Well this has been some Hot Stove League for the Dodgers thus far, right? The Winter Meetings went just about as most expected…the current 40 man roster is the same as before the meetings started. I don’t count Koehler because he was post Winter Meetings, and the signing is still pending physical. I never thought Stanton was an option, but it was fun to fantasize. My only disappointment is that Brandon McCarthy is still part of that roster. I have no animosity towards Brandon. It is simply because a $12 AAV for a #6 or #7 starter is a little expensive and unnecessary. It would appear that the Dodgers will be bringing 7 potential starters to Spring Training – Kershaw/Wood/Hill/Maeda/Ryu/McCarthy/Kazmir. The Dodgers would need a lot of split squad games to make sure there was innings to go around. FAZ is just not going to eat the salaries of McCarthy and Kazmir without giving them a chance.
Of course there is still two months before pitchers and catchers report, so there is time to make changes. I wouldn’t think teams are in a big push to add McCarthy without knowing what the cost is for that level of free agent. The starting pitching market has not been tapped. Arrieta and Darvish need to go to see what the ceiling is, then Lynn and Cobb, then the others. McCarthy’s market will be determined once pitchers like Cashner/Chacin/Cahill/Gallardo/Miley/Volquez/Tillman are signed. Teams may be more apt to take McCarthy for a low tiered minor leaguer for one year than any of those pitchers on a two year deal. With the coming holidays, the starting pitching free agent market should go well into January. So stay tuned.
There is no reason to release Kazmir at this time. He is going to go to Spring Training and show whether he can still pitch or not. He is a sunk cost so if he cannot pitch he will either be released or placed on the 60 day DL.
Right now Maeda and Ryu will have to pitch themselves out of the #4 and #5 slot. FAZ is not going to rush Buehler (or White or Santana). Buehler needs to work on his command, and he can do that at OKC. He will have to adjust again once he makes it to the ML, but he has proven he can make adjustments at each level.
There is very little market for catchers, so it appears that FAZ values Grandal more as a co-starting catcher for LAD than the value of any return in a trade. They can absorb the $7.7M projected arbitration salary. I also do not truly believe that the Dodgers are ready to name Kyle Farmer as the big league back-up catcher. Will Smith has had two plate appearances at AA, and while he had a good Fall AZL, he is not ready. The Dodgers have 4 catchers in their top 30 prospects, and each one should start at a different level. Farmer – OKC, Smith – Tulsa, Ruiz – Rancho, Wong – Great Lakes. Smith will dictate what happens. If he shows he is ready to handle AAA, then he will get promoted and the others will follow. Farmer’s value is more as a utility player anyway, so if Smith is ready, he will not be blocked.
I expect A-Gon to be a role player and do not project him as a starting 1B with Bellinger going to LF. Put Belly at 1B, and leave him there. Part of A-Gon’s role would be to be a mentor for Belly. Remember that Grandal can also play 1B (not on a regular basis). So if A-Gon does go down, and Farmer is tearing it up, I can see Farmer recalled and Grandal as the backup 1B and one of two back-up catchers. It is not ideal, but they are options that most teams do not have.
Both Friedman and Zaidi have said they do not see a need for a LH hitting 2B. I believe that…until they change their mind. His splits for 2017 were not pretty – .290/.418/.452/.870 vs. LHP, and .190/.315/.262/.577 vs. RHP. His three year split (2015-2017) is a lot more balanced….288/.372/.515/.887 vs. LHP, and .250/.338/.374/712 vs RHP. He started out on fire last year, but could never get back to where he was at after coming back from injury (30 games on the DL). He is still a plus defender considering Defensive Runs Saved and UZR. CT3 turns the DP better, but he had a tough time fielding the position compared to Logan. I still think Jace Peterson should be considered. I like Lemahieu and Descalso for 2019.
Right now, Toles/Joc/Verdugo will compete to share time with Kike’ for LF. Whoever wins the competition is the LF platoon. All four can play CF if needed. Trayce Thompson has zero options remaining, so if he is not considered ML ready at the end of Spring Training, I can see the Dodgers keeping two of the three, predictably Joc and Toles. Verdugo needs to play every day, so if he is not the everyday LF for LA, he should go back to OKC. Of course if Mark is right and Trayce is released for Koehler, the decision is easy.
