Every game now, Manager Don Mattingly sits a hot bat. Every game, someone is not thrilled, left telling himself to think long term, to think team.
It was a situation the Dodgers never had to face last season after the emergence of Puig, because one outfielder was always injured. When this season started, none of the four were hitting particularly well and Mattingly just kept rotating them, plus mixing in Scott Van Slyke against left-handers.
Now they’re all hitting well and someone is sitting, typically Ethier or Crawford.
An obvious solution is to trade an outfielder, but they’re not going to deal young superstar Puig and the others all have contracts that would make it difficult – Kemp ($129.5 million over six years), Crawford ($85.9 million, four), Either ($71.5 million, four).
And General Manager Ned Colletti did not sound interested in dealing one in a conversation with The Times’ Dylan Hernandez.
“It’s a situation we’re going to have to deal with,” Colletti said. “But we’re always going to be one injury away from not having to deal with it. It gives everybody a chance to take a breath, get a day. Everybody likes to play, but I think it’s sometimes beneficial to take a day.”
But right now, Puig and Kemp are playing every day. Puig has been on a terrific run (.406 batting, .500 on-base and .703 slugging percentages in his last 16 games), but numbers for the other three outfielders are pretty close:
Kemp is at .349/.406/.520 in his last 17 games, Crawford is at .395/.410/.500 in his last 11 and Ethier .356/.420/.467 in his last 15.
Which leaves one of the team’s hottest hitters on the bench every night. Maybe one does get hurt or goes into a deep slump, making the decision relatively easy. And maybe as the season goes on, it becomes a more serious problem.