Jan. 25, 2017
Dodgers Reaction: There's still work to do after Forsythe trade
With Monday's swap of Jose De Leon for Logan Forsythe, the Los Angeles Dodgers sent a message: they're no longer satisfied with simply earning a spot in the playoffs. They want to win a World Series and they want to win now.
Otherwise, they would have simply held onto De Leon - a very good pitching prospect with six years of control left - and found a less costly way to address their need at second base. That would have likely meant re-signing Chase Utley, a great clubhouse presence but a 38-year-old shell of the All-Star he once was. Even with some sort of weak Utley/Enrique Hernandez/Chris Taylor combination at second, the Dodgers would still be the heavy favorites to win their fifth straight National League West title.
Forsythe is definitely an upgrade, but he's only had two years of being a solid everyday player. My colleague Alex Campos wrote that swapping De Leon for a good-but-not-great second baseman could bite the Dodgers in the end. I'll go one step further and say that in a vacuum, the Dodgers will probably lose this trade.
However, this trade wasn't made in a vacuum.
The Dodgers are still nearly 30 years removed from their last World Series appearance, and they're coming off four straight heartbreaking playoff losses. So they looked at their their biggest weaknesses: lack of production at second base, inability to hit left-handed pitching, and no clear option at the leadoff spot. Then they went out and got a right-handed hitting second baseman who has spent the majority of his career leading off.
The Dodgers want to get rid of any vulnerability they have, not because they couldn't already make another trip to the playoffs, but because they want to be ready for what's waiting there. In order to truly strengthen their team for October, however, the Dodgers have one more weakness to address. It's a familiar one: the bullpen.
The Dodgers avoided disaster when Kenley Jansen chose to return to the Dodgers for less money in free agency than he was offered elsewhere, ensuring that the team would hold onto one of the most reliable closers in baseball. Other than Jansen, however, most of the members of the Dodgers' excellent 2016 bullpen have question marks. Adam Liberatore, who set a team record for consecuitive scoreless appearences, is recovering from elbow surgery. Setup man Joe Blanton is still a free agent. Grant Dayton has potential but has thrown less than 30 MLB innings. Pedro Baez is Pedro Baez.
There are ways the Dodgers can address this internally, such as using Alex Wood and Ross Stripling as relievers if they're not needed in the rotation. They still have an abundance of pitching in the minor leagues too, and some of that can also be put in the bullpen if the starting depth holds. Or they could turn some of that prospect depth into a quality relief arm, such as David Robertson or Nate Jones of the White Sox.
The best option, however, is to do what worked last year and stock up on cheap free agents in the hope of finding another gem or three. Former Royals closer Greg Holland is still on the market, bit it doesn't sound like the Dodgers are interested, via Ken Rosenthal and Jon Heyman:
Sources: #Dodgers, if they sign another reliever, will not go beyond one year. Could take them out of Holland market if he wants multi-year.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 12, 2016
Free agent closer Greg Holland is seeking an unusual two-year deal with a one-year opt-out that could allow him to re-test a free agent market that showed a strong affinity for closers this winter.
That leaves Blanton along with righty Sergio Romo and lefties Jerry Blevins and Boone Logan and as relievers who could fit the Dodgers. Blanton seems like the best fit, but betting on a reliever with history like his to repeat an excellent season is risky to say the least. Romo's a bounce-back candidate after a rough year with that team up north, but seeing him in Dodger blue would take some getting used to. Blevins, who's also on the Dodgers' radar per Rosenthal, can get both righties and lefties out.
The Dodgers may have addressed their most glaring needs with the Forsythe trade, but they're not out of the woods yet. We've seen how a shaky bullpen can destroy a franchise's playoff hopes (2014, anyone?) and the Dodgers have come too far this winter to let that happen again. This team still needs a few upgrades before it's ready for another season of championship contention, but the good news is that there's still time between now and spring training to fix that.