While there has been plenty of team news for fans of the Dodgers so far during the offseason, there haven’t been many rumors linked to free agents or trades, so when the big media outlets throw out a big name linked to the team, all of us bloggers tend to express our two cents almost immediately.
On Monday, Jon Morosi reported that there are three teams which have emerged as the top suitors for free agent second baseman DJ LeMahieu. Los Angeles appears to be among the trio, with the other two clubs being the Nationals and the Twins. LeMahieu certainly isn’t as flashy as some of the top free agents like Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, but I think he could fit in well with the Dodgers, especially in terms of what they are trying to accomplish at the keystone.
While many felt that defense was the main reason the team snatched Logan Forsythe and Brian Dozier in recent years, the true intention of the club was to upgrade its attack against opposing left-handed pitchers. Both Forsythe and Dozier had strong career splits against southpaws, but neither could ever find their strides against either hand offensively. Some thought injuries were the main reasons why, but at this point it’s irrelevant because the Dodgers are still unsettled in terms of a concrete option at second base heading into 2018.
There’s still a chance the club could sign Dozier; however, it’s very unlikely as long as there are guys like LeMahieu on the market. Tim Dierkes of MLBTR has LeMehieu pegged at garnering an offer in the 2-year/$18 million range, which could be a bargain for the Dodgers based on all the things he can do.
The 30-year-old native of Visalia, CA has earned three gold gloves during his eight-year big league career, two of which have come in the past two seasons. His strong glove work fits in well with the Dodgers’ defensive philosophy up the middle, as he’s one of the absolute best in the business in terms of UZR and DRS. In 2018, the two-time All-Star committed just four errors in 591 chances at second base.
More importantly, his career splits offensively are relatively even against southpaws and right-handers alike. Lifetime, he averages .313/.369/.445 against lefties, while he posts a .292/.343/.391 slash line against right-handers. Somebody with the ability to play everyday would benefit Los Angeles tremendously, as the club had more than a handful of positions last season that featured several different platoon scenarios. Nevertheless, in 2018, LeMahieu hit opposing lefty pitchers well, as he registered a .900 OPS against them. Many people also forget his 2016 campaign when he won the National League batting title, albeit half his games were played on his home ground at Coors Field.
Another positive of LeMahieu’s game is that he excels at situational hitting and he hardly strikes out, which is a rarity in the Dodgers’ lineup these days. Over the past three seasons, LeMahieu has never been fanned more than 100 times. If Dozier and Machado are included, the Dodgers had a whopping seven regular contributors who struck out more than 100 times last season, and that’s on a squad which was notorious for its platooning.
Of course, signing somebody like LeMahieu would change the landscape of the 25-man roster dramatically, as it would almost guarantee Enrique Hernandez and Chris Taylor be relegated to their current platoon/super-utility roles. And, if Max Muncy is still in the mix come Opening Day 2018, it would mean that he would likely be featured at first base with LeMahieu the regular at second, while Cody Bellinger would be getting the bulk of the reps in center field.
Regardless, for the price tag on his back right now, I think LeMahieu could be the steal of the 2018 free agent market, especially if he would sign for just two years and less than $20 million.