Dodgers 2018 Roster: Let’s Start Building a Bullpen

Now that the winter hot stove is finally beginning to heat up, many followers of the Dodgers are wondering if the Los Angeles management crew will make any significant moves to bolster the club’s roster before pitchers and catchers report to Camelback Ranch in just a few short months.

Some fans of the team believe that an immediate starting pitching upgrade is in order, but president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman believes he already has the depth in place to succeed, at least for the early portion of the year. Others feel that the addition of a power-hitting outfielder should be considered, despite a career year from Yasiel Puig, the imminent return of Andrew Toles, and the prospective shift of Cody Bellinger to the outfield when veteran Adrian Gonzalez returns to the lineup next spring.

Yet, when looking at all the different areas of next season’s 40-man roster, the biggest gray area of all could be the bullpen. Righty Brandon Morrow has been snagged by the Cubs, which was tough news to swallow for many fans, at least from a sentimental perspective. Southpaw Tony Watson is being courted by a handful of teams, as it’s just a matter of time before he signs a deal elsewhere.

In the meantime, while names such as Wade Davis, Greg Holland, Mike Minor and Jake McGee have been linked to the Dodgers in some shape or form, Friedman appears content with the core crew that he already has in place. On Tuesday, he told Ken Gurnick that Yimi Garcia and Tony Cingrani can conceivably pick up the slack left by Morrow. What’s more, Friedman told Alanna Rizzo that the team’s luxury tax number will not exceed $237 million in 2018, in essence guaranteeing a lower payroll for the upcoming campaign.

And while all of this sounds like bad news to Dodger fans, let’s not forget the foundation which the Dodgers already have in place. The real spending happened last winter with the signings of Kenley Jansen and Justin Turner, who Friedman and his crew found paramount to bring back in order to succeed. Jansen had yet another outstanding season, and will return to the relief crew next year more determined than ever to bring home a World Championship.

Friedman and his bunch are quite adept in building successful bullpens, and oftentimes the construction takes a bit of time to shape itself. If you remember last spring, Josh Fields wasn’t included on the Opening Day roster, while Morrow was stashed away in the confines of Triple-A Oklahoma City until late May. Furthermore, in early April, Chris Hatcher and newly acquired Sergio Romo were considered the chief eighth-inning guys. So if any year was a legitimate example of a successful mid-season overhaul, it was certainly 2018.

As far as the returning pieces go, joining Jansen is Garcia, he of the high spin rate, who agreed to a one-year, $630,000 contract a few weeks back. The 27-year-old righty was part of the Dodgers’ bullpen in 2014-16, going 3-5 with one save, a 3.12 ERA and 0.95 WHIP while striking out 81 in 75 innings. However, he missed all of 2017 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, and it could take some time before he’s back in full swing.

Cingrani was tendered a contract by the club on December 1, meaning he’ll have a deal in place at the beginning of the year, whether it be by mutual agreement or salary arbitration.

Pedro Baez promises to be back with a vengeance after being left off both the NLCS and World Series rosters. Baez had a sub-1.40 ERA through the end of July last season, but began to unravel later in the summer. By the end of the year, whether it was because of strain from all the innings or a problem with mechanics or even a mental approach, the former third baseman didn’t have much to contribute. He certainly has the potential, though, and hopefully with a few tweaks can return to the form we saw early last season.

Fields returned from the depths of OKC to post a 2.84 ERA with a 0.965 WHIP and collect 57 strikeouts over an even 57 innings of work.

Also returning are Luis Avilan, Ross Stripling, along with a potential re-emergence of Adam Liberatore, who hasn’t pitched since last May. The biggest X-factor in the bullpen could be righty Kenta Maeda, who, although Friedman has said the club has intentions of using him as a starter, certainly proved during the 2017 postseason he has the skills to effectively deliver in the relief corps.

There’s still some depth in the minors, headlined by righty swing-man Brock Stewart, lefty specialist Edward Paredes, as well as the flame-throwing phenom Walker Buehler. Southpaw Julio Urias could return later in the season, and could conceivably contribute in relief in some fashion. Additionally, hard-throwing righty Dennis Santana was just added to the 40-man, and with his wicked sinker, triple-digit fastball, and deceiving splitter, could be an option at some point. Highly coveted prospect Yadier Alvarez could finally receive some consideration as well. If he’s still available to the Dodgers after this week, right-hander Joe Broussard definitely has the makeup to succeed at the big league level.

And the end of the day, even if Friedman and his troops walk away from the winter meetings empty-handed, there’s still a lot to choose from when building a bullpen behind Jansen. And even if there are still a few gray areas when Opening Day rolls around in April, there’s a whole seven months to make adjustments, including both of the trade deadlines in the middle of the summer. The opportunities to deal down the road may actually prove to be better than what’s available right now.

(FOLLOW DENNIS ON TWITTER: @THINKBLUEPC)

 

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Dodgers Front Office Taking Conservative Approach, and That’s OK

Baseball’s Winter Meetings start today, and the Dodgers have yet to make any moves. For a team that had the best record in baseball last year, and were one win a way from winning it all, that wouldn’t normally be a big concern. To the Los Angeles front office, I’m sure it isn’t. With fans, it’s probably a different story.

The Dodgers were rumored to be in on both of the two biggest offseason moves, the signing of Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani, and trading for reigning NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton. As we know, neither of those ended up happening. Ohtani went to the cross town Anaheim Angels, and the New York Yankees were the ones who decided to take on most of Stanton’s contract and make that trade.

