Originally published by DodgerBlue.com
The Los Angeles Dodgers are in the midst of an unusual offseason with the exit of a few of their franchise mainstays, and once it became clear that Cody Bellinger would not be returning to the team, they shifted their focus to veteran outfielder Kevin Kiermaier to fill that slot.
As it stands, the Dodgers have Trayce Thompson set to start in center field, with James Outman likely to be in the mix, as well. The regression of Bellinger’s offensive output became an issue, and in 2022 his defense took a slight step back, and the team decided non-tendering him was worth the risk.
Bellinger posted a combined wRC+ of 69 since 2021, a steep regression from his 2017 to 2020 peak. His defensive ability at multiple positions is what made him truly valuable, but this past season, Bellinger’s defense didn’t grade out well according to advanced metrics.
In steps Kiermaier, a Platinum Glove and three-time Gold Glove Award winner. Although he will turn 33 around the time the regular season kicks off, the Dodgers saw great value in his ability, according to Juan Toribio of MLB.com:
Once Cody Bellinger agreed to sign with the Cubs, Kiermaier was the Dodgers’ top target at the position because of his elite defense.
Once Bellinger signed with the Chicago Cubs, the Dodgers increased their pursuit of Kiermaier, though to no avail:
The Dodgers made a strong late push for Kiermaier. They got on multiple Zoom calls with him and his representatives, and even upped their offer once it became clear he was leaning toward signing with the Blue Jays.
Among center fielders since 2017, Kiermaier has 70 defensive runs saved and an 18.8 ARM grade, the best in Major League Baseball by a clear margin.
The only surefire defensive option the Dodgers have is Mookie Betts and Outman, who rose through the Minor League ranks with his glove being his most prominent asset. After missing out on most of the top outfield options in free agency, the Dodgers figure to shuffle a bevy of options in both left and center.
Dodgers to consider James Outman, Chris Taylor & Trayce Thompson
Entering his final year of arbitration after multiple down seasons, Bellinger’s fourth and final year of arbitration had him projected to earn roughly $18.1 million for the 2023 season. The Dodgers had an interest in retaining the 27-year-old but only at a lower cost.
He wound up signing with the Cubs on a one-year, $12.5 million contract that includes a mutual option for the 2024 season. Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman mentioned Outman, Chris Taylor, and Thompson as options to replace the spot left by the 2019 National League MVP.
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