A lot of changes may be coming the Dodgers‘ way over the winter, and the biggest may come in the outfield.
Puig had a pretty decent year, with 23 home runs, also playing well in the playoffs, especially in the World Series. He has one year of control left on his team friendly contract. He’s been trade fodder for pretty much his whole career as a Dodger, and this off-season probably won’t be much different.
The next three also play infield positions. As the Dodgers do not currently have a second baseman signed, and if nothing else changes, one could assume that Taylor and Hernandez would split time at second. There have not been rumblings of the front office signing a second baseman, not even of Brian Dozier being re-signed. They may surprise us, but I would look for the front office to cover the keystone with in house options.
Bellinger is, of course, a top rate first baseman in addition to being able to patrol center field. He spent most of the 2018 season out there because of the emergence of Max Muncy and his powerful bat. Whether Bellinger continues to roam the outfield depends on whether Muncy can continue his offensive output or whether Bellinger will resume being the day-to-day first baseman.
Matt Kemp surprised everyone by having a resurgent season, carrying the team the first half when he seemed to be the only one who could hit. But now he’s one year older, still on an expensive contract, and would be prime for another salary dump, or even just being let go.
Joc Pederson has not ever quite lived up to what he could be, batting .248 with 25 homers last season. He has gone from the starting center fielder to begin a platoon player. Still, he could be good trade fodder, as teams would like those 25 homers for their team.
Alex Verdugo may very well push his name into the conversation. He has been requested by other teams looking to do trades with the Dodgers, but has seemingly always been off limits. This could be the year that he is ready to come up to the big leagues and stay for good. There’s also Andrew Toles, who has been lurking on the fringe of the majors since resurrecting his career a few seasons ago.
But the biggest indicator in what the Dodgers outfield will look like in 2019 is if the front office does actively pursue and sign Bryce Harper. Last week, there were rumors that the Dodgers would sign Harper to a 14 year, $420 million contract. That doesn’t remotely sound like anything this front office would do. But they still may pursue him, as he is actually a lefty batter that can hit left or right-handed pitching. At age 26, he’s got quite a few good years left, and would be an upgrade for all the outfielders they have now.
Signing Harper would perhaps spell the end of Puig as a Dodger, as they both play right field. I don’t know if Puig would be willing/able to move to left. Perhaps Harper would be willing to move to left. It also depends on how much platooning the Dodgers plan to do going forward, although if they sign Harper, he would not be one of the players being platooned. There are many variable at play for the Dodger outfield, and it will be incredibly interesting watching it all play out. Fans should be prepared that one of their favorites, i.e. Puig or Kemp will be gone once spring training rolls around.