OK, now that we’ve acknowledged that, let’s see which available players might fit that criteria. Remember, the Dodgers have — at some point this offseason — been connected to the following right-handed hitters: Jose Abreu, Nick Castellanos, Brian Dozier, DJ LeMahieu, Jose Martinez, A.J. Pollock, and J.T. Realmuto.
Impact Right-Handed Bats
Jose Abreu – .265/.325/.473, .208 ISO, 114 wRC+, 1.2 WAR
Outside of Manny Machado, he might be the best hitter in this lot. He fell off a bit in 2018, as he posted a career-low mark in wRC+ and wOBA (.337). He’s set for free agency following the upcoming season.
Xander Bogaerts – .288/.360/.522, .234 ISO, 133 wRC+, 4.9 WAR
Bogaerts, fresh off a championship, had been floated out by the Red Sox as being available, but it’d take a remarkable package of players/prospects to get him out of Beantown. The best could still be yet to come for the 26-year-old. It’d take some shuffling to acquire Bogaerts, who isn’t exactly the best defensive shortstop. Sticking him at second base could be interesting, but that could depress his value going into free agency next winter.
Nelson Cruz – .256/.342/.509, .252 ISO, 134 wRC+, 2.5 WAR
Cruz might be the most consistent hitter available, but there are a couple reasons why he’d be a tough fit in the NL: age (38) and defensive limitations. He has logged just 54 1/3 defensive innings (total) over the last two seasons. He hasn’t played more than 600 innings in the outfield since 2013. Hard to see a fit here.
Manny Machado – .297/.367/.538, .241 ISO, 141 wRC+, 6.2 WAR
Remember him? Yes, he’s a true impact bat, but it doesn’t appear there’s any interest on either side of him coming back. A poor postseason (no, I’m not talking about the incredibly overblown Johnny Hustle stuff) may have left a sour taste in the Dodgers’ mouth. Oh, and he’s going to sign for a bajillion dollars with either the Phillies, White Sox or Yankees.
A.J. Pollock – .257/.316/.484, .228 ISO, 110 wRC+, 2.5 WAR
This is the most recent rumor involving the Dodgers. The former Diamondback is immensely talented, but he has a tough time staying healthy. He has just one season with more than 500 plate appearances and he hasn’t been able to match (or come close to) his 2015 production (even rate-wise), as he has just a 105 wRC+ and just 237 games played over the last three seasons. He’d also cost the Dodgers the No. 31 pick in the upcoming MLB Draft and $500,000 of international spending money. Doesn’t really seem worth it.
J.T. Realmuto – .277/.340/.484, .208 ISO, 126 wRC+, 4.8 WAR
While he’s not the biggest bat available, he’s an impact bat because he plays catcher. He’s probably the best offensive catcher in the game right now and is two years away from free agency. He’s coming off a career-year and could continue that level of production going forward. The Dodgers have been linked to him frequently, especially since the Braves, Mets and Nationals have apparently dropped out of the sweepstakes.
Solid Right-Handed Bats
Nick Castellanos – .298/.354/.500, .202 ISO, 130 wRC+, 3.0 WAR
An argument could be made that the soon-to-be 27-year-old belongs in the “impact” group, but he’s coming off a career year in 2018 and has next to no defensive value. The rumors involving he and the Dodgers are a bit puzzling because of that. Still, he’s a good hitter who could be on the verge of a more pronounced breakout. But replacing Puig with him seems — at best — like a lateral move.
Brian Dozier – .215/.305/.391, .175 ISO, 90 wRC+, 0.8 WAR
Dozier was a disappointment when he came over from the Twins at the trade deadline. He hit just .182/.300/.350 in 170 plate appearances with the Dodgers. It was his worst full season as an MLB player and he could be ripe for a rebound next season (especially considering his production in the previous four seasons). Still, he’d be a less-than-exciting offseason acquisition.
Jedd Gyorko – .262/.346/.416, .154 ISO, 110 wRC+, 1.4 WAR
The Dodger killer may not actually be available, but he’s two years away from free agency and the Cardinals’ acquisition of Paul Goldschmidt could potentially limit Gyorko’s playing time. He wouldn’t be a starter for the Dodgers, either, but with his positional versatility, they could find some plate appearances for him.
Josh Harrison – .250/.293/.363, .113 ISO, 78 wRC+, 0.3 WAR
Harrison has never been that great a hitter, and his 2018 season left a lot to be desired. But the fact he can play a couple different positions could make him somewhat attractive to the Dodgers. Still, he wouldn’t be an upgrade over what the have in-house, so I’m guessing he’s not a real contender here.
DJ LeMahieu – .276/.321/.428, .152 ISO, 86 wRC+, 2.0 WAR
LeMahieu is a guy I identified as a potential target early in the offseason. He’s coming off a weird season in which he saw his power increase but overall production was down. He made up for it a bit by playing some of the best defensive second base in baseball. The Dodgers have been linked to him more than almost any other player this offseason, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he were the “winner” here.
Jose Martinez – .305/.364/.457, .152 ISO, 125 wRC+, 2.3 WAR
Another curious rumor link, Martinez is out of spots to play in St. Louis with the addition of Goldschmidt. He really belongs in the American League, but the Dodgers have reportedly shown some interest in him. He could be part of a 3-way deal or a flip situation, but he’s a good hitter who would likely force the Dodgers to play Max Muncy a lot at second base. He’d also make David Freese a bit redundant, so I’m not expecting Martinez to be a Dodger anytime soon.
Meh Right-Handed Bats
None of these guys are terribly appealing. Davidson, after a hot start (.984 OPS in April), cooled off considerably and was non-tendered by the White Sox. He has expressed a desire to be used as a reliever, so maybe that makes him just a tad more attractive to the Dodgers (but probably not). Gattis has good power but not much else. He had a 99 wRC+ and has played a total of five defensive innings in the last two seasons. Garcia had a great 2017 season (137 wRC+) but failed to post even a league-average wRC+ in 2018 (92). He benefited greatly from an unsustainable .392 BABIP in ’17, so regression was coming. Also, he’s a not much of a defender in right field. Jones is a free-swinger (3.9 BB% in ’18, 4.4 for his career) and has seen his numbers trend the wrong direction since 2015. He has reverse platoon splits for his career, so he wouldn’t make a ton of sense for what the Dodgers are looking for.
There are only a few guys who truly fit the “impact” label who hit from the right side. With Freese, Enrique Hernandez, Chris Taylor and Justin Turner, the Dodgers have a few right-handed hitters. If Austin Barnes hits even at a league-average clip in 2019, that’d be a big help, too. But of all the guys listed above, the best fit might be Realmuto, who would knock out two needs. The Marlins’ asking price needs to come down (and it will as the winter progresses) for anything to happen.
Corey Seager coming back will help against lefties. Cody Bellinger having a winter to improve against lefties should help, too. Honestly, this search for a right-handed hitter is a bit overblown. If the Dodgers truly wanted an impact right-handed bat, they should have just kept Kemp and/or Puig and focused on improving other areas of the team. If they want an everyday right-handed hitter, they should throw all the money at Machado and not a guy like Bryce Harper. If they want to sign Pollock, they’d be taking a big risk.
In the end, trading for Realmuto and signing Harper would probably be the easiest solution. Yes, Harper isn’t right-handed, but he’s one of the most dangerous hitters in the game. Realmuto is the best offensive catcher in the game and would provide a nice boost from the right side. If they’re hellbent on the hitter being right-handed, then maybe the Pollock rumors are a little more legitimate than first expected.
Either way, the Dodgers aren’t done making moves this winter. It should be an interesting next month or so.