Jan. 12, 2017
Dodgers Dilemma: Finding an Alternative Option at Second Base
After re-signing Rich Hill, Justin Turner and Kenley Jansen, the Los Angeles Dodgers seem to have one last need this offseason.
The Dodgers have been in the market for a second baseman for a while. Chase Utley was their primary second baseman last season, but had his fair share of struggles and remains unsigned. Enrique Hernandez is still around, but he battled injuries last season and struggled to the tune of a .190/.283/.324 slash line. Howie Kendrick found himself in more of a utility role last season, only starting 23 games at second. Either way, he was traded earlier this offseason to the Philadelphia Phillies for Darin Ruf and Darnell Sweeney.
The Minnesota Twins seemed to be a perfect trade partner for the Dodgers. The Twins' best player, Brian Dozier, plays second base. He's under contract for two more inexpensive years, which is a timeframe during which the Twins aren't likely to contend. During the first half of last season, Dozier's numbers were rather consistent with his career marks. However, he broke out in the second half and finished the season with career-highs in batting average (.268), slugging percentage (.546), home runs (42) and RBI (99). His bat, combined with solid baserunning (18 stolen bases in 20 attempts) and a good glove gave Dozier a 5.9 fWAR, which was the 13th-highest in the majors.
The Twins lost 103 games last season, so it makes sense for them to sell high on Dozier. The Dodgers were attached from the beginning, with a package centered around pitching prospect Jose de Leon being thrown around. There were reportedly disagreements about who would come attached with de Leon, and the deal looks to be becoming more and more unlikely via Ken Rosenthal:
Impasse on Dozier does not preclude future talks, but #Twins had wanted to give Dozier heightened peace of mind on status with club. 2/2— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 10, 2017
This leaves Minnesota with a very good second baseman and a weaker farm system. However, this leaves the Dodgers with a hole at second that still probably needs to be filled. With pitchers and catchers scheduled to report in just over a month, the Dodgers still have time to make a move.
Ian Kinsler was a rumor back before the winter meetings, but the Dodgers are on Kinsler's no-trade list. He'd reportedly be willing to waive the no-trade if the team would extend his contract, but assuming the Dodgers would exercise Kinsler's 2018 option, the extension would start during Kinsler's age-37 season. That seems unlikely, but crazier things have happened.
The Tampa Bay Rays don't appear to be in any rush to sell, but it might be worth checking in on them regarding their second baseman, Logan Forsythe. Like Dozier, Forsythe has two inexpensive years left on his contract (assuming his team option gets picked up). Forsythe also set a career-high last year with 20 home runs, but fell well short of Dozier's other numbers. He still put together a solid .264/.333/.444 slash and has played multiple positions in the past, but only played second last season. Forsythe isn't nearly the player Dozier is, but the cost to acquire him would likely be much more reasonable. The Dodgers could probably acquire Forsythe AND a solid eighth inning bullpen arm for a similar package as Dozier.
The least-talked-about and most-cost-effective target could be San Diego Padres utility man Yangervis Solarte. Solarte has only played 61 games at second in his three MLB seasons as he's primarily a third baseman. This is his first year of arbitration, so he's under team control until 2020. Solarte quietly posted a .286/.341/.467 slash last season with a career-high 15 home runs, but he doesn't offer much in terms of baserunning (two career stolen bases). He also doesn't walk or strike out a bunch (30 walks, 68 strike outs in 443 plate appearances last season). The switch-hitter doesn't have any drastic righty/lefty split, and considering the Anaheim Angels were rumored to be interested in him earlier this offseason, it shouldn't cost the Dodgers any big-name prospects.
A reunion with Utley isn't out of the question either. His veteran leadership was praised last season, and as long as he doesn't have to be an everyday player and leadoff hitter, he could be a nice addition to the roster. Hernandez needs a bounce-back year to even be a consideration. On the farm, Micah Johnson was thought to have possibly been an option, with his speed being the highlight, but he may not return after being designed for assignment to make room for Jansen. Willie Calhoun remains an intriguing prospect with a great bat, but he's reportedly a liability in the field at second. He also hasn't reached AAA yet, so it's unlikely for him to work his way into the discussion; however, Calhoun did announce that he received an invite to big-league camp.
There are other unlikely names out there. Josh Harrison could be available, but the Pirates aren't that far off from contending for a wild card spot. Brandon Philips would be perfect if it was 2011, but at this point he's just overpaid. He also has a no-trade clause that he used to prevent a trade to the Atlanta Braves.
For now, it looks like the Dodgers won't have Brian Dozier next year. The Twins (rightfully) are asking for a lot for him, and the Dodgers (rightfully) aren't going to sell the farm for a player coming off a career year that he likely won't repeat. This leaves the Dodgers with a hole at second, and don't be surprised if one of the guys in this post is manning second on Opening Day