The Brian Dozier-to-the-Dodgers talks have reached an impasse, making it good time to look at what else the Dodgers could do at second base if the trade that should happen doesn’t.
One look at their 40-man roster options screams for an imminent deal — whether it be for Dozier, Ian Kinsler or Logan Forsythe. Because currently topping the second-base depth chart is Enrique Hernandez, who logged a grand total of 11 games and 49 innings at the position among his 109 games played last season.
Chris Taylor is the only other rostered option at this point — unless you want to count catcher-infielder Austin Barnes, who played 22 innings at second base in 2016, as Micah Johnson recently was designated for assignment.
Down a bit deeper — at the Double-A level, followed up by time in the Arizona Fall League — is Willie Calhoun, 22, the club’s No. 4 prospect. The Dodgers also reportedly are close to signing 28-year-old Cuban infielder Jose Miguel Fernandez, who hasn’t played much in the last year-plus. But neither Calhoun nor Fernandez figures to be in big-league picture until late in 2017, if at all.
In case you’ve forgotten, the Dodgers won their fourth consecutive National League West title last season with Chase Utley making 118 starts at second base at age 37. He’s a free agent, and would only be brought back as a platoon option if all trade possibilities fall apart — but don’t count on it. Howie Kendrick, who was next in line with 23 starts at the position, was dealt to the Phillies.
The versatile, inconsistent and well-traveled Hernandez, 25, got most of his playing time in the outfield last season, and especially against opposing left-handed pitching. His two seasons with the Dodgers have been very similar in terms of at-bats: (202 and 216), and power numbers (seven homers in each season, RBI totals of 22 and 18), but dramatically different in slash lines: .307/.346/.490 in 2015 and .190/.283/.324 in 2016.
[graphiq id=”8vwA6zTLaVn” title=”Enrique Hernandez Career Batting” width=”800″ height=”403″ url=”https://w.graphiq.com/w/8vwA6zTLaVn” ]
Taylor, 26, slashed .322/.397/.474 combined at Triple-A Tacoma and Oklahoma City, and has compiled a minor-league career line of .316/.402/.458 — numbers that call for an opportunity for regular big-league playing time.
But other than a six-RBI game against the D-backs on July 15, Taylor did little — .207/.258/.362 — in his 62 at-bats with the Dodgers after being acquired in late-June for pitching prospect Zach Lee. So it’s hard for a team in a World Series-or-bust situation, as the Dodgers are, to afford Taylor that opportunity.
All of which makes a deal the likeliest scenario to unfold before camps open in just more than a month. It will come as no surprise if the Dozier talks are revisited, as the Twins have said they want to make a decision on the All-Star second baseman soon.
Dozier’s value never will be higher than now, when he is coming off a remarkable second half (.291/.344/.646 with 28 HR and 56 RBI) that capped a season in which he far exceeded his career numbers.
Dozier, 29, previously hadn’t hit higher than .244 (in 2013) or more than 28 homers (in 2015) in a season. Why wait for his numbers to regress, and have him lose some value by the July 31 trade deadline? That said, the Twins also could afford to hang onto him, as he is owed only $6 million this season and $9 million in 2018.
Forsythe’s remaining financial obligation is virtually the same as Dozier’s. He won’t cost as much in terms of return to the Rays, but his cumulative last two seasons —.273, 37 HR, 120 RBI — fall far short of Dozier’s numbers.
Kinsler, who will turn 35 in June, reportedly has indicated that he will waive no-trade rights for a contract extension. But that doesn’t seem to be a way the Dodgers’ front-office would want to go.