What if the Dodgers don’t land Bryce Harper, Corey Kluber or J.T. Realmuto?

We’ve written many a word about potential roster moves we’d like to see this offseason. So far, things have been relatively quiet outside of trading away Yasiel Puig and Alex Wood (and Matt Kemp and Kyle Farmer) and signing Joe Kelly.

The Dodgers have been linked to some of the biggest names on the market — specifically, Bryce Harper, Corey Kluber and J.T. Realmuto. We (fans) want two of them when one of them might be more realistic. But what if the Dodgers don’t get any of them? What happens then?

Well, I’d be kinda mad online if they failed to land at least one of the trio above. And in only one scenario would it truly be the Dodgers’ fault (signing Harper).

Here’s what the Dodgers still need to sort out this winter:

Catcher

If Realmuto isn’t attainable, the Dodgers have to do something. Austin Barnes could still part of the solution, even after struggling mightily in 2018. But there would need to be another decent catcher brought in. Rocky Gale just isn’t gonna cut it and Keibert Ruiz and Will Smith won’t be ready until late-2019 at the earliest (and more likely 2020).

Francisco Cervelli has been linked to the Dodgers and was, reportedly, almost traded to LA at the Winter Meetings for Ross Stripling. There hasn’t been much in the way of extra details with that rumor, but I’d think the Dodgers wouldn’t have to give up four years of team control for one year of Cervelli (at $11.5 million). Plus, Cervelli has a history of dealing with concussions, which is something to be a bit concerned about.

Then there’s Yasmani Grandal. Recency bias will have folks not liking him as an option at all, but he’s one of the best all-around catchers in the game and is, somewhat remarkably, still a free agent. There was a report that he turned down a 4-year, $60 million deal from the Mets. I’m extremely skeptical this is true. If it is, then he really doesn’t want to play for the Mets, because there’s no other reason his agent would advise him to turn down that deal. So, if Grandal comes back on, say, a 1-year deal at a rate both he and the Dodgers could agree on, he’d go back into the free agent market without the qualifying offer attached to him, making him a more attractive option. I also don’t think teams are fretting over losing their second-highest (2nd-rounder for most teams) and $500,000 of international signing money to sign a Top 5 catcher. I really think most are being swayed by Grandal’s poor postseason performance. If that’s the case, the Dodgers could benefit by getting him back for another season.

Second base

Yes, the Dodgers have Enrique Hernandez, Max Muncy and Chris Taylor who can play second base (some better than others). Yet, the Dodgers could still be looking for a more permanent option. DJ LeMahieu is a guy I’ve liked all offseason and the Dodgers continue to be attached to him. If they were to bring in LeMahieu, they could shift Hernandez and Taylor to true utility roles, thus making them more valuable overall. Muncy wouldn’t be forced to play a position that doesn’t suit him very well and the Dodgers would add a high-contact player to their batting order — something they’ve been missing in recent years.

Jed Lowrie is coming off a near 5-win season and, frankly, I’m surprised he hasn’t signed anywhere yet. He could be a strong alternative to LeMahieu. He’s better against right-handed pitching than lefties, so I’m not sure he fits exactly what the Dodgers are looking for in that regard. Brian Dozier has also been rumored, but I’m all-out on him. His time with the Dodgers last season was less-than-impressive.

Outfield

If the Dodgers don’t land Harper, they don’t need another outfielder. It could be argued they don’t need Harper, but at the same time, they do. Just read anything I’ve written about Harper this offseason.

Here’s the outfield depth chart as it stands today:

That’s not too bad. It’s a bit left-handed with guys who have trouble hitting lefties, but defensively it’s solid and Verdugo would finally have a chance to play. It’d look a hell of a lot better with Harper, but it’s fine as is. I don’t think the Dodgers should go after A.J. Pollock (a player they’ve been linked to) in this scenario.

Pitching

There isn’t a ton left to do in regard to pitching. In the rotation, there isn’t a real upgrade outside Kluber (or Trevor Bauer) available at present. Yusei Kikuchi signed with the Mariners a couple days ago, so he’s off the board. Marcus Stroman is interesting, but he’s not a great present-day upgrade over what the Dodgers have now. 

In the bullpen, the addition of Kelly helps. Tony Cingrani is back and the only arbitration-eligible Dodger to avoid the process thus far. Pedro Baez, Yimi Garcia and Josh Fields were all tendered deals. Along with that quintet, the Dodgers still have Scott Alexander, JT Chargois, Caleb Ferguson, Dylan Floro and Kenley Jansen. That’s 10 relievers, and that doesn’t even include the likes of Kenta Maeda and/or Stripling. It also doesn’t account for other 40-man roster guys like Yadier Alvarez, Adam McCreery, Dennis Santana, Josh Sborz and Brock Stewart.

Some folks want another addition, and while a guy like Adam Ottavino would be great, he hasn’t been linked to LA at all. David Robertson has, but I doubt the Dodgers give out another multi-year, multi-million deal to a reliever, even if he’s a good one. Kelvin Herrera has been mentioned, but he struggled last season, doesn’t miss as many bats as a guy with his stuff should and is coming off a torn Lisfranc ligament in his foot. He also missed two weeks in August with shoulder tightness. Finally, he saw his velocity drop 1 MPH from the previous season (and the lowest full-season velo of his career). Those are all pretty significant warning signs. If the Dodgers could get him on the cheap, then perhaps there’s a good investment there. Otherwise, they’ll probably go into the season with what they have on the roster right now. Also, there will be some non-roster invitees who will have a chance to win a job in Spring Training. Unless they get an established guy on the cheap, I’m not sure there’s another bullpen addition coming.

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The Dodgers could go into the 2019 season and win the NL West with their current roster. The only true contender for the division title would be the Rockies, as the Diamondbacks and Giants are in the midst of a rebuild and the Padres’ youngsters haven’t yet gotten to the MLB level. But the goal is to win the World Series — especially after back-to-back Series losses. Not adding at least one of the — let’s lazily call them the “Big 3” — would hamper their chances to make it back to October, especially after teams like the Braves, Cardinals and yes, even the Mets, have improved dramatically this winter.

If they don’t add Harper, Kluber or Realmuto, there’s still a chance to land an impact player at the trade deadline (as they have for the last four years), but the farm will eventually run dry if that’s the game plan every season.

Signing Harper remains the biggest and best move they could make. Bringing in Kluber is second, but arguably the biggest luxury. Realmuto is third, but would fill the biggest need, though the alternatives to Realmuto are solid if Cervelli and Grandal are indeed those guys.

There’s still a lot of winter left, so I don’t necessarily want to think “what if” they don’t land one of the Big 3 yet, but the odds seem to be better that they won’t than they will at the moment.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler
Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.