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Dodgers expect improvement vs. left-handers

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MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Los Angeles Dodgers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES — The Dodgers continue to look for roster upgrades, with a right-handed bat on the wish list and a hole still remaining at second base. Now it’s just a matter of figuring out who, and when.

Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said on Wednesday that the dual pursuits of a bat and a second baseman are “interconnected,” but left open the possibility of an upgrade elsewhere.

"In an ideal world, you're looking at a situation where we can add a right-handed bat, but not just because the guy happens to hit right-handed,” Friedman said. “Where that is on the field will vary some.”

The second baseman at the top of the wish list, and at the top of the rumor mill for weeks, is Brian Dozier, though talks with the Twins have reached an impasse for now.

“The Dodgers, according to sources familiar with the talks, were willing to part with right-hander Jose De Leon, their top-rated pitching prospect, but steadfastly refused to include a second high-end pitching prospect such as Yadier Alvarez, Walker Buehler or even Brock Stewart,” wrote Mike Berardino of the Twin Cities Pioneer Press on Wednesday.

The most likely non-Dozier trade alternative is Logan Forsythe of the Rays, with one year plus a club option let on his contract.

Ian Kinsler is probably the best option but is also the oldest, heading into his age-35 season. And Kinsler wouldn’t be any cheaper in prospects than Dozier, and would require a contract extension to waive his no-trade clause. That’s before wondering why the Tigers would actually trade him; waiting for a Detroit fire sale is the least productive stakeout ever.

Just because the Dodgers and Twins are at an impasse now doesn’t mean a deal can’t eventually get done. All it takes is movement from one or both sides, especially with the principal piece (De Leon) already agreed upon. After all, we are still over five weeks from position players reporting to spring training.

“We've still got a lot of offseason left,” Friedman said.

If we’re thinking outside the box, in theory Justin Turner could play second base, leaving third base the hole to fill, and an easier one at that. Last year, with Turner coming off knee surgery that wasn’t much of an option. But now, even if possible, it isn’t very realistic.

"I guess it's an option, probably more so in-game,” Friedman said. “But he's so good at what he does at third base.”

Whatever the addition the Dodgers will make over the next month, it figures to improve their performance against left-handed pitching. After all, you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting some reference to the fact that the Dodgers ranked last in just about every category against southpaws in 2016, hitting .213/.290/.322 with a .275 wOBA and 72 wRC+.

But even if the Dodgers don’t add anyone, their performance is likely to improve. After all, there is nowhere to go but up.

“It was like an imperfect storm that played out last year. Even as is, we're not going to be where we were last year,” Friedman said. “It's not a strength, but we have a lot of other team strengths.”

The Dodgers are banking improvements from Kiké Hernandez, Scott Van Slyke and Trayce Thompson, who were hurt or ineffective, or both, in 2016. A more productive Puig would certainly help. Even Turner, a right-handed hitter with reverse platoon splits, was worse than normal against southpaws last year.

Dodgers vs. LHP

Player 2016 wOBA 2016 wRC+ Career wOBA Career wRC+
Player 2016 wOBA 2016 wRC+ Career wOBA Career wRC+
Scott Van Slyke 0.317 100 0.367 138
Yasiel Puig 0.333 110 0.366 137
Kiké Hernandez 0.295 85 0.362 133
Trayce Thompson 0.304 92 0.356 127
Justin Turner 0.283 77 0.308 96
Adrian Gonzalez 0.268 67 0.331 108

Gonzalez over the last three years has a .290 wOBA and 85 wRC+ against lefties, down from his career totals but still better than his 2016 performance.

“We had a number of outlier-ish seasons. We have a lot of really talented guys against left-handed pitching and just naturally we'll be a good bit better,” Friedman said. “To the extent we can further that and make it more of a strength, great.”