LOS ANGELES -- With 12 trades involving 32 players in the last seven weeks, Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman has been trying to build what he calls "a highly-functioning baseball team as opposed to a collection of talent." But how Joc Pederson fits into that mix, at least to start 2015, is currently in question.
The trade of Matt Kemp brought not only four years of catcher Yasmani Grandal, but also opened up right field, which in theory allows Yasiel Puig to shift back into his original and best position which would allow Pederson, called by manager Don Mattingly and others the best defensive center fielder in the organization, to play center.
But for now, at least publicly, the Dodgers won't commit to a rookie in center.
"We'll take some time in spring training and assess [Pederson]. We'll get a feel for him in camp and how he's handling things," Friedman said on Friday. "There will be a discussion we'll have with the staff, and I'm sure it will be an ongoing discussion we have between now and the last game in March."
It makes sense for the Dodgers to keep their options open, or at least keep the illusion going for appearances. After all, one day before Dee Gordon was traded, general manager Farhan Zaidi said, "We are not dangling him. He is our second baseman," which while possibly technically true at the time doesn't mean things can change in an instant.
Friedman on Friday said if Pederson wasn't in center the team would consider some combination of Puig, Andre Ethier, Enrique Hernandez and Chris Heisey in center field.
"We have different guys who can go out there," Friedman said. "We'll just have to figure it out."
The key here is of course Ethier, who has three years and $56 million guaranteed left on his contract, and has made it known this winter he wants to start in 2015. With Pederson in Triple-A, Ethier could start or at least be the busy half of a platoon in right field, with the Dodgers hoping he rebounds from a 2014 season — .249/.322/.370, 97 OPS+ — that was the worst of his career.
After trading Kemp, Friedman was asked if he needed to trade another outfielder this winter.
"I think it was really important for us going into the offseason to trade one. Now, we're just open-minded to different scenarios that makes us a better team, whether it's an outfielder or someone else," Friedman said. "We're now in a mode of being opportunistic, continuing to target guys we like and we feel like fit us."
I don't think there is any way the Dodgers head into the season with Ethier around if he's not starting, even if it means eating over half his deal to dump him. This talk could simply be the Dodgers continuing to play things as close to the vest as possible until a deal is done.
Or it could mean the team just isn't yet ready to fully commit to Pederson, which would be perfectly fine. But that time to turn the keys over to Pederson will come soon enough, and if I were a betting man I'd guess it happens sooner rather than later.
No matter what the Dodgers say out loud.