Second base, pitching on Dodgers' wish list
Club in position for active Winter Meetings in Nashville
LOS ANGELES -- If last year's Winter Meetings were any indication, clear your calendar to follow the Dodgers at next week's Meetings.
MLB.com and MLB Network will have wall-to-wall coverage of the 2015 Winter Meetings from the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tenn., with the Network launching 35 hours of live Winter Meetings coverage on Sunday at 5 p.m. PT. Fans can also catch live streaming of all news conferences and manager availability on MLB.com, as well as the announcement of the Hall of Fame Pre-Integration Era Committee inductees on Monday at 8 a.m. PT and the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday at 7 a.m. PT.
The game plan in Tennessee will be dictated by the search to replace new Arizona ace Zack Greinke. With backup plan David Price off the board, solving for a Greinke departure is this regime's greatest challenge to date.
The Dodgers also need a starting second baseman again a year after trading away Dee Gordon, and the bullpen remains a riddle for the innings setting up closer Kenley Jansen, who is probably their best trade chip with one year until free agency.
Financially, it will make more sense if the Dodgers can move the contracts for veteran outfielders Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier, although for the first time decision-makers must seriously consider trading the divisive Yasiel Puig.
A year ago in San Diego, the Dodgers put a stranglehold on the title of the most interesting team in baseball with a flurry of trades and free-agent signings. New management's roster makeover, alas, netted two fewer wins in 2015 than in 2014 and a repeat of a first-round elimination from the postseason, the World Series drought reaching 27 years.
Starting pitcher: After failing to re-sign Greinke, the Dodgers have a gaping hole in the starting rotation with a dropoff to the remaining replacements on the free-agent market -- Johnny Cueto, Scott Kazmir, Mike Leake, Yovani Gallardo, Kenta Maeda, etc.
Starting second baseman: After going to great lengths to get Howie Kendrick a year ago, the current chatter is about the steady and versatile Ben Zobrist, even though at 34 he wouldn't exactly make the roster younger. Neither would 37-year-old Chase Utley (he hit .212). Kiké Hernandez (coming off shoulder surgery) and Jose Peraza are in-house candidates.
Setup reliever: Last year's attempt to rebuild the bullpen wasn't a huge success. Chris Hatcher finally emerged for the eighth-inning assignment in September, but Joel Peralta and Juan Nicasio aren't even with the team anymore. After apparently missing out on Darren O'Day, the club was trying to sign Ryan Madson. The return of J.P. Howell, Luis Avilan and Adam Liberatore represents decent left-handed depth.
Whom they can or need to trade
Unwilling to trade top prospects Corey Seager or Julio Urias, the club has more holes to fill than attractive chips to deal. That's why the Dodgers might need to part with Jansen or Puig to pull off anything that would significantly impact the lineup or starting rotation. Otherwise, the usual suspects are Crawford, Ethier and infielder Alex Guerrero, but contracts make them difficult to move.
SS Seager -- Some think the National League Rookie of the Year Award is just a formality in 2016, after he forced his way past Jimmy Rollins into the starting lineup in a September callup. He's only 21, and the 6-4 frame suggests he'll wind up at third base, but for now the shortstop torch has been passed to him.
LHP Urias -- The Mexico native is a very polished 19, as he's the best pitching prospect in the organization if not the game. The lefty's fastball has touched 98 mph, and the curve and changeup are legit.
RHP Jose De Leon -- He's a 24th-round Draft pick that has flown past a bunch of first-rounders to rank as the club's third-best prospect and the best of their right-handed starting pitchers.
INF Jose Peraza -- Acquired from Atlanta in the Hector Olivera trade, Peraza can handle three infield positions, and he might be the fastest baserunner on the club. If his bat improves, he could wind up in the mix for starting second baseman/leadoff hitter.
RHP Jharel Cotton -- He was added to the 40-man roster, so management didn't want to lose him. At 5-11, he more likely projects as a reliever, but he climbed all the steps last season to wind up at Triple-A.
Jansen ($7.425 million last season), 3B Justin Turner ($2.5 million), C Yasmani Grandal ($693,000), Hatcher ($523,000), Avilan ($530,000) and OF Scott Van Slyke ($522,500).
Rule 5 Draft
The Dodgers have room on the 40-man roster at this point, although those spots are likely reserved for signing free agents. Despite all of the roster manipulations last year, the new regime didn't make a Rule 5 selection.
Big contracts to unload
Crawford ($41.75 million, two years), Ethier ($38 million, two years), Guerrero ($10 million, two years), Brandon McCarthy ($31 million, three years), Erisbel Arruebarrena ($13 million, three years).
The Dodgers spent a record $295 million last year, plus another $43.7 million in luxury tax. But club president Stan Kasten has said that's not sustainable and he's determined to rely more on the farm system. There's already $156 million committed to 14 players.