SAN DIEGO — The Dodgers have made significant splashes in each of the past three offseasons, but baseball operations president Andrew Friedman and his company have been quiet this winter, at least for now.
When the Dodgers came to winter meetings this week, they were tied with just about every top free agent on the market. But with Justin Verlander going to the Mets, Aaron Judge returning to the Yankees and a few other targets off the board, the Dodgers need to get a little more creative to improve the roster.
Just because the busy days in San Diego are over doesn’t mean the Dodgers don’t have time to get better. Los Angeles has managed to find under-the-radar moves that are making an impact in big ways, see Tyler Anderson and Andrew Heaney.
Let’s see where things stand when winter arrives.
1. Beginning of pitching: It’s no secret that Verlander was the Dodgers’ first pick in the free-agent market. Acquiring a frontline starter like Verlander would have made Los Angeles much better. With Verlander off the board and no other ace-level starters on the Dodgers’ radar (they’re not in Carlos Rodón), they need to focus on other options via trade or a free hand.
The Brewers have previously said they are not looking to handle Corbin Burnes or Brandon Woodruff, two pitchers who would have been easy fixes for the Dodgers. In the free-agent market, the Dodgers could be looking to take a chance on a pitcher who hasn’t had recent success, but one that is trending up.
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.
2nd field player: The Dodgers had hoped to find a way to bring Cody Bellinger back, but that was never going to be easy after failing to write him out three weeks ago. League interest for the 2019 National League Most Valuable Player was high, and the Dodgers didn’t want to pay him $17.5 million.
With Bellinger moving to the Cubs, the Dodgers will now be looking for an outfielder, preferably a midfielder, who plays solid defense, which Bellinger brought to the table. Brandon Nimmo is the best free agent center fielder out there, but the Dodgers probably won’t 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. Short stop: Trea Turner is headed to Philadelphia, a result the Dodgers have long awaited. It will be the Dodgers’ third starting shortstop in three seasons.
Right now, the most likely scenario is Gavin Lux slipping over and taking on shortstop duties, at least to get the season started. Lux’s position as a prospect was shortstop, and the Dodgers are really confident going into the season with him in that position. After playing behind Turner and Corey Seager, Lux deserves a look.
Brewer’s shortstop Willy Adames makes perfect sense for the Dodgers, and there’s a lot of interest there, but Milwaukee is reluctant to buy their star shortstop.
Rule 5 Draft
The Dodgers went into the Rule 5 draft knowing they were unlikely to make a major league selection, but they fully expected some of their prospects to be selected, and they were .
Three picks saw the Dodgers lose 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 who was not selected was outfielder Jose Ramos, the organization’s eighth prospect, according to MLB Pipeline.
In the minor league, the Dodgers selected right-hander Yon Castro from the Yankees, right-hander Carlo Reyes from the Phillies, and outfielder Josh Stowers from the Rangers.
There will be a youth movement this season and it all starts with Miguel Vargas who will play a bigger role this season. Miller and Stone are also asked to come forward. The Dodgers pride themselves on having a strong farming system. It will be used this season.
“It’s such a talented group as I’ve seen,” said general manager Brandon Gomes. “Now it’s about finding time for them without putting too much pressure on them. … It’s a very diverse group.”