The Dodgers’ suite at the Delano Las Vegas looked the part on the first full day of baseball’s winter meetings. Their contingent was packed in a room. A projector and screen were set up. Activity and discussion ceased once the media showed up for its daily briefing.
In that room, the Dodgers will decide whether to make a run at slugger Bryce Harper in free agency, or catcher J.T. Realmuto or pitcher Corey Kluber via trade. They have the means — the money to sign high-end free agents and the resources to acquire premium talent from other teams — to make a splash and leave the meetings a different ballclub. But the objective isn’t to win the week.
“The pressure we feel is to make a splash in October, much more so than in December,” Andrew Friedman, the team’s president of baseball operations, said Monday. “There’s certainly things we would like to do before the start of the season to accomplish that, but again, we feel like we have a really talented team.”
But if the Dodgers are to make waves this week, it’ll most likely come in the trade market. Friedman spoke bluntly about the Dodgers’ surpluses in starting pitching and the outfield, strongly hinting the club will reallocate that excess to fill needs at catcher and in the bullpen, or to bolster other areas.
“They’re talented enough where things will line up and make sense that works out well for our team and an acquiring team. So I’d be surprised if that were the case,” Friedman said of the team keeping its surpluses. “But obviously, if the return didn’t work for us, we would. But I can’t see that happening.”
Alex Verdugo is the most intriguing and attractive asset. The 22-year-old outfielder is the Dodgers’ consensus top prospect. He’s succeeded at triple-A the last two seasons, posting a .842 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. The Dodgers’ logjam in the outfield has made him the odd man out and another season in limbo could hurt his value — both to the Dodgers and other clubs.
“Alex is a really good baseball player,” Friedman said. “He’s got really good instincts for the game. I think any time you’re talking about a prospect, there’s always risk in how those skills will translate to the major league level. But I think with him, it’s a much higher floor than most. With the bat-to-ball skills he has, feel for the game, the instincts and his ability to make adjustments on the fly.”
The Dodgers could use Verdugo as the centerpiece in a package for a premier player. Cleveland reportedly would want him as part of the return for pitchers Kluber or Trevor Bauer and Miami could use a young outfielder with six years of team control in a haul for Realmuto.
Friedman described Monday as a day for information gathering. Teams and agents were getting settled in, knocking out their first meetings. By Tuesday morning, he said, momentum toward moves is possible. But there is no imminent deadline. The Dodgers have all winter, spring and summer, up until the Aug. 31 waiver trade deadline, to construct their roster for another expected October run. They’ve used that entire window with success in the past so there’s no rush, but they’re active.
Seager, Jansen updates
Friedman said shortstop Corey Seager arrived in Los Angeles on Monday to take the next step in his recovery from elbow and hip surgeries, transitioning from rehabbing to training. According to Friedman, Seager has begun throwing and running programs with some hitting mixed in.
Seager underwent ligament-replacement surgery on his right elbow in May and had arthroscopic surgery on his left hip in August.
“We’re encouraged by where he’s at,” Friedman said. “Obviously, we’ll know a lot more as we get into January, as he really ramps up his baseball skills.”
Friedman said Kenley Jansen has shown no ill effects after undergoing a cardiac ablation procedure Nov. 26. It was the second time the All-Star closer has needed the operation to repair irregular heartbeats. Friedman said he expects Jansen will be ready for the first day of spring training.
“I saw him the other day and he looks great,” Friedman said. “He’s in a great frame of mind. He’s working out and it went as well as we could’ve hoped.”
Assistant GM hired without a GM
On Sunday night, the Dodgers made a routine announcement. Jeff Kingston, a veteran executive, was hired as a vice president and assistant general manager. Kingston previously held the same title with Seattle. An exodus in the Dodgers’ front office the last couple years created a void Kingston will fill.
There was just one thing unusual about it: The Dodgers don’t have a general manager to assist to after Farhan Zaidi’s departure last month, and they don’t plan on hiring one this offseason.
“Seems like a really easy job,” Friedman said with a smile, “to assist someone who’s not there.”