After outlining our intermediate 25-man roster projections yesterday, one notion that came to mind straight away was considering how the Dodgers might benefit from a potential deal with another club — in effect, adding another productive piece to an already very deep 40-man roster.
While a primary outfield trio of Andre Ethier, Joc Pederson and Yasiel Puig has an overwhelming amount of possibilities from the standpoint of quality offense, it also translates to a huge amount of risk, especially when contemplating Ethier’s recent injury history, Puig’s childish attitude, and Pederson’s “swing for the fences” approach at the dish. Still, when looking deep into the numbers, there’s no reason to doubt that particular crew could easily combine for at least 65 long balls and 250 RBI, so long as all three earn consistent playing time and evade any serious injuries.
Even though Andrew Toles, Scott Van Slyke and a healthy Trayce Thompson will be around to provide a fair amount of decent cover, there still seems to be a certain element of flair missing. Something like a natural, proven three-hole hitting outfielder — perhaps a clone of one youthful, bright and injury-free star who hit .324/.399/.586 with 39 home runs, 126 RBI and 40 stolen bases back in 2011.
Earlier in the winter, the Dodgers were linked to superstars Ryan Braun and Andrew McCutchen in a number of rumored talks, but when considering what promised to be a ridiculous trade offering for each player, the front office crew apparently valued its current roster options as safer bets to succeed instead of taking a huge hit on the farm to acquire either slugger. While there’s certainly time left to orchestrate a deal of this nature, the present timing and lack of momentum suggest it’s probably not likely.
During the offseason last winter, especially after assessing the hole left by the exodus of Zack Greinke, many fans felt the need for a legitimate, front-line starting pitcher to compliment resident ace Clayton Kershaw. Lefty Julio Urias is certainly believed to have that type of potential, but talks about holding him back in extended spring training may keep him out of the rotation early. Rich Hill has already shown that he can shine while wearing blue, yet on his best day he’s probably nothing better than a true No. 3. And while Japanese righty Kenta Maeda has proven that he has the skills to compete in the MLB, he still needs to improve his stamina and endurance before he’s considered a top-tier star.
Rival clubs are very well aware that the Dodgers have one of the most plentifully stocked farm systems in baseball. Around the trade deadline last summer, we heard ridiculous demands from other teams in the attempts to land a prospective second ace, and as the 2017 trade deadline approaches in July, the trade market could dictate even more absurd proposals if Los Angeles reaches out in an effort to upgrade.
But perhaps the most glaring hole on the roster right now is the lack of a quality bench piece. Sure, Van Slyke and Enrique Hernandez have had productive campaigns in the past, yet their recent patterns definitely don’t suggest any type of overwhelming offensive production. Austin Barnes shouldn’t be counted on to provide anything more than quality catching depth, and it remains to be seen as to whether Toles can continue to find success after a very impressive rookie campaign. An acquisition of say McCutchen or Braun, just for the sake of citing examples, wouldn’t just boost the value of the starting outfield, but moving Ethier or Puig to the bench would instantly give the club a bit of much needed, late-inning firepower off the pine.
Management has been patient up until this moment, and has maintained its faith in the youth and the depth of the farm. Yet there’s always the possibility that many of these prospects never truly reach their perceived expectations. This is the boiling point where the most critical roster decisions are made.
Win now or win later? In only a matter of several short weeks, when the Dodgers hand in their initial official 25-man roster to the MLB front office, we should have a much better idea which direction the club is heading in 2017.
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