In my recent NL West preview, I predicted that the Dodgers would win the NL West with an 88-74 record on the strength of a very talented 25-man roster that comes together down the stretch. As talented as the roster appears on paper, though, they could be looking for reinforcements by midseason.
Several big names were acquired during the 2012 season, including Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez, but they also acquired complementary pieces in Joe Blanton, Randy Choate and Nick Punto.
While another blockbuster might not be in the cards, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them taking on another big name or two and their salary in exchange for some mid-level prospects.
So what are the Dodgers’ needs?
Despite a strong 2012 season in which he came out of nowhere to solidify the hot corner, Luis Cruz is still a 29-year-old journeyman who doesn’t bring much offense to the table. An upgrade at third base is possible. A platoon partner for Andre Ethier (.606 OPS versus LHP in 2012) in right field is also on the list of definite needs for the Dodgers.
Here are a few of those big names (two at each position) the Dodgers could acquire to fill either the starting third base or fourth outfield spot...
Franklin Gutierrez, OF, Seattle Mariners
A healthy Gutierrez would give the Dodgers another plus defender patrolling the outfield on days when left-handed starting pitchers take the mound. The 30-year-old has a career .828 OPS against left-handed pitching.
If they wait until midseason to make a deal, Gutierrez would be owed around half of his $7 million salary for 2013 and another $500,000 in 2014 if his $7.5 million club option isn’t picked up.
The Mariners have plenty of outfield depth and would certainly shop Gutierrez if they were out of the playoff race. It's doubtful the Dodgers would have to give up more than a mid-level prospect or two to get him.
Scott Hairston, OF, Chicago Cubs
The Dodgers wouldn’t be taking on much salary, and the Cubs won’t necessarily be trying to dump the remainder of Hairston’s $2.5 million per season, so L.A. might have to give up a pretty good player to land a second Hairston on their bench.
When it comes to fourth outfielders who crush left-handed pitching, the 32-year-old might be the cream of the crop. Not only does he have a career .825 OPS versus lefties, Hairston has had some huge hits against the rival Giants during his career, including 14 career homers.
Not only would he fill a hole on the 25-man roster, the Giants would not be happy if the Dodgers acquired him.
Chase Headley, 3B, San Diego Padres
Money is always an issue when it comes to the small-market Padres, but they’re not giving away one season of Headley just to dump the remaining portion of his $8.58 million salary for 2013 and a likely $10 million-plus salary in 2014. They’ll seek a huge return of prospects and an even bigger return if they trade within the division.
Do the Dodgers have the package of prospects to get it done? Sure, but it could make their farm system extremely thin.
I’m guessing it would take third baseman Corey Seager, their first-round pick from 2012; top pitching prospect Zach Lee, another top pitching prospect; and maybe one other high-ceiling prospect in the low minors. And maybe they’ll throw in shortstop Dee Gordon since they don't appear to have much use for him.
Kevin Youkilis, 3B, New York Yankees
Sorry Yankee fans. By naming Youkilis on this list, I am suggesting that your team will not be in the pennant race in July.
Youkilis, who had a huge spring with six homers and 14 runs batted in, would likely be on the trade block if healthy, and the Dodgers would be one of a few teams interested. Just don’t think L.A. will be getting him for a bench player and fringe starter as the White Sox did last season.
In addition to taking on the remainder of his $12 million salary for 2013, the Dodgers will have to give up a decent prospect for Youkilis. Think one of their pitchers ranked by Baseball Prospectus in the eight to 10 range of their system. That would be Chris Withrow, Garrett Gould or Zachary Bird.
For a Yankees team lacking in pitching prospect depth, that would be a smart move if they’re in selling mode once we get to July.