A lot has been written about the Dodgers need for a RH bat to handle LHP. And deservedly so. The LAD hitting metrics against LHP for 2021 is as follows, with MLB ranking in ().
- BA – .243 (20)
- OBP – .319 (17)
- SLG – .439 (6)
- OPS – .758 (8)
In 2022 those numbers were:
- BA – .252 (12)
- OBP – .324 (11)
- SLG – .430 (8)
- OPS – .754 (9)
AF/BG was hoping the Dodgers would continue with improving their hitting against LHP in 2022. But they have gone backwards in 2023. In 29 games with LHP, 352 PA, and 304 AB, the LAD batting line against LHP are as follows with MLB rank in ():
- BA – .191 (30)
- OBP – .293 (27)
- SLG – .368 (24)
- OPS – .661 (25)
For BABIP, LAD is hitting .226 which is last in MLB. The 29th best BABIP is .250 (Seattle). They have struck out 95 times (9th most in MLB). Bad luck hitting? They are not making consistent contact and they are so far behind #29 BABIP, that it does not appear so. Individually…
What went wrong? Who were the RHH difference makers available in FA, and their career numbers against LHP?
- Aaron Judge – .270/.407/.559/.966 – 9 years $360MM
- Carlos Correa – .289/.385/.480/.865 – 6 years $200MM + Vesting Options
- Trea Turner – .313/.371/.507/.878 – 11 years $300MM
- Xander Bogaerts – .308/.388/.472/.861 – 11 years $280MM
- Dansby Swanson – .258/.332/.432/.764 – 7 years $177MM
- Mitch Haniger – .276/.353/.496/.849 – 3 years $43.50MM
- Jurickson Profar – .242/.321/.358/.680 – 1 year $7.75MM + Club Option
- Brandon Drury – .266/.298/.472/.769 – 2 years $17MM
That is it for top FA RH bats.
One other consideration was the unknown resolution of the Trevor Bauer situation. I know many fans believe the Dodgers have an unlimited bank account, and can easily absorb $30MM+ for a non-playing player. I am guessing that the LAD owners had different views.
At the same time, AF/BG were apparently convinced that Gavin Lux was a viable MLB SS for a contender (LAD) and were not comfortable with the long term contracts for any of the elite SS. Unfortunately Gavin tore his ACL in ST, well past the period elite SS were available. But who were the FA SS last winter?
Trea Turner – Trea indicated that LAD did not make him an offer. IMO, AF knew what it was going to take, and he was not going to enter into a bidding war knowing that Trea wanted to play on the East Coast. We know that because San Diego made Trea an offer greater than Philadelphia and would have made Turner the highest paid SS in MLB history.
Dansby Swanson – Most believed that Swanson would eventually re-sign with his hometown Atlanta. Swanson’s 2nd team was the Chicago Cubs because they were his grandfather’s favorite team. Swanson recalled that he would come home from school to Cubs games on WGN. In addition to the Cubs being a favorite, Dansby’s wife (Mallory Pugh) is a star with the Women’s Soccer League franchise in Chicago, Red Stars. Atlanta chose to pass on Swanson, and that opened the door for the Cubs. Everything being equal, nobody was going to beat the Cubs. Should the Dodgers have offered 8 years, $200MM? That extra year is about what it would take.
Carlos Correa – This was never going to happen. AF would never sign Correa, and Correa would never sign with LAD. I suppose AF could have offered Correa what SFG and NYM did and not take the portending leg issue into consideration.
Xander Bogaerts – I know some of you wanted Bogaerts. I would have been happy with Bogey as well. He will eventually wind up at 3B, but LAD does not have any heralded 3B prospect. It was already decided that Miguel Vargas would be playing 2B. Yes, he could (and may still) play 3B, but the Dodgers would have found a spot for both. Unfortunately, the Padres did not get Aaron Judge or Trea Turner even though they outbid the eventual teams that did sign them. They were not going to lose Bogaerts. The Padres offer was more than $100MM more than Boston’s. It was reportedly at $60-$70MM more than the next salary commitment.
I still have no idea why San Diego wanted another SS, but I do give Peter Seidler credit for letting A. J. Preller sign Bogaerts for the exaggerated salary. Fill the team with stars and let the manager sort it out. It also keeps a potentially lethal bat away from their competition (perhaps LAD). But now San Diego is committed to $280MM through Bogaerts age 40 season, including $25MM each year 35-40.
Aaron Judge? Does anyone really believe the Dodgers were considering Judge or was a consideration by Judge?
The Trevor Bauer decision did not come down until late afternoon December 21. Bauer was designated for assignment on January 6. The only Top 50 FA’s who were available January 6 were: Jurickson Profar, Andrew Chafin, and Michael Wacha. FA’s signed between 12/21 and 1/6 were Nathan Eovaldi (12/27), Taylor Rogers (12/23), Jean Segura (12-28), and Corey Kluber (12/28).
