Dodgers sign former Guardians top prospect as underwhelming offseason continues

Toronto Blue Jays v Baltimore Orioles - Game One
Toronto Blue Jays v Baltimore Orioles - Game One / G Fiume/GettyImages

Still wondering who's going to be the Los Angeles Dodgers starting center fielder when 2023 Opening Day arrives? Join the party! Over the weekend, the competition for the job saw another variable thrown into the mix.

The Dodgers signed outfielder Bradley Zimmer to a minor-league contract. Zimmer, now 30, was a former top-100 prospect during his time with the Cleveland Guardians (and was obviously one of their most prized young talents prior to making his MLB debut).

But things haven't gone as planned for the former 2014 first-round pick. He debuted in 2017, appearing in 101 games and slashing .241/.307/.385 with 41 runs scored, 8 HR, 39 RBI and 18 stolen bases in 299 at-bats. Then, from 2018-2020, he played in just 63 total games due to injuries and lackluster play.

He never quite took the next step offensively after reaching the show. He slashed .271/.374/.453 with 238 runs scored, 47 HR, 187 RBI and 113 stolen bases in 379 career minor league games. His defense, however, remained strong. In 1,783.1 innings in center field, Zimmer has been good for 13 Defensive Runs Saved and 10 Outs Above Average, with much of that production coming in 2021 and 2022.

Zimmer also has experience playing the corner spots, and the Dodgers' emphasis on versatility could favor him at some point, should he force the issue in spring training.

The Dodgers signed former Guardians top prospect Bradley Zimmer

But seriously, who knew missing out on Kevin Kiermaier was going to hurt this bad? The Dodgers' next free agent options were Heyward and Zimmer. Heyward was released by the Cubs after playing in just 152 games since 2021, and Zimmer was without a home after making stops in Cleveland, Toronto and Philadelphia since 2021.

Though the Dodgers are still reportedly considering multiple center field trade targets, some are just as underwhelming, while a few others would cost a king's ransom in a return package -- something the front office has made it fairly clear it won't do.

Then again, the Dodgers' goal here is to fill center field with an above-average defender, considering they were employing Cody Bellinger, who fell apart offensively, the last two years. The objective was seemingly to replace Bellinger with someone that has a similar profile for a fraction of the price.

If ZImmer's bat remains "meh" and his defense ends up making an impact, it'll cost the Dodgers at least $16 million less than what it would've been to keep Bellinger. Makes sense, but doesn't make it any more encouraging.

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