With the hot stove season and baseball’s winter meetings inching ever so closer, there has been a huge amount of chatter and speculation among followers of the Dodgers surrounding potential trades or the addition of a few free agents. But while the squad will indeed have a slightly different look come spring, there’s a pretty good chance that management builds the 25-man roster from the existing framework within the organization. Last week, general manager Farhan Zaidi addressed the media, stating that he thinks the roster won’t need much work.
“We’re fortunate to be in a position where a lot of the team is going to be coming back,” Zaidi said. “Every offseason you kind of take a look at your roster and find potential target areas. As we look at our roster, we don’t feel like we have any glaring needs.”
Once again, our initial thoughts upon hearing these words about the team circle back to the word “depth.” And while the club may indeed be overwhelmingly deep, there may be just a bit too much of mediocrity to carry the 2018 club far into another postseason. Personally, I’m a firm believer that the management crew will not make any huge adjustments this winter, but rather wait until the deadlines in July and August to improve and prepare for the 2018 stretch run.
There has already been a great deal of conjecture regarding the starting rotation, as many think the club should pull the trigger early and attempt to find a legitimate No. 2 starter to compliment resident ace Clayton Kershaw. The problem with this theory, however, is that the Dodgers have an excessive amount of starting pitchers on the 40-man roster right now, and it would be difficult to bump players out to clear space—even to make one or two simple additions.
On top of the preliminary crowd of starting arms, president of baseball ops Andrew Friedman stated last week that he views righty Kenta Maeda primarily as a starter, which complicates the logjam even more.
“Our thought and mindset going into next season is to view him as a starter who also has the capability of being an well above average reliever,” Friedman said of Maeda. “Whether that’s at different points during the year, or hopefully if we’re able to get to the postseason, I don’t know. But we view him as a starting pitcher first and foremost.”
When including Maeda in the mix, an early version of the starting five sets up as Kershaw as the headliner, followed by Alex Wood and Rich Hill, with Maeda and Hyun-Jin Ryu at the back-end—an identical model of the rotation that carried the team to first half success in 2017 before the arrival of Yu Darvish. Veteran righty Brandon McCarthy will also be around, as he is embarking on the final year of a 4-year/$48 million dollar deal, although a club option for 2019 does exist. Brock Stewart will once again begin as the spare arm on the fringe, while Walker Buehler may see some starts at some point in the year. If this is the season that he can stay healthy, righty sinkerballer Trevor Oaks may finally garner some consideration to make his long-awaited big league debut.
For now, veteran southpaw Scott Kazmir is also part of the picture, as 2018 will be the final year of his 3-year/$48 million pact. If Kaz can’t get it together early, don’t be surprised if management cuts him loose, as spots on the 40-man heading into 2018 will certainly be at a premium. In previous years, the front office showed no mercy in eating the exorbitant salaries of players like Brian Wilson, Brandon League and Carl Crawford.
Conceivably, Julio Urias could be ready by next fall, although the safest bet may be to envision him back into the rotation picture with a full head of steam in 2019.
Sure, the possibility exists of a mass trade where the club dumps out several of its fringe starters along with somebody from the outfield surplus, but chances are the club stays with the current structure, and evaluates the team needs as the season progresses. And there will be injuries, of course, so a crowd of ten arms could quite possibly dissipate to six or seven in the blink of an eye.
As far as the short term goes, though, while the conception of the winter hot stove brings on anxiety and excitement among the fan base, the Dodgers will likely proceed cautiously into 2018, and not make any dramatic roster changes until the campaign is well underway.
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