Friday, December 6, 2013

Dodgers' Winter Meetings shopping list: 3B - Middlebrooks, Ramirez, Diaz?

With all the transactions this week, it's hard to believe there will be any available players when the Winter Meetings start on Monday in Orlando. We still have to get through the weekend, though.

The Dodgers have been (somewhat) surprisingly quiet this week. They officially brought back Brian Wilson on a 1-year, $10 million contract with a player option for 2015 at $10 million (plus incentives). I'm really liking that deal, as a (healthy) Wilson-Kenley Jansen back-end of the bullpen is the best in baseball.

So, what more do the Dodgers need? Here's my shopping list for the Winter Meetings (and the remainder of the offseason):
  • Third baseman
  • Starting pitcher
  • Bench pieces
  • Left-handed RP and/or power-right-handed RP
This post will look at third base, with the other positions getting examined before Monday.


These days, it seems harder to find a quality third baseman than a quality shortstop or second baseman. There are absolutely no quality free agents after Juan Uribe. There was word on Thursday Uribe be close to returning, which wouldn't be terrible. However, I find myself (greedily) wanting an upgrade at the position.

My top target has been Chase Headley. That isn't too likely as the cost to get him could be prohibitive, especially factoring in the interdivision tax the Dodgers would have to pay.

Here's a short list of other guys who could be available:
Lawrie and Seager would be the toughest to get. Both guys would likely cost Matt Kemp (in some kind of package), so don't get your hearts set on either of them.

Moustakas is almost in that category of "unlikely to be traded" as Lawrie and Seager are, especially since the Royals are contending and might not have a suitable replacement for him.

That leaves Middlebrooks and Ramirez. Of the two, I'd rather have, well, Corey Seager. But seriously, those options aren't great, but there's some good to be had.


Middlebrooks, 25, is more attractive because he's younger and better power potential than Ramirez. A former top Boston prospect, Middlebrooks hasn't fared too well.

He burst onto the scene in 2012, hitting .288/.325/.509 with 15 home runs in 286 plate appearances. His approach was exposed a bit in 2013, as he hit just .227/.271/.426 with 17 home runs in 374 plate appearances.

I like the power, I don't like the lack of plate discipline (5 percent walk rate). Something that excites me about a potential Middlebrooks acquisition is the fact Mark McGwire would have a chance to make him a better hitter. He did wonders for guys like David Freese and Yadier Molina in St. Louis, and Middlebrooks seems like the perfect guy to learn under his tutelage.

Middlebrooks was an average defender in his debut season before slipping in 2013. Still, he projects to be at least average at the position.

Despite that, the Red Sox need a legitimate outfielder to "replace" Jacoby Ellsbury. Andre Ethier might be that guy. He's good friends with Dustin Pedroia and Ethier in Fenway Park makes some sense. Boston could slide former Dodger (sigh) Shane Victorino to center field, with Ethier slotting in at right field. Also, they upgrade with Xander Bogaerts at third base while, say, re-signing Stephen Drew.

The Dodgers would have to eat a little salary in an Ethier-for-Middlebrooks swap, but the Red Sox do kinda owe the Dodgers for taking Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett in August 2012. I'm speaking in jest, but there's a little truth to that for me.


Ramirez is a grizzled veteran. The Brewers aren't really going anywhere next season (or the next one, or the one after that), so getting some kind of return for a 35-year-old player who doesn't factor into their future plans).

Ramirez is just one season removed from being a 5.7-win player (2012), but injuries hit him in 2013, limiting his playing time to 92 games. In those games, he was still able to hit .283/.370/.461 with 12 home runs and a 10.3 percent walk rate. When healthy, he's still a premium offensive option at third base.

Defensively, Ramirez has never been considered "plus." He's had a few good seasons with the glove (according to defensive metrics), but he should be considered generally below-average defensively at third base. His range isn't great, and with Hanley Ramirez slated to play shortstop, there could be a lot of grounders that squeak through the left side of the Dodger infield in 2014 if they acquiried Aramis.

I wrote about a possible Ramirez acquisition at Yahoo Sports in June, but that obviously didn't go down. Perhaps the Winter Meetings is the time for such a deal.

It wouldn't take a lot fo get him, as he's owed $16 million in 2014. He also has a $14 million mutual option for 2014 that includes a $4 million buyout. So, this could be a 1-year, $20 million commitment for the Dodgers. Not the best way to spend $20 million, but that also means the Dodgers wouldn't have to give up much value to get him. The Dodgers and Brewers might have to work out some kind of financial agreement with a Ramirez trade.

The Brewers' farm system is barren. The Dodgers could float them an offer of Matt Magill and O'Koyea Dickson for Ramirez and see if they bite. Magill has some potential as a No. 4 starter or reliever, while Dickson has a little power potential at first base.


While this doesn't count as "Winter Meetings" shopping list, a guy to keep an eye on is Aledmys Diaz from Cuba. He was the 22-year-old who said he was 23 so he wouldn't be subject to MLB's international signing rules. Well, he's 23 now and could be a guy the Dodgers (and other teams) could look at. Problem is, he isn't eligible to be signed until February. I don't think the Dodgers (or any team) is going to pin its hopes on an unproven Cuban player they can't sign until February. Also, he profiles better at shortstop than third base, but the Dodgers have a little flexibility in that department.

Still, he's a guy to remember in a couple months. He could begin the season in the minors. You can never have enough talent.


Next up: Starting pitcher (and it's really just one guy -- Masahiro Tanaka -- but I'll examine a couple other possibilities)

Photo credits
Middlebrooks: Keith Allison, Wikimedia Commons
Ramirez: Steve Paluch, Flickr

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