We all know where Bums is on Joc. I am a Joc fan more for his bringing my Trojans out of the locker room before this year’s UCLA game. He signed a LOI for USC baseball and his dad is a USC alum. Mark is more enthusiastic about a better conditioned Joc than I am. While conditioning is very important, Joc’s problems are in his head, not his stomach. Perhaps being out of shape may have created a bad 2017, but it is hard to ignore his 3 year splits against LHP of .188/.281/.328/.609. I pull for the kid, because he is a Dodger. But he needs to produce…conditioned or not.
Outside of Kenley Jansen, the bullpen is an absolute unknown to me. Maeda could be a valuable reliever, but his contract incentives are tied to number of starts and innings pitched. Both Stewart and Stripling still think of themselves as starters, and want the chance to start. Very unlikely with LAD. Is Cingrani anything more than a JP Howell like loogy? Many think he can be very good, but he has to show it first. Who knows what to expect from Baez, Fields, Avilan, Font, Garcia, Liberatore, or Paredes. Maybe one or more of them turns into Brandon Morrow…or Chris Hatcher/Sergio Romo. Maybe Joe Broussard or Shea Spitzbarth can crack the roster from the minor leagues, or maybe this is the year the Dodgers get some return in their investment in Yaisel Sierra. For 2019, remember the name Jesen Thierren. I mentioned him two weeks ago as a typical FAZ signee (low risk high reward) and someone to watch. The more I read about him, the more I am convinced the Dodgers may have uncovered another gem.
The bullpen will get the most attention (if not all) for 2018, but it will not be known names. There will be more minor league contracts issued to enhance the competition. Pat Venditte will have to be awfully good to make the 40 man much less the 25 man. Think more Louis Coleman and Casey Fien. Or Tom Koehler!!
What about Neftali Perez or David Hernandez? Could either of them improve under the Rick Honeycutt tutelage? Dustin Nosler brought up names like Seung-hwan Oh, Shae Simmons, and Ian Krol. Of those three, Oh might be of some interest. But where Nosler may have really been a sage is with his list of potential minor league relievers. Stealing from Dustin:
RHP Richard Rodriguez
“Rodriguez was lights out for Baltimore’s Triple-A affiliate this year, recording a 2.42 ERA and 28% strikeout rate out of the bullpen. He got lit up in his five big-league appearances, however, and was outrighted to the minors midway through his September call-up.”
RHP Kevin Comer
“Unlike most of the names here, Comer was actually a prospect once upon a time. The Blue Jays took him 57th overall back in 2012 before trading him to Houston a year later. Comer slowly worked his way through Houston’s system and spent most of 2017 pitching in relief at the Triple-A level. Surely, someone will scoop up this 25-year-old who struck out 27% of batters in the upper levels in 2017.”
RHP Luis Diaz
“I covered Diaz in this space last year after he pitched reasonably well as a 24-year-old starter at Double-A. He ultimately signed with the Angels and rattled off 17 scoreless innings to start 2017. Diaz didn’t fare quite as well following a promotion to Triple-A, though, where his ERA, FIP and xFIP all crested 5.00. Nonetheless, Diaz is a 6-foot-4 25-year-old who posted solid strikeout and walk rates as a starter in the high minors.”
RHP Mark Montgomery
“A former Yankees relief prospect, Montgomery was very effective out of the bullpen in Triple-A this year. In 67 innings with St. Louis’ Triple-A affiliate, he pitched to a stellar 2.43 ERA and struck out 27% of opposing batters.”
If they are not already, they should be on the FAZ radar.
SS, 3B, CF, and RF need no analysis. With Corey, JT, CT3, and Yasiel, those are set positions. I’d include Belly, but with A-Gon in the picture at all, 1B is still something that will be considered. I just do not think it is plausible for A-Gon to even be considered a co-starter. But some may want to see A-Gon at 1B and Belly in LF. I am NOT one of those. However, there are 21.5million reasons why A-Gon at 1B cannot be summarily dismissed.
Spring training cannot come soon enough. The team is good, but is it good enough? That is why they play the games.