The Dodgers have had the least amount of offensive production from second base out of any position this season, but they have had the most players (7) to start at least one game there. The Dodgers’ second basemen are nearly dead last in baseball in combined batting average (.219), and they’re 12th in the NL in on-base-plus-slugging-percentage (.644). This even includes Max Muncy’s .360 average and four home runs in 25 at-bats at second.
The original second base combination that manager Dave Roberts started the season with in Logan Forsythe and Chase Utley have not produced much. Both are hitting right around the Mendoza Line, and this opened the door for Muncy to take an expanded starting role at second base.
As the July 31 trade deadline approaches, the Dodgers are rumored to have interest in not only Manny Machado, but also other position players such as Scooter Gennett, Brian Dozier and Asdrubal Cabrera.
Sources: Dodgers have stepped up pursuit of a position player and are looking beyond Manny Machado. Have had conversations with Reds about Scooter Gennett, Twins about Brian Dozier and Mets about Asdrubal Cabrera. Dodgers’ versatility allows them to pursue a number of positions.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 10, 2018
It’s no secret that the Dodgers could use some pitching reinforcements, both in the starting and relief department. Although management has shown over the years they’re persistently looking for upgrades to the roster, even incremental ones, the question of whether they really need an upgrade at second base is fair considering Muncy’s meteoric rise.
The Dodgers lucked out with Muncy, who has come from out of nowhere and become one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball in the first half of the season. Roberts has in turn played the hot bat and given Muncy more playing time at second base, pushing Forsythe and Utley to the bench.
Baseball doesn’t always go as planned, but the Dodgers’ 40-man roster was built with depth and versatility. Muncy was originally called up from Triple-A Oklahoma City to fill-in for the injured Justin Turner at third base. Once Turner returned after missing the first 40 games of the season, and Chris Taylor took over for Corey Seager at shortstop, it only made sense to pencil in Muncy at second to get his hot bat in the lineup.
Utley, in turn, only gets about one start per week. Forsythe’s role was diminished to less than a platoon situation with Muncy at second.
Roberts told Bill Shaikin of the LA Times that Forsythe would be limited to a platoon role with Muncy back on July 1.
“We know that there’s a lot more in there from Logan. He’ll get opportunities. But, right now, in the foreseeable future, it’s going to be more against left-handed pitching.”
Before the series in San Diego, Forsythe had only started once on July 8 vs. the Angels and has primarily come into the game for late innings in his six prior July appearances. With trade season heating up, Roberts started Forsythe in consecutive games on Tuesday and Wednesday.
He went 0-for-3 on Tuesday with three strikeouts. Unfortunately the struggling second baseman ran into some bad luck when one of the umpires took matters into his own hands, taking away a double from Forsythe. Roberts went with Forsythe again on Wednesday against left-hander Joey Lucchesi, and he fared a bit better going 1-for-2 with a RBI single, a walk, and a strikeout.
Meanwhile, Muncy is hitting .276/.416/.614/1.030 with 21 home runs in 210 at-bats this season. In his nine games at second base, he’s slugging .840 and OPSing 1.396 with four home runs in 25 at-bats.
Should the Dodgers acquire another position player at the trade deadline, they would need to find space on the roster. Forsythe and Utley are blatantly the weakest links. Utley does still have value off the bench and in the clubhouse as a mentor and “Dad” to many of the younger players. Utley was never seen as a starting solution at second base coming into the season. He’s hitting an even .200 as a starter and .409 as a pinch-hitter. Utley came up with another big pinch-hit on Wednesday at Petco Park.
An acquisition of Machado proportions would shake up the lineup and defensive configuration. If Machado took over primarily at shortstop, Muncy would shift to first base, Cody Bellinger would go to the outfield, and Taylor would also have to play more outfield. Muncy has played the majority of his games at first base (33) and second most at third (27).
Muncy not only also has been a solid contributor at the plate, but he’s been versatile all around the infield defensively. When he was asked to play second base, he re-learned admirably.
Gennett, NL batting leader, would certainly be an upgrade at second base from Forsythe and Utley. Of course it depends on what the Dodgers would have to give up for Gennett or another position player. A second baseman doesn’t need to hit bombs every night, but the cornerstone position is usually filled by someone who can provide solid defense and produce consistent offense. Forsythe has never quite looked like the same player who hit 20 home runs for Tampa Bay in 2016. His five hits in the World Series gave us a peek at Forsythe’s potential, but ultimately it’s not enough.
Forsythe is in the final year of his three-year $18.25 million deal.
If the Dodgers make a move, it would be hard to see Utley going anywhere after they signed him to a two-year, $2 million dollar deal this offseason, and he’s been very good off the bench.
The Dodgers lead the NL in home runs (125), and the offense is second in slugging (.430), so they’re producing with the guys they have. The scary thing is that Justin Turner is still not 100%, and that may play another part in the Machado saga. Perhaps the answer to their second base woes has already been answered in Muncy, but there’s always room for improvement and a trade deadline Manny.