Despite the Dodgers making just a few run-of-the-mill roster transactions so far this offseason, the front office has been relatively quiet, although rumors continue to swirl identifying slugger Giancarlo Stanton and Japanese superstar Shohei Otani as potential targets. But while adding Stanton and/or Otani isn’t exactly out of the realm of impossibility, it’s very much unlikely, as the Los Angeles management crew may be inclined to take a more economical route at filling out the roster.
Even though the calendar hasn’t yet turned to December, we’ve already written quite a bit about a few potential gaps in the team’s roster heading into 2018 spring training. The Dodgers are still overwhelmingly deep, yet we believe the likeliest additions will be a solid relief arm to compliment closer Kenley Jansen, in addition to a left-handed hitting middle infielder to pair with Logan Forsythe at the keystone.
As far as the bullpen goes, of course it’s not mandatory to make any additions, as Andrew Friedman and his crew have been notorious over the past several years of building around Jansen from basically nothing. Not just building, though, but oftentimes assembling among the best bullpens in baseball. Last spring we saw Sergio Romo and Chris Hatcher as the prime candidates to set-up Kenley early, but by the time the All-Star break rolled around, the relief corps had an entirely different look. So even if there isn’t a huge bullpen acquisition made before pitchers and catchers report in February, there’s absolutely no reason for fans to panic.
That being said, the free agent class for relievers is rather plentiful, if the Dodgers decide to steer away from the trade route. The class is headlined by last year’s setup man Brandon Morrow, alongside former Royals and Cubs closer Wade Davis and a rejuvenated Greg Holland, who closed for the Rockies in 2017. Glancing into the second tier, we have notable arms like Brandon Kintzler, Pat Neshek, Tony Watson, Addison Reed, Jake McGee and Steve Cishek. And then there are the reclamation projects that the Los Angeles front office seemingly loves, including relievers like Huston Street and Drew Storen.
However, if the club decides to stay put, we’ll see the squad’s bullpen consisting of guys like Pedro Baez, Josh Fields, Tony Cingrani, Ross Stripling, Luis Avilan and perhaps even Brandon McCarthy or Kenta Maeda in the early stages of the season. Friedman has already indicated that he views Maeda as a starter heading into next year, but based on how he looked out of the bullpen during the playoffs, and the fact the Los Angeles starting rotation may begin the year quite crowded, the bullpen could be a logical landing spot for the righty.
Moving onto the infield, last week we discussed the potential need for a platoon-mate for Forsythe at second base, and in a perfect world we’d probably ask for a lefty or a switch-hitter who can also provide cover at shortstop. It’s tough to visualize the front office crew making a blockbuster deal to fill this void, but at the same time the free agent market isn’t very abundant, as we have muttered a few possibilities last week, including Jose Reyes, Cliff Pennington and Danny Espinosa. An infield acquisition isn’t paramount, though, as management always has the option of moving Chris Taylor around some, potentially creating one very massive platoon scenario.
Many fans are calling for the acquisition of a front-line starting pitcher, yet despite the backend of the rotation’s mediocrity, an addition is very unlikely just because there’s already about eight or so arms to choose from on the 40-man roster. And, although another big right-handed bat in the outfield would be an outstanding addition, it’s not a necessity in the least.
So for now, we’ll go with that—a quality late-inning reliever and a left-handed hitting infielder. A few minor tweaks here and there, and we’ll see another stocked roster ready to make a championship run in 2018.
In other roster news, the Dodgers reportedly signed switch-pitcher Pat Venditte to a minor league contract on Monday, with a big league invitation to spring training. The ambidextrous 32-year-old was acquired by the Phillies prior to the 2017 season and spent the entire year at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. With the IronPigs, he threw for a 3.36 ERA and 1.29 WHIP over 69-2/3 innings, but walked a whopping 36 batters.
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