The Dodgers are in the middle of their NLDS matchup against the Atlanta Braves, but it’s never too early to think about how the team can improve the team. The team is pretty set for the next season, although there have been two glaring weaknesses in 2018. This is not taking into account pending free agents Manny Machado, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Brian Dozier, and potentially Clayton Kershaw. Here are some players, via free agents or trade, that the Dodgers should target to improve the squad.
DJ LeMahieu, Second Baseman, Colorado Rockies
LeMahieu had a down year in 2018 but has been a productive player in his career. He can hit for average and get on base, but his lack of power is the reason that his overall offensive contributions are viewed as below-average according to the metric. He had a .749 OPS this season, which was around 20-30 points higher than league average, but 12% worse than the starting-caliber second baseman.
And his home/road splits don’t help either, as he has been helped by Coors Field. But at the same time, you can argue that getting away from Colorado and not depending on its thin air could help LeMahieu become a better hitter away from Coors because you have to adjust and stay with that adjustment consistently.
Plus the Dodgers cannot be too picky as their cumulative .638 OPS from second base was the black hole in the lineup, and he would be an upgrade over what Logan Forsythe and Brian Dozier gave them from the spot. And DJ is an excellent defender and former batting champ, which makes him a little more attractive. He’s worth taking a look at considering the down year he had and the Coors stigma surrounding him.
Whit Merrifield, Second Baseman, Kansas City Royals
The 29-year-old made a name for himself last year in his second season, hitting .304/.367/.438 with 19 home runs, a 121 OPS+, and a solid .349 wOBA and 120 wRC+. This year, his power went down, but Merrifield improved at getting on-base. However, he became a full-fledged doubles machine, hitting 43 of them. Merrifield also led the MLB in hits (192) and stolen bases (45). And he has the defensive versatility that the Dodgers absolutely love.
The only reason his name isn’t more prevalent is that the second baseman plays for a bad rebuilding Kansas City Royals team. The Dodgers should look into acquiring him because he would be a seamless fit into the team. Merrifield also did something well this year that most, if not all, Dodgers struggled with: hitting with runners in scoring position.
They were among the worst in the game whenever guys were on second or third but were the worst when the situation came with two outs. Merrifield had an OPS of .850 and .868, respectively, in these situations. He’s also under team control through 2022, making him an attractive trade asset for the Royals, and one they need to cash in on because by the time they become relevant again, Whit Merrifield will be past his prime.
Adam Ottavino, Reliever Colorado Rockies
Yet another Rockie that is expected to hit free agency. Ottavino is a lockdown reliever that should garner interest in the free agent market, should he decide to leave Colorado. The 33-year-old had a 2.43 ERA, 0.991 WHIP, and 112 strikeouts and 13 K/9 in close to 80 innings in 2018. He was excellent in the first half but slowed down after the All-Star Break, mainly due to high-usage.
He is still an excellent reliever that the Dodgers should not shy away from. They have been missing someone to close the bridge to Kenley Jansen since Brandon Morrow left for Chicago. And Ottavino has a great chance of improving drastically if he got away from Coors Field. Plus, the Dodgers have been known for getting everything out of relievers.
Andrew Miller, Reliever, Cleveland Indians
Injuries ruined Andrew Miller’s free agent season and made a lot of us mostly forget about him, but, if you needed a reminder, from 2014-2017, the lefty was the best reliever in baseball. He threw 295 innings, struck out 466 batters (14.2 K/9) with the help of an otherworldly 40.1% K-rate, and posted a 2.01 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, a .226 wOBA, and a .500 OPS against.
You can say he is the second or third-best, but there is no doubt that the southpaw is the most valuable because of how Indians’ manager Terry Francona was able to use him. Miller was able to come in during the mid-innings in high-leverage situations and go for multiple frames. And this would allow the team to reserve Cody Allen for the closer role. Miller was so good that he won the 2016 ALCS MVP, and when healthy, is the kind of guy the Dodgers have sorely missed.
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