The Dodgers roster after the trade deadline passed looked just about the same as when the day started. Yes, they added infielder Jedd Gyorko and left-handed pitcher Adam Kolarek but neither of them could be called an impact player that Andrew Friedman, President of Baseball Operations, said he was aiming to acquire.
We will never know how much the Dodgers were really ready to give. Though it does seem that they were certainly ready to give up one of their highly rated prospects for the right player, there is no question that the sellers of those few impact players were asking for a lot.
The Dodgers now know that whomever is in their entire organization today is what they have to work with for the next two months as they get ready to finish winning their seventh straight division and prepare to get to their third-straight World Series.
These next 52 games give the Dodgers an opportunity to flex their organizational depth and get ready to find their best 25-man roster going into to October. The following are my thoughts to how they can find this roster.
Promoting Gavin Lux and play him at second base
If Chris Taylor and Kiké Hernández were available this might not be my number one move but since they are not, I think adding Gavin Lux does a couple of things for this roster.
One, it sets Lux up to be the regular second baseman in 2020 and lets the front office put that in their equation in determining what they do with Taylor and Hernández in the future.
You have the luxury of doing this with a double-digit game lead as opposed to doing this next March.
Two, Lux is the most impactful position player that can be added to this team. If he can produce, that helps some of my other moves that will be discussed below.
And three, it will inject some energy to this team and fanbase that will probably be missing given there probably won’t be any real pennant race excitement for the Dodgers this season.
Playing Max Muncy at first and Joc Pederson in left field
With Lux playing certainly against right-handed pitching, that would mean Max Muncy would need to go back to first base and Joc Pederson should go to his regular position in left field.
The Dodgers like their multi-position players, it adds to their ability to get their best lineups in the game and also helps with in-game moves.
But if the reason to play Joc Pederson at first base was to also play Alex Verdugo and A.J. Pollock in the lineup against right-handed pitching, these moves only make sense if Pederson’s offense balances out his defensive ability at first. And while Muncy’s offense is fine at second, in about the same number of plate appearances at first and second show that Muncy hits better when playing first.
I can only look at the small sample size that we have but here’s what the numbers say:
2019 - Pederson and Muncy at different positions
|Pederson as 1B||19||78||72||16||2||5||18||.222||.282||.347||.629||.269|
|Pederson as LF||66||254||218||52||19||27||53||.239||.343||.550||.893||.224|
|Muncy as 1B||47||152||129||40||12||23||37||.310||.414||.628||1.042||.350|
|Muncy as 2B||45||168||140||31||10||25||37||.221||.339||.479||.818||.221|
|Muncy as 3B||25||101||85||23||4||13||28||.271||.366||.471||.837||.345|
This would also allow Muncy and Pederson more certainty in their daily preparation.
An infield of Muncy, Lux, Corey Seager and Justin Turner with a healthy David Freese, Chris Taylor and Kiké Hernández available to fill in are the best Dodgers can have in October.
Platooning in spots for rest and production
While the best record in both the National League and overall are important goals, the Dodgers need to protect their roster from further injury while keeping their position players sharp.
With this in mind, for the rest of 2019, A.J. Pollock and Corey Seager should sit against certain right-handed and left-handed pitchers, respectively.
2019 Dodgers RHB vs RHP
2019 Dodger LHB vs . LHP
I believe the Dodgers see Pollock and Seager as “everyday players,” but sitting them once a week when they face a same-sided pitcher would be mindful given their recoveries from their in-season injuries and also let Pederson and Alex Verdugo in the same outfield.
Alex Verdugo has produced more than I think anyone could have expected this season but he could also use some rest and I think watching one or two games a week from the bench would allow him a chance to view the game at a different perspective.
Figuring out the rotation and bullpen could take the rest of the season
The Dodgers top three in the rotation of Hyun-Jin Ryu, Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw is set, the Dodgers only need to manage their workload going forward so they are as sharp and rested as they can be heading to the playoffs. Finding a fourth starter and putting together the bullpen is what will keep the front office and coaching staff up nights from now until October.
Kenta Maeda will likely continue to start but at some point if the plan is to move him into a prominent relief role, the coaching staff and Maeda need to work together to get to comfortable place to get that going.
Julio Urías could be that fourth starter or left-handed reliever the Dodgers looked for but did not get by the trade deadline. We should find out soon enough as manager Dave Roberts said they would visit this issue once the trade deadline passed. I think they really need a left-handed threat in the pen more than a fourth starter but Urías will have to prepared to be available on back-to-back days to make that a reality.
Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May were two names that Roberts mentioned during spring training that he thought could help the Dodgers in 2019. Both of them now have an opportunity to show they can provide as much — if not, more — than any pitcher the Dodgers could have acquired this season.
May, who will be making his major league debut when he starts on Friday, has only pitched out of the bullpen five times in 78 games in his professional career. And he has only started in his last two seasons. He might have about 50-60 innings left this season given he’s at 106⅔ innings after pitching just over 130 innings in both 2017 and 2018. It will be interesting to see how the Dodgers plan to allocate those innings at the major league level going forward.
Gonsolin has much more experience pitching out of the bullpen than May. Gonsolin shot up the prospect ranking lists when he became a starting pitcher in 2018. This year, he has had some injuries so he has not even pitched 50 innings total when you combine his appearances for Los Angeles and Oklahoma City. Gonsolin should be recalled as soon as possible to both make spot starts and also get ready for leveraged appearances out of the bullpen.
Dodgers going all-in, their way
During this 7-year run of NL West leadership, there have been different iterations of the Dodger teams that won those seasons. When Guggenheim took over, they decided to be competitive as soon as possible after seeing the franchise take a tumble in 2010 and 2011.
So they made big moves and took on large salaries both in trades and free agency in the first few years of ownership. That resulted in division titles from 2013-14 on teams filled with recognizable stars like Adrián González, Hanley Ramirez and Zack Greinke who along with Clayton Kershaw, Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier put the Dodgers back on the national landscape.
Ownership made changes in their baseball operations after 2014, bringing in the best in the business, Andrew Friedman, to be their new President of Baseball Operations. Friedman and his organization used the resources available to continue on what had took place after Guggenheim bought the team. Not only did that mean acquiring players but as important, investing in all areas, including research and analytics to give the Dodgers everything they could use to get better. That culminated with two straight World Series appearances with players acquired under both the past and current baseball operations organizations.
When I say this 2019 Dodgers team going all-in their way, I mean they are going for it in the way they believe will provide this team the best chance to win the World Series this year. They believe in their development, their culture and that they can work these next two months and find the best 25 players that will win it all this year. I have no doubt that it will lean younger than ever before and will probably have several players making their postseason debuts in 2019.
Manager Dave Roberts has excelled in getting his players to buy-in for the betterment of the Dodgers. If these moves happen, he will have to work with his players to work with changes in their playing time and positions played, but he has proven he can do that effectively in past seasons.
It will be interesting to watch and there will be plenty to say afterwards no matter what happens. The Dodgers could have paid whatever it took to bring in one or two impact players and had that failed to deliver them a title, they could have easily said they did all they could and most observers would have agreed with them.
By going this way, everything will go back to the decision they made to stay with their guys, if they go out because the bullpen could not come through, they will be the ones explaining what happened and taking responsibility for it.
But hopefully for the 2019 Dodgers, they will be the ones collecting all the chips when this season is over.