- Trea Turner signed December 5.
- Mitch Haniger signed December 6.
- Xander Bogaerts and Aaron Judge signed December 7.
- Dansby Swanson signed December 17.
- Brandon Drury signed December 20.
AF knew that Swanson was not signing with LAD, and needed to sign a RH bat, so later that day, signed JD Martinez.
So did the unresolved Trevor Bauer situation play into the LAD AF decisions? We will never know the answer to that question. But the vast majority of elite FAs signed early December. As reported above, only 7 of the top 50 FA were available when the Bauer decision was announced.
Why JDM? Against LHP, JDM’s career line is .303/.374/.572/.946. Aaron Judge was the only FA hitter against LHP with better metrics. Maybe JDM’s career line is more because of early in his career. For 2022, JDM’s line was .319/.402/.597/.998. Yes, JDM has been absolutely horrid against LHP this year, but nobody saw that coming, and he is more than capable of turning it around.
So, yes IF LAD had agreed to ignore whatever repercussions they were to experience with Bauer, AND agree to commit to an 8 year $200MM contract for Swanson, or 12 year $305MM for Bogaerts, they might have a deeper roster, but how many more wins? Outside of Judge (and the SS), the best RH bat available was JDM. Because he is not hitting LHP thus far does not mean that it was a bad decision. Just a bad outcome…so far.
Recognizing that the Dodgers need a big RH bat, what might be available? MLB experts are already reporting that the trade deadline is not going to be very active, and expect very few big deals. But let’s look at…just in case.
Top hitting LF for 2023.
- Randy Arozarena (R) – Tampa Bay – OPS .999
- Corbin Carroll (L) – Arizona – OPS .954
- Masataka Yoshida (L) – Boston – OPS .937
- Jarred Kelenic (L) – Seattle – OPS .934
- Bryan Reynolds (S) – Pittsburgh – OPS .924
- Ian Happ (S) – Chicago Cubs – OPS .903
- Austin Hays (R) – Baltimore – .809
- Lourdes Gurriel (R) – Arizona – .809
There are 3 RH hitting LF and 2 switch hitters. Tampa Bay and Baltimore will be buyers not sellers. Carroll, Yoshida, Reynolds, and Happ just signed long term deals with their clubs. Realistically they will not be moved.
Maybe Kelenic could be available. Unlikely, as Seattle has waited a long time for Kelenic to finally break out. Gurriel is a rental, but Arizona likes a RH OF themselves with all of their LH OF bats.
Top Hitting CF for 2023.
- Brandon Marsh (R) – Philadelphia – 1.008 OPS
- Mike Trout (R) – LAA – .961
- Cody Bellinger (L) – Chicago Cubs – .927
- Brandon Nimmo (L) – NYM – .879
- Aaron Judge (R) – NYY – .863
- Mike Yastrzemski (L) – SFG – .854
- TJ Friedl (L) – Cincinnati – .853
- Cedric Mullins (L) – Baltimore – .804
Not one of the three RH hitters will be moved. Friedl would be the #4 OPS on LAD roster. Cincinnati will be sellers. IMO the only Baltimore OF that MIGHT be considered would be Anthony Santander.
Top Hitting RF for 2023.
- Ronald Acuña Jr. (R) – Atlanta – .997 OPS
- Connor Joe (R) – Pittsburgh – .921 OPS
- Alex Verdugo (L) – Boston – .908 OPS
- Nick Castellanos (R) – Philadelphia – .848 OPS
- Kyle Tucker (L) – Houston – .842 OPS
- Kris Bryant (R) – Colorado – .829 OPS
- Anthony Santander (S) – Baltimore – .792 OPS
Neither Ronald Acuña Jr. nor Nick Castellanos will be going anywhere. Connor Joe, Kris Bryant, and maybe Anthony Santander could be available. Baltimore may be willing to trade a MLB OF (Santander) for a MLB pitcher. Will Colorado trade within the Division? With Bryant’s contract, the prospect capital would not be as much. Connor Joe looks to be a true candidate, and perhaps the one RH hitting OF the Dodgers could land. Will Joe be hitting as well thru June? If so, AF may be on the phone with Ben Cherington in July.
It is easy to criticize where the Dodgers are at this point, but where did they miss during the winter, and what difference making RH hitter might the Dodgers consider at the Trade Deadline. And remember, to get a difference maker, it is going to cost and probably hurt. The Dodgers are not going to get Austin Hays, Anthony Santander, Kris Bryant, Connor Joe, or even Jarred Kelenic for Ben Harris and Antonio Knowles. Nor Thompson, nor Peralta. So who will AF be willing to move?