With center fielder A.J. Pollock having undergone right elbow surgery Thursday, Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman told Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register and other reporters that adding another righty-hitting outfielder “would be ideal.” However, Friedman noted the Dodgers “have a fairly high bar with our mindset being to giving our current guys more of a runway.” Even without Pollock, the Dodgers have no shortage of quality outfield options at the big league level, though nearly all of them hit from the left side. Pollock could come back later in the season to balance out the group, but there’s still no timetable for his return. For now, Pollock’s “resting and recovering” in the wake of surgery, per manager Dave Roberts.
Dodgers outfielder A.J. Pollock will undergo surgery to remove the metal hardware that was inserted in his the growth plate of his right elbow back in a 2016 procedure, manager Dave Roberts announced Wednesday (Twitter links via Ken Gurnick of MLB.com and Pedro Moura of The Athletic).
Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times tweets that the Dodgers feel the fact that the metal can be removed entirely, rather than replaced is “relatively” good news, as it means Pollock’s growth plate has healed sufficiently, though obviously the loss is a blow to the club. There’s no timeline on a return, though Roberts noted that Pollock is expected back this season.
The Dodgers were well aware of the injury risks associated with Pollock when signing him to a four-year contract this offseason. The 31-year-old is an undeniably talented all-around player, but he’s topped 500 plate appearances just once in his big league career. Pollock averaged just 101 games played and 402 plate appearances per season dating back to 2014.
Most notably, Pollock was limited to only a dozen games back in 2016 after suffering a fractured elbow while sliding headfirst on a play at the plate — the injury that necessitated the surgery that ultimately led to this new procedure. It’s been a slow start to the season for Pollock, likely in part due to this infection, as he’s hit just .223/.287/.330 through 115 PAs — including just three hits in his past 29 trips to the plate.
With Pollock sidelined indefinitely, it stands to reason that Alex Verdugo will see an increased role in the outfield. Chris Taylor, too, could see an increase in playing time. Beyond that pair of center-field options, the Dodgers have Cody Bellinger and Joc Pederson as options, and versatile Enrique Hernandez is plenty experienced there. The team could get another option to add back into the mix eventually as well; Roberts also indicated that Andrew Toles has reported to the team’s Spring Training facility in Arizona and is beginning to work toward a return to the club (Twitter link via DiGiovanna).
Note: An earlier version of this post inaccurately indicated that the hardware in Pollock’s elbow had been dislodged. That is not the case. My apologies on the error.
TODAY: Pollock has indeed gone on the IL. He underwent an “exploratory” procedure last night, as Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times was among those to tweet. Depending upon what was found, further work was considered a possibility; the outcome is not yet known as of this morning.
YESTERDAY: The Dodgers are likely to place center fielder A.J. Pollock on the injured list, manager Dave Roberts told Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register and other assembled reporters last night. Pollock dealing with an infection in his oft-injured right elbow.
Details remain scant, but Roberts indicated that the issue is related to the prior surgical procedures that Pollock has undergone on the problematic joint. The most recent occurred just before the start of the 2016 season.
Since that time, Pollock returned to action and played two mostly full seasons. He landed with the Dodgers this past winter on a four-year pact that guarantees him at least $60MM (if he triggers a fifth-year player option).
Pollock’s tenure in Los Angeles hasn’t been off to the smoothest start, with the 31-year-old carrying a .223/.287/.330 slash and drawing negative defensive metrics through 115 plate appearances. But he has been healthy and has likely been unfortunate in the batted-ball arena. Statcast credits him with career-best exit velocity and hard-hit percentage while identifying a large spread between output and expectations based upon contact quality (.268 wOBA and .318 xwOBA).
Until we learn more, speculating on Pollock’s outlook would be just that. It’s obviously suboptimal for a potentially thorny issue to arise in that particular area of his body, though the club hasn’t exactly rushed him off to the IL. In Pollock’s absence, whatever that ends up being, Alex Verdugo could see an expanded role (if his usage over the past several days is any indication). The right-handed-hitting Chris Taylor may also stand to receive added opportunities.
The Dodgers have officially activated veteran southpaw Rich Hill to make his 2019 debut, per Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. To make room for Hill on the active roster, left-handed pitcher Caleb Ferguson has been placed on the 10-day injured list with an oblique injury. Hill will make his first start of the young season in Sunday’s game against the Pirates.
The injury is the latest in what has been a frustrating start to the 2019 season for Ferguson. A cursory glance at his 3.26 ERA does not tell the whole story. In fact, Ferguson has had trouble preventing home runs and walks, having conceded 8 bases no balls and 3 home runs in just 13 innings of work. Despite the similar 3.49 ERA in 2018, Ferguson enjoyed considerably more success in those two departments last season, when he allowed a more respectable 1.5 HR/9 and 2.2 BB/9, to go along with 10.8 K/9.
