Yesterday, I wrote about some free agents who could be potential depth pieces the Dodgers can pursue when the lockout ends. Today, I’m going to look at some trade targets.
These aren’t going to be big-time players who would push others down the depth chart. While that’s a way to improve the overall depth, this is going to be focused on improving the depth behind the already big-time players the Dodgers have.
You’re going to see guys here who fit into a couple different categories:
- Players who have declined and have significant monetary commitments
- Starting players on 2nd-division team who could be better served as part-timers on a 1st-division team
Let’s get to it.
DeJong has fallen out of favor with the Cardinals. Two years ago, he was a 4-win shortstop who hit 30 home runs. Since then, he has hit just .213/.295/.378 with an 86 wRC+. He’s a good defender at shortstop, but if he landed with LA, he’d shift into a utility role, which might actually suit him better. He’s also on a very affordable contract — at least $15 million guaranteed over the next two years, plus two club options. He could be the right-handed Gavin Lux.
The Cubs may or may not be competing in the immediate future. If they aren’t, or feel like they can improve their squad by dealing Happ, the Dodgers should be interested. He’s a switch-hitter who can play second base, third base and outfield, and he has lots of pop. He hits the ball hard at times, but also has a lot of swing-and-miss. He’d be a boom-or-bust kind of bench option. He has two more arbitration years remaining and is projected to make $6.5 million in 2022, so it’d be a bit of a gamble for the Dodgers.
Kepler, similarly to DeJong, has fallen out of favor in Minnesota. He was a 4.5-win player who hit 36 home runs two years ago. Over the last two, he has hit .216/.310/.420 with a 98 wRC+. He’s a corner outfielder, so there isn’t a lot of utility, but he has shown hitting ability in the past — so much that the Twins gave him a 5-year contract prior to the 2019 season. He’s owed $15.25 million over the next two seasons and has a $10 million option for 2024 (with a $1 million buyout). What separates him from others on this list is his Statcast numbers have a lot of red — or, at least, some lightish red. And after the trade deadline last season, it’d feel weird not to have multiple Maxes on the roster.
Mancini is a great story as he came back from stage 3 colon cancer to be an All-Star in 2021. He tailed off quite a bit in the second half, but he was still solid on the season — .255/.326/.432, 105 wRC+. His expected stats are more promising than some of his other more traditional numbers, but something he does quite well is mash left-handed pitchers (.288/.363/.535, 140 wRC+ in 2021), which is something the bench could use. He’s mainly a first baseman at this point of his career, but he has experience in the corner outfield spots … even if it isn’t great experience. He could be a nice platoon guy at first base, especially if Max Muncy is out for any extended time to begin the 2022 season.
The SoCal native has fallen off quite a bit since his time with the Royals and one season with the Brewers. He hasn’t ever fully gotten on track with the Reds and could be a way for the Dodgers to lower the acquisition cost for one of Cincy’s starters — Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, Tyler Mahle. He’s owed $34 million over the next two seasons with a $20 million club option in 2024 (with a $4 million buyout). He can play second- and third base, and has even picked up a little first base experience over the next couple years. He’s an interesting option because he’d probably come with one of the starters, and we know the Dodgers’ rotation needs a little work right now.
Naquin is a similar situation as Moustakas (part of a package), but he’s not making a lot of money. Instead, he’d fill the Joc Pederson role on this squad, and his advanced numbers are promising. He’s limited to a corner outfield spot, but if he can hit, that’s about all that matters. He’d be a nice platoonmate for AJ Pollock.
Santander might be the most unrealistic acquisition target on this list because the Orioles don’t really have a reason to deal him. He’s not a free agent until after the 2024 season and, despite taking a step back in 2021, he showed a lot of promise in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season (.261/.315/.575, 130 wRC+). That may have been an aberration, but the corner outfielder still has some solid Statcast numbers, which leads me to believe he could be closer to the 2020 version of himself than the 2021 version. He’ll chase, but he also hits the ball hard. The switch-hitter could possibly benefit from a change of scenery and developmental system.
The third of three Reds on this list, Suarez, despite hitting 31 home runs in 2021, managed just an 85 wRC+ for Cincinnati. He’s just three seasons removed from a 49-home run campaign. He still barrels the ball (15% in ’21) and has an above-average exit velocity, but he still has a lot of swing-and-miss and his performance against lefties last season (.172/.268/.351, 63 wRC+) leaves a lot to be desired. He’s owed $33 million over the next three season and has a $15 million option for 2025 (with a $2 million buyout). The Reds are trying to trim payroll and if they can’t move Moustakas, Suarez might be the guy to go. He’d have to be part of a package for a starting pitcher.
I’m not sure any of these guys gets moved this offseason. There are reasons for and against for all of them. But if I were in charge, this is how I’d prioritize them:
Moustakas is at the top because of the three infield spots he can play and the fact he’d probably be coming with a starter (and also some power). Kepler’s Statcast profile makes him an attractive option, but the Twins aren’t just going to give him away. Happ has been a secret favorite of mine, while I could see DeJong flourishing in a part-time role. I’m having a hard time getting away from the Naquin:Pederson scenario. Manicni would be a nice replacement for Tio Albert. Santander could be a boom-or-bust guy, while I’m not sure if the Reds would give up on Suarez just yet — despite his struggles — because of his team-friendly deal.