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?
You laid out a very convincing argument for a lot of our offensive woes. But, let’s look at it from an in-house perspective. We have several unproductive players that are getting regular play as you know. Will replacing those players help out the situation even if they are not RH batters? Maybe yes, maybe no. I think it’s a safer bet to look in-house than go into the market for a star player.
Rojas, who has a positive split against LH pitchers career-wise has stopped hitting in general.
JDM is very capable against LH pitching. Being hurt doesn’t help us in the short term, but I would like to see what transpires for a longer period of time as his history is impressive.
What is worrying is Muncy’s inability to hit anything but HRs. Muncy used to do well against LH pitching. He’s been slumping for a couple of years.
Freddy, Mookie, Outman, and Smith, have all produced against LH pitchers in the past. Add in Taylor and you have 5 batters who could produce. JDM & Rojas would also be an addition or at least an option.
I’m not sure about Busch’s splits. Yesterday’s game, his error was atrocious as well as his throws to 1B. I’m now wondering if he would be an adequate 3B everyday player. Maybe he’s pushing to impress so he gets the job. I don’t know why with all our vets, we can’t hit lefties. Van Scoyoc? With the low overall BA, does this guy get to keep his job?
The most important offensive stat in baseball is Runs. With all our stated issues we are 4th in runs scored and are still at the top of the Division.
It’s early, and while I agree this team has a … different look, I don’t see a need for a move. I see a need for patience and trust. While not a big JD fan, I think he can on occasion still hit. That being the case, as long as he is healthy, over the course of a long season he will contribute and while doing it he might also be a stabilizing influence on our young players.
I like this team. If it’s me in the dugout I keep filling out the lineup card and trusting they will get it done. If they don’t, in July I ask Friedman to get what we might need to finish.
What to do with Busch. There’s still plenty of time. Hit him a hundred grounders in the morning and give him JD’s at bats at night. When JD gets back I suspect Busch will get gone. But he will know what he needs to do and will be back. Or maybe he will be traded.
We have what we need, in ML players and minor league assets to get it done. I intend to enjoy the journey.
I agree with Badger, is it really “It is easy to criticize where the Dodgers are at this point”?
How much room is there for criticism. They are easily a top 5 team in all of MLB.
Let’s have fun and enjoy. Players will improve, moves will be made. It’s still a great organization and very good team.
You missed the point. It is easy to criticize the Dodgers for their inability to hit LHP. You think that:
against LHP is to be admired? What is wrong with criticizing when it is due? You think AF is not concerned with it? Nobody suggests quitting on the team, but to ignore what seems to be a weakness seems illogical to me.
But my primary point was how can it be fixed, if it even can. Last winter there was nothing they could have done differently to prevent it without a $300MM payroll budget. Even then??? Just who might be available in July?
I agree with Badger that runs are important. You cannot win without scoring runs. The Dodgers hit a bunch (except last night) against RHP, but are dismal against LHP. How many runs can you generate against LHP with a BA of 191? If I am a potential playoff opponent for LAD I will be looking for LHP at the deadline, and I would stack the rotation with LHP for the playoffs. And the bullpen.
There is a good possibility that Jordan Montgomery will be available at the deadline. How will everyone feel if San Diego picks him up? There is absolutely no indication that they will not do whatever it takes. The same is true about Drew Smyly? Look back at what he did to LAD this year. Alex Wood shut down the LAD bats.
I too will be enjoying the ride, but I refuse to be naïve about LAD weaknesses.
The next three opposing pitchers will be lefties, so it could get ugly before it gets better.
In sunnier news, Jake Pilarski has been promoted to Double-A Tulsa!
While with Great Lakes, Pilarski posted an ERA of 0.71 and a K/9 of 14.2 to go along with his MiLB-leading 9 saves
I’ll go along with you Badger. There is no reason to force a change as the team is already a true competitor for a championship. If that changes then changes might be tried later.
Taylor at the top re OPS against lefties combined with a low BA means he is HR or bust against them. A pitcher has to put the ball in a specific space for Taylor to be dangerous. A pitcher can hit his bat in that location.
All season long I have said the Dodgers needed one more bat, and it seems like I have said for 5 years that they need a good righty bat. Righty bats I have been interested in have included Gleyber, Hanigar, Drury, and yes Correa. The Twins wound up with a good Correa contract.
I would add Gleyber Torres as a trade target and put him at third. His line against lefties: .241.395.586.981
What do you think Singing The Blue, is it finally Gleyber Time? (May I call you Blue, Jeff?)
Muncy for Gleyber. Other players from both teams as needed.
DH/LF Terry Rooker
You may certainly call me Blue, or even Bleu if you prefer.
From what I know of him, Gleyber is considered a below-average fielder. We have a whole roster full of those. You know that if we trade for him, Doc will move him all over the place, thereby making his fielding stats even worse. I would say it is not yet Gleyber Time, but if it happens, I could live with it, I suppose.
I was hoping he would be an above 3rd baseman considering all his innings at short and second. Since Muncy has never played short and Gleyber has, then it is not a stretch to think Gleyber would be a better third baseman. This year he is a better hitter against lefties as well.