Meanwhile, Los Angeles will gladly welcome back the 39-year-old Hill, who has been an integral part of the club’s stellar starting rotation since he joined the club in 2016. To be sure, the Dodgers’ pitching staff has fared just fine without Hill, but he represents the latest boon to a rotation that began the season with both Hill and ace Clayton Kershaw on the shelf. Hill’s return gives the Dodgers seven realistic options to start, though it’s unclear just how his arrival will shake up the rest of the Dodgers’ starters. Kenta Maeda is certainly an option to move to the bullpen, and is probably the most likely to do so with both Ross Stripling and Hyun Jin Ryu performing well behind stalwarts Kershaw and Walker Buehler. Julio Urias, who has also enjoyed an encouraging start to the season, has already been moved to the bullpen. Surely, these are good problems to have for the first-place Dodgers, who find themselves with bountiful options in the event that another starter suffers an injury.
Martin’s return should be a welcome one for Los Angeles, whose primary catcher, Austin Barnes, has seen his numbers decline significantly over the past couple weeks. Barnes sported an otherworldly 1.110 OPS when Martin hit the IL with lower back inflammation on April 10, but he’s now down to .729 in that category. Martin, meanwhile, slashed an outstanding .333/.500/.600 with five walks against three strikeouts in 22 plate appearances prior to going on the IL. The well-respected 36-year-old is in his second stint with the Dodgers, with whom he stood out from 2006-10 before rejoining the team in an offseason trade with the Blue Jays.
Gale, on the other hand, has done anything but thrive as a Dodger. The 31-year-old posted a matching and equally woeful .143/.143/.143 line in 14 trips to the plate after the Dodgers promoted him to replace Martin. Gale, who debuted with the Padres in 2015, owns an ugly .111/.111/.194 line in 36 major league PA.
This is the final post in MLBTR’s annual series reviewing the offseason efforts of every team in baseball.
The 2018-19 offseason marked yet another winter of measured free-agent spending and luxury-tax-motivated trades for the Andrew Friedman-led Dodgers.
Major League Signings
Trades and Waiver Claims
- Traded OF Yasiel Puig, OF Matt Kemp, LHP Alex Wood, C Kyle Farmer to the Reds in exchange for RHP Homer Bailey (released), SS Jeter Downs and RHP Josiah Gray
- Acquired C Russell Martin from the Blue Jays in exchange for SS Ronny Brito and RHP Andrew Sopko
- Acquired RHP Jaime Schultz from the Rays in exchange for RHP Caleb Sampen
- Traded INF/OF Tim Locastro to the Yankees in exchange for RHP Drew Finley
- Traded LHP Manny Banuelos to the White Sox in exchange for 3B Justin Yurchak
- Traded LHP Adam McCreery to the Braves in exchange for cash
- Clayton Kershaw: One year, $28MM (bringing his total contract to three years, $93MM)
Notable Minor League Signings
- Manny Machado, Yasmani Grandal, Brian Dozier, Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Alex Wood, Kyle Farmer, Chase Utley, Josh Fields, Daniel Hudson, Tom Koehler, Pat Venditte, Erik Goeddel, Zac Rosscup, John Axford
We’ve reached the point where it should be accepted that despite their extraordinarily deep pockets, the Dodgers aren’t going to flex their financial might to their fullest extent. That’s not a knock on the organization, which has been extremely successful under the current ownership group and front office regime, but simply an acknowledgement that the team’s days of MLB-leading payrolls look to be a thing of the past.
At the outset of free agency, we at MLBTR predicted that the Dodgers, who dipped under the luxury tax line in 2018, would be the team to agree to a lengthy contract with Bryce Harper. That was never particularly close to happening, as the Dodgers sought to sign Harper to a record-shattering annual value but only on a four- or five-year deal. Perhaps, if they can find a free agent amenable to such a structure in the future, the Dodgers will exceed the luxury line again, but it was reported this offseason that the organization has drawn up plans to avoid doing so for the next several seasons. The trade of Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Alex Wood and Kyle Farmer to the Reds in exchange for Homer Bailey — whom they immediately released — and a pair of prospects meshed with that directive.
The Dodgers’ first order of business this winter came in the form of finding a middle ground with Clayton Kershaw, who could have opted out of the remaining two years and $65MM on his contract. An extension was long viewed as a strong possibility, and in the end, the Dodgers locked up Kershaw on a deal even friendlier than many expected. Kershaw tacked an extra year and $28MM onto his preexisting deal in exchange for forgoing his opt-out provision, allowing the club to maintain one of the generation’s most dominant pitchers at an affordable rate. Injuries have begun to take their toll on Kershaw, and he’ll probably never sustain the level of dominance he once did, but there’s no denying his ongoing excellence when he’s been healthy enough to take the mound. A $31MM annual rate is nearly as steep as it gets for a pitcher in baseball, but Kershaw notched a 2.73 ERA in 161 1/3 innings and was worth 3.3 WAR (per both Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference) in last year’s “down” season.
