The Los Angeles Dodgers put together a fairly special team this offseason, but let some old friends go and replaced them in questionable fashion.
Still, when the Opening Day confetti settled, you’d have been hard-pressed to call anything Andrew Friedman did for his title defense a “mistake”; being projected to win a record-setting number of games doesn’t typically happen accidentally.
However, in the cold light of mid-June, LA has seen their depth tested, their stars shredded, and a new foe emerge from within the division; what was once thought to be a Dodgers-Padres fight to 110 wins has now encountered a resurgent Giants season very few people saw coming.
The Dodgers have shrugged off the coldest of cold patches in early May to be more than respectable so far, and they’ve got some under-the-radar players to thank for that — namely Albert Pujols, Matt Beaty, Chris Taylor and a Max Muncy MVP campaign that really helped stem the tide. That said, these regrets leak to the top of the list, considering the various states of the team’s depth and the sheer amount of money they spent on one target late in the game.
3 biggest mistakes the Dodgers made in 2020’s free agency cycle.
3. Passing on Michael Brantley/Left Field Depth
We could also retitle this section, “Why isn’t AJ Pollock more helpful?” If he were contributing to his full capacity, this wouldn’t be quite such a problem area, but … alas.
Joc Pederson and Kiké Hernández were both allowed to depart, and they’ve each been varying degrees of impactful in Chicago and Boston. Hernández is likely waiting until October to make his favorite type of impact, but Pederson … would sure look nice on this roster right now at the price he was paid ($7 million for the year).
Pederson, with 11 homers, 32 RBI and a 110 OPS+ did not really “price himself out” of anywhere; the Dodgers simply chose to move on. When Pollock plays (48 games), he’s been the offense’s weak link (which stands out more when the entire unit is so strong), batting .262 with five homers and a 104 OPS+. Without Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager for extended stretches, the resurgent Taylor has moved into center, with the middle infield instead being manned by a combination of Gavin Lux, Zach McKinstry, and assorted Triple-A players.
In mid-May, when the team signed Pujols, they were so desperate for left field depth that they also snagged the ineffective Yoshi Tsutsugo. Having a reliable lefty who could float in and out of left field could stabilize the team’s “weak spot” and provide a more permanent complement to Pollock. We understand we’re asking for a lot here, but … $16 million for Michael Brantley? If the Dodgers simply do that, we’re not entertaining a platoon or floating options. Pollock could’ve been traded for pitching depth or relegated to roving duty.
In just another ho-hum incredibly good season, Brantley is leading the league with a .353 average, and would look much better splitting the mountains in Dodger Blue. Stealing from the Astros and giving to the World Champions … would’ve been nice.
Even if the solution wasn’t quite this high-profile, though, the Dodgers could’ve done better than a mid-season pivot to Tsutsugo and a few desperation call-ups.