How the Dodgers Are Quietly Winning the Offseason: A Recap

The Dodgers are masters of the unexpected. They win when many have begun to lose faith, and they cultivate talent that few knew they had. At the start of the 2017 season, we were unaware as to what kind of reliever Brandon Morrow would become, but come October, he was pitching in high-leverage situations during nearly every postseason game.

Contrary to what they seem to be, the Dodgers are not a big market team—not entirely.

Though the offseason is far from over, the Dodgers have already made moves—beneficial moves—towards a potential postseason run in 2018.

Here’s how each offseason move breaks down for the Dodgers so far:

The Logical

November 6th: Dodgers exercise $8.5 million option on Logan Forsythe:  

Of all the Dodgers’ moves this offseason, this was by far the most logical. Though Forsythe only hit six home runs in 2017, his defense at second was excellent and he had his fair share of walk-off hits. This was a simple move for the Dodgers, but one that will prove to be very beneficial.

December 16th: Braves trade OF Matt Kemp to the Dodgers for 1B Adrian Gonzalez (free agent; recently signed with the New York Mets), SP Brandon McCarthy, SP Scott Kazmir, IF Charlie Culberson, cash. 

All winter, up until this trade, the majority of the news surrounding the Dodgers was about how they wanted, and needed, to get under the luxury tax. This trade was how they did it. With new prospects coming up from the minors this season, the role that Gonzalez, McCarthy, and Kazmir would have would most likely be minimal.  This trade gives the Dodgers’ a little flexibility, as well as helps them stay under the luxury tax.

The Bold

November 5th: Dodgers decline $17.5 million option on Andre Ethier

This was the Dodgers’ first official roster move after losing the World Series on November 1st. Ethier, who had been with the team for 12 years, is adored by fans. His Dodger career spanned the course of new ownership, four managers, 1070 team wins, and 8 trips to the postseason. Declining Ethier’s option for 2018 was a bold move on the Dodgers’ part, but one that makes sense. In the two seasons in which Ethier spent the majority of on the DL, the Dodgers created a new outfield, and realistically, playing time would be minimal for Either throughout the season.

The Genius

December 15th: Dodgers sign free-agent swing-man Tom Koehler.

Koehler definitely brings versatility to the table, having the ability to pitch in any level of relief, as well as making an occasional spot start, if needed. In 2016, he posted a 9-13 record with a 4.33 ERA and 147 strikeouts after logging 176-2/3 innings over 33 starts, but his most productive year in the was 2014, when he went 10-10 with a 3.81 ERA and recorded 153 strikeouts over 32 starts and 191-1/3 innings.

January 4th: Dodgers trade RP Trevor Oaks, IF Erick Mejia to Royals for RP Scott Alexander, RP Joakim Soria

Not all trades work out. Not all trades turn out to be franchise-altering. Though this trade probably won’t change the organization, it could change the season.  In 2017, Alexander boasted a 2.48 ERA and gave up only three home runs in 58 appearances. The Dodgers lost a major talent when Morrow signed with the Chicago Cubs, but they’ve gained another with the acquisition of the Royals reliever.

January 4th: Dodgers trade RP Joakim Soria, RP Luis Avilan, cash for White Sox IF Jake Peter

The Dodgers have an extremely talented farm system. They’ve drafted players like Clayton Kershaw, Corey Seager, and Cody Bellinger. Now, through trade, they can add Peter to that list. Forsythe is a solid second baseman, but Peter stands as a fantastic backup, should they need an extra bat in the lineup. In 2017, he hit 13 home runs and boasted a .279 average. In all likelihood, Peter will start the season playing for the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate, the Oklahoma City Dodgers, but a mid-season call-up could be in the cards.

There’s plenty of time for the Dodgers to make more moves this offseason, but should the waters stay calm and quiet for the remainder of winter, the Dodgers will be perfectly fine.

(FOLLOW SARAH ON TWITTER: @SARAHMANINGER)

 

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Dodgers 40-Man Roster: Let’s Talk About Starting Pitching Depth

When the Dodgers began their regular season campaign last year, starting pitching was at such a premium that the best five pitchers on the club weren’t even in the Opening Day rotation. Lefty phenom Julio Urias began the year in extended spring training in an effort to conserve innings, while southpaw Alex Wood was forced to start his year in the big league bullpen. There was also a ton of marginal depth with arms like Brock Stewart and Trevor Oaks on the fringe, and experienced guys like Justin Masterson, Wilmer Font, Fabio Castillo and Jair Jurrjens providing depth at Triple-A Oklahoma City. There was even hope for Scott Kazmir to join the major league rotation at some point, once his ailing hip healed and he sharpened his throwing mechanics.

The beginning of the 2018 season is shaping up differently, at least at the present juncture. As it stands now, we all know the projected starting rotation. Resident ace Clayton Kershaw is the headliner, flanked by fellow left-handers Rich Hill, Wood and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Righty Kenta Maeda will be smack dab in the middle of that grouping somewhere, likely as the No. 3 or No. 4 starter.

Many pundits believe that rookie Walker Buehler will conceivably get the call should the need arise, with Stewart being a secondary option. However, should there be a crunch on the 25-man roster early, newly acquired swing man Tom Koehler could potentially garner his fair share of starts, especially if management decides to put Buehler on some type of innings limit program to save him for later in the year.

Koehler is no stranger to a big league rotation. In 2016, he posted a 9-13 record with a 4.33 ERA and 147 punchouts after logging 176-2/3 innings over 33 starts, but his most productive year in the bigs was probably 2014, when he registered a 10-10 record with a 3.81 ERA and a 3.84 FIP with 153 strikeouts over 32 starts and 191-1/3 innings. Last year, between the Marlins and the Blue Jays combined, the he made 27 appearances—13 of which were starts—before being shifted exclusively to the bullpen for the stretch run of the season.