With Kershaw taken care of, the Dodgers began eyeing upgrades elsewhere on the roster. Rather than earnestly pursue the market’s top names, the Dodgers were aggressive in the second tier of free agency. A.J. Pollock was arguably the best non-Harper outfielder on the market and was compensated as such ($55MM in guaranteed money), while the flamethrowing Joe Kelly was regarded as one of the top non-Craig Kimbrel relievers. (His addition hasn’t paid early dividends, but Kelly’s .410 BABIP will regress over time, and metrics like xFIP (3.13) and SIERA (3.27) point to brighter days ahead.) Both were brought in on contracts with manageable annual salaries for a team with pockets this deep.
Having issued Yasmani Grandal a qualifying offer he unsurprisingly rejected, the Dodgers were involved in the J.T. Realmuto market for much of the offseason. Los Angeles, however, wasn’t willing to meet the prospect price tag put on Realmuto by the Marlins and instead shifted focus to old friend Russell Martin. While Martin’s bat is nowhere near what it once was, he maintained an elite walk rate and framing skills in 2018.
The other qualifying offer issued by the Dodgers went to lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu, who accepted the $17.9MM payday rather than test his strong but injury-riddled track record on the open market. At the time, it was at least worth wondering whether a team might’ve committed multiple years and a slightly higher guarantee (at a lower annual rate) to Ryu. However, given the manner in which the offseason played out, Ryu has to be quite happy with his decision to remain in Los Angeles at a premium rate. His return gave the Dodgers an even more enviable collection of rotation depth, joining Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Kenta Maeda, Rich Hill, Julio Urias and Ross Stripling (among others).
Corey Seager’s return to the lineup only bolstered the Dodgers’ offensive potential, and Alex Verdugo’s ascension up the minor league ladder gives the Dodgers another high-upside bat upon which to dream. Verdugo’s rise (and the signing of Pollock) allowed L.A. to at least explore the possibility of trading Joc Pederson this winter, with the Braves and White Sox among the rumored suitors. However, there was apparently never anything that convinced the Dodgers to take the plunge, and Pederson remains on hand as part of a roster that features largely unmatched depth in both the infield and outfield.
That’s not to say that there aren’t questions surrounding the roster even in light of a hot start to the season. The lineup is deep and more dangerous than ever thanks to Cody Bellinger doing his best Ted Williams impression, but it’s hard not to look at the pairing of Martin and Austin Barnes behind the dish and wonder whether the duo brings enough offense to the table. The asking price for Realmuto from the Dodgers was surely steep, but imagining a lineup that pairs him with this version of Bellinger and the rest of the Dodgers’ potent bats seems almost unfair to opposing pitchers. Biting that bullet could’ve made this lineup into a veritable juggernaut, and it’s not hard to see the Dodgers seeking catching help come July. Perhaps catching prospect Will Smith will be MLB-ready by that point, but that’s hardly a given.
It’s a somewhat similar tale in the bullpen, where the Dodgers have ample options but relatively little in terms of established arms. Kenley Jansen has begun to show signs that he is, in fact, human after years of unhittable ninth-inning mastery, and while Kelly was brought in as an expected top-quality setup option, the Dodgers took their typical approach of cobbling together a relief unit beyond that point. Pedro Baez has been a good but sometimes shaky option in the ’pen for years. Dylan Floro is one of the quietest bargain finds the Dodgers have made.
But the mix of JT Chargois, Scott Alexander, Caleb Ferguson, Yimi Garcia, Josh Sborz and Jaime Schultz isn’t as solid as one would expect from a team with legitimate World Series aspirations. It’s true that Julio Urias and Tony Cingrani are also factors, but durability questions with that duo are even more pronounced than with most relievers. Adding another arm to the ’pen to deepen the mix would’ve been prudent, and it seems almost inevitable that the Dodgers will be in that market a couple months from now. There’s a clear on-paper match with Craig Kimbrel, but signing him would push the team into luxury tax territory, and Kimbrel’s asking price apparently hasn’t dropped to the point where Los Angeles (or any other club) is willing to jump on board. It doesn’t seem all that likely that they’ll be the team to sign him in the end.
