Compared to recent years, as far as the Dodgers are concerned, the 2018-19 offseason has heard more chatter about prospective signings and trades than any other. Conversations continue to swirl about a new catcher, outfielders, a second baseman, relievers, and even starting pitchers. Some of the marquee players mentioned have been Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Corey Kluber and DJ LeMahieu. However, in reality, chances are thin that the club lands more than one of these superstars. Taking that into consideration, and not knowing the team’s intended payroll budget, which area of the roster should Los Angeles prioritize the most in terms of a new addition?
We talked about this briefly in the past on the offensive side of things, but one way to shed some light on potential 2019 production is to look at the players who have departed. When we view the raw numbers that Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp and Yasmani Grandal contributed, along with those of Manny Machado and Brian Dozier (just when they were with the Dodgers), the tally comes out to a whopping 86 home runs and 278 RBI.
Amazingly, that’s 36.6% of the team’s homers and 36.7 % of the teams’s RBI from last year. For a club that depended heavily on the long ball for run production, 86 HR is a lot to lose.
For those who like to look at such things from a WAR angle, between all these players, the Dodgers lost a grand total of 9.9 overall WAR from last season—2.8 from Machado’s time as a Dodger, 3.3 from Grandal, 2.7 from Puig and 1.1 from Kemp (Dozier was a wash). In respect to oWAR alone, the total calculates to 9.8 (3.5 from Grandal, 2.1 from Kemp, 2.1 from Puig, 2.0 from Machado and 0.1 from Dozier). Needless to say, 10 games is a lot in the always unpredictable NL West.
So, as nice as another quality starting pitcher—or even another bonafide bullpen arm—would be, a logical guess is that Andrew Friedman might be most concerned with replacing the offense that he lost, especially since the starting rotation is setting up to be exactly the same as it was for the majority of last season.
Many of the math junkies out there might agree that somebody with Realmuto’s offensive prowess isn’t absolutely necessary, so long as those wins are made up for in other departments, like the hypothetical addition of Harper, who is projected to contribute a 4.9 WAR in 2019 (which is almost half of the total from the players the Dodgers lost). Yet, from a traditionalist perspective, Harper’s track record of having an off-year every other season doesn’t guarantee him producing anything more than Puig’s 2.7 WAR from last year (Harper had a 1.5 overall WAR in 2016 and a 1.3 WAR in 2018).
Coincidentally, according to Steamer and Fangraphs, Realmuto is projected to tally a 3.7 WAR in 2019 while Grandal is slated to land at 3.5. What’s more, Harper is projected at 4.9 and LeMahieu at 2.5.
Consequently, many people might be overlooking the production of Corey Seager (Andy took a look at this not long ago). While nothing is guaranteed returning from UCL surgery, Steamer has Seager pegged at a 5.7 WAR for 2019, which is actually the sixth-best in the majors.
The point is that, from a WAR perspective, with 5.7 from Seager, 2.5 from LeMahieu and 1.2 from somebody like Matt Wieters or Martin Maldonado, the team has already made up for 9.4 of the total 9.9 WAR lost. The 3.7 combined WAR from LeMahieu and Wieters, in theory, could come at about one-third the cost of Harper’s projected salary.
Furthermore, by signing such economical free agents, the team will be able to save its prospects for the summer trade deadlines to enhance the bullpen or acquire a starting pitcher, if needed. Besides, the fact that the Marlins don’t seem to be budging on their demands of Bellinger PLUS prospects, seemingly makes the addition of Realmuto implausible.
At the end of the day, a legitimate bat (right-handed, preferably) is what the team needs most, whether it be in the form of a catcher, an outfielder or a second baseman.
Starting pitching and bullpen upgrades can conceivably wait until the summer, as the outlook begins drifting towards the postseason and the possibility of squaring off against powerhouses like the Yankees, Astros or Red Sox at the end of the road.