Anyone who really believes they know what the Master Plan is could be delusional. One thing I have learned is that one never knows in what direction FAZ goes. Did anyone truly believe that FAZ would have signed all three 2016 FA? Most did not even think Hill was a consideration, and that FAZ would only sign one of Jansen and Turner. I thought that Turner would come back (LA is his home), but had no idea that Kenley would feel so comfortable with LA. And yet they signed all three.
More than any other team, the Dodgers want a strong 40 man roster that they can utilize (and they do). Where I believe they have come up short is that they build a team for a long 162 game season to get into the playoffs, but one that may not be quite good enough in a short series. They got very very close last year, but second guessers will question why go for Darvish when they might have had Justin Verlander. Verlander was the most accomplished post season starter on the market at the time. Maybe they did try and just could not get it done. Some can and will convince themselves that the Dodgers could have stole him with an offer of Isaac Anderson, Brandon Montgomery, and Ariel Sandoval, and turned it down. But we will never know what was offered, or even if there was an offer. I was okay with Darvish because the cost was not too much. I wish Willie Calhoun all the best, but he would never have been a regular position player for the Dodgers. And there was no multiple years remaining on the Darvish contract.
I can and have defended the FA signings and trades of McCarthy, Kazmir, and Reddick (never Latos). I had no idea they would have made those transactions, but I understood the logic, but have no desire to go back and rehash those transactions. I would rather speculate as to what will they do for 2018? The one thing I do believe I understand is that whatever move is made it is with the intention to provide versatility and/or depth, and will be low risk/high reward. IMO that is not Giancarlo Stanton. That contract is not sustainable, and it is the antithesis of low risk/high reward. It is not Christian Yellich. The Dodgers have a surplus of LH hitting LF’s, and I do not see an upgrade over Joc/Toles/Verdugo with Kike’ as the RH hitting LF. I do not see any way they will re-sign Yu Darvish. There is less than zero chance they would sign Jake Arrieta.
The Dodgers needs include the bullpen, back of the rotation starters, back-up catcher, and a LH hitting utility infielder. If they can find a game changing RH OF (not named Stanton) that may be explored, but I think this is more likely a trade deadline potential.
Relievers – I think this is where the Dodgers will concentrate their efforts. I believe the bullpen will rival that of the NYY before the season starts. Unlike many, I do think the Dodgers will try to re-sign Brandon Morrow, and may slightly overspend to get him. If not Morrow, I would think that Tommy Hunter is on their short list for RHRP. I like Mike Minor as a LHRP, but the Dodgers may try focus on and try to re-sign Tony Watson for less $$$ and a lesser term. I do not see another name FA reliever they will sign. There may be another 2017 version of Brandon Morrow that most of us do not know of, and will sign a minor league contract (and no Pat Venditte does not qualify here).
I know many have brought up the return of Yimi Garcia, but he did not pitch at all last year, and he pitched a total of 8.1 MLB innings in 2016 (and 7.1 minor league innings). He has basically been out of MLB for nearly two years. I doubt that FAZ is expecting anything significant from Garcia, and will look for others to provide high leverage innings. Garcia does have one option left, and I would expect that the option will be exercised and Garcia will get his baseball legs back at OKC. I do think that Zach Britton is a legit potential trade acquisition, as is Brad Brach. I think they are willing to spend $$$ on one year rentals. I also think they will check in on Brad Hand again.
Back end starter options – Tyler Chatwood and Jhoulys Chacin may not be exciting, but they can be successful back of the rotation starters. Otherwise the Dodgers will live with Maeda and Ryu as #4 and #5, with Buehler and Urias in the rotation by July. McCarthy and Kazmir are longshots at best. Trevor Oaks will also get consideration, and Ross Stripling will be the long man and emergency starter. While Chatwood and Chacin would give them flexibility with the roster, the Dodgers will not overspend to get them as they have multiple options at their disposal. The Dodgers have a surplus of ML ready and near ready starting pitching, and can probably move multiple pitchers for the right return. I do think the Dodgers will explore trade potential for a legit innings eating #2. I believe FAZ will revisit Chris Archer. Or maybe they can convince Shohei Ohtani to sign for less with the Dodgers, concentrate on pitching and PH against NL teams, and DH against AL teams. This search will also probably be delayed until the trade deadline.
Backup Catcher – I am not convinced that FAZ believes that Kyle Farmer is a legitimate back-up catcher. I think they look at him more as a utility infielder who can catch rather than a catcher who can play infield. At least that is how he was utilized when he joined the ML roster. If they keep Grandal, they are set. If they do trade him, I think they will sign Nick Hundley or Chris Iannetta, get prospects in return for Grandal, and save $5M to $6M. Or they will stick with Farmer as the backup and revisit the position at the trade deadline. There is no urgency for this position.
LH Hitting infielder – I was hoping for Daniel Descalso last year, but I understand why they chose Utley. But now what? Do they consider LH hitting Stephen Drew, or switch hitting Erick Aybar or Cliff Pennington? Or do they trade for Dee Gordon?
Most fans have concluded that Chris Taylor is the Dodger CF for 2018. However Rowan Kavner, Dodger Insider, recently wrote about the poor offensive metrics for Dodger CF’s in general, including Chris Taylor. Overall, CT3 batted .288/.354/.496/.850 with 21 HR’s and 72 RBI’s. As a CF, CT3 batted .213/.279/.33/.612 with 5 HR’s and 18 RBI’s. See article identified below.
The Dodgers could use an upgrade offensively and defensively in CF. I have long been an advocate for Ender Inciarte from his DBack days. With Ronald Acuna ready to make the leap to ML CF and super stardom for the Braves, Inciarte is a luxury the Braves can turn into prospects. I do not have as much intimate knowledge of the Braves farm system (which is very good), but I am sure the Dodgers have the requisite prospects to make a legit trade offer. I would think that Alex Anthopoulos has sufficient knowledge of the Dodgers farm and what they might ask for in return. I am assuming that Joc Pederson would be included as a backup for Acuna. Joc is a prime change of scenery candidate. The Braves could also useML readySP and RP. They have pitching prospects. With Inciarte in CF, Taylor could move to 2B making Logan Forsythe another trade potential.
And my continuous plea for the trade of multiple players (ML and prospects) to Baltimore for Austin Hays and Hunter Harvey.
As I stated in the beginning, nobody knows what FAZ will do. They are absolutely unpredictable. So while I believe they will concentrate on building a dominant bullpen and tinker around the edges elsewhere, FAZ might surprise me and go big by trading for Stanton, signing Yu Darvish, or signing Ohtani.