One of the “highlights” of the Winter Meetings is that nearly every manager shows up for a scrum with the media, and Tuesday afternoon it Dodgers skipper Dave Roberts’ turn. Coincidentally, Doc’s session came shortly after it was announced that center-fielder Cody Bellinger has reached an agreement with the Cubs.
With Bellinger’s departure — which has seemed likely for a while, so it didn’t exactly catch Roberts off guard — the manager was asked if L.A. needs to add an outfielder this offseason.
“Yeah, we’re going to add an outfielder. … I would say somebody that can manage center field is probably a top priority, yeah.”
Dave Roberts said the #Dodgers plan to add an outfielder this offseason. "someone that can manage centerfield."
— Dodgers Nation (@DodgersNation) December 7, 2022
The question becomes: Who? Bellinger is the first center-fielder to drop off the free-agent board this offseason, but the list wasn’t exactly lengthy or distinguished to start with. With Bellinger getting $17.5 million, you’d have to think Brandon Nimmo will get even more than that — his ceiling isn’t nearly as high as Belli’s, but he has the advantage of having actually been good the last two years.
Beyond Nimmo, things drop drastically. When sorting by WAR over the past two years, the next two center-fielders on the list are Kevin Kiermaier and Rafael Ortega. Ortega, of course, is who the Cubs just replaced with Bellinger, and we have some bad news about his defense:
Cubs ranked LAST in Defensive Runs Saved in center field last year.
Cody Bellinger, who comes out right about average in Defensive Runs Saved the last 2 seasons, would be a significant upgrade there.
— SIS_Baseball (@sis_baseball) December 7, 2022
Ortega played 409 innings in center in 2022 and put up a -3 DRS, which would put him around -10 over a full season.
Realistically, if the Dodgers go through free agency, it’s either Nimmo or a defense-first CF. Looking at next year’s free agents to determine who might be available in a trade, we have just Harrison Bader, Kiké Hernandez, and Michael A. Taylor.
So yes, the Dodgers are on the prowl for a center-fielder. But we have no idea who that’s going to be.
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