Runs can be a misleading stat — particularly for the Dodgers who group massive amounts of runs in a few games and low run totals in numerous games.
Put Bush at 2B, Vargas at 3B, Muncy DH, Betts at SS.
Throw Barnes, Martinez, Rojas, Peralta, Thompson, Heyward, back on the scrap heap. These guys are pathetic hitters. Bring up Feducia, Pages, and other players from the minors as needed — they can’t hit any worse than the dumpster dives Friedbrain signed over the off season. Keep Taylor for emergency back up only.
Dump “Thor is No More” and bring up Miller or Stone. Syndy is another of Friedbrain’s dumpster dives.
Friedbrain refuses to admit any mistakes and ultimately tries to sweep his losers quietly under the rug (after making the team and fans suffer with his scrap heap acquisitions).
STOP playing players in positions they have never played at before. It just causes errors and lost games.
To no one’s surprise I like your infield suggestion Hondo.
Don’t agree with runs scored being a misleading stat. Runs scored is THE stat.
With what feels like baling wire and duct tape we are in first place playing at a 94 win pace. As I mentioned, when the time comes, if we want an F150 or a Ferrari we can go get it. It’s good to be the Dodgers.
There would need to be a normalization of the distribution. Maybe eliminate the outliers in a normal distribution curve.
Go for it.
I’ll check the won loss record.
Jeff, your analyses (?) are always right on. Your commitment to research is much appreciated.
Having lived in both Los Angeles and San Diego, it’s nice to see the Padres finally having a fan base, however small it is. Their fans have every reason to want to “Beat LA”. After all, the Chargers and the Clippers both flew the coop to LA, leaving fans with only one team out of the big four sports to support.
The Padres are uniformly bad but their lineup is fun to watch. (see what I did there?)
I root for west coast teams.
I second what Fred V said Jeff. Your commitment to research sets you apart from other blogs and is appreciated.
Padres dark brown and gold isn’t a bad look.
I don’t like the hot dogging. But they are a talented group. If they get serious, they will compete.
I support the motion. Jeff is very good at what he does.
Kris Bryant is an intriguing option. $26M/year salary relief for the Rocks. If they are interested in dumping his salary.
Can we give them Peralta?
Yeah but…. I think it’s $28 million for two years, then $27 million for 4 years after that. He’s 31. Not sure AF would be interested in him.
We don’t know JD is done. He may not be. We could give him two more weeks if he needed it. I’m fine with the Muncy/Busch harlequin routine at third for now. I don’t believe it’s costing games, just a few runs now and then. I’m thinking their offense will make up for it.
If the Dodgers do anything at all to improve the team. it won’t be until the deadline. And I am not sure there will be anyone available that is going to be a huge improvement on what they have now. One thing is certain, they need to tighten up the defense. Pundits are surmising that the Dodgers are the favorites to sign Ohtani this winter.
Is Oakland’s Terry Rooker for real and might he be available? LF/DH 29 years old. MLB OPS leader. Oakland needs a lot of players.
Brent Rooker. Legit? Maybe like 2022 Trayce Thompson, then again maybe he finally found it. Rooker was a former 1st round pick (35) by Minnesota in 2017.
2021 at Minnesota – .201/.291/.397/.688 – 213 PA, 189 AB
2022 at MiLB – .289/.395/.649/1.044 – 365 PA, 308 AB
Is he worth a chance? Absolutely depending on the prospect(s) that would go back.
News from Internet:
This headline sez it all:
Winston-Salem Dash to play as grammatically correct Hyphens
Ben Clemens chat:
Mike M: A question about semantics. I hear people say that the Dodgers lack depth because Mookie has had to play SS, but I see things differently. Their starting SS (Lux) has a season-ending injury right before the season started. Their backup (Rojas) has been injured. Their backup to the backup (Taylor) has also been injured off and on. So they’ve had to play some innings with Mookie at SS as the backup to the backup to the backup. Not ideal, but a pretty good 4th option. They’ve even used Luke Williams as a 5th option. So I’d say that their depth is being tested, not that they lack depth. Having to use your 4th option is not a lack of depth. Nobody has a league average player as their 4th option at a position, do they? And Mookie may actually be a league average SS or better. So do the Dodgers actually lack depth?
Ben Clemens: With you on this one. Now, the Dodgers traded for Rojas as the depth started to thin out, so I’m not 100% sure you can count on him. But depth does not seem to be this team’s problem. Proven depth, sure, but I think what actually worried people coming into the year is that they were less star-studded at the top than normal, which meant that they were susceptible to star injuries in a way that didn’t seem to bother them before
Farhandrew Zaidman: Dodgers rookies can bang. That is all.
