(Photo Credit: Brett Davis/USA TODAY Sports)
Although it’s no secret that the Dodgers have a keen interest in upgrading their bullpen as the trade deadline approaches, the club has been linked to Cincinnati Reds outfielder Jay Bruce on several occasions, while many fans are left wondering where exactly an offensive upgrade of that nature would fit into the everyday lineup.
With both Joc Pederson and Andre Ethier on the disabled list nursing injuries, the Dodgers have absolutely zero options in terms of left-handed hitting outfielders. Being that president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman strongly believes in philosophies revolving around particular hitting matchups, such a scenario is likely to cause chronic nightmares for the 39-year-old executive.
Still, with Pederson eyeing a return sometime after the All-Star break and Ethier on pace for an early August return, the Dodgers may get a small offensive infusion without even having to sacrifice a prospect or two in a trade.
Despite a slow progression of improvement, the Dodgers’ offensive numbers have ranked towards the bottom of the National League for the majority of the season. The team ranks 12th in two critical categories, recording a .239 team batting average and a .701 team OPS. They’re ranked 10th in the NL with 365 runs scored, while placing 14th as a team with a .388 slugging percentage and 10th with a .313 OBP.
Everyone following the Dodgers has hoped for some type of overall improvement as far as offensive production, but it just hasn’t happened. Rookie Corey Seager has almost carried the club single-handedly, and although a spark by third baseman Justin Turner has greatly contributed to the squad’s recent success, overall statistics still continue to lurk near the cellar of the league.
So basically, the front office is left with two different directions in which to steer. The brain trust could stick with the plan of hoping that the returns of Pederson and Ethier will provide enough offense to carry the club to a playoff spot, or the management team could look outside the organization for a bat to improve both team average and power.
If the latter is chosen, some type of minor rebuild would need to happen, as the new player would need to be placed into a 25-man roster already plentiful with depth, albeit depth in mediocrity. Jonathan Lucroy would be a huge upgrade at catcher, but the team would need to decide to part ways with either Yasmani Grandal or A.J. Ellis. Having a presence like Bruce in the outfield every day would certainly require the Dodgers to abandon the thought of retaining one or more regulars in the current daily lineup. The same can be said about the infield. With an addition of an upgraded bat anywhere on the diamond, it appears as if the team would need to trade away one or more parts of the existing core to create any type of vacancy.
As we’ve said before, the Dodgers’ pursuit of a fourth consecutive NL West title could conceivably lie in the hands of the front office, as the management team decides between going all-in and upgrading the roster to make a strong run at the playoffs this year, or remaining content with strengthening the organizational depth with smaller trades and continuing to trim payroll.
By staying conservative, the club would be able to retain its top prospects while focusing on becoming a perennial playoff contender for the 2017 season and beyond.