It’s been almost two months since the Dodgers fell to the Washington Nationals in the NLDS and they still haven’t added a righty bat to balance the lineup.
While there still are more than two full months until Spring Training begins in earnest, the Dodgers options are beginning to run dry. With Anthony Rendon disenchanted with the ‘Hollywood lifestyle’ of the Dodgers and signing with the LA Angels of Anaheim early on in the offseason at the Winter Meetings, the front office had to turn its sights on the rest of the free-agent and trade market.
Plenty of powerful right-handed bats are still available via free agency, but based on recent rumors, the Dodgers seem to be fading out of the race to add these talents.
For starters, Nicholas Castellanos seems likely to land far from LA. A few weeks back, the up-and-coming 27-year-old mentioned the Chicago Cubs, the San Francisco Giants, and the Texas Rangers as clubs “who value him for more than just his offense,” according to Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic. Besides these three teams, the Arizona Diamondbacks are reportedly interested as well.
Castellanos is entering his age-28 season and MLBTR predicts that he will make upwards of $50 million over the course of a four-year deal. He certainly deserves that much money, or more, as he’s entering his physical prime after swatting 27 homers and hitting .289 last season. Castellanos is also plenty durable, as he’s played in 150+ games in each of the last three seasons.
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With so many teams in the mix for his services, his price is likely to jump up over MLBTR predictions, especially once some of the other righty bats leave the market.
Speaking of other options, one other free agent that makes a lot of sense for the Dodgers is former All-Star Marcell Ozuna. The former St. Louis Cardinal and Miami Marlin, Ozuna matches up nicely with Castellanos. He’s a year older and MLBTR predicts he’ll receive a three-year deal worth upwards of $45 million. A two-time All-Star, ‘the Big Bear’ seems to have the higher upside compared to Castellanos, especially thanks to his 2016 season that saw him drive in 124 RBI with 37 homers and a .312 AVG.
Ozuna’s batting average dipped all the way down to .241 last season, which may cause some potential buyers to lower their offers. While this could help the Dodgers choose to pull the trigger, it also makes his profile look a lot like that of current Dodgers outfielder A.J. Pollock. If the Dodgers already have a crowding problem in the outfield, Ozuna may not be the most sensible add.
If Castellanos has too crowded a market and Ozuna proves to fit better elsewhere, the Dodgers may need to turn to an infielder. Josh Donaldson certainly was tied to LA earlier this offseason, but MLB Network has tied the Philadelphia Phillies, the Washington Nationals, and the Atlanta Braves to the former-MVP instead of to the Dodgers. Plus, Donaldson would block Gavin Lux from a clear path to playing time, which seems to be against the (reported) M.O. of the front office.
Ultimately, the stiff competition for these three right-handed bats means that the Dodgers will likely choose to zig while the rest of the market zags. Finding a righty bat at the Trade Deadline this summer will allow the team to test the viability of the lineup with a healthier Corey Seager and the emerging duo of Alex Verdugo and Gavin Lux, a trio of lefty hitters that all could prove capable against left-handed pitching.
Don’t rule Andrew Friedman and the front office out yet, but as of the end of December, the Dodgers do not seem likely to add any of the big three right-handed power bats available this offseason.