Los Angeles has been a speculative landing spot for left-handed slugger Bryce Harper this offseason, but the Dodgers are currently focused on improving their group of righty-swingers. After trading away right-handed regulars Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp on Friday, it’s “likely” the club will pick up “an impact right-handed bat,” Jon Morosi of MLB.com writes. To that end, the Dodgers are actively pursuing a trade for a right-handed catcher and/or second baseman, Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets, while Morosi adds that they could land an outfielder.
As a result of the departures of Puig and Kemp – not to mention the potential exits of Manny Machado, Yasmani Grandal and Brian Dozier in free agency – the Dodgers are currently sporting a lefty-heavy lineup. Their only projected starters who can hit from the right side are third baseman Justin Turner, infielder/outfielder Chris Taylor and catcher Austin Barnes, and the latter is coming off a miserable season at the plate. There’s certainly room for improvement, then, and as Morosi points out, the Dodgers have shown interest in a few established right-handed bats this offseason in Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto, Tigers outfielder Nicholas Castellanos and free-agent second baseman DJ LeMahieu.
In Realmuto’s case, no team has been able to satisfy the rebuilding Marlins enough to pry the coveted backstop out of Miami. Meanwhile, despite Castellanos’ well-known defensive shortcomings and his lack of long-term control (he’s arbitration eligible for just one more year, at a projected $11.9MM), the non-contending Tigers have placed a “high” asking price on him, Morosi tweets. And, stellar 2016 season aside, LeMahieu may be closer to a mediocre hitter than a game-changer – as shown by the longtime Rockie’s lack of power (49 home runs, .108 ISO) and unspectacular wRC+ (90) across 3,799 major league plate appearances.
In addition to Grandal, Realmuto, Castellanos and LeMahieu, Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli, Cardinals first baseman/outfielder Jose Martinez and free-agent center fielder A.J. Pollock were each connected to LA before it shipped Puig and Kemp out of town. Anyone from that group would help the Dodgers in their quest to upgrade their right-handed attack at positions of need.
Speculatively speaking, there may be plenty of other righty-capable possibilities on the Dodgers’ radar. At least some of White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu, Mariners first baseman Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays first baseman Justin Smoak, Marlins second baseman Starlin Castro, Padres corner outfielder/infielder Wil Myers and Yankees third baseman Miguel Andujar (who’d perhaps make sense at first or in the outfield for the Dodgers) may be logical targets for the club via trade. There are fewer formidable options in free agency, on the other hand, though utilityman Marwin Gonzalez and second baseman Jed Lowrie – a pair of switch-hitters – stand out as potential fits for LA.
While the Dodgers hope to assemble a more balanced lineup, they may ultimately eschew that plan if it means signing Harper, Morosi suggests. As far as this winter’s free-agent class goes, it’s debatable whether Harper is superior to Machado – a fellow 26-year-old superstar who’s also verging on a historic contract. Considering their positions, though, it seems Harper is a better match for LA’s roster, and he reportedly wants to sign with the back-to-back National League champions.