The Dodgers are looking all over the place for a second baseman
The Dodgers’ pursuit of Brian Dozier isn’t dead and won’t be dead until another second baseman is in their uniform — and who knows, even then a trade with the Twins might be possible.
The stalemate over Dozier, however, has prompted the Dodgers to cast a wide net in their search for a second baseman, according to major-league sources — a net that extends beyond two previous targets, the Tigers’ Ian Kinsler and Rays’ Logan Forsythe.
Most of the Dodgers’ preferences are not known, but they’ve spoken with the Rangers about infielder Jurickson Profar, sources said. Two other switch-hitting second basemen — the Phillies’ Cesar Hernandez and Nationals’ Wilmer Difo -– would be potential fits, but it is not confirmed that they actually are on the Dodgers’ radar.
The Dodgers also could turn back to Chase Utley, but they would prefer a right-handed hitter, likely decreasing their interest in two other free agents, Stephen Drew and Dustin Ackley, as well.
While a trade for Profar does not appear likely, the Rangers at some point will need to act on his future, particularly if they sign free agent Mike Napoli to play first base. Profar is represented by Scott Boras and under club control for only three more seasons, and his value is not likely to increase if he remains in a utility role.
A deal by the Dodgers for Kinsler, meanwhile, seems highly unlikely — his contract allows him to block a trade to the Dodgers, and the teams have not had recent discussions, sources said.
At this late stage of the offseason, the only way the Tigers would trade Kinsler is if the deal could help them this season and beyond. Otherwise, they will simply try to compete, rather than make a single move that might save money but hurt their chances, sources said.
Forsythe, perhaps, is a more realistic target for the Dodgers — he is under control for only two more seasons, and the Rays, as they showed in their recent trade of left-hander Drew Smyly to the Mariners, are forever open to acquiring younger talent. The difference with Forsythe is that the Rays cannot easily replace him; with Smyly, they dealt from a position of strength.
In the end, the best solution for the Dodgers still might be Dozier, should the team narrow its differences with the Twins over his perceived value. Dozier appeals to the Dodgers in part because his luxury-tax number is $5 million — the average annual value on his current four-year, $20 million deal, which has two years remaining.
The Dodgers, whose luxury-tax payroll for 2017 is approximately $227 million, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, will pay a 50 percent tax for every dollar they spend over the new $195 million threshold, an additional surcharge if they are between $20 million and $40 million over, and another if they are $40 million over.
The Cubs’ quandary with Baez
Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron recently suggested that Javier Baez would be the best solution for the Dodgers, but the chances of the two best teams in the NL dealing with each other are slim.
Still, the question remains: With left fielder Kyle Schwarber healthy, how will the Cubs find enough at-bats for Baez, who arguably is one of the top five defenders in the game?
The Cubs do not seem particularly worried about it, in part, perhaps, because they faced the same issue a year ago, only to lose Schwarber to a major knee injury in the third game of the regular season.
Unfortunate things occasionally happen, and even if all the Cubs stay healthy, manager Joe Maddon is creative enough to make a rotation work.
Baez could play third against left-handers, with Kris Bryant moving to left. He also could get time at second; Ben Zobrist will be 36 and almost certainly would benefit from increased time off. Shortstop Addison Russell, who played in 151 games last season, also will need an occasional break.
Baez, 24, also made two starts at first base last season, and played 2 1/3 innings in left. But at some point, he could grow frustrated in a super-utility role, viewing himself — correctly — as worthy of a starting job.
Trumbo: Why not more?
Mark Trumbo’s three-year, $37.5 million free-agent agreement with the Orioles seems low for a player who just turned 31 and last season led the majors with 47 home runs. But considering the way players are valued today, it should not be that surprising.
The terms on Trumbo — his deal is contingent on him passing a physical — match those that the Nationals awarded free-agent second baseman Daniel Murphy, another defensively challenged player, a year ago. And Murphy is a better hitter than Trumbo, albeit with less power.
Nelson Cruz, who signed a four-year, $57 million free-agent contract with the Mariners two years ago, is perhaps a better comp for Trumbo. But Cruz, who also used a big season with the Orioles as a springboard, had a longer and better offensive track record than Trumbo, even though he was two years older.
Trumbo’s best defensive position is first base, the position that Chris Davis occupies with the Orioles. He has been traded three times, most recently last offseason in a salary dump for catcher Steve Clevenger. His makeup is excellent. His power is unquestioned. But his career .303 on-base percentage — .316 the past two seasons — diminishes his value.
The Orioles, after making Trumbo a qualifying offer, would have gained the 31st selection in the draft if another team had signed him, and the lost pick further depressed his price.
Teams generally view the pick as worth between $6 million and $10 million. So, rather than giving Trumbo say, a three-year, $45 million deal, the Orioles valued him at closer to Kendrys Morales, who is 2 1/2 years older, had no draft pick attached and received a three-year, $33 million deal from the Blue Jays.
Around the horn
• Ian Desmond told MLB.com’s Tracy Ringolsby that he is working hard to learn first base, and it now appears that the idea of Rockies trading an outfielder and signing Trumbo never was anything more than a longshot.
The Rockies want to sign potential free-agent right fielder Carlos Gonzalez long-term, and trading center fielder Charlie Blackmon would have cost them their leadoff man. If Desmond proves as quick a learner at first as he was in the outfield, he will enhance the Rockies’ defense — an important concern for a team that consistently struggles with run prevention.
Desmond, unlike Trumbo, also is capable of playing other positions in the future, depending upon the Rockies’ needs. Alexi Amarista, signed to a one-year, $1.25 million free-agent contract, will be the team’s utility infielder, providing a backup at second base and short.
• The White Sox remain in no rush to trade left-hander Jose Quintana, who is under control for four more seasons. For now, Quintana is still scheduled to appear at SoxFest, which will take place in Chicago next weekend.
The Sox, while continuing to discuss trades involving Quintana, are not backing off their desired price, according to major-league sources. Quintana, who turns 28 later this month, could turn out to be the best starting pitcher available at the non-waiver deadline.
• The Nationals, who still want to add a reliever (Greg Holland?) and bench depth, await ownership approval to spend further, sources said.
The Nats reportedly bid more than $80 million for free-agent closer Kenley Jansen, but that appeared to be a special circumstance.
Free-agent catcher Matt Wieters could fit into the same category, given the strong relationship between his agent, Scott Boras, and Nats ownership. But the front office apparently views other needs as more pressing.