Try as they might, the Los Angeles Dodgers haven't made much noise this winter. They've committed only blunders instead, making for a rough finish to Major League Baseball's 2015 season.
Clearly, this means the only thing for them to do now is get off to a good start in 2016.
The new year will be here in just a few days, folks. That will only mean following up on New Year's resolutions—alas, the gym awaits—for most of us. But for the Dodgers, it will mean finding ways to turn their 2016 roster into a powerhouse befitting of baseball's richest team.
Again, it's not like the Dodgers haven't tried to do that already. It's also not like their offseason has been a total wash. They found a promising new manager in Dave Roberts and secured some talent for him. They've retained Brett Anderson and Chase Utley, and they arguably upgraded their prospect depth in a recent three-team trade. Their offseason could be going worse.
But, yeah, it could also be going a lot better.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports told us very early on that ace pitchers Zack Greinke and David Price were the Dodgers' top two targets, and they missed out on both. They couldn't land either Jeff Samardzija or Johnny Cueto as plan-B options.
Elsewhere, they thought they had landed Hisashi Iwakuma, only to watch him return to the Seattle Mariners when the Dodgers took issue with his physical. They also thought they had a deal for Aroldis Chapman, but that was scuttled by an alleged domestic violence incident.
There is a bright side, though. The Dodgers have been doing a lot of swinging and missing, but they should not be mistaken for a doomed team.
"I understand people wanting as much good, positive, big news as early as they can get it," Dodgers president and CEO Stan Kasten told Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles. "I totally get that, but I also know that nowadays all of us tend to overreact to everything, both good and bad. If you're feeling down right now about the Dodgers, I think it's unwarranted as well as way premature.
Kasten is not wrong. According to FanGraphs, only the Chicago Cubs are projected to produce more wins above replacement than the Dodgers in 2016. Looking at that is when you recall they're still built around Clayton Kershaw, Adrian Gonzalez, Yasiel Puig, Justin Turner, Kenley Jansen and a host of additional impact talents.
The catch is that though the Dodgers look good on paper, they also look incomplete. The club's maneuvering this winter suggests that they agree, particularly where starting pitching and bullpen depth are concerned.
So, let's take it as a given that those are the things the Dodgers need to find after January 1 and dive into how they could go about finding them.
If one thing bodes well for the rest of the Dodgers' offseason, it's that they're not lacking in resources.
Though they're not going to be spending $300 million again like they did in 2015, they can surely spend more than the $215.1 million in guaranteed salaries and projected arbitration payouts (per MLB Trade Rumors) that they already have committed to 2016. The Dodgers also have the goods to make trades, most notably a deep farm system that contains five players in MLB.com's top 100.
What bodes less well is that the avenues for the Dodgers to put these resources to use are now limited, particularly where their need for a top-of-the-rotation starter is concerned. With Price, Greinke, Cueto and Jordan Zimmermann all spoken for, the open market is fresh out of those.
That leaves the trade market, where the Dodgers do have options.
Before you ask, Jose Fernandez isn't one of them. The Miami Marlins have never seemed committed to trading him, and MLB.com's Joe Frisaro's "read" is that the Marlins don't see the Dodgers as a fit for the young ace.
Sonny Gray is another option that should be disregarded. With still a year to go until arbitration, there's no pressure on the Oakland A's to deal him. Then there's Chris Archer, but Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reports that the Tampa Bay Rays consider him "pretty close" to untouchable.
Two possibilities that are within reach for the Dodgers, however, appear in this report from Jon Morosi of Fox Sports:
Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar are both prized options. The Cleveland Indians right-handers are short of 30 and controllable through 2020. They both boast power stuff that made them easily above-average pitchers in 2015.
According to Buster Olney of ESPN.com, Cleveland isn't in a hurry to deal either of them. They're part of the club's primary strength, after all, and their status as would-be contenders takes both pitchers off the table unless a team has established or MLB-ready talent to offer.
That's where the Dodgers stand a chance. Cleveland is particularly needy of outfield depth. This allows for the possibility of the Dodgers building a package around some combination of the newly acquired Trayce Thompson, Alex Guerrero, Carl Crawford or Andre Ethier. If Yasiel Puig is cleared of a suspension stemming from his own alleged domestic violence incident, he could also be in play.
To be sure, the Dodgers would probably prefer to swap prospects for an impact pitcher. But if Fernandez, Gray and Archer were taken off the table, the list of targets that could be had for prospects is short. Maybe Tyson Ross could be considered, but the Dodgers probably aren't interested in sending young talent to a division rival.
In so many words, if the Dodgers want a top-of-the-rotation starter, it's probably going to require paying the price for Carrasco or Salazar.
If the Dodgers can do that, they'll knock their list of needs down to rotation and bullpen depth. That's where we can entertain the idea of them killing two birds with one stone.
As Morosi noted, the Dodgers are also eyeing Rays right-hander Jake Odorizzi. Elsewhere on the Rays—otherwise known as the team that Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman used to run—Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times was right to speculate that the Dodgers could be interested in hard-throwing left-hander Jake McGee. He's not Chapman, but he's a pretty good substitute.
As for what the Dodgers could trade for an Odorizzi/McGee package, we could take the package that Dave Cameron of FanGraphs proposed for an Archer/McGee haul and downgrade it a tad. Rather than the seemingly untouchable Corey Seager, the Dodgers could base the trade around Julio Urias, Jose De Leon or maybe even Grant Holmes.
Of course, the Dodgers don't need to kill two birds with one stone in a trade with the Rays quite like they need to point their search for a top-of-the-rotation starter toward Cleveland. In separate moves, they could turn to the open market for a starter and to the trade market for a reliever.
The open market may be out of aces, but it does have some solid mid-rotation options. According to Rosenthal, three players on the Dodgers' radar are left-handers Scott Kazmir and Wei-Yin Chen and Japanese right-hander Kenta Maeda. Ask Morosi, and he'll say Maeda makes the most sense:
The consensus on Maeda appears to be that he won't be an ace-level pitcher in the majors. But at just 27 years old and with a 2.39 career earned run average in Nippon Professional Baseball, you can see his appeal.
Mind you, Kazmir and Chen would also make sense. Kazmir has a connection to Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi, and he has been largely good in posting a 3.33 ERA over the last two seasons. Chen is two years younger than Kazmir, and his extreme, strike-throwing style has led to a 3.54 ERA over the last two seasons.
If the Dodgers can sign any of these three, their rotation would be in much better shape. They would also have just their bullpen left to figure out, and that's where they would have a few trade options.
If they can't get either in a package deal, the Dodgers could deal for McGee or fellow Rays reliever Brad Boxberger individually. They could also look elsewhere in the American League East and swap out some pitching depth for New York Yankees left-hander Andrew Miller. Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander Mark Melancon is another option. There's also Shawn Tolleson of the Texas Rangers.
Regardless of the direction they go to fill these needs, the Dodgers will indeed be in good shape if they get a top-of-the-rotation starter, an additional starter and an ace reliever after the new year. They've had a rough offseason so far, but these remain the only things they really need to add to a roster that's already elite on paper.
We would wish them luck...But we're pretty sure their luck can only go up anyway.