COMMENTARY | Zack Greinke is getting all the attention, but the Los Angeles Dodgers have more items on their winter to-do list than just starting pitching.
They may be looking for a shortstop, with the hope of moving Hanley Ramirez to third base permanently; they're probably adding another bullpen piece or two; and they're definitely looking for a versatile fourth outfielder.
In Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford, two-thirds of their starting outfield is coming off surgery, and while both men might be ready come April, one or the other (or both) just might not be. But even if they are, Los Angeles would like a dependable reserve to keep its guys fresh throughout the long season.
Ideally, that person plays all three spots well defensively and can cover center for days at time as needed. Ideally, he bats right-handed well enough to play some right for Andre Ethier, who struggles against lefties as a matter of course, even better if the fourth man adds a little pop in a pinch. It's been said that L.A. might want this person to have the capability to play first base but with Adrian Gonzalez good for 155-plus games per year, that doesn't seem to be a sticking point.
Tony Gwynn, Jr. is under contract for 2013 and offers good defense, but hits left-handed and isn't much of a help offensively. He probably starts the season in AAA, would have to be added to the 40-man roster before being eligible to play, and represents a useful fallback possibility.
What follows are a few outfielders the Dodgers might try to acquire, either via trade or free agency, in alphabetical order:
Roger Bernadina, Washington Nationals: Bats left, throws left. Had a nice 2012 season playing all three spots in reserve, with a .291, .371, .405 line. Career-best 11 home runs in 2010, steals a few bags and fits the bill, kind of. Gettable.
Tyler Colvin, Colorado Rockies: Another left-handed batter, and another Colorado player with an unattractive home/road split, worse in 2012 than for his career. Can play center and some first base, good bat with power. Availability might depend on what Rockies do with Dexter Fowler.
Chris Denorfia, San Diego Padres: The sleeper of the list, and a good match for Los Angeles. Bats right, plays all three outfield positions well, and gets on base (.343 career). Signed for $4.25 million through 2014, and the Padres like him. Wouldn't be an easy get, but not impossible, either.
Franklin Gutiérrez, Seattle Mariners: Original Dodger property; shipped to Cleveland in the 2004 Milton Bradley trade. Bats right and known primarily for great defense. Signed through 2014 for $14.5 million, with an option for 2015. Perhaps too pricey for the rebuilding Mariners, making an L.A. return engagement possible.
Chris Heisey, Cincinnati Reds: Bats right, plays some center and hit 18 homers in 2011. Reds need outfielders, and he's barely over major-league minimum, so availability in question.
Reed Johnson, free agent. Still hits southpaws well and can still play some center but at 35 and somewhat injury-prone, not a sure bet to stay on the field. Dodgers paid him $800,000 for same role in 2010 when he hit .261, .291, .366.
Nate McLouth, free agent: Doesn't hit much but plays well in the field. Not really an upgrade over Gwynn, Jr.
Mike Morse, Washington Nationals. Not a part-time player by any means, but is featured in rumors constantly, so you never know. A legitimate stick, best in left and at first base. Signed for 2013 at $6.75 million and then a free agent.
Justin Ruggiano, Miami Marlins: Very solid somewhat late-blooming player. He hit .313, .374, .535 in first real big-league opportunity last season with 13 homers in 91 games. Not a lot of reason for Miami to trade him, which, of course, means they might.
Nate Schierholtz: free agent. GM Ned Colletti loves his ex-Giants and Schierholtz would make a fine Dodger. Played seven 2012 games in center for first time in majors, which isn't much, but might make a difference to L.A. Veteran presence, comfortable in a reserve role.
Jose Tabata, Pittsburgh Pirates: 24-year-old right-handed hitter, signed for $12.5 million through 2016, with options through 2019. Major -eague numbers going in the wrong direction, but a fine minor-league career. Bucs probably regret contract; might move him for little in return.
Howard Cole is the Director of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America (IBWAA) and has been blogging about the Dodgers since 2000, at Baseball Savvy, The Orange County Register and Cole On LA. Follow him on Twitter @Howard_Cole.
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