LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers filled a big hole with the acquisition of second baseman Logan Forsythe from the Rays on Monday, and dealt from a position of strength in doing so.
The club was intent on getting a second baseman, and a right-handed one at that after the club hit .213/.290/.332 against left-handed pitching in 2016, worst in the majors against southpaws.
Brian Dozier of the Twins was pursued, as was Ian Kinsler of the Tigers, both of whom would have cost more than Jose De Leon. Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said there were conversations with a few teams, including the Rays, for the last several months, and that talks intensified over the last week.
"We've had a lot of different conversations with a number of different teams,” Friedman said. “To help really balance out our position player group, we felt like our last real lever to do that was a strong, right-handed hitting second baseman.”
The Dodgers were and are still high on Chase Utley, who started 118 games at second base in 2016, but he bats left-handed.
“Chase has meant a tremendous amount to our organization. He was a big part of our success in 2015 and 2016,” Friedman said. “I don't think I've ever been around a player that has the kind of impact he has off the field.
“We probably would have re-signed him months ago if our lineup was a little bit more balanced.”
Forsythe is a career .248/.343/.475 hitter against southpaws, a 127 wRC+, and provides a contrast in a Dodgers lineup that features left-handed hitters Corey Seager, Adrian Gonzalez and Joc Pederson, plus switch-hitter Yasmani Grandal who hits better from the left side.
"We feel like he will fit in incredibly well within the fabric of our group. He's a great fit. He's a grinder, professional hitter, can really handle left-handed pitching as well as right,” Friedman said. “He has some versatility, is a good base runner, and we felt like was the type of player we needed to be aggressive to add to our current group.”
The addition of potentially two years of Forsythe comes at a cost, with De Leon heading to the Rays with six years before free agency.
"Retaining our free agents emboldened us and put us in a position to do something like this,” Friedman said. “Re-signing Rich [Hill] put us in a place where we had some depth of major-league-ready/caliber pitching.”
The Dodgers major league rotation depth at the moment includes Clayton Kershaw, Hill, Kenta Maeda, Julio Urias, Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir and Alex Wood, while also retaining Ross Stripling and Brock Stewart, who both made starts for the Dodgers in 2016.
Not that the Dodgers weren’t bullish on De Leon.
"Everyone speaks incredibly highly of him. ... He's a great competitor. He's got a chance to be a very good major league pitcher,” Friedman said. “From our standpoint, with where we're at, we feel like we have a tremendous amount of depth on the prospect side as well as on the pitching side. It allowed us to use that to address what we felt like was our most acute need.”
Can't find the words to thank the @Dodgers, teammates, coaches & fans. NOW.. taking the mission to @RaysBaseball. Beyond excited #OnAMission pic.twitter.com/xKpMqntnLE— Jose De León (@JDL_87) January 24, 2017
"We are really excited to acquire someone we consider one of the top pitching prospects in baseball," Rays general manager Erik Neander said of De Leon. “Tremendous makeup, tremendous character. The personality on and off the field is something we're really excited about having.”
As for Utley, a return to the Dodgers seems unlikely unless in some sort of a utility role.
"Never say never with a guy like Chase just because of the type of guy he is and the impact he has,” Friedman said. “We're going to continue to keep an open mind in rounding out our roster.”