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Dodgers mailbag: Trade deadline needs, Juan Soto, Chris Taylor, postseason roster

Answering your Dodgers questions

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Los Angeles Dodgers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

I asked you for Dodgers questions, and you came through. Friday morning’s Leading Off with True Blue LA podcast is dedicated to answering said queries.

Let’s get right to the questions.

Steve SD: Who’s a better or more likely trade target for the Dodgers: Juan Soto, or J.D. Martinez?

I want to say Martinez, mostly because I don’t think it’s likely the Dodgers trade for Soto during the season. Martinez definitely qualifies as a superior right-handed bat — .295/.363/.471, 30 doubles, nine home runs, 132 wRC+ — and will be a free agent at season’s end, with about $7 million left on his contract. Plus, the last time he was traded in-season, he hit four home runs in a game at Dodger Stadium that September.

But all 83 of Martinez’s games this year have come at designated hitter, and it’s hard for me to see the Dodgers locking in a full-time DH, when they like to use that spot to keep Will Smith’s bat in the lineup and rotate others, like Justin Turner, to keep them relatively fresh.

dodger john: One player who seems to be overlooked and at least worth a shot is Carson Fulmer at OKC. He has a 1.60 ERA, his WHIP is just over 1 and he strikes out more than 1 an inning. What am I missing?

Carson Fulmer has pitched pretty well in Triple-A, posting a 1.60 ERA with a 3.87 FIP. Trying to figure out the difference in ERA and FIP, one reason is the high walk rate (11.7 percent) though he has allowed only two home runs in 39⅓ innings. Fulmer has allowed only seven earned runs, but also six unearned runs. He’s also induced a .215 BABIP, which doesn’t seem sustainable.

Among the 21 OKC pitchers with at least ten innings this season, only Yency Almonte (42.4 percent), Garrett Cleavinger (37.9 percent), Jose Adames (32.5 percent), and Ryan Pepiot (32 percent) have a better strikeout rate than Fulmer’s 28.4 percent.

In July, Fulmer has been even better, allowing two runs (one earned) in 15 innings, with 18 strikeouts (31.6 percent) and three walks. But perhaps more germane to the Dodgers’ needs, he has also thrown more than one inning in half of his last twelve appearances.

Triple-A games are on Statcast, so you can get a little insight into how the sausage is made, of sorts. Through Fulmer’s last game, on Tuesday, his fastball averages 93.2 mph this season, which is right in line with his parts of six seasons in the majors. Nothing really stands out there, not like Dellin Betances, who’s 3-4 ticks below his peak and has an ERA near 10, now four years removed from his last healthy season. Or Pedro Báez, who averaged 91 mph on his 14 fastballs Wednesday in his Triple-A debut, with no swinging strikes on the pitch.

This is a long way of saying Fulmer hasn’t exactly been dominating, but he’s certainly in the mix for a call-up should the Dodgers need a fresh arm. He already got the call earlier this season, was active for two games (wearing number 56, if you’re wondering), and got designated for assignment, cleared waivers and ended up back in Triple-A. I think a repeat of that scenario — but with actually pitching — is more likely than Fulmer coming up for any sort of entrenched bullpen role in the majors this year.

68elcamino427: How do you really feel about the Trade Simulator?

I actually hate it, but let me explain.

First, the site — Baseball Trade Values — is expertly set up, and tries to mimic how major league teams act in real life. That’s all perfectly fine, but my objection is mostly that it is taken as gospel.

For me, the concept is a little too close to “add up the WARs” mentality, which doesn’t make much sense with actual value. An eight-win player is much more valuable than two four-win players, for instance. But it leads to folks in the comments and online mentions using the trade simulator with too much certainty.

It’s akin to the Twitter account Ump Scorecards, which is fine for what it does, but it has helped spawn dozens of whiners about the strike zone every single game. Give me a baseball telecast without the damn strike zone box, and some front office should hire the Baseball Trade Values folks so we can push the trade simulator into the incinerator.

55leonards: Does the announcement that Chris Taylor can play infield influence the conceivability that Muncy or Alberto will not be included in a postseason series?

What Chris Taylor being cleared to play second base does is increase the Dodgers roster flexibility, which has been a hallmark for most of the time under the Andrew Friedman front office. Taylor had elbow surgery in the offseason, and was limited to only the outfield to start this season, with the team not wanting to further tax his elbow by changing arm angles on throws.

But Dave Roberts told reporters on Monday that Taylor is now cleared to play the infield, and would move between second base, left field, and center field once he returns from a broken foot.

That opens up some possibilities for what position player(s) the Dodgers might acquire at the trade deadline, and further cements Cody Bellinger into more of a platoon role, with Taylor and likely Trayce Thompson getting the starts in center against left-handed pitchers.

But I don’t necessarily think it means much for the postseason roster slots for Muncy and Alberto, at least before knowing what other player(s) they acquire.

Last year in the NLDS, with two off days in the five-game series, the Dodgers carried 12 pitchers and 14 position players. During the NLCS, a seven-game affair with the same two off days, Los Angeles added a 13th pitcher, trimming to 13 position players.

Given how patient the Dodgers have been with Muncy — even more patient than Muncy at the plate! — I find it hard to believe he wouldn’t make a postseason roster, even if it’s in a reduced role. Muncy has been active for 85 games this season, and he’s started 75 times. In July, Muncy has started 15 of 18 games while hitting .131/.263/.328. It’s a tough habit to break.

It might be more likely for Alberto to be left off a postseason roster, though that depends on who the Dodgers add at the deadline. Edwin Ríos has been out since the beginning of June, but him starting a rehab assignment with Triple-A on Thursday makes his return more tangible, and adds another worthy power option. If they trade for a right-handed bat, Alberto isn’t as needed to start against lefties, and it’s probably less likely he enters as a defensive replacement late in games. But if I had to guess now, I think Muncy and Alberto are both active in October.

55leonards: In general how can players without options be removed from the active roster for a postseason series?

Rosters don’t work the same way in the postseason in some ways. For instance, there’s no minors to send anyone to. Anyone who was in the organization before September 1 is eligible for the postseason, and folks on the 40-man in the postseason are either active or they are not. Players not active aren’t optioned at that point, they are just sort of in limbo.

You don’t have to be on the 40-man before September 1 to be postseason-eligible, just in the organization. But you do have to be on the 40-man to be active. Last year, for instance, when Justin Turner’s hamstring injury knocked him out during the middle of the NLCS, the Dodgers called up Andy Burns, who was not on the 40-man roster. To make room on the 40-man for Burns, LA designated pitcher Edwin Uceta for assignment. You can’t put someone on the 60-day injured list during the postseason.

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