Here is a hypothetical. Tyler Anderson pitches to soft contact. He is a ground ball pitcher. How excited do you think TA would be with an infield of Max Muncy at 2B, Gavin Lux at SS, and Miguel Vargas at 3B? Or Michael Busch at 2B, Gavin Lux at SS and Max Muncy at 3B? That is not a very good defensive infield, and unless the Dodgers looks for a Justin Verlander or Jacob deGrom as pitchers with huge strikeout capabilities, they are going to have a tough time enticing a soft contact/ground ball pitcher to sign with LAD. The next best free agent strikeout rate pitcher is Andrew Heaney. Each of the remaining free agent pitchers pitched to about an average strikeout rate.
Cody Bellinger started the overwhelming number of games in CF for the Dodgers in 2022 (135 of 162). His batting line was .210/.265/.389/.654; 1.2 bWAR, 1.7 fWAR, and 78 OPS+ He struck out 27.3% of his PA and walked 6.9%. This was certainly far superior to his 2021 season. While he struck out more often and walked less in 2022, it was still an overall improvement.
Below is a snapshot of Belli’s 2022 Statcast metrics:
Defensively, Belli did not have a bad season, but he was certainly nowhere close to being a GG CF.
- FanGraphs Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) = 0
- FanGraphs UZR = 0
- Statcast Outs Above Average (OAA) = 6
- OAA In = -1
- OAA in LF/CF gap = 3
- OAA in RF/CF gap = 2
- OAA back = 1
In Belli’s 6 years of MLB he had a total DRS of 34. 18 came in 2019 AS A RF. In Belli’s 6 years of MLB he had a 11.8 UZR, 10.3 came in 2019 AS A RF. In Belli’s 6 years of MLB, his total OAA was 173.8, but it was a total of 20.8 over the last three years.
Running metrics have shown that Belli has been regressing over the last few years.
See below snapshot:
I know that it is hard to turn your back on a former MVP and someone who is entering his 27 year old season. The Dodgers can certainly afford to absorb Belli’s projected arbitration contract. But should they? It is projected to be approximately $18MM. Can the Dodgers utilize that $18MM elsewhere and find an acceptable replacement in CF. This is where it becomes tricky?
Internal options: James Outman (LHH), Trayce Thompson (RHH), and Chris Taylor (RHH) are the most obvious internal options.
Free Agents – Kevin Kiermaier LHH CF. He is a 3X CF GG and a 1X Platinum Glove winner. His running Statcast numbers are better than Belli’s. His 2022 OPS was just about the same as Belli’s, but had a superior OPS+ of 89. If the decision is one of Kiermaier and Belli, it might not be as clear cut as some would want us to believe.
These are the other FA CF:
Greg Allen (30)
Albert Almora (29)
Jackie Bradley Jr. (33)
Lorenzo Cain (37)
Jonathan Davis (31)
Adam Duvall (34)
Michael Hermosillo (28)
Odubel Herrera (31)
Travis Jankowski (32)
Aaron Judge (31)
Jake Marisnick (32)
Tyler Naquin (32)
Brandon Nimmo (30)
Brett Phillips (29)
Kevin Pillar (34)
A.J. Pollock (35)
Magneuris Sierra (27)
Aaron Judge is more of a RF. Any list that includes JBJ, Duvall, Jankowski, Marisnick, Pillar, Phillips, and Sierra as legit ML CF options is not a serious list.
Brandon Nimmo is the only game changing consideration at CF, but not at 5 years and $110MM (MLBTR).
However, the decision cannot be made in a vacuum. If the Dodgers do sign Kiermaier or sign/trade for any other FA CF, that would block James Outman who could in fact assume the regular CF position. Is he the future?
Trade candidates are probably even less likely. Many of us have previously positively discussed Pittsburgh’s Bryan Reynolds as a likely target. That is generally only in the dreams of LAD fans, as Pittsburgh has steadfastly denied any desire to trade Reynolds. Now it is being reported that Reynolds CF defensive metrics are declining and he is perhaps a better option as a corner OF. Regardless it is his bat that generates the interest, and Pittsburgh is not taking calls on him. Impossible? No, but unlikely.
One other ML CF that AF/BG might consider is Baltimore’s Cedric Mullins.
Mike Trout, George Springer, Byron Buxton, Michael Harris? Less likely than Reynolds.
One other consideration is that the bellicose Scott Boras is Belli’s agent.
This will not be an easy decision for AF/BG to make. And there will be a lot to consider.
I honestly have no idea as to what the Dodgers will decide. We have no idea if the Dodgers actually do plan on resetting the CBT. We have no idea what the Trevor Bauer arbitration will be or when it is coming down. Other players that the Dodgers are considering have to be included in the discussion as an overall payroll budget is not known.
Speaking of Scott Boras, he left the GM meeting last week by letting everyone know that there will not be any conflict with LAD fans if Carlos Correa signs with them.
Carlos Correa’s agent Scott Boras doesn’t think previous bad blood between the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers will prevent his client from signing with the National League West champions this offseason.
“I don’t think anybody cares about what happened years ago and has been remedied,” Boras said, according to the Orange County Register’s Bill Plunkett. “With their owners, they have to win, and it’s not easy to win. You can’t let anything get in the way.”
Who here is shocked that Boras would say whatever is necessary to get the other 29 teams to believe the Dodgers will in fact be pursuing Correa. And they may very well be interested, but this is Scott Boras pushing the envelope for his client. Shockingly he is doing the same as same with Cody Bellinger.