Last winter, the Dodgers chose not to re-sign the likes of Enrique Hernandez and Joc Pederson. It was an expected move because the two had played through their arbitration years and earned the right to leave via free agency.
Hernandez signed with Boston — partly because they offered him more playing time — while Pederson signed with the Cubs. He was open to returning to the Dodgers, because the full-time, big-money contract he was hoping for never came to fruition. He ended up with Atlanta and with another ring.
The Dodgers had hoped guys like Sheldon Neuse, Luke Raley, Zach Reks, Edwin Rios and, to a lesser extent, Gavin Lux, would be able to replace/replicate the lost production from guys like Hernandez and Pederson. We saw how that went in-season. Rios got hurt, Neuse and Raley didn’t hit in semi-extended looks and Reks never got it going. Now, Neuse (stuck in DFA limbo) and Reks are no longer on the 40-man roster (Reks is with the Rangers) and Raley is probably the next guy up on the chopping block should the Dodgers need a 40-man roster spot.
Chris Taylor‘s emergence has made him a full-time player (but not at any single position) and thus, has also hurt the depth. Aside from replacing Corey Seager‘s bat (Freddie Freeman anyone?) and addressing the starting rotation, the bench and overall depth has to be a focus for Andrew Friedman. I’ve already identified a couple guys I like in Garrett Cooper and Chad Pinder. Cooper makes a lot of sense, but with the Marlins potentially ready to take the next step, they might not want to trade on one of their most productive (when healthy) hitters. Taylor’s re-signing makes a Pinder acquisition a little less likely, but I’m sure he could carve out a nice role in LA, if he were acquired. So, let’s look at some other options — this time on the free-agent market — not named Kris Bryant (who would improve the depth by pushing someone to more of a part-time role) the Dodgers could be interested in.
He’s not much with the glove anymore — basically limited to corner infield spots — but Cabrera still might have something to offer. He was solid with Arizona before being traded to Cincinnati. His time with the Reds wasn’t good, but with the D’backs, he hit .244/.324/.392 with a 92 wRC+ and an 88.2 MPH average exit velocity. He could be worth a look.
If Pujols can don a Dodger uniform, why not Carpenter? He’s not much of a second baseman anymore (-7 DRS in 214 2/3 innings) and his batting lines have been awful over the last three seasons, but he still managed a 90 MPH average exit velocity last season, so there could be a little bit left in the bat.
A forgotten guy, Duffy can play all the infield positions and even some left field. He’s a high-contact hitter (86.1% in 2021) who could fit quite well as a part-timer for a first-division team. He’s not a high exit velocity guy (87.5 MPH in ’21), but that’s to be somewhat expected with a guy who prioritizes contact. Mark Loretta, Part 2?
Harrison might be the best option of the available free agents. He had a nice season for Washington before being traded to Oakland. He can play 2B, 3B and the corner outfield spots and is coming off one of the best offensive seasons of his career.
Tio Albert had a blast with the Dodgers and hit lefties incredibly well, but he’s pretty one-dimensional at this point. Having the DH helps and if Max Muncy is out to start the season, a case could be made to bring him back. He’s also going to be 42 years old, so you have to wonder just how much he has left in the tank.
The main culprit of the Dodgers’ 2021 NLCS loss, Rosario would, seemingly, be in line for a solid pay day after his postseason heroics, but if he were to go elsewhere, he’d probably be a fourth outfielder-type. In fact, he’d be a nice platoonmate for AJ Pollock in left field.
The Dodgers actually had Solano as a non-roster invitee a few years ago. Coincidentally (not really), he followed Farhan Zaidi to San Francisco and surprisingly (really) was productive. He’s strictly an infielder, but he can hit a bit: .308/.354/.435 with a 114 wRC+ over the last three seasons. You’d think Frisco would like to retain him, so poaching him would be a bit of a win in that right.
He can play 2B, 3B and SS, but he’s been more of a full-time player in his career. He had 505 plate appearances with the Mets last season and you’d think he could find a more full-time role with a second-division team. If he were ready to shift to a more part-time role, however, he’d be a nice fit.
I’m not saying any of these guys are likely to sign with LA after the lockout ends, but I’ll put in order my preference, if I’m the Dodgers.
Harrison fits best, As such, he’ll be more coveted on the market. Solano and Duffy would be interesting, while Villar would be a more boom-or-bust guy. Rosario probably gets a deal elsewhere, while the elder statesmen of the list could be fringe-roster types with some pop. Also, Joc is a free agent and I’d love to have him back, but that doesn’t seem terribly likely.
I’ll look at trade targets at some point … probably tomorrow.