Originally published by DodgerBlue.com
The Los Angeles Dodgers went into the offseason with a focus on starting pitching, an area they were severely lacking in their last two postseason appearances.
After signing Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto in free agency, and Tyler Glasnow via trade, the Dodgers carried the bulk of MLB activity this offseason. As a result they positioned themselves with enough frontend options to not make the same mistake as last October.
Ohtani replacing J.D. Martinez’s All-Star production is a step up, while the inclusion of Gavin Lux in the infield mix is another boost to the Dodgers lineup. But left field remained a clear void after receiving lackluster performances from multiple options in 2023.
David Peralta and Chris Taylor formed a platoon that had some stretches of success but otherwise lacked. Taylor posted a 135 wRC+ in games he slotted in as a left fielder, while Peralta’s production slipped, resulting in a 76 wRC+.
In that scenario lies two issues, Taylor’s bat saw a genuine boost, but having to spell Peralta against southpaws was taking away from his true ability to remain a super utilityman. That versatility is what earned Taylor a four-year, $60 million contract, and coupled with Peralta’s struggles, the Dodgers were in search of an everyday option.
In steps Teoscar Hernández, who the Dodgers reportedly came to terms on a one-year, $23.5 million contract.
Hernández is a pure power bat for the Dodgers lineup, and dating back to 2018, he’s clubbed 147 home runs, 442 RBI with a 117 wRC+. From 2020 through 2022, Hernández averaged a 133 wRC+ and has maintained his status as one of the biggest threats against left-handed pitching.
His signing eliminates a potential platoon at both corner outfield positions. However, the trickle down effect reaches other parts of the Dodgers roster, namely Miguel Vargas.
Michael Busch figured to be impacted as well, but he was traded to the Chicago Cubs along with Yency Almonte.
How Teoscar Hernández impacts Miguel Vargas
Early in the winter, Dodgers general manager Brandon Gomes hinted at the possibility of Busch and Vargas seeing time in left field, but that plan has lost a lot of its runway with how the offseason has panned out.
Jason Heyward was re-signed and will likely platoon in right field with Mookie Betts taking on an everyday role at second base. With the addition of Hernández, the Dodgers outfield picture is beginning to look like a crowded group, and the team still needs a starting pitcher.
That could lend to Vargas becoming a Dodgers trade chip as well.
He is younger than Busch — 24 years old compared to 26 — but similarly has little left to prove at the Triple-A level.
Before the Dodgers signed Hernández, Vargas potentially playing left field wasn’t necessarily the worst option. In 2022, he logged 46 defensive innings there with the Dodgers. Busch has spent the majority of his professional career as an infielder, where he hasn’t graded out particularly well.
If there was a time to also trade Vargas, now may be the time for Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman to do so.
Vargas no longer has an avenue to be part of the Dodgers roster. They envisioned their heralded prospect taking over at second base last season, but Vargas was demoted to Oklahoma City in July and never returned.
Vargas is not going to beat out Betts at second base or Hernández in left field. Limited experience in the outfield as a whole make him an unlikely platoon partner with Heyward in right field.
Though, the Dodgers conceivably could rely on Heyward and Vargas in left field, and keep Hernández in right field, where he’s played the bulk of his career. But doing so would cut into Taylor’s overall at-bats.
Various trade pieces still remain available, specifically Dylan Cease, who would provide the Dodgers with a huge upgrade in the middle of their rotation.
And Vargas could wind up proving key to the Dodgers and Chicago White Sox aligning on such a deal.
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