The Los Angeles Dodgers have the best offense in the National League and one of the best in baseball, their 118 wRC+ team trailing only the Yankees. In a year when several regulars are underperforming and posting disappointing batting numbers, that statement has even more meaning.
The likes of Max Muncy, Cody Bellinger and Justin Turner are all playing below their abilities, and while for various reasons one could debate what exactly are the right expectations for each of these players going into this year, it cannot be argued that there is room for improvement.
Additionally, the Dodgers were hit with a few injuries on the list that affected their depth. Edwin Ríos seemed poised for a breakout campaign and could have landed himself in a regular role by now, but instead went to 60 Days IL for a second straight season and the all-important Chris Taylor broke his right foot and is off indefinitely. Taylor had his own strikeout issues but still put up a solid stat line.
The bottom line is that the Dodgers should, and most likely will, complete this lineup before the August 2 close. In the 2022 market, this Trea Turner impact-level racquet wasn’t really available, at least not until things worsened between Juan Soto and the Nationals over the weekend. But the Dodgers may be looking at another type of addition to their lineup, a supplemental play.
The top of this lineup is fine, and while everyone is always ready to add another star, the Dodgers could use some depth at key points on their offense. AJ Pollock isn’t having the best time in Chicago, but his departure has left a hole in his offensive performance in 2020 and 2021 with the Dodgers. Combine that with Taylor’s injury and the defensive specialist that Bellinger currently is, and the Dodgers could use another racquet, especially one that can play outfield or third base.
The market has interesting names that can fill the role of a complementary piece to this Dodgers lineup and offer the depth it has carried over the past several years. Jake Lamb and Trayce Thompson have put in admirable performances in limited time, but if the offense can add another reliable bat or two to get them moving, all the better for that.
Let’s take a look at some of the best options out there and what they might bring to the table in a Dodger uniform
A Cincinnati Reds duo
3B/2B Brandon Drury (2022: .278/.336/.528, 134wRC+)
The name that springs to mind when everyone thinks of Reds salesman is Luis Castillo, but looking at Cincy’s lineup, Brandon Drury is easily this team’s surprise, and the upcoming free agent is one of the most attractive hitters on the market. especially for a team with the needs of the Dodgers.
Drury, who has second, third and corner outfield experience, has had a career year with the Reds and has even been considered an All-Star snub by some. Drury’s .528 slugging percentage is a top-five mark in the National League and would trail only Freddie Freeman (.530) with the Dodgers.
Drury’s 18 home runs are shared by a third baseman at the second most in the National League, and he’s one of the few hitters with already 50 or more runs and 50 or more RBI in the NL.
The Reds are all but certain they’ll be trading Drury as he’s on a one-year deal and they’re going nowhere. While its flexibility justifies a large pool of applicants for its services, given the lack of a broader track record, Drury’s price tag should not be excessive.
The acquisition of Drury would allow Roberts to be more flexible with Max Muncy and Justin Turner as both have more days off against certain matchups, and his experience at second base would also open up the possibility of seeing Gavin Lux more outfield and even Drury to play in a pinch itself could fill in the left field.
Drury’s batting profile is eerily similar to what AJ Pollock delivered to the Dodgers last year. A solid batting average, a usable if not impressive walk rate, and significant power for the middle and back end of the lineup.
BY Tommy Pham (2022: .242/.329/.391, 100wRC+)
A former divisional enemy of the Dodgers also accompanies Drury as a possible trade target on a Cincinnati lease. Pham doesn’t have Drury’s impressive first half, but he makes for a reliable right-hander that you can use for a bit of outfield stability.
Pham has had many ups and downs since inventing St. Louis, but if you ignore his lazy 2020 campaign with the Padres, he’s consistently delivered an OPS+ at or above the league average, often above. His .801 career OPS is pretty impressive.
Pham signed very late with the Reds and got off to a slow start, whether the two have a connection probably doesn’t, but his .873 OPS in June helped stabilize some of those numbers and early July wasn’t a great he is the kind of experienced racquet you trust.
The corner outfielder wouldn’t cost the Dodgers a ton, and he might be the player Kevin Pillar didn’t get for the 2022 Dodgers. Pham is a better hitter and not the same defender, but he wouldn’t necessarily come in for an everyday role, but a bat can pocket a chunk of those LF bats before Taylor is fully healthy.
Help out in the Midwest
Andrew Benintendi (2022: .317/.386/.401, 127wRC+)
The Royals made headlines with the number of players who didn’t make the trip to Toronto because they weren’t vaccinated. While the Royals aren’t fighting for a playoff spot, it still matters, especially for names that could be trading at deadline.
If the season ended today, the Blue Jays would make the postseason, and any absence in a Toronto playoff series because of this issue is bound to be a focus.
Andrew Benintendi is one of the players who has not made the journey and he is one of the players most likely to be traded by the end of the year. There’s no knowing for certain whether his vaccination status will drive out certain AL teams, nor even if he would go unvaccinated and miss a playoff series because of this issue.
Whether he’ll depreciate specifically for AL teams isn’t anyone’s guess at this point, but for a team like the Dodgers who could play Toronto in the World Series, Benintendi could be someone to at least help them get there reach.
Benintendi is in his running year in Kansas City and in the middle of his best offensive season since 2018 with the Red Sox. While the Dodgers would likely prefer a right-handed at-bat acquisition, Benintendi shouldn’t be ruled out because of that.
Benintendi would be a plug-and-play in left field, at least until the return of Chris Taylor for the two to rotate on, and also give Bellinger more days off, especially against hard lefts. Gavin Lux played in midfield last year, although it’s not the ideal position for him.
Benintendi, a 2022 All-Star, doesn’t offer much pop, but he puts the ball in play and currently carries a 10.2 percent walk rate, which isn’t far from his career norm. Regardless of where you place him in the lineup, Benintendi can give you much of what Gavin Lux has, and his career splits aren’t overly aggressive to render him unplayable against lefties.
Big acquisitions that didn’t make it
Both Josh Bell and William Contreras have career years on their plates and should be handled by the Cubs and Nationals and while the Dodgers could technically make room for both, a deal would be extremely unlikely because:
- The Dodgers will not relegate a Smith or Contreras to DH-only at-bats. If you pay to have Contreras produced, do so because of the added value you get at the catcher position by not using him as the designated batsman. And LA values Austin Barnes too highly to essentially remove him from the catcher equation.
- Though Bell would be one of the best designated hitters out there and would inevitably strengthen that lineup, the Dodgers have emphasized the importance they place on flexibility in the DH spot. The option to put different hitters in that role, from Turner to Muncy, as well as being able to keep Smith’s bat behind the plate in the lineup on days off, all help keep the entire lineup fresh.
It’s very hard to imagine the Dodgers giving up that strategy for a full-time DH.
These three hitters — Andrew Benintendi, Brandon Drury and Tommy Pham — are some of the most realistic, achievable and intriguing targets the Dodgers could and should be pursuing at this year’s close.