Although it probably felt as if the search for a second baseman lost all momentum when talks surrounding Brian Dozier eventually fizzled, the front office crew of the Dodgers is outwardly busier than ever, considering all conceivable options as the countdown to spring camp now stands at a mere 25 days.
But while conversations with the Twins have cooled down, it doesn’t mean that a future deal for Dozier is off the table. Presumably, the ball is in the Dodgers’ court, as the Los Angeles management crew knows exactly what type of package Minnesota requires to make the trade happen. Despite the Dodgers not wanting to move more than one top-tier prospect at the present moment, that mindset could easily change sometime around the July trade deadline, or perhaps even several months sooner.
While talks regarding both Ian Kinsler of the Tigers and Logan Forsythe of the Rays are seemingly continuing, no obvious progressions have been reported as of late. Kinsler recently went on record saying that a contract extension wasn’t a barrier in the way of a deal with the Dodgers, contrary to rumblings which prevailed earlier in the winter. As for Forsythe, there’s a belief that Tampa Bay is hesitant to trade the 30-year-old infielder chiefly because they have no suitable options to replace him.
As some of the latest rumors have the Dodgers linked to the Rangers and second baseman Jurickson Profar, one report from Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports revealed that Los Angeles has indeed inquired about the 23-year-old infielder. While Texas has already been linked strongly to the signing of Mike Napoli, a deal of that sort would ostensibly make Profar expendable and out of the Rangers’ infield loop, primarily due to the presences of Rougned Odor, Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre. That being said, Profar is still young and somewhat controllable, so the Rangers will surely set their targets high. And if that indeed becomes the case, the better option for the Dodgers just might be to re-explore a deal for Dozier.
As far as internal options go, Chris Taylor and Enrique Hernandez are apparently the Dodgers’ two top possibilities, considering that Charlie Culberson was outrighted earlier in the winter and Micah Johnson was recently dealt to the Braves.
Hernandez will have a ton to prove after having a very rough 2016 season, slashing .190/.283/.324 over 109 games and 244 plate appearances, and having been left off the Dodgers’ NLDS roster against the Nationals. He hit .189/.308/.361 against left-handed pitchers in 2016, after batting a .270/.362/.478 against southpaw pitchers over his career. As Hernandez will probably be given a very fair shot to make the Opening Day roster, one might imagine that his leash may be rather short, based on offense alone.
Taylor, who is also adept defensively at short and third, stuck around for 34 big league games last season, slashing .207/.258/.362 over 62 plate appearances. His best game came in July, when he was only a single shy of hitting for the cycle. Taylor smacked six RBI and scored three runs against the Diamondbacks, including a two-run triple early in the game and a monstrous grand slam in the sixth frame.
Another option would be to try to negotiate a one-year deal with 38-year-old Chase Utley. While his production at the dish and defensive range may be declining with age, his glove continues to remain stellar. And his leadership skills and examples of work ethic may be worth a $5-6 million dollar salary if the front office crew decides to consider traditional values instead of relying strictly on sabermetric figures. In addition, skipper Dave Roberts continues to make a compelling case to sign Utley almost any chance he gets.
All that said, if the club does indeed go with a rough plan of platooning Utley and Hernandez to begin the season, it’s tough to guess if that particular combination has the firepower to produce at the dish, as Utley would get the lion’s share of reps considering Hernandez’s struggles against right-handed pitching.
Newly acquired Cuban infielder Jose Miguel Fernandez also remains a possibility to get some looks at the keystone, but it’s probably a bit too early to guess what type of time frame he’ll require to adapt to his new country and learn the nuances of the Dodgers’ system.