If there’s one thing Dodger fans know, it’s that Los Angeles will be tied to every big free agent and possible trade candidate out there this winter. Despite having just won the World Series and having one of the top teams again going into the 2021 season, there is always room for improvement.
The Dodgers are perennially tied to the Francisco Lindor trade rumors, despite having Corey Seager on the team. Last week, we discussed if the Dodgers should pursue a trade with the Chicago Cubs for Kris Bryant or Yu Darvish. And the hottest rumor right now is that the Dodgers are still big fans of hometown guy and boyhood fan Nolan Arenado.
The reason the Dodgers are tied to all of these players is that of this moment, the Boys in Blue do not have a starting third baseman. Defacto Captain Justin Turner is now a free agent, and there does not seem to be any rumors of a reunion between JT and the Dodgers.
As we all know, 2020 was unlike any other season that we’ve ever seen, with no fans in attendance and a reduced schedule. All this led to a much reduced income for all major teams, and as such, teams will likely be stingy with their free agent signings and more thoughtful about their trades.
So what if the Dodgers don’t do anything and give the starting job to Edwin Rios?
In the abbreviated 2020 season, Rios made the Opening Day and Postseason rosters. He hit eight home runs in 32 games for the Dodgers. He also swatted six doubles with a .250/.301/.645/.946 slash line. No doubt some consistent playing time would be beneficial.
The tall 27 year old has a .923 fielding percentage at third, but again, this could be something that improves with more playing time. Between his 2019 and 2020 seasons, Rios reduced his ground ball percentage from 46.2% to 33.9%. His fly ball rate also increased 21%. 14 of his 18 hits in 2020 were for extra bases.
Fangraphs and Dan Szymorski have recently released Rios’s ZiPS projection for the 2021 season. They predict him to hit 24 home runs, 20 doubles, and 76 RBI over 429 plate appearances. Rios would definitely need to work on his strikeout and walk rates. He seems to be only two of the three true outcome rule, home runs and strikeouts.
If the Dodgers don’t make any other major additions between now and next season, Rios would presumably be seeing the majority of time at the hot corner. Chris Taylor would pick up some games, as could Max Muncy in a pinch.
The Dodgers have hung on to Rios mainly for his bat, not including him in any recent trade packages. Because Rios bats from the left side, sticking with him at third would not procure the Dodgers the big right-handed bat they desire. But now could be the time to let him shine and show what he could do. Not making a big free agent signing or trade could also leave open more opportunities to extend or re-sign Seager, Cody Bellinger, and Walker Buehler.
The Dodgers have relied on their farm system moving up through the ranks, and for the most part, their farm system has become the core of the team. The emergence of Rios could be another example of that happening.