SAN DIEGO — The Dodgers have made significant splashes in each of the last three offseasons, but president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and company have been quiet this winter, at least for now.
Coming into the Winter Meetings this week, the Dodgers were linked to just about every top free agent on the market. But with Justin Verlander going to the Mets, Aaron Judge going back to the Yankees and a couple other targets off the board, the Dodgers are going to have to get a little more creative in order to improve the roster.
Just because the busy few days in San Diego are over doesn’t mean the Dodgers don’t have time to get better. Los Angeles has thrived at finding under-the-radar moves that pan out in a big way, see Tyler Anderson and Andrew Heaney.
With that being said, let’s see where things stand as the winter rolls on.
1. Starting pitching: There’s no secret Verlander was the Dodgers’ top choice on the free-agent market. Acquiring a frontline starter like Verlander would’ve significantly improved Los Angeles. With Verlander off the board and no other ace-level starter on the Dodgers’ radar (they’re not in on Carlos Rodón), they’ll have to pivot to some other options via trade or free agency.
The Brewers have already said they’re not looking to deal Corbin Burnes or Brandon Woodruff, two pitchers that would’ve been easy fixes for the Dodgers. In the free-agent market, the Dodgers could look to take a chance on a pitcher that hasn’t had the most recent success but one with upside.
Los Angeles will also rely on young starters like Michael Grove, Ryan Pepiot and eventually, Bobby Miller and Gavin Stone, the top two pitching prospects in the organization.
2. Outfielder: The Dodgers were hoping to find a way to bring Cody Bellinger back, but that was never going to be easy after they non-tendered him just three weeks ago. The interest around the league for the 2019 National League Most Valuable Player was significant, and the Dodgers were not going to pay him $17.5 million.
With Bellinger off to the Cubs, the Dodgers will now look for an outfielder, preferably a center fielder that plays solid defense, which is what Bellinger brought to the table. Brandon Nimmo is the best free agent center fielder on the market, but the Dodgers aren’t likely to give him the money or years he’s looking for. Kevin Kiermaier could be an interesting option. Both sides are interested, but some hurdles remain.
3. Shortstop: Trea Turner is on his way to Philadelphia, a result that has long been expected by the Dodgers. It’ll be the third starting shortstop for the Dodgers in three seasons.
Right now, the most likely scenario is that Gavin Lux will slide over and handle the shortstop duties, at least to start the season. Lux’s position as a prospect was shortstop, and the Dodgers genuinely feel confident with starting the season with him at the position. After playing behind Turner and Corey Seager, Lux is deserving of a look.
Brewers shortstop Willy Adames makes perfect sense for the Dodgers, and there’s plenty of interest there, but Milwaukee has been reluctant to shop their star shortstop.
Rule 5 Draft
The Dodgers went into the Rule 5 Draft knowing it was unlikely they would make a selection in the Major League portion, but they were fully expecting some of their prospects to get chosen and that was the case.
Through three picks, the Dodgers lost two players: 1B/OF Ryan Noda to the A’s and left-hander Jose Hernandez to the Pirates. Fifteen picks later, the Dodgers also lost right-hander Gus Varland to the Brewers. One prospect that wasn’t selected was outfielder Jose Ramos, the organization’s No. 8 prospect, according to MLB Pipeline.
In the Minor League portion, the Dodgers selected right-hander Yon Castro from the Yankees, right-hander Carlo Reyes from the Phillies and outfielder Josh Stowers from the Rangers.
GM’s bottom line
There’s going to be a youth movement this season, and it’ll all start with Miguel Vargas, who will have an increased role this season. Miller and Stone will also be asked to step up. The Dodgers pride themselves on having a strong farm system. It’ll be put to use this season.
“It’s as talented of a group as I’ve seen,” general manager Brandon Gomes said. “Now it’s about finding time for them without putting too much pressure on them. … It’s a very versatile group.”