The Los Angeles Dodgers have the best offense in the National League, and one of the best in baseball, their team 118 wRC+ trails only the Yankees. In a year with several regulars underperforming and carrying disappointing hitting numbers, that statement holds even more significance.
The likes of Max Muncy, Cody Bellinger, and Justin Turner are all playing below their capabilities, and whether one could for a variety of reasons debate what exactly is the proper expectation for each of those players, heading into this year, it can’t be argued that there’s room for improvement.
Beyond that, the Dodgers have been hit with a couple of injuries on the hitting side that hurt their depth. Edwin Ríos looked poised for a breakout campaign and could’ve been playing his way into a regular role by now, but instead went on the 60-day IL for a second straight season, and the ever-so-important Chris Taylor fractured his right foot and is out indefinitely. Taylor was having his own strikeout issues, but still putting up a solid stat line.
The bottom line is that the Dodgers should, and most likely will add to this lineup before the August 2 trade deadline. The 2022 market didn’t really have that Trea Turner impact-level bat available, at least not until the Juan Soto/Nationals situation worsened over the weekend. But the Dodgers may be looking at a different type of addition to their lineup, a complementary piece.
The top of this lineup is fine, and while anyone is always up for adding another star, the Dodgers could use some depth at key spots in their offense. AJ Pollock isn’t having the best of times out in Chicago, but his departure opened up a hole, after all, one can’t ignore his offensive output in 2020 and 2021 with the Dodgers. Combine that with Taylor’s injury, and the defensive specialist that Bellinger currently is, and the Dodgers could use another bat, particularly one that can play the outfield or third base.
The market has interesting names that can fill out the role of a complementary piece to this Dodgers lineup and provide the depth it carried in recent years. Jake Lamb and Trayce Thompson have performed admirably in limited time, but if the offense can add another one or two reliable bats to move around, it will be all the better for it.
Let’s have a look at some of the best options out there on the market, and what they could bring to the table in a Dodger uniform
A Cincinnati Reds duo
3B/2B Brandon Drury (2022: .278/.336/.528, 134 wRC+)
The name that comes to the mind when everyone thinks of the seller Reds is Luis Castillo, but looking at Cincy’s lineup, Brandon Drury is easily the surprise of this team, and the impending free agent is one of the more attractive hitters on the market, especially for a team with the Dodgers’ needs.
Drury who has experience playing second, third, and corner outfield, is having a career year with the Reds and was even looked at by some as an All-Star snub. Drury’s .528 slugging percentage is a top-5 mark in the National League, and would trail only Freddie Freeman (.530) on the Dodgers.
Drury’s 18 home runs are tied for second-most in the National League by a third baseman, and he is one of a few hitters with already 50 or more runs and 50 or more RBI in the NL.
The Reds are all but certain to trade Drury given that he’s on a one-year deal, and they aren’t going anywhere. Although his flexibility all but warrants a big number of suitors for his services, the price tag on Drury shouldn’t be overly excessive given the lack of a more extensive track record.
Drury’s acquisition would allow Roberts to be more flexible with Max Muncy and Justin Turner, given both more off days against specific matchups, and his experience in second-base would also free the opportunity to play Gavin Lux in the outfield more often, and even Drury himself could fill in in left field, in a pinch.
Drury’s hitting profile is eerily similar to what AJ Pollock provided the Dodgers with last year. A solid batting average, a serviceable if unimpressive walk rate, and significant power for the middle, and back end of the lineup.
OF Tommy Pham (2022: .242/.329/.391, 100 wRC+)
A former divisional foe of the Dodgers also accompanies Drury as a possible trade target on a rental contract out in Cincinnati. Pham doesn’t have the impressive first half of Drury, but he represents a reliable right-handed bat that you can plug in the outfield for a bit of stability.
Pham has had a lot of ups and downs since coming up with St Louis, but if you ignore his putrid 2020 campaign with the Padres, he’s always delivered an OPS+ at or above league average, often above. His .801 career OPS is pretty impressive.
Pham signed very late with the Reds, and got off to a slow start, whether the two have any connection, probably not, but his .873 OPS in June helped stabilize some of those numbers, and while the beginning of July hasn’t been terrific, he’s the type of veteran bat you trust.
The corner outfielder wouldn’t cost the Dodgers a ton, and he could be the player Kevin Pillar didn’t get a chance to be for the 2022 Dodgers. Pham is a better hitter, and not the same defender, but he wouldn’t necessarily come in for an everyday role, but a bat can take a chunk of those LF at-bats before Taylor is fully healthy.
Help out in the midwest
Andrew Benintendi (2022: .317/.386/.401, 127 wRC+)
The Royals made news with the number of players that didn’t make the trip to Toronto because they weren’t vaccinated. While the Royals aren’t contending for a playoff spot, this is still impactful, especially to names that could be traded at the deadline.
if the season ended today, the Blue Jays would make the postseason and any absence in a playoff series in Toronto over this issue is bound to be a focal point.
Andrew Benintendi is one of the players that didn’t make the trip, and he’s one of the likeliest players to be traded by its year’s deadline. Whether his vaccination status will drive away specific AL teams one can’t know for sure, one can’t even know if he’d remain unvaccinated and miss a playoff series due to this issue.
Whether or not he loses value to AL teams, specifically, one can’t say at this point, but for a team like the Dodgers, who could play Toronto in the World Series, Benintendi could be someone who at least helps them get there.
Benintendi is in his walk year in Kansas City, and in the middle of his best offensive season since his 2018 with the Red Sox. While the Dodgers would probably prefer a right-handed bat acquisition, Benintendi shouldn’t be ruled out because of it.
Benintendi would be a plug and play in left-field, at least until the return of Chris Taylor, at which point the two could rotate, and also give Bellinger more days off, specifically against tough lefties. Gavin Lux played some center field last year, though it’s not the ideal position for him.
A 2022 All-Star, Benintendi doesn’t provide much pop, but he puts the ball in play and also is currently carrying a 10.2-percent walk rate, which isn’t far off from his career norm. Regardless of where you place him in the lineup, Benintendi can give you a lot of what Gavin Lux has, and his career splits aren’t overly aggressive as to make him unplayable versus lefties.
Big acquisitions that didn’t make the cut
Both Josh Bell and Willson Contreras are having career years at the plate and should be dealt by the Nationals and Cubs, and while the Dodgers could technically make room for either, a deal would be extremely unlikely because:
- The Dodgers won’t relegate one of Smith or Contreras to DH-only at-bats, if you’re paying up for Contreras’ production, you’re doing it so because of the extra value you get from it coming at the catcher position, not to use him as your designated hitter. And LA values Austin Barnes too highly to essentially remove him from the catcher equation.
- Although Bell would be one of the finest designated hitters out there, and inevitably boost this lineup, the Dodgers have emphasized the importance they give to the flexibility at the DH spot. The option to move different hitters to that role, from Turner to Muncy, and also the ability to keep Smith’s bat in the lineup in off-days behind the dish, all of that helps keep the whole lineup fresh.
it’s very hard to see the Dodgers abandoning that strategy for a full-time DH.
These three hitters — Andrew Benintendi, Brandon Drury, and Tommy Pham — are some of the most realistic, attainable, and intriguing targets the Dodgers could and should pursue at this year’s trade deadline.