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Improving the Dodgers isn’t easy

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The Dodgers need a bat, and the ideal move would be for a new outfielder. But their crowded roster makes any potential addition a puzzle that might not have a solution.

MLB: San Diego Padres at Los Angeles Dodgers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, I nearly gave former BtBS Managing Editor Neil Weinberg a heart attack when I shared a Dodgers’ Digest article on the Los Angeles Dodgers’ pursuit of JD Martinez and Justin Wilson, without clearly stating that it was just a rumor. Once Neil had been revived, we ended up discussing in our Slack channel what would it take Los Angeles to win the Martinez sweepstakes and, more importantly, how it would affect their roster.*

* This discussion was held before the Arizona Diamondbacks traded for Martinez, of course.

First off, it’s no secret that the Dodgers have an enormous lead on their division and are a shoe-in for the playoffs. FanGraphs’s Playoff Odds currently have them at 100.0 percent to make the playoffs and 23.4 percent to win the World Series — which makes them the easy favorites. So what to do to increase those odds?

The current roster needs are slight, but Andrew Friedman could very well use an upgrade or two to solidify his roster for the postseason push. His wishlist should include a starting pitcher, some bullpen assistance, and a quality bat. So let’s trade for an outfielder.

Here’s the hitch: that’s easier said than done. Because the Dodgers already have such a strong roster, there are a lot of moving parts that need to be balanced if they want to make any improvements at all. So let’s play out how an acquisition might look.

The details of the trade are not important right now. OK, maybe we send Puig or Pederson away, or a top prospect and a couple of throw-ins. But let’s imagine what we’re getting in return is a valuable left fielder. Like Martinez, or to pick another Tigers outfielder who hasn’t been traded yet, Justin Upton.

So after some give and take, we got our left fielder. Currently at the position, the Dodgers could either write in überkind Cody Bellinger, Cinderella-story Chris Taylor, or super-utility player Enrique Hernandez. But with Adrian Gonzalez out with a back injury and an ever-declining bat, Bellinger could move to first base (the position he played throughout the minors), making room for Upton in left and keeping Taylor and Hernandez in their bench/utility role, rotating in alongside Yasiel Puig and Joc Pederson.

Now we have a problem. We have to give somebody the boot to make room for Martinez. Our team discussed whether the trade package going to Detroit should include either Puig or Pederson. Given the stats, I’m more inclined to give them Pederson because of his poor bat, but Puig’s defense isn’t much better.

Puig, Pederson 2017 stats

Name G PA HR BB% K% ISO AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
Name G PA HR BB% K% ISO AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ Off Def WAR
Yasiel Puig 87 333 18 10.50% 18.90% 0.218 0.252 0.327 0.469 0.334 108 -0.9 3.7 1.3
Joc Pederson 62 219 9 12.30% 22.40% 0.223 0.25 0.365 0.473 0.359 125 5.4 -3.3 0.9
Puig, Pederson 2017 Stats Data from Fangraphs

So what if we don’t send them over, and make the trade using only minor league assets? The only feasible option at that point would be to DFA Adrian Gonzalez. But Gonzalez is to the Dodgers what Albert Pujols is to the Los Angeles Angels. His contributions extend beyond the field. DFAing Gonzalez feels like the right move but for sentimental (and PR reasons) it might not happen. (Though the A.J. Ellis trade from last season showed that this front office has the ability to be cold-blooded when necessary.) Maybe the compromise would be to give Gonzalez the Andre Ethier treatment and move him onto the 60-day DL.

What about Chase Utley? Difficult to say. He’s still a good second baseman, who can occassionally manage first. Plus, along with Gonzalez, they’re the only two veterans in the clubhouse. Maybe you could give up Logan Forsythe, but that hampers the flexibility of the infield.

Forsythe, Gonzalez, and Utley 2017 stats

Name G PA HR AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ WAR
Name G PA HR AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ WAR
Logan Forsythe 57 228 3 0.245 0.364 0.340 0.318 98 1.0
Chase Utley 76 231 5 0.227 0.326 0.389 0.312 94 0.6
Adrian Gonzalez 49 182 1 0.255 0.304 0.339 0.279 72 -0.8
Forsythe, Gonzalez, and Utley 2017 stats Data from Fangraphs

It’s a fun exercise to think about. What would you do if you were running the Dodgers? It’s not easy, having so many plausible major leaguers that you don’t have room on your roster for even one more. Personally, I love Adrian Gonzalez but if I want to win now and make room for Upton (or another outfielder), well, it’s time to sashay away. But, as I’m wont to be, I could be wrong. That’s why I’ll leave you readers with this little poll: what would you do?

Poll

What would you do to make room for a new Dodgers outfielder?

This poll is closed

  • 52%
    60-day DL Adrian Gonzalez
    (272 votes)
  • 27%
    Trade Joc Pederson
    (141 votes)
  • 6%
    Trade Yasiel Puig
    (32 votes)
  • 6%
    DFA Chase Utley
    (34 votes)
  • 8%
    Other more reasonable option (comment)
    (42 votes)
521 votes total Vote Now

Martin Alonso writes for Beyond the Box Score and BP Bronx and is contantly geeking out over baseball and Star Wars. You can find him on Twitter at @martnar.