2019 Season Outlook
The Dodgers entered the season as clear favorites in the National League West, and a poor start to the season for their primary competitors in Denver didn’t do much to change that line of thinking. Surprisingly hot starts from the upstart Padres and the wait-aren’t-they-kind-of-rebuilding Diamondbacks have added an interesting wrinkle to the division, but the Dodgers are still pacing the group. With the talent and depth cultivated by president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and his staff, as well as that group’s willingness to make a trade to plug holes as they arise, the Dodgers are still the favorites to take the NL West. Whether they can finally get over the hump and convert a postseason berth into a World Series trophy is the true question.
How would you grade the Dodgers’ offseason? (Poll link for Trade Rumors app users)
Following a recent elbow scare, Mets ace Jacob deGrom may not be headed for an MRI after all, according to Newsday’s Tim Healey. After being scratched from his most recent start and placed on the 10-day injured list with elbow soreness, deGrom was able to play catch on Saturday, with the pitcher saying that he felt “completely normal.” DeGrom cited his illness, which prevented him from maintaining his usual routine throughout last week, as the primary source of his soreness. Both deGrom and manager Mickey Callaway expressed little concern over the soreness, leading the Mets to reconsider the previous plan to schedule an MRI for Monday. To be sure, that remains on the table, as doctors will continue to monitor the 2018 Cy Young Award winner; however, the organization has expressed confidence that additional imaging will not be necessary, and deGrom has stated that he intends to start on Friday, when he can be activated from the IL.
Here’s the latest on other injuries from around baseball…
- DeGrom’s teammate Robinson Cano exited Sunday’s matchup with the Cardinals after he was hit in the hand with an Andrew Miller pitch. X-rays returned negative results, but Healey notes that Cano was wearing a cast after the game and will likely undergo further testing to determine the seriousness of the injury. Off to a slow start with his new club, Cano certainly does not need an injury to complicate an already challenging April.
- Nationals ace Max Scherzer suffered an unusual injury earlier today when he tweaked his left intercostal while dodging a foul ball that found its way to the Nats’ dugout. Per Byron Kerr of MASN, Scherzer is optimistic that the injury will only keep him out of commission for a couple of days and will not require an IL stint. Scherzer started Saturday’s game in Miami, so such a time frame would not require the righty to miss any scheduled starts.
- According to Pedro Moura of The Athletic, the Dodgers will activate southpaw Rich Hill and catcher Russell Martin this weekend when the Pirates visit Dodger Stadium. Both veterans are currently on the 10-day IL, with Martin suffering from lower back inflammation and Hill, who has yet to make his 2019 debut, recovering from a left knee sprain. The Dodgers’ rotation has excelled even without Hill, but the club will certainly welcome the 38-year-old back into the fold, further strengthening the pitching staff.
- Bad news for the Blue Jays’ rotation continues to pile up, with right-hander Aaron Sanchez exiting Sunday’s game due to a broken fingernail on his right middle finger. Notably, Sanchez has a history of finger issues, which have led to IL stints in each of the previous two seasons. However, manager Charlie Montoyo told Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet (Twitter link) that he is hopeful the injury will not force Sanchez to miss any starts.
The Dodgers have agreed to a minors deal with righty Logan Bawcom, according to J.P. Hoornstra of the Southern California News Group (Twitter link). The 30-year-old is expected to provide some upper-minors depth once he’s ready to be activated.
Bawcom joined the professional ranks with the Dodgers after being selected in the 17th round of the 2010 draft. He was eventually shipped to the Mariners as part of the 2012 deal that brought reliever Brandon League to Los Angeles.
Though he has still yet to crack the majors, Bawcom has compiled a solid track record in the upper minors. He has seen time in six Triple-A seasons, pitching to a cumulative 3.70 ERA with 7.5 K/9 and 3.8 BB/9 over 384 2/3 innings.
While he has worked at times as a starter including last year with the Dodgers’ top two affiliates, Bawcom has primarily functioned as a reliever. It’d rate as a surprise for him to debut this year in Los Angeles, though it’s certainly possible he’ll pitch his way into consideration if a need arises.
We’ll track the day’s minor moves in this post …
- The Dodgers have a minor-league deal in place with lefty Chris Nunn, he announced on Twitter. Nunn, a former 24th-round draft pick of the Padres, has reached the upper minors in past seasons but hasn’t received many opportunities there. He’s now pumping triple-digit heat, though that wasn’t enough to convince the Rangers to keep him around after he spent camp with the Texas organization this spring. The 28-year-old has carries a 4.16 ERA in 257 2/3 minor-league innings, with 10.1 K/9 against 5.0 BB/9.
- Star Dodgers first baseman/outfielder Cody Bellinger exited last night’s game early after being hit by a pitch near his right knee. As MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick reports, x-rays were negative and it seems that Bellinger has escaped any kind of serious injury. The young slugger, who has been on a tear to open the season, may still need some time to recuperate and receive treatment. But there’s no indication that a trip to the IL will be necessary.