While we’re still waiting for something — anything — to happen since the trade with the Reds, let’s look at one possibility that hasn’t been discussed much yet.
With Yasiel Puig in Cincinnati and a Bryce Harper signing still a long shot, what happens if the Dodgers were to trade Alex Verdugo to fill their biggest hole at catcher? More specifically, if Verdugo goes to Miami in a deal for J.T. Realmuto, suddenly, the outfield depth is a bit thin. There hasn’t been much of an update on that front, but the Marlins aren’t getting Cody Bellinger, so the next logical piece they’d want is Verdugo.
Here’s what the outfield depth chart would be in that scenario:
That’s … not great. You have two infielder-outfielder types and a 70-grade defensive first baseman manning center field. You also have a guy in Toles who had all of 32 plate appearances in LA last season.
The Dodgers would almost certainly need to bring in another outfielder to make up for the (self-made) deficiency and to keep Hernandez and Taylor as true super utility players (a role they’d be more valuable in anyway). Let’s look at some non-Harper possibilities on the free agent market:
Not great, Bob.
I wrote about Garcia, Jones and Pollock when it was reported the Dodgers were looking for a right-handed bat. Pollock is going to cost a lot (and would cause the Dodgers to lose the No. 31 pick and $500,000 of international money), and Garcia just isn’t good anymore. Jones would make sense if he were in a platoon situation with Pederson, but it turns out Jones isn’t great against lefties, so maybe he’s not the best option either.
Gonzalez is the big name remaining, but his production has slipped the last three seasons and is a bit of a liability defensively. Joyce could play either corner, but after two strong seasons, he fell off a bit last season and was limited to just 246 plate appearances in 2018. Maybin isn’t much with the bat (two full-seasons of 100 or better wRC+ in his career), and much like Jones, doesn’t do enough against lefties to warrant a platoon spot. Span isn’t much with the glove anymore (and is limited to left field), but he can still be somewhat effective at the plate. Toles is probably a better option at this point.
In fact, Toles is probably a better option than everyone listed above … except one. Markakis is coming off a bit of a resurgent 2018 season that saw him hit .297/.366/.440 for the Braves. He’s also good enough against left-handed pitching that he wouldn’t necessarily need to be platooned. Of course, he’s going to probably cost the most to acquire (1-2 years, $8-10 million annually) of the players (not named Pollock) above. Even going into his age-35 season because he has a solid track record. And seeing as a common comparison given to Verdugo is Markakis, it would be a bit ironic if the Dodgers were to sign him to, in effect, replace Verdugo.
Honestly, I don’t know how many times I can write “Sign Bryce Harper” this offseason, so I’m just exploring other options here.
If the Dodgers signed Markakis (before or) after trading for Realmuto, the lineup could look something like this:
Eh, still not great. In this scenario, I could see them also signing DJ LeMahieu and hoping they could unlock some of that untapped power his batted ball profile suggests is in there.
If you wanted to argue that they should just roll with what they have if they don’t land Harper, I wouldn’t really argue much. But if they have to trade Verdugo to get Realmuto (and if that’s the guy they really want), then bringing in a guy with Markakis’ contact profile would be nice.
Long story short: If they trade for Realmuto, they almost need to sign Harper.