Dodgers: Lay Low at Winter Meetings, Except for One Move

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 17: Zach Britton
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 17: Zach Britton /

Two of the top names in the rumor mill have come off the block. Shohei Ohtani and Giancarlo Stanton found new homes and the Dodgers weren’t one of them. As the Winter Meetings begin, how aggressive should the Dodgers be? Especially after Brandon Morrow was signed by the Chicago Cubs.

With Brandon Morrow gone, that leaves a gaping hole in the bridge to Kenley Jansen. Morrow wasn’t that instrumental for most of the season, the rest of the bullpen managed to bridge to Jansen fine, but his performance in the postseason showed how much a setup man could affect a game.

Of course, too much of a good thing can be bad. Dave Roberts clearly only trusted Morrow or Jansen after the seventh inning, and as superhuman, they seemed, they got tired. Kenta Maeda showed promise as a right-handed specialist reliever, but that will probably only be the case in the postseason. Tony Watson is a free agent as well, Josh Fields was lit up in October, and Pedro Baez fell apart in mid-August. So how should the Dodgers go about not only filling Morrow’s space but improving it as well?

The first name that pops up is Zach Britton. The Dodgers were connected to the left-handed Orioles closer in the summer, but concerns over his injuries and production kept him in Baltimore. He had a solid September, however, and showed signs the injury hasn’t completely thrown his effectiveness away.

One of the downsides to Britton is his bumpy season in 2017. Though signs point otherwise, no one knows how strong he will be in 2018. Another negative is whether he can be a potential multiple-inning power reliever like Morrow was. Jansen has proven he can come in for more than three outs at the end of the game, but Britton’s also a closer which means he’ll be in a new situation as a set-up man. Closers are more unique than any other player. It takes a special guy to be able to get the final outs, but it also means it can be difficult to adjust back to a normal reliever.

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A plus side is that he’s left-handed. Having him, Jansen and maybe Maeda or another right-handed power reliever for the seventh inning and beyond would be devastating. If the Dodgers do find someone to step up into that role, Britton wouldn’t need to go more than one.

Dave Roberts showed he trusts very few guys in the playoffs, but he’s shown improvements. In 2016, it was only Kershaw and Jansen. In 2017, he added Morrow to that shortlist. Perhaps he’ll add one or two more names to his list in 2018. As good as he’s been, he is still only in his third year. Britton’s been one of the most dominant relievers in the game for the last three years or so, and adding him for a lower price would be the ideal situation for the Dodgers.

So Britton aside, who else should the Dodgers go after? The answer is no one. It really should be Britton or bust for the Dodgers in the Winter Meetings. Not necessarily just Zach Britton, but what he is (a power reliever).

The Cubs signed Morrow, so why not take a shot at Wade Davis? Unlikely, but it looks like a buyer’s market as of now. Relievers seem to be the first position to be targeted by teams as Morrow and Luke Gregerson were signed. Other names that the Dodgers could consider are Bryan Shaw and Joe Smith, with Tony Watson still out there.

The Dodgers did well to show restraint when it came to Giancarlo Stanton and Shohei Ohtani. Though Stanton basically showed up to the Dodgers doorstep and asked them to take him, they weren’t going to fall into the $295 million trap. Sure, Stanton may be amazing for the next few seasons, but he’s already injury-prone. It would be 2014 all over again.

Next: Dodgers: Questions Heading into Winter Meetings

The Dodgers are in an unusual place. One win away from a World Series the year before, a talented youth core with strong veterans, and more money coming off the books the next two seasons. It’s a situation most teams can’t ask for. Yet, there’s still a need for the Dodgers to make a splash because…they’re the Los Angeles Dodgers. But, they should sit tight unless a deal comes to them. There are numerous questions regarding roster space, over performers from last year repeating, and injuries. Address those once the season starts.