The MLB Hot Stove is starting to heat up as the Winter Meetings are underway, with rumors flying all over, and multiple trade talks reportedly intensifying. The free agent class is an alluring one, no doubt, but the available options only get better when you consider the players reportedly available via trade.
And at the middle of it all? The Los Angeles Dodgers. They have made it to two straight World Series but have lost both. Thus, they are looking to change things up by taking a different approach, and it has them linked to virtually everyone big.
They have an excess of talent on the roster and can spare to move a few of the pieces to clear up logjams and create consistent playing time for their starters. And it’s no surprise that they are looking to deal from their outfield surplus first.
Dodgers have talked to other teams about moving two outfielders among the group of Kemp, Puig, Pederson, Bellinger, and as they look to re-shape payroll, they are also are prepared to move starting pitchers Rich Hill and Alex Wood.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) December 11, 2018
Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp are the two names that don’t surprise anyone, but the inclusion of Cody Bellinger and Rich Hill do. All these players, however, would help the Dodgers cut payroll, which is one of the front office’s main goals.
Bellinger recently won the 2017 National League Rookie of the Year award unanimously and established himself as a franchise building block moving forward. He’s a 22-year-old with tremendous talent and four years of team control left. And he is extremely cheap so moving him would not alter the outlook of the payroll.
Hill has become a fan-favorite and been one of the team’s best pitchers when healthy. He has shown up in big-time fashion during the playoffs when needed, and with just one year remaining on his contract, it would be perplexing to see the Dodgers move him.
But for the other players that may be moved? Kemp is limited as a defender and is best-suited as a designated hitter at this point of his career. Puig has been surrounded by trade rumblings for years now and it appears that this winter may be the time the Dodgers ultimately pull the trigger on a deal.
Pederson is a young, team controllable player who is strictly a platoon player with Los Angeles but deserves the chance to face more left-handed pitching and see if he can ultimately adjust.
Alex Wood has one year remaining on his deal, and one would think that he’d be included in a deal for a pitcher. And he reportedly was during negotiations between LA and the Cleveland Indians.
Corey Kluber to the Los Angeles Dodgers?
Wood and Puig were reportedly headliners for the Dodgers’ offer, and it makes sense. Cleveland would get the outfield help they need and a quality starting pitcher to help mitigate some of the gap left by Kluber.
But Cleveland wanted Los Angeles to include Cody Bellinger, which is understandable, but LA is/was reluctant to do so. However, the AL Central Champs have shifted their focus to another young and talented left-handed outfielder.
Sources: #Dodgers discussed package for Corey Kluber as of Monday is combination of MLB players and prospects. As widely reported, No. 1 prospect Alex Verdugo is among them.
— Michael J. Duarte (@michaeljduarte) December 10, 2018
Losing Verdugo would be a tough pill to swallow, but to get an ace of Kluber’s caliber, you need to give something back. And parting with him over Bellinger would be easier. Bellinger is established, of similar age, battle-tested, more versatile on defense, and has a higher ceiling.
The next logical step to add to the package would be Alex Wood. Then maybe Los Angeles can tack on Yasiel Puig as well unless they have another landing spot in mind for him.
Yasiel Puig Reunited with Turner Ward?
Dodgers and Reds are discussing deals, some of which include Yasiel Puig. If it happens Puig would be reunited with hitting coach Turner Ward for more kisses. #puigyourfriend
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 12, 2018
It looks like Yasiel Puig is finally going to be traded this offseason. If not in a deal for Corey Kluber, then perhaps to the Cincinnati Reds. And it may not just be him alone.
According to a source, the Reds and Dodgers have discussed deals involving Yasiel Puig and/or Alex Wood, though it’s one of many scenarios out there. “Nothing serious at this point,” the source said.
— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) December 12, 2018
This move would be less for getting value in return, and more for cutting payroll and reshaping the roster if reports of the return are serious.
Sources indicate one of the players the #Dodgers are considering in the Puig deal from the #Reds is AA RHP Vladimir Gutierrez who went 9-10 with a 4.35 ERA with 145 Ks and 38 BB in 147IP. https://t.co/hkVQoHNqI6
— Steve Phillips (@StevePhillipsGM) December 12, 2018
But these aren’t even the biggest moves the Dodgers can make this offseason.
The Miami Marlins Treating J.T. Realmuto Like a Superstar
J.T. Realmuto is widely regarded as the best catcher in baseball. Combined with his age and two remaining years of team control, he is a highly valuable trade chip, but maybe not as high as the Miami Marlins view him.
There are numerous team involved in talks with Miami- the Cincinnati Reds, New York Mets, New York Yankees, Atlanta Braves are the popular names. And of course the Dodgers, who are looking for a stopgap behind the plate while one of, or both, their elite catching prospects continue to develop in the minors.
They have been in on the catcher, but Miami’s asking price is a little too astronomical for LA’s liking.
The holdup with the dodgers on realmuto has been their unwillingness to include Cody Bellinger.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 12, 2018
Considering that Realmuto just recently established himself as an All-Star player and numbers-wise wasn’t much better than Yasmani Grandal (who was on the Dodgers) in 2018, it’s unrealistic to think that the 28-year-old can garner such a haul.
Throw in the fact that Miami got virtually nothing for Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcello Ozuna, and Dee Gordon (the first two of which are better than the catcher) and it makes it even more absurd.
Maybe it’s the Marlins trying to make up for mishandling their fire sale last winter. Maybe it’s the number of suitors after Realmuto, driving his trade value up. Maybe it’s a bit of both combined.
Whatever it is, the Dodgers are smart for not giving in. If Bellinger is going to be traded, it should be for someone of the caliber of a Mike Trout. Not a good, not great, catcher. And if the 22-year-old is the only way to get the deal done, then perhaps they look elsewhere.
A Big Surprise
This one is a surprise. #Dodgers talking to #STLCards about Jose Martinez, sources tell The Athletic. LAD could play the defensively challenged Martinez at first base, with Muncy at second and Bellinger in center.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 12, 2018
This report came a bit out of nowhere. There were no previous links between the two clubs, but it’s another example of how far the Dodgers are out there.
Martinez had a 124 OPS+ (100 is average) with 17 home runs in 152 games last season and owns a 128 OPS+ and 31 home runs across 270 career games. He is a perfect fit for an American League team because of his defensive deficiencies.
He played mainly first base with the St. Louis Cardinals, but with the acquisition of Paul Goldschmidt, he will be pushed into the outfield where he is terrible.
Hiding him at first and moving Bellinger to center would be the best course of action. But, Max Muncy is better-suited at first base than second and the Dodgers already have David Freese on the roster, creating yet another logjam.
Martinez would add a valuable bat to LA but not fill a necessity.
The Free Agent Market
And of course, there’s Bryce Harper. All the moves the Dodgers have been linked to lead right back to the 26-year-old in some way. They want to clear up space in the outfield, particularly in right, and clear up money? It has Bryce Harper written all over it.
The Dodgers are at the center of the Winter Meetings and all personnel moves. They appear to be the only ones not only linked with the biggest names on the trade market, but also lesser ones while being in on the high-priced free agents.
It’s shaping up to be a fun offseason, and it has blue painted all over it.