After re-signing All-Stars Kenley Jansen and Justin Turner, the Dodgers’ biggest priorities were filling the void at second base and finding ways to improve against left handed pitching. Naturally, the Dodgers were thought to be in on big time power hitting second basemen Brian Dozier and Ian Kinsler. Both hitters are right handed and are capable of hitting 25 or more home runs every year. It quickly became apparent however that neither player would be easy to pry away from their respective teams.
Dozier, on the one hand, is coming off of a huge season, hitting 42 home runs and 99 RBI. Going into his age-30 season, Dozier certainly would be expensive and the Twins know the Dodgers have the deep farm system capable of meeting their demands. However, the Dodgers didn’t blink, reportedly offering Jose De Leon straight up and nothing more. The Twins certainly were intrigued by De Leon but understandably wanted more than the 24-year-old pitching prospect in return for proven major league talent.
Kinsler, on the other hand, made it clear immediately that he would exercise his full no-trade clause if he were to be traded, unless the acquiring team gave him a long-term extension. As intriguing as Kinsler was, the Dodgers likely were not super interested in paying an aging second baseman into his late 30’s. For a lower price they may have considered it, but in the end the rumors simply never picked up much steam.
Once it became apparent that neither Dozier or Kinsler were unlikely to work out, the Dodgers turned to other possible options to fill the position. Instead of looking at purely power hitting second basemen, the Dodgers turned their attention to more versatile players like Jurickson Profar and Logan Forysthe.
Sure enough, the Dodgers pulled off a trade for Rays second baseman Logan Forsythe, sending Jose De Leon to Tampa Bay in return. At first this seemed like the Dodgers were taking a step backward. I mean, they were offering De Leon to the Twins straight up for Dozier. How could they turn around and settle for Forsythe instead for the same price? The more I looked at it though, with more information coming out about the negotiations with the Twins, the more I liked the deal.
First, it has to be understood that the De Leon for Dozier straight up deal was never going to happen. The Twins made it clear that they wanted much more than that. In fact, it has now been reported that the Twins wanted De Leon plus another two prospects to part with their power hitting second baseman.
You also have to imagine that the Dodgers knew this all along. Even if it wasn’t going to happen, there are a few of big reasons for the Dodgers to be so insistent on the one-for-one deal. First, there is always the off chance that the Twins would budge and agree to the deal. Second, and more importantly, it sends a message to the rest of the league. By showing the baseball world just how much they value De Leon, they are may be able to get someone like Forsythe for him when they might not have been able to before. Third, if somehow De Leon ended up staying in Los Angeles, his confidence level would shoot through the roof rather than having the opposite effect which trade talks can often have. He would feel like the Dodgers valued him so much that they were only willing to trade him for a superstar and nothing less.
The other reason to like the deal is that Forsythe brings something to the table that both Dozier and Kinsler do not. Forsythe brings versatility to a team that has shown they love to utilize it. Although Forsythe only played second base and designated hitter last season with the Rays, he has also played first base, third base, shortstop, left field, and right field in his 6 year career.
Additionally, Forsythe may not hit 42 home runs like Dozier, but he isn’t a push over in that category by any means, hitting 20 home runs last season and 37 in the last two seasons combined. Although 16 of Forysthe’s home runs in 2016 came against right handers and doesn’t really seem to help the Dodgers poor OPS against left handers, a deeper look into his numbers show the opposite. Over the course of the last 3 seasons, he has hit nearly the same number of home runs against both left (19) and right-handers (24). Forsythe also has a higher batting average against lefties (.272) than against righties (.257) and nearly identical on base percentages against lefties (.333) and righties (.334) in that same time period.
To some, De Leon seems like a high price to pay for someone of Forsythe’s caliber. Given that De Leon was entering the 2017 season as the #33 overall ranked prospect in MLB and the Dodgers #2 prospect according to MLB.com, that thought is understandable. However, a look at the current state of the Dodgers shows why this trade makes sense. De Leon did break into the big leagues briefly last season, but it looked as if he would be spending additional time in the minors this year given that he currently sat at #7 on the Dodgers depth chart. De Leon was simply too valuable to have in the minors but not valuable enough to be above guys like Urias, Maeda, or Kazmir. Trading him to get someone who will contribute right now was simply the right move.