(Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports)
From Ryan Braun to Aroldis Chapman to Yoenis Cespedes, the many rumors already circulating around the Los Angeles Dodgers organization are in full swing, and until the club begins to reveal which direction it plans on going with certain player personnel, plenty of writers around the baseball blogosphere will probably have a field day laying out their own offseason recommendations and schemes.
The good news for fans, however, is that the general managers meetings are going down in Scottsdale this week, and the Dodgers’ own Farhan Zaidi has been kind enough to share a few of the teams top priorities with the media. While these meetings are not commonly known for any major dealings, they do realistically act as a precursor to the winter meetings, often lying the groundwork to many potential blockbuster trades in December and beyond.
First and foremost, Zaidi pointed out that third baseman Justin Turner is likely the club’s prime concern over the coming months. He explained that the importance of retaining Turner correlated with the fact that the free agent market for quality third basemen is almost barren. While the pursuit of reliever Kenley Jansen is also of significance, there are several quality closers in the marketplace that could fill a void if Kenley decides to sign elsewhere.
“Third base is a spot where there aren’t a ton of free agent options,” Zaidi told reporters on Tuesday. “We’d look internally or the trade route if it gets to that point (of replacing Turner).”
Zaidi also indicated that right-handed bats are another area which the team’s front office crew are focusing their efforts. During the 2016 regular season, Los Angeles hit an MLB-worst .213/.290/.332 against southpaws. It was so bad that opposing squads loaded up their pitching staffs with left-handers in the playoffs to capitalize on the Dodgers’ glaring weakness.
Players like Howie Kendrick, Scott Van Slyke, Trayce Thompson and a resurgent Yasiel Puig could certainly prove to be equalizers against southpaw pitching next year, but with the trade rumors surrounding Kendrick and the excess of quality outfielders already present in the organization, Zaidi didn’t rule out some type of shakeup in the roster.
“We do have a surplus in the outfield we’re going to be working through in the next couple months,” he said. “There is always the possibility of change in the composition of the outfield.”
As far as Puig is concerned, Zaidi mentioned that the right fielder impressed management with his efforts in refocusing his game last summer, and could be a big part of the club’s plans moving forward, especially with his right-handed bat.
“He did everything we asked him to do in the last two months, so we’re definitely in a much better place,” Zaidi stated.
While the Dodgers made clear early their interest in pursuing veteran free agent lefty Rich Hill this offseason, Zaidi did mention another name that we haven’t heard uttered much recently, 30-year-old southpaw Hyun-Jin Ryu.
“If healthy, he’s still one of the top starting pitchers in the NL,” Zaidi said of Ryu. “In the planning process, we can’t plan on him to be our No. 3 starter or anything, but if he’s healthy, he’s going to be in our rotation.”
The winter meetings are set to take place in Maryland on December 4-8, and in the case of the Dodgers, could prove to be a critical springboard in putting forth a workable scheme in filling the big holes in the club’s 25-man roster for 2017.