
While there might be controversy elsewhere on the roster, there’s none here. If healthy, these five are your starters without a doubt.
It’s not the sexiest group in the league, but by just about every metric imaginable, it remains one of the league’s best units.
Let’s start with Grandal — someone fans underrate because of his poor batting average. Consider this: among catchers with a minimum of at-bats last season, Grandal finished first in home runs (27), third in slugging percentage (.477), third in wRC+ (122), fifth in WAR (2.9) and sixth in on-base plus slugging.
And that’s not even factoring in his defense and pitch framing.
The point? Look beyond Grandal’s .228 batting average and toward the numbers that paint a fuller picture.
Gonzalez will turn 35 early this season. While not at the same level he was a decade ago, Gonzalez is still a quality player, even with a power drop.
Last season, he batted .285/.349/.434 in what was by far his worst season since becoming a full-time player in 2006. With a 1.3 WAR last season, Gonzalez dipped below 2.9 WAR for the first time in his career as a starter.
But it’s not all bad news for the veteran. While not an elite offensive first baseman, the Dodgers are no longer counting on him to carry the lineup. As long as Gonzalez continues to play solid defense, post an OPS around .800 and hit in the vicinity of 20 home runs (all of which he did last season), there won’t be any issues.
One factor that will be interesting to watch this season is how many days off Gonzalez gets against left-handed pitchers — a group he hit just .244 against with two home runs in 2016. With Scott Van Slyke healthy (my presumed back-up at first base), it’s easy to see him getting a number of opportunities to relieve Gonzalez against southpaws.
At second base, it’s the newcomer Forsythe. There was a sense that a number of fans were disappointed with Forsythe’s lack of name-power, but to discount him for that would be foolish.
Like Gonzalez, Forsythe isn’t being asked to carry the lineup — but simply to fit the standard the Dodgers are creating as a World Series contender (and he does that well).
The mistake many make in evaluating a roster is they look for how many star players a team has, rather than looking at how many holes it may have. The Dodgers’ strength under president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman has always focused on the latter, and Forsythe is a perfect example.
Is he one of the three best second baseman in the league? No. But the Dodgers don’t need him to be. They need someone who can hit left-handers bat leadoff, while playing solid defense. And Forsythe checks every box there.
Last season, he hit .264/.333/.444 with 20 home runs, good for a 2.8 WAR. Speaking of elite players, the good news for the Dodgers is that their shortstop is exactly that.
Seager — at just 22 years old — is not only one of the best shortstops in the game, he’s one of the best players in all of baseball.
After just 27 games in 2015, Seager busted out for an absurd .308/.365/.512 slash line, with 26 home runs in his first full major league season. As a result, he finished third in MVP voting and took home the NL Rookie of the Year Award as a unanimous selection.
Next to Seager is the team’s second-best hitter in Turner. Once a castoff of the Mets, Turner finished fifth in WAR amongst third baseman behind Kris Bryant, Josh Donaldson, Manny Machado and Adrian Beltre.
That placed him ahead of Kyle Seager, Nolan Arenado and Evan Longoria, among others. Add in Turner’s leadership in the clubhouse, and the four-year contract makes plenty of sense.
In Turner, the Dodgers retained a bat they can plug into the middle of their lineup, a Gold-Glove nominee and a predictably solid clubhouse presence. In short, Turner is the perfect capper to the Dodgers’ infield.
CONTINUE READING: Options to come off the bench