Ben Clemens: Yeah, Miguel Vargas looks to me to still be a bit limited by his hand injury from an early HBP, and yet, he’s doing pretty well. And then Outman is en fuego! You love to see it… Again, apparently the Dodgers aren’t suddenly a bunch of frauds, shocking
More Kiley McDaniel! He takes a look ($$$$) at Ohtani:
Two insiders say the Dodgers, one said either the Dodgers or Mets, another said Dodgers or Yankees…a very specific scenario: “I think he <Ohtani> uses the Padres and Mets to run up the price, but he wants to and will go with the Dodgers”
Baseball America presents a new podcast, Behind The Plate with Kyle Glaser. Kyle hosts a different scout or executive every week to talk about their experiences in the game and the players they signed. Our first guest is Dodgers area scout Tom Kunis, who signed reigning National League rookie of the month James Outman.
The Dodgers are hiring! Go work for one of the two best teams in MLB:
Jay Jaffe looks at Bellinger:
I didn’t know that the Cubs’ hitting coaches come from the Dodgers system.
Lance Brozdowski (@LanceBroz) looks at a change in Dustin May’s arsenal:
He’s joining the “sweeper” trend.
Some people here were advocates for Matt Chapman. Dan Szymorski takes a look at how great Chapman is doing for Toronto.
Old friend Trevor Bauer made his NPB debut on Wednesday and allowed one run over seven innings as the DeNA BayStars beat the Hiroshima Carp 4-1. The controversial former Cy Young Award winner fanned nine batters and allowed seven hits and one walk.
Josh Thomas, a must-follow, looks at the changes that have benefited Kyle Hurt:
Baseball America updates their top 100 list ($$$$)
Vargas graduated out, Pages hasn’t quite been admitted in.
FanGraphs’ Dan Szymborski says the Dodgers should extend Urias:
Eight years, $186 million should do it according to Dan’s model.
Austin Gauthier, Eddys Leonard and Alec Gamboa have been named players of the week for their respective leagues.
Leonard slashed .500/.546/1.000
Gamboa tossed 5.1 scoreless, hitless innings, with 1 BB and 6 Ks in the Midwest League
Gauthier slashed .579/.667/.947, with 2 doubles, a triple, a homer, and a BB/K of 9/4
Two hits on Frasso. The first is Geoff Pontes naming him one of the ten under-rated prospects ($$$$$)
Frasso and Knack made BA’s hot sheet ($$$$$)
…so far in 2023 Frasso has sat in the mid-to-high 90s, touching 99 mph at peak. Frasso pairs his high-octane fastball with an upper-80s slider and a changeup with plenty of arm-side run. (GP)
…Knack’s career has somewhat stalled at Double-A, but so far this year, he’s showing signs that he has regained his plus control and his hoppy fastball, slider and changeup could help him carve out a big league role.
Old friend Connor Wong is excelling behind the plate:
The Dodgers are in the top third in outfield defense, in the bottom third in infield defense in 2023.
FanGraphs looks at the Rays’ aggressive baserunning. More of this please.
Thanks for this. I was preparing a much shorter MiLB primer so this expanded one is very much appreciated. BTW, Vargas may have graduated from BA’s Top 100, but Dalton Rushing has been added (#79).
STB, I have added your son’s site Prospecting Baseball to my Dodger Blog Sites.
Other Links > Dodger Blogs > Prospecting Baseball
For those of you who have not visited the site, I recommend it. Evan does a very good job.
Thanks so much Jeff. He puts a lot of work into it .
He puts a lot of work into it .
I know. 😉
Excellent article Jeff!
Great perspective on the options and timing that Friedman faced when the Bauer ruling broke. The MLB should have resolved the Bauer case before free agency started. It certainly had a negative impact on the Dodgers approach to the off-season. Once the Dodgers had to eat $23 million of the Bauer contract this year, staying under the luxury tax became nearly impossible. The Dodgers may have kept Bellinger if it was clear they could not stay under the luxury tax.
I didn’t realize that JD Martinez has hit so poorly against LHP this year. This is shocking considering that he has an overall 840 OPS this year, and he has crushed LHP his whole career. If he can come back healthy, I would expect him to hit LHP much better the rest of the year. The decision to sign JDM seemed to basically come down to him or Justin Turner. When JT was guaranteed $15 million this year, and $25 million over next two years by the Red Sox, JDM became the better alternative at $10 million for one year.
I also find it difficult to fault Friedman for not signing any of the premier shortstops at the price tags received. Trea Turner would have been my first choice, but the $300 million contract seems high to me, and so far he is underperforming with a 718 OPS this year. Correa would have never been an option for me given his cheating history, and he is hitting 193 this year so far. The Bogaerts contract was a huge overpay, leaving only Swanson. And I could see betting on Lux at a $710,000 salary over Swanson at a $25 million salary and $177 million guaranteed. The biggest critique from me was not proactively offering an extension to Trea Turner last season before he hit free agency. Trea probably would have still left, but Friedman should have at least made an early offer.
Bryant seems like the best trade target, as the Orioles will be in the playoff hunt limiting Santander availability, and ex-Dodger Connor Joe is more of a journeyman than a true MLB hitter. I agree with letting JDM, Peralta, Taylor, Heyward, Busch, Rojas and Thompson try to play their way into the lineup before making an external move.