Last night’s offensive outburst was a whole lot of fun, but it came with a price, and it’s made one thing extremely clear: As the trade season heats up, adding David Price or another starting pitcher is not the biggest issue this team needs to address. Replacing Chris Perez and Paul Maholm with an addition to the bullpen isn’t, either. No, I think it’s pretty obvious what the biggest issue is:
The infield depth absolutely needs to be improved.
(Whoa! Big fun blue header.)
If it wasn’t clear before last night’s game, then it’s abundantly so now, given that Justin Turner‘s injured hamstring is likely to send him to the disabled list — Carlos Triunfel was a late scratch from Albuquerque’s game and is almost certainly headed to Los Angeles to replace Turner — and that Hanley Ramirez‘ calf injury is just the latest in a myriad of physical woes. Even if Ramirez avoids the disabled list, he absolutely cannot be trusted, it’s hard to count on 35-year-old Juan Uribe to stay healthy all year since he’s already had leg issues of his own, and Chone Figgins, who also can’t really be counted upon, is already out with a quad injury that has no return ETA.
Which leaves you with Triunfel, who is a Quad-A player at best, Miguel Rojas, who seems like a nice enough guy but is proving he can’t hit well enough to be more than a decent defensive replacement, and… Jamie Romak? Maybe Alex Guerrero in August sometime, since we still don’t know when he’s going to get back in a game despite recent reports of his improvement, and with huge open questions about what position he plays? (Dee Gordon has done more than enough to keep his job, and no, Gordon isn’t going back to shortstop.) Erisbel Arruebarrena, who may not be an improvement over Rojas right now and is best served playing every day in the minors? Walter Ibarra, who I’m including here only to say that I wrote his name once?
This is not how a team expecting to contend for a championship can go forward as far as the left side of the infield goes. No one can replace Ramirez when he’s unavailable, but praying that he and Uribe stay healthy, or starting Romak & Triunfel at the same time, is simply not the answer. The Dodgers must invest in an insurance policy here, and if even if everyone miraculously stays healthy, then you’ve improved your overall bench strength.
It’s a bit of a complicated question. Barring a very severe injury to Ramirez, you can’t go out and get a full-time shortstop who doesn’t play anywhere else like Alexei Ramirez or Asdrubal Cabrera or Jimmy Rollins, not that those guys are all available anyway. You could get a full-time third baseman, I suppose, but Uribe has been productive enough that benching him doesn’t seem ideal; besides, the two best free-agent-to-be third basemen both play in the NL West. The Giants certainly aren’t sending Pablo Sandoval this way, and Chase Headley has been awful. What you really need is someone who can play solid defense at multiple positions and not be a zero with the bat, and maybe that’s Ben Zobrist, although he will be expensive, isn’t a third baseman and isn’t really a shortstop any longer; as much as I hate to say it, what you need is someone like Nick Punto, although it terrifies me that might just mean “Cliff Pennington.” Perhaps the Cubs would move Luis Valbuena, who can play second and third and has been a league-average hitter over the last two years (and much better than that this year), but his lefty-swinging profile doesn’t make him a great platoon fit with Gordon at second.
Anyway, we can toss around names, and we will — this is obviously a topic we’re going to get into with more depth as over the coming weeks as the trade deadline approaches. There’s surely other possibilities, and maybe more to come as teams decide they can’t make a playoff run this year. For now, who it is may be less important than that fact that it has to be the main focus of the July trading season. As we’ve learned all too well, simply hoping that injury-prone players stay healthy isn’t good enough.