In reality, fans of the Dodgers probably knew that neither of these would actually happen. Ohtani is better suited for an American League team, and the front office has made it well known that they are looking to reduce payroll, not increase it, as would have happened if they assumed the contract of Stanton. Despite the fact that Stanton made it known that his preference was to play for his hometown team, and as much as we all wanted to see his bat in that lineup, his contract was just too much.

The one that hurts the most though, is Brandon Morrow. Sunday he signed a two year deal with the Chicago Cubs to be their closer, a contract reportedly worth $21M. Morrow turned his career around last season with the Dodgers, and was stellar in the postseason, pitching in every game but one. It’s hurts to see a guy like that go, but again, the Dodgers were unlikely to spend that much on an eighth inning guy, especially when there’s no guarantee that he will be as good as he was this year. Regardless, good for Brandon for getting his money, and best of luck to him.

It is assumed that the Dodgers will stay quiet this week at the Winter Meetings. It is good to remind oneself that the Dodgers had the best record in baseball last year, and almost won the World Series. It’s easy to think that because that happened, the Dodgers should go all in and make sure that this year, they actually DO win the World Series, especially when one looks around the league and sees other teams bolstering their teams in big, splashy ways. Or not even in splashy ways, but just by simply addressing needs early on. But that’s not how this front office works.

I stated in a previous article that this team has the luxury of waiting the market out, and that’s what they’ll do. They will not mortgage the future for a better chance next year. And let’s not forget that at the end of the 2018 season, Clayton Kershaw can opt out of his contract. Also, other contracts will be off the books, such as Adrian Gonzalez, Scott Kazmir and Brandon McCarthy. There are bigger opportunities down the road—Bryce Harper will be a free agent then. There are many things to plan for monetarily wise in the future, and when you already have a very solid core of players, you can afford to play the waiting game.

Still, moves will be made, albeit probably not splashy ones. The Dodgers could use another starting pitcher or two. Even though they have a plethora of outfielders, they still could make a move for a different Marlins player, as rumor have recently surfaced with Los Angeles and Miami talking about Marcel Ozuna. Both Yimi Garcia and Pedro Baez will be back healthy next season, so maybe the call for an eighth inning guy isn’t as loud as we think. The front office has already shown a great propensity for finding really good players for not a lot of payout on their end, and we as fans should continue to give them the benefit of the doubt.

(FOLLOW ANDY ON TWITTER: @DODGERSANDYINPA)

 

Dodgers 2018 Payroll: To Spend or Not to Spend?

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(Mandatory Credit: John Minchillo/Associated Press)

Now that the two biggest headliners of the winter’s hot stove market—Shohei Ohtani and Giancarlo Stanton—have made their respective 2018 destinations known, baseball fans can shift their attention to the Winter Meetings on Sunday, and start considering the secondary wave of available players, which really should have never been secondary at all.

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Giancarlo Stanton to Dodgers Starting to Seem More Plausible

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(Mandatory Credit: Jason Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports)

A little bit ago I wrote about how it seemed very unlikely that Giancarlo Stanton would be a member of the Dodgers in 2018. While it is still far from fruition, it does seem more plausible than it did a few weeks ago.

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Recalling Five of the Worst Trades in Dodgers Recent History

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(Photo Credit: NY Post)

With the MLB hot stove season about to heat up during the winter meetings this weekend in Orlando, many fans across Dodgertown are envisioning a few potential trade scenarios, and can’t help but recollect some of the more disappointing deals in the history of the Los Angeles Dodgers franchise.

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Winter Meetings Could Finally Shift 2017-18 Offseason into Full Gear

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Yu Darvish has been traded to the Dodgers.” It’s a statement that rang throughout baseball at about 1:15PM PST on July 31st, 2017. As fans waited anxiously by their TVs and laptops, phones in hand refreshing Twitter and watching MLB Network, news arrived like a gentle snow in the middle of January.

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Dodgers Rumors: The Latest on Giancarlo Stanton and Shohei Ohtani

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(UPI Photo)

Normally, when baseball’s Winter Meetings are less than a week from their commencement, speculation surrounding free agent signings and potential trades of dozens of players are swirling like crazy around the baseball blogosphere. However, this year seems to have a bit of a different flavor, as most of the news around the league is about  two players only—Giancarlo Stanton and Shohei Ohtani.

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Do the Dodgers Even Need to Deal Yasmani Grandal at All?

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The Yasmani Grandal trade rumors began as far back as the beginning of the 2017 playoffs, when the management crew of the Dodgers started to make clear that Austin Barnes was the preferred catcher of choice for the postseason, and perhaps the chief catcher moving forward. Now that Grandal is ready to embark on his walk-year, everyone around baseball is anticipating that Los Angeles will deal the 29-year-old switch-hitter before the deadlines this summer.

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Stanton Wants to Play for Dodgers, and a Trade Is Starting to Make Sense

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(Mandatory Credit: Carolyn Kaster/AP)

Get ready, Dodger fans, a trade for Giancarlo Stanton might be the spark the Dodgers need to win the World Series in 2018. Picture this: Stanton in left, Chris Taylor in center, and Yasiel Puig in right. Should this dream outfield become a reality, the Dodgers will have flipped the script of the 2018 season.

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Dodgers Roster: Outlining the Biggest Holes Heading into 2018

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(Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports)

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.

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