So What’s Next For the Dodgers?

December 10, 2012 at 7:08 am | Posted in Zack Greinke | Leave a comment

Fun note: last night, I was on the Baseball Prospectus “Effectively Wild” podcast with Ben Lindbergh & Sam Miller, talking all sorts of Dodger opulence. Enjoy!

Over the last 36 hours or so, the Dodgers have committed to giving at least $208 million to Zack Greinke & Hyun-jin Ryu. It’s been a weekend unlike any other in team history, both exciting & exhausting in ways we’ve rarely seen from any team. For most other organizations, that kind of outlay is something they might needs years to do. The Dodgers did it in two days…

…and they’re still not done.

I know that sounds like some ominous warning of secret news I’m holding back, but for all the insanity of the last few days, this team has still only signed three players this winter, and they’re all pitchers. There’s other holes, mainly on the offensive side of the ball, that we’ve been talking about for months, so while the remaining moves could be decidedly more low-key, they’re still necessary.

* Trade some starting pitching. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the Dodgers have slightly more starting pitching than they can really use. They have eight starters under contract, and we all know that Clayton Kershaw, Greinke, Ryu, & Chad Billingsley (if only because of questions about his elbow, not because he’s untouchable) aren’t going anywhere.

That leaves Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang, Ted Lilly, & Josh Beckett as likely trade chips, and my guess is that two go. We’ve been over this a dozen times, really. Lilly has little value because he’s old, expensive, & injured, and Capuano is already seeing interest on the trade market. He’s as good as gone, though I’d be interested in seeing him out of the bullpen since he rarely goes late in games and fell apart in the second half of the season. I’m guessing he and Harang both go, Beckett starts in the rotation as the #5, and Lilly works either out of the bullpen or on a “rehab assignment” until he’s needed.

* Add an outfielder. We haven’t heard too much about this lately with all the Greinke / Ryu madness, but it’s still an obvious need. Someone who isn’t Jerry Hairston has to be available to play left field if Carl Crawford isn’t ready to start the season, and that someone almost certainly has to be a righty to help spot for Crawford and Andre Ethier throughout the season. Scott Hairston remains a fit here, and I’ve always liked Mike Morse, though that’s a very unlikely move. Let me throw an intriguing buy-low name out there — Drew Stubbs, who is coming off a pretty awful (.277 OBP) age-27 season for the Reds.

He’s a plus defensive center fielder, a very good base runner (100 steals over the last three years), has some pop (51 homers over the same span)… and is a righty hitter with a huge platoon split. Part of the reason his year looked so bad in 2012 is that he hit only .186/.259/.282 in 395 plate appearances against righties, while doing much better (.283/.324/.464) against lefties. He’s had that split his entire career, if not quite as pronounced, but that’s fine, because on this team he’d rarely need to face righties. I can’t imagine the Reds would ask a lot for him, and he’s someone worth thinking about.

* Upgrade the bench. If the season started today, the Dodger bench would be Tim Federowicz (C), Nick Punto (IF), Juan Uribe (IF), & Jerry Hairston (IF/OF). That is, unsurprisingly, pretty terrible, and it can’t stay that way.

They’ll bring in some non-roster catchers to provide depth behind the plate — though as I’ve said before, I’m not a huge Federowicz fan and I’d be interested in seeing if an excess starting pitcher could bring back a Jarrod Saltalamacchia or Ryan Lavarnway from Boston — and they’ll figure out some way to get rid of Uribe. That still leaves some holes, because not only do you need insurance in left field, you need backups in center & first base and someone to protect you against Luis Cruz turning back into a pumpkin. Perhaps the corner infield spot is filled by Kevin Youkilis, who we’ve heard about before and is still available, and maybe the left field option can spot in center too. One name to remember is Skip Schumaker, who we heard reports about last week, and who might be the next Dodger domino to fall. He’s not great, but he’d come cheaply and provides an odd sort of 2B/CF hybrid that would at least allow Mark Ellis to sit against some more righty pitching.

* Trade Dee Gordon. No, I don’t know where he’s going, but the more I hear the more convinced I am he’s headed somewhere, and possibly soon.

* Engage in wild speculation. And then there’s this… I try not to engage in speculative “what about..” deals too often, because they’re not really based in facts or reality. But what the hell, it’s been a fun few days, so let’s connect some dots and put a thought out there. One of the underplayed aspects of the Dodgers getting Greinke is that Rangers didn’t get him, and while they don’t flaunt it quite like the Dodgers do, they’re a team in a very similar situation in the sense that they’re flush with TV money and badly need a top starter.

But Texas doesn’t seem to be too interested in Anibal Sanchez, and James Shields is now off the market. If so, that really leaves the Rangers only R.A. Dickey to turn to, yet a fit with the Mets seems awkward. Texas — rightfully — isn’t going to give up either of their two wonderful young shortstops, Elvis Andrus or Jurickson Profar, for a 38-year-old pitcher, and top third base prospect Mike Olt probably isn’t that appealing to the Mets given that they just signed David Wright for the rest of the decade. (In fact, reports yesterday indicated just that, regarding Olt’s inclusion in a possible deal.)

Here’s where the Dodgers could insert themselves, to help facilitate a three-team deal while taking a little taste for themselves. What if — speculating again here — the Mets instead came away with Joc Pederson & Chris Withrow from the Dodgers, along with C/1B prospect Jorge Alfaro (Texas’ #9 prospect per Baseball America)? Texas would trade two of their top ten prospects (but not Andrus or Profar) for Dickey, the Mets would get the outfield & catching prospects they badly want, plus a young lottery ticket arm… and the Dodgers would get a very good third base prospect to help at a position that has long been a problem and has only Luis Cruz standing between Juan Uribe starting for the richest team in the game.

Again, just pie-in-the-sky speculation on my part. But for all the money the Dodgers have, there are some problems that can’t be solved with cold hard cash, and unless you’re suddenly the world’s biggest Kevin Youkilis fan, there’s just not anything appealing on the market. Wealth is great; creativity is often just as valuable.

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