LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers, through 84 games, have the fourth-best record in the National League and are in good shape to make another appearance in the postseason. Despite being 2 1/2 games behind the D-backs, FanGraphs still gives them the best chance to win the NL West.
The Dodgers’ flaws have been displayed over the season's first half, but they are a team with a lot of the pieces to make a deep run in the postseason, including stars like Clayton Kershaw, Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman and Will Smith.
But if the Dodgers want to give themselves the best chance of success, president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and his squad will have to make some moves before the Trade Deadline. Friedman has not shied away from making the necessary moves in the past, especially in 2018 when he traded for Manny Machado.
What exactly do the Dodgers need to address over the next month? There are a few things. Let’s rank them based on importance.
1. Starting pitching
Like he’s done his entire career, Kershaw has been the Dodgers’ savior this season. Whenever Los Angeles has needed to put out a fire, Kershaw has been there to extinguish it time and time again. Kershaw is on the 15-day injured list for the first time this season, though that’s not expected to be a long-term issue.
Behind Kershaw, it’s been a struggle for the Dodgers. Julio Urías has not been himself all season and missed over a month with a left hamstring injury. Tony Gonsolin hasn’t been sharp this season and isn’t a reliable option to consistently get deep into games. Now that we’re in July, it’s safe to say Noah Syndergaard’s signing did not work out for the Dodgers. Dustin May’s injury was a big blow to Los Angeles, and it's uncertain if the right-hander will pitch again this season.
All that has forced the Dodgers to turn to young pitchers such as Bobby Miller, Gavin Stone and Emmet Sheehan. Miller and Sheehan have been solid so far, but how they’ll each fare in the postseason is still a mystery.
Once the calendar flips over to October, the teams with the best starting pitching usually get deeper into the postseason. Just ask last year’s Astros team and the Nationals in 2019 behind Max Scherzer, Patrick Corbin and Stephen Strasburg.
The problem this season is that the starting pitching market will be dried up and the top options will demand a big return given the need from just about every contender. But if the Dodgers want to make a real push this season, they’ll need to trade for a starter who can start Game 2 or 3 in a postseason series.
2. Reliever help
Though it has been better lately, the Dodgers' bullpen has been a shell of itself this season. Getting Daniel Hudson back from injury will surely be huge for Los Angeles. He’s a veteran presence and would help slot everyone into their respective roles, particularly Evan Phillips as the team’s de-facto closer.
Phillips, Hudson, Yency Almonte, Caleb Ferguson and Brusdar Graterol are a decent start for the Dodgers, but they could use one more high-leverage reliever to give them more depth in October. It doesn’t have to be a high-profile pitcher, either. Friedman proved that last July by acquiring Chris Martin, one of the Dodgers’ best relievers down the stretch.
3. Right-handed bat
All eyes have been on the pitching staff, but this is one area the Dodgers desperately need to address. For years the Dodgers have struggled against left-handed pitching, but their lineup against southpaws this season has left much to be desired.
On Saturday against Royals left-hander Daniel Lynch, the Dodgers started James Outman, Jonny DeLuca and Yonny Hernández. Of the three, Hernández put together some solid at-bats. However, with Trayce Thompson out for an extended period of time, the Dodgers need a right-handed bat, preferably one that plays the outfield.
With Outman’s struggles at the plate and occasional inconsistency defensively, the Dodgers could go with Jason Heyward in center field more with David Peralta in left. If the Dodgers get a corner outfielder, they could give Betts more time in the infield. It just depends on what route the Dodgers want to go with, but a right-handed bat is something Los Angeles will certainly be searching for.