As the second day of baseball’s winter meetings wound to a close, the Dodgers churned through a variety of scenarios, searching for solutions to their vacancies at third base, second base and closer.
Team officials arrived here Sunday aware of these holes. Andrew Friedman, the team’s president of baseball operations, framed the two days here as productive, even though he would not provide details on his team’s activity.
“On our board, as we’re looking at things, it’s beginning to crystallize somewhat,” Friedman said Tuesday night.
By now, the Dodgers’ goals are far from a secret. A three-year deal with Rich Hill has already been struck. The team hopes for a reunion with third baseman Justin Turner, is pursuing both Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen and continues to show interest in Minnesota second baseman Brian Dozier.
The situation with Chapman and Jansen appeared to be approaching a resolution, or at least some improved clarity. The circumstance with Turner remained quiet, as the saturated market for right-handed power hitters has yet to pick up steam.
Friedman indicated the Dodgers could afford to sign both Turner and one of the closers — if the market obeyed the team’s rational hopes for the player’s value. At this time of year, the rest of the industry rarely cooperates.
“The free-agent market almost always plays out to the point of doing more than you rationally want to do,” Friedman said. “If you’re always rational about free agents, you will finish third on every free agent.”
This does not mean the Dodgers are unwilling to spend beyond their comfort zone for any particular player. But the team may need to audible if the prices become excessive. That is why the club has engaged in trade discussions with the Twins about Dozier, with the Kansas City Royals about closer Wade Davis and outfielder Lorenzo Cain, and with the Chicago White Sox about Todd Frazier.
The White Sox hung a proverbial “Open For Business” sign on their franchise Tuesday by dealing five-time All-Star Chris Sale to Boston in exchange for a package built around top prospects Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech. With Sale gone, the White Sox could also shop Frazier, starter Jose Quintana and closer David Robertson.
The price on Quintana, one of the game’s most underrated pitchers, will not be cheap. Robertson could be an expensive but reasonable option for the Dodgers’ bullpen. But Frazier may fit the Dodgers’ needs the best, if the club cannot consummate a reunion with Turner, their top choice for third base.
Frazier moved from Cincinnati to Chicago last winter in a three-team trade featuring the Dodgers, a swap that brought Trayce Thompson, Frankie Montas and Micah Johnson to Los Angeles. Across the last three seasons, he has hit .251 with a .790 on-base plus slugging percentage and averaged 35 home runs. Frazier can become a free agent after 2017.
Like Turner and Frazier, Dozier bats from the right side. The Dodgers lacked right-handed balance in the lineup last season, with Turner serving as the sole provider of power. Dozier swatted 42 home runs with an .886 on-base-plus-slugging-percentage last season.
Despite its state in rebuilding, the Twins are not particularly motivated to move Dozier, according to executives who have spoken to Minnesota who requested anonymity in order to speak freely about the situation. The Twins owe Dozier $15 million over the next two seasons, and could trade him during the summer or in a year if an offer does not meet their expectations.
The other infield options hold less appeal. Fox Sports reported that the Dodgers have talked to San Diego about Yangervis Solarte, who posted a career-best .808 OPS in 2016. The discussions with Kansas City could shift from Davis and Cain to include third baseman Mike Moustakas, who missed most of last season after suffering a torn knee ligament. The Dodgers could also pursue St. Louis utility man Jedd Gyorko and New York Yankees veteran Chase Headley.
The bevy of options allowed Friedman the patience to wait for Turner’s market to take shape. The Dodgers may need to be more aggressive if it misses out on Chapman and Jansen. The Yankees, Washington Nationals and Miami Marlins are all reportedly vying for the attention of the free-agent duo.
Friedman said he felt comfortable with his club’s position, even if the vacancies remained. The Dodgers could leave this week without answers, and fill the holes in the coming weeks.
“I actually think it’s really important to not feel any pressure to do anything in these particular three days,” Friedman said. “We have goals that we want to accomplish this off-season. But when they happen is not something that we feel like we can force. If you get caught up in these three days, in our opinion, you can end up making mistakes.”