The Los Angeles Dodgers have owned the NL West for a half-decade. In that time, they've gone to the NLCS three times and have captured one pennant, but the franchise is still looking for its first World Series title since 1988. Since then, they've been to the playoffs 11 times without another championship. Want to guess what the goal is this year?
Heading up to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, let's take a look at the defending NL champs.
When Corey Seager -- one of the obvious franchise cornerstones -- went down with a season-ending injury early, shortstop was going to stick out as a glaring need. I don't think it needs to be specific to shortstop, though, given what we've seen since. Last year's center fielder Chris Taylor is playing adequate shortstop. Max Muncy filled in for Justin Turner at third base admirably and can play first base now that Turner is back. Muncy has played some second base, too, though he shouldn't stick there.
Given that Cody Bellinger can play outfield if need be while Taylor can handle second base or shortstop and the outfield is full, let's focus on Logan Forsythe. He's been atrocious. As such, the Dodgers could stand to add a shortstop, which moves Taylor to second, or a second baseman to replace Forsythe. They then have all kinds of flexibility on the corners and in the outfield to play matchups. We'll go with "middle infielder" as one team need.
Kenley Jansen has proven the early struggles were a fluke, but the setup corps needs upgrading. The Dodgers need multiple arms and I'm of the belief they'll avoid the bigger names and instead look to fill out the depth..
Rotation depth had been a concern, but Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill are back from injury while Ross Stripling has been very good. Once Walker Buehler and Hyun-Jin Ryu are healthy, the Dodgers have seven viable starters. They're fine here.
Best bullpen targets
Thanks to playing for the Marlins, power right-hander Kyle Barraclough is one of the most underrated pitchers in the game. His strikeout rate has fallen since 2016, when he punched out a ridiculous 113 hitters in 72 2/3 innings, but he's still been outstanding throughout his career at run prevention in the late innings. He's been good through most of his career at stranding inherited runners, too.
Yes, another quality, hard-throwing Marlins reliever. Though Steckenrider is only in his second year and not eligible for free agency before 2024 at the earliest, he's 27 years old. As such, perhaps the Marlins don't think they'll be ready to compete during his prime and might be inclined to move him.
The Padres probably need to strike while the iron is hot with Yates. He's 31 years old and entered the year with a career 4.78 ERA and 1.30 WHIP. This season he's at 0.79 and 0.82. Sure, trading within the division sometimes gives teams pause, but we've seen these two front offices match up before.
The "Final Boss" had a big year in 2016 -- his first stateside -- and was pretty bad last season. He's re-established value this season after moving from the Cardinals to Blue Jays. His strikeout rate has rebounded and he's giving up fewer homers, leading us to believe the drop in ERA is sustainable.
The lefty is yet another Marlins hurler on the list and is having a career year in strikeout rate. Of course, that's what happens when you stop starting and go straight to reliever. Still, it's intriguing. He still gets a good number of grounders, though he's been squared up too often this season. Still, the Dodgers have gone for upside before and untapped things for others.
Best middle infield targets
Here's a fit I really like. We all know Seager is coming back next year to man the position. Escobar is a free agent at the end of the year and is only making $4.85 million. The Dodgers would be able to add him and still stay under the luxury tax. He's in the midst of a career year, too, hitting .270/.326/.524 with an MLB-best 35 doubles. He mostly plays third now, but he works at short.
Here's the big name and he'd work, but his range -- or lack thereof -- has led to him being rated out as one of the worst defensive shortstops in baseball. Also, adding him likely puts the Dodgers over the luxury tax threshold without some extra creativity. If they do that, anyone they sign next year adds a 50 percent tax. Clayton Kershaw has an opt-out clause, too. Escobar makes more sense, for me, but Machado would be the big splash many Dodgers fans would want after losing the World Series last year.
Ever since the Brewers decided to cut Scooter Gennett during March of 2017, he's been one of the best offensive performers among second basemen in baseball. It's a bit of a conundrum for the Reds. They way things are going right now, they feel like they could content next season and he's under control through 2019. It's still worth a Dodgers call, though, because the Reds might feel their window of contention doesn't line up with Gennett's prime/free agency.
If the Dodgers opted to keep Taylor at shortstop and just replace Forsythe, Dozier could work. He's 31 and in his walk year, but he's having a down year. Of course, he's had huge second halves before and maybe the depressed market is reason enough to match up on this Twins player.
Would the Royals deal Whit Merrifield? He's under team control through 2022 and making close to the league minimum right now. It seems like they'd want a ton in return. Of course, he's already 29, so maybe it would be wise for them to get a lot younger. He's having another good season after breaking through in 2017.