LAS VEGAS -- The Dodgers continue to shop their two highest-paid outfielders, Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig, according to a source, with Winter Meetings rumors focusing on Puig because, well, he's Puig.
The former All-Star is one year away from free agency and projected by MLBTradeRumors.com to earn $11.3 million in 2019, while Kemp is in the last year of his deal at $21.5 million. Moving either would help thin a crowded outfield and free up salary for a game-changing acquisition like Corey Kluber or Bryce Harper (should his long-term market turn soft).
Dodgers president Andrew Friedman on Tuesday wouldn't comment on rumors that he's spoken with the Reds and Mets about Puig. The outfielder was tied to the Reds because that's where former Dodgers hitting coach Turner Ward went and he's tied to the Mets because of his close friendship with their new acquisition, Robinson Cano.
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Reds president Dick Williams said nothing was close when asked about his talks with the Dodgers, which could involve a salary swap.
"We've had conversations with the Dodgers and there have been a variety of permutations," Williams said. "I'm not going to get into what we've talked about."
Friedman said there's "more clarity" about which deals he feels can and cannot get done. He said he's confident that there are enough catchers and relievers available through trades or free agency to address the club's needs in those areas.
• Manager Dave Roberts said Clayton Kershaw is working on biomechanics and he expects an uptick in velocity in 2019.
According to Statcast™, Kershaw's fastball averaged 90.8 mph this year compared to 92.8 mph in 2017 and he relied more than ever on a hard slider (88.1 mph). Kershaw has never mastered a changeup (he threw 11 this year) and his only true offspeed pitch is the curve (79.2 mph). Opponents batted .297 against his fastball with a .514 slugging percentage and .189 against his slider with a .298 slugging percentage.
"It's just going to increase his margin [for error]," said Roberts. "And I think that Clayton feels that there's more in there. We do, medically. And so it's just going to make him that much better and the trust to execute a fastball glove-side. I think that confidence that he can touch 92, 93 consistently, it's going to make it that much tougher -- make the slider that much better, too. He's pretty set he wants to see that number tick up."
Roberts said Kershaw is healthy, but previous back injuries got his mechanics "out of whack." He cited Justin Verlander as a veteran starter that increased his velocity. Friedman said he expects Kershaw to be even more effective in 2019, increased velocity or not.
Friedman downplayed the importance of Kershaw's fastball velocity.
"I would just bet on him having a lot of success and I don't feel like he needs to significantly improve his velocity to do that," said Friedman.
"I don't think it's necessary to have great success for him. Look at last year, how well he pitched, I would bet on his stuff and his execution being better next year. Velocity, mixing pitches, whatever it is. I don't think it's all tied to fastball velocity. He is working on his body. He feels there was some delivery stuff that got out of whack, to be expected with a back injury to be compensating. There are so many more guys I'm focused on. I will bet on him."
• Chase Utley, who retired as a player after the 2018 season, is part of the Dodgers' baseball operations contingent at the Winter Meetings and likely will join the front office in some fashion soon, Friedman said, but the details are still being worked out.
"I'm confident we'll figure something out," said Friedman.
• Roberts said he's hoping to see Cody Bellinger and Player Page for Max Muncy, who were platooned for much of 2018, play almost every day in 2019. He also said Kenta Maeda, Thomas Stripling and Julio Urias are considered starting pitchers going into Spring Training. All ended last season as relievers.
• Roberts said he spoke with Rich Hill after the World Series to clear the air about their Game 4 miscommunication and doesn't feel the need to discuss it further.
"We're in a good place," said Roberts.
Hill, with a 2019 salary of $18 million, and Alex Wood, with a projected salary of $9 million, top the list of surplus starting pitchers the Dodgers want to move.