Dodgers appear fairly well set except at second base

Dodgers appear fairly well set except at second base
Justin Turner talks to reporters during a news conference Wednesday. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Few baseball players available this off-season better fit the needs of the Dodgers than Minnesota Twins second baseman Brian Dozier.

He plays a position the team seeks to upgrade as it prepares for 2017. He offers power as a right-handed hitter, a commodity the team often lacked last season. He is owed $15 million through 2019, a reasonable sum for a large-market club to absorb. He revamped his swing in 2016 to hit a career-best 42 home runs, and he won't turn 30 until May.


But the market does not bend for the whims of one particular team. Weeks of bartering with the Twins has not resulted in a deal. The Dodgers have maintained dialogue on other fronts, and may need to pivot toward other options, rather than acquiring a one-man panacea like Dozier.

A little more than a month away from spring training, the Dodgers still possess the combination of financial heft and prospect surplus to patch the holes on the roster. So which will the club prioritize: Finding a second baseman or adding a right-handed batter?

“It’s somewhat interconnected,” President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman said at a news conference to announce the re-signings of closer Kenley Jansen and third baseman Justin Turner. “We still have a decent amount of the off-season remaining. Obviously, still working to figure out different moves.

"As you get into January, there are a lot of conversations that have been ongoing now for a little while. So those things start to come to a head more. It's starting to whittle down where we have a better feel for what's more likely."

The team accomplished a significant portion of its off-season to-do list during December, dishing out $192 million to re-sign Jansen, Turner and pitcher Rich Hill. During the last few weeks, talks with Minnesota about Dozier have bogged down. The Dodgers showed a willingness to deal top pitching prospect Jose De Leon, but the Twins seek an even more lucrative package.

Meanwhile, the rest of the market remains frozen. A plethora of free agents are still available, including established veterans such as outfielder Jose Bautista, pitcher Jason Hammel and catcher Matt Wieters. The market for second basemen includes Dustin Ackley and Luis Valbuena, along with veteran Chase Utley, who earned raves for his presence in the clubhouse in 2016. But like Utley, Ackley and Valbuena are left-handed hitters, and none of the three would figure to significantly improve the team’s ability to handle left-handed pitchers.

Despite a robust offense in 2016, the Dodgers ranked last in the majors in on-base-plus-slugging percentage against left-handers. The team attributed the group-wide malaise to a series of factors. Scott Van Slyke injured a wrist. Yasiel Puig never gained traction. Trayce Thompson fractured his back. Enrique Hernandez struggled with off-speed pitches.

Video by Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Time

"It was like the imperfect storm that played out last year," Friedman said. "We feel like if, even if we're not near where we were last year, it's not going to be a strength. But we have a lot of other team strengths. And if that's an area that's not as strong as others, so it goes.

The Dodgers could divert some of their resources toward a right-handed slugger, even if it means fiddling with their outfield alignment. Bautista starred in Toronto for Dodgers vice president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos. The Dodgers talked with Milwaukee about outfielder Ryan Braun last summer, and could revisit that option.  

If a deal for Dozier fails to materialize, the Dodgers could pursue a similar, if less appealing, alternative. Logan Forsythe, the Tampa Bay second baseman, also bats from the right side and comes at an affordable rate. He lacks the upside of Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler, but Kinsler possesses a no-trade clause that he could use as leverage for a contract extension.   

Forsythe hit 20 home runs with a .778 OPS for the Rays last season. He is under team control through 2018, owed $7 million this season with an $8.5-million option.

Friedman declined to comment on any specific negotiations. But he preached the importance of patience as he finalized the roster for spring training.

"Throughout the course of the negotiation process, there are ups and downs," Friedman said. "So it's just a tough thing to assess. But there are a number of different options out there. I think some are more likely than others, but three days from now, I could feel very differently, and those could flip. It's a tough thing to answer before things run its course."

Twitter: @McCulloughTimes