3 Dodgers who aren't as safe as they think with trade deadline approaching

Los Angeles Dodgers v San Francisco Giants
Los Angeles Dodgers v San Francisco Giants / Thearon W. Henderson/GettyImages

As we creep closer to the trade deadline, it's become clearer that the Dodgers are in prime position to buy. They're still leading the NL West by a very comfortable margin and their odds of making the playoffs are the second-highest in baseball behind the Phillies, but there are some real flaws here that they'll need to rectify if they don't want to be swept out of the NLDS again (or, fine, the NLCS).

Outfielders, pitchers, perhaps a new shortstop — the Dodgers are gearing up to be destinations for a whole host of new players starting in August, but they'll also have to make a few choices in order to accommodate them. More than a couple flagging Dodgers are bound to get the push when bigger and better things come into town.

3 Dodgers who aren't as safe as they think with trade deadline approaching

Jason Heyward

Heyward was a Dodgers success story last season. His tremendous fall from grace with the Cubs led to him being released by the organization at the end of the 2022 season, despite the fact that they still owed him $22 million. He was batting .204 with a .556 OPS, so it's really no wonder Chicago decided to bite the bullet and let him go, but the Dodgers took a flier on him and signed him to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training. He ascended through camp and took over a bench spot in 2023.

His work was strong enough that the Dodgers signed him again, this time to a one-year, $9 million major league deal, and quasi-promoted him to a starting role in right field.

However, Heyward's slipped back to where he left off with the Cubs — frequently injured and hitting poorly when he's been healthy. He took his second IL trip of the season on July 5 with a bone bruise after missing about a month and a half with back tightness, and in the 42 games he's played, he's batted .203 with a .697 OPS.

The Dodgers are in dire need of acquiring outfielders at the trade deadline, and Heyward looks like he'd be first on the chopping block, even despite the fact that he's surrounded by guys with minor league options out there. In the grand scheme of things, releasing him just like the Cubs did wouldn't be too much of a lost expense, given how much money LA has at their disposal. Eating his contract and letting him go instead of sending Andy Pages or Miguel Vargas back down to make room for a replacement would just make sense.

Gavin Lux

Fans have been calling for Lux's swift demotion ever since spring training, when a cascade of errors at short forced a swap with Mookie Betts. Somehow, after being accommodated, Lux still couldn't even make a clean throw to first from second. His defense has improved over the course of the season, but his offense has completely disappeared. Through 72 games, he's hit .207 with a .545 OPS. He's hitless through the first six games of July.

It's completely baffling how the Dodgers haven't demoted him yet, but have instead left him in the majors to ruin his trade value and drag down the bottom of the lineup. The team said that they would evaluate him after 150 at-bats, but he has 241 through Sunday's game and has only declined as the season's gone on.

This is made all the more mystifying by the fact that Lux has minor league options left, and the Dodgers could send him back to Triple-A with absolutely no repercussions. They could've sent him down months ago and moved Betts back to second and Miguel Rojas to shortstop, which is probably exactly what will happen when Betts returns from injury.

Lux isn't getting traded unless it's for an unranked prospect or cash considerations at this point, so the Dodgers need to get him out of the majors to work on things in the minors and get him back to a place where he could be useful in any way to the organization, be it as a trade chip or a bench player.

James Outman

In Outman's rookie season last year, he hit .248 with a .790 OPS, 23 home runs, and defense in center field that ranked in the 94th percentile. It was enough to get him Rookie of the Year votes (he placed third behind Corbin Carroll and Kodai Senga) and for the Dodgers to give him a starting spot in the outfield for 2024. It looked like a win for Dodgers' player development; their No. 9 prospect in 2023 looked like he could really be a productive major leaguer.

Things soured almost immediately this season. By the end of April, he was batting .173 with only two home runs, eight RBI, and one stolen base (he stole 16 last season and his sprint speed ranked in the 89th percentile). The Dodgers started to leave him out of the lineup more frequently throughout the first two weeks of May before finally deciding enough was enough and sending him back to Triple-A on May 17. By the time that happened, he was hitting .147 with a .516 OPS.

He's been back since July 5 after Heyward went back to the IL, and has appeared in two games and picked up three singles. However, if those much-needed outfield acquisitions do come through, Outman is likely to be out the door right behind Heyward. He has a lot more upside than Heyward and could still work as a trade piece, or the Dodgers could option him back to Triple-A. Either way, Pages and Vargas have been doing more than their fair share of work in the outfield while Outman has struggled, and he's left himself totally vulnerable to losing a spot on the 26-man when the trade deadline comes around if some team still values him at 2023 levels. Pages and Vargas have been that impressive.