Koehler’s contract for the upcoming year is loaded with all kinds of incentives and performance-based bonuses, but the one that jumps out the most is the money he can earn for starts. He could rake in up to $1 million altogether for games started—$250,000 each for 10, 15, 20 or 25 starts. Quite the hefty chunk of change for a $2 million base salary. There’s a good chance that Koehler will be stretched out adequately during Cactus League play, and fans shouldn’t be surprised if he’s moved into the starting rotation in the event of an early injury.

Many followers of the Dodgers still believe that the club should upgrade the starting pitching department, but there haven’t been any signs of potential acquisitions. There are still whispers about the team having discussions with free agent righty Yu Darvish, but if the front office was indeed intent on adding another arm, the best bet could have been dealing for Gerrit Cole, who is set to make only $6.75 million in 2018, and was snagged by the Astros for a handful of marginal prospects, at best. There are a few decent starting pitchers remaining on the free agent market; however, all indications from GM Farhan Zaidi suggest the team may be content with the pitchers they have in-house.

“There’s a high bar for us,” Zaidi explained recently. “We can’t just go out and add average players and expect to improve a 104-win team. It’s a delicate balance, and I think one of the things we’re trying to make sure of is creating some continuity with a team that had so much success last year, and let’s just try to add around the edges if we can.”

So, as far as the depth goes for starting pitchers, Koehler could be the highest on the depth chart, followed by Stewart. And if all goes well for Buehler in the early goings of his campaign, there could be a shot he’s cemented in the big league rotation to stay by the summer months.

Nevertheless, if we look at things from another angle, it wouldn’t be surprising if Andrew Friedman and his troops make one or two signings to bolster the Triple-A starting pitching depth, similar to the roles that Masterson, Font and Castillo played last year. Or, for all we know, Koehler may actually transition into the super-reliable eighth-inning guy which Dodger fans crave, while somebody like Dennis Santana, Yadier Alvarez or Mitchell White emerges from the depths of the farm to make a major league impact in some shape or form.

Either way, fans can be assured that by season’s end the Dodgers will have a top-notch product on the diamond in a quest to haul in their sixth-straight NL West divisional crown.

 

Dodgers 25-Man Roster Projections for 2018: The Extra-Early Winter Edition

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(Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports)

For those of you who are frequent visitors to our site, you’ll already know that we’ve always been keen on putting together plenty of posts featuring 25-man roster projections for the Dodgers, especially long before players report to camp. This winter is no different. As it stands now, there are exactly 47 days before pitchers and catchers convene in the clubhouse at Camelback Ranch, and if the player personnel stays relatively the same, we can easily put together a somewhat accurate roster prediction right now—at least for the sake of building a foundation.

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Dodgers 2018 Roster: The Time Could Be Now for Max Muncy

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(Mandatory Credit: Kelley L. Cox/USA TODAY Sports)

When considering the few holes in the Dodgers‘ prospective 25-man roster for the upcoming season, many fans are quick to point out the needs for starting pitching, bullpen help or even some type of power bat in the middle of the lineup. However, we’ve been talking for a few months about the potential requirement for a left-handed hitting middle infielder, most specifically a body to pair with Logan Forsythe at second base.

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Some Preliminary Thoughts on the 2018 Oklahoma City Starting Rotation

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(Mandatory Credit: Nate Billings/The Oklahoman)

As most Triple-A rosters normally don’t start taking shape until later in the spring when the big league squads become firm, it’s probably a bit too early to take a stab at guessing Oklahoma City‘s 2018 Opening Day starting pitching rotation. However, with the departure of veterans Brandon McCarthy and Scott Kazmir last weekend, the major league rotation is developing earlier than usual, giving us at least some kind of idea as to how most of the system’s starting pitchers fit onto the organizational ladder.

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Dodgers Claim Utility Man Angelo Mora at Winter Meetings

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While the Dodgers didn’t have much interest in participating in the big league portion of the Rule 5 draft on Thursday morning, they did take part in the minor league part of the draft, eventually claiming utility man Angelo Mora before the Winter Meetings came to a close.

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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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Dodgers Roster: Trying to Make Sense of the 2018 Outfield Picture

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(Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports)

It’s only November, and already many fans of the Dodgers have been trying to put together an outfield plan for the upcoming 2018 campaign. We are guilty of it, too—over the last few weeks we have talked about where Chris Taylor fits into next year’s roster strategy, in addition to discussing how Andrew Toles returns from a severed ACL. Anything can happen over the next few months, especially with the Winter Meetings approaching; but based on what we know right now, we decided to attempt to paint a picture of what may lie ahead.

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Dodgers Prospects: A Look Back at the 2017 Tulsa Drillers Starting Rotation

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(Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Davis)

Very rarely is an entire Double-A starting pitching rotation filled with players who have the potential of landing in the big leagues. Yet, the 2017 Tulsa Drillers had that type of talent and much, much more. After the promotion of several key members to Triple-A Oklahoma City, the organization brought in another handful of starters from High-A Rancho Cucamonga—a group who unbelievably may have had more talent than the original starting crew.

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A Quick Glance at the Dodgers’ Organizational Depth at Catcher

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(Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson/USA TODAY Sports)

While there aren’t an overwhelming number of trade rumors surrounding the Dodgers as this winter’s hot stove approaches, there has been a bit of conjecture regarding catcher Yasmani Grandal and whether or not he’ll last the entire season in Los Angeles.

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