The Dodgers are exploring lineup reinforcement options ahead of the MLB trade deadline

The Dodgers are exploring lineup reinforcement options ahead of the MLB trade deadline

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DENVER — Max Muncy seems to have found it. A full-count curveball from the Rockies’ Kyle Freeland rocketed Muncy’s bat into the gap. Even in the endless grass of the course Saturday night, he was eager to at least find some space. It went 403 feet and into the glove of shortstop Randall Grichuk to end the sixth inning of a 5-3 loss to the Dodgers. Muncy shot to center field, then another look. His season OPS dropped to .607 and he nearly missed another in a full season.

Last summer, the 31-year-old Muncie carried the Dodgers’ lineup for a stretch, but his struggles are over this season. Cody Bellinger’s bat dipped well below league average for the second year in a row. Despite those trends, the lineup has been overall the best in the National League in wRC+ and runs per game.

However, the Dodgers will focus on bolstering their lineup depth as the trade deadline approaches. They have been exploring their options internally and externally.

For example, the Dodgers have expressed interest in trading for outfielder David Peralta, a source told The Athletic, though Arizona’s trade for minor leaguer Christian Cerda was closed early Saturday. He has a .777 OPS in 310 plate appearances with the Diamondbacks this season (including an .823 OPS against right-handed pitchers), in left field with the soon-to-be-returning Chris Taylor. The addition of Peralta could have pushed Taylor into center field to replace Bellinger.


Cody Bellinger is struggling for the second straight season. (Theron W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Even if Peralta is off the market, the Dodgers have options they can pursue as insurance for some low-key bats. Cubs outfielder Ian Happ has a career .831 OPS against right-handers, and has another year in club control. Pirates outfielder Ben Gamel has a .735 OPS against right-handers this season and will be a rental. Maybe the Dodgers will be the club that plays on Joey Gallo’s ability to overcome adversity in New York.

Or, if the giants rise up as sellers, perhaps even rivals can find common ground for a trade-off. Former Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson has a .421 OPS since the start of July, but offers the type of platoon bat (career .833 OPS against righties) that Los Angeles has shown a knack for utilizing in the past. Although the two clubs have met in two trades over the past half-century — one season coming up — perhaps the history between Giants executive Farhan Zaidi and Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman could pave the way for a deal.

And of course, the Dodgers remain in the mix for Juan Soto and have expressed interest in two-way star Shohei Ohtani.

Manager Dave Roberts said there could be more moves at Tuesday’s trade deadline, “But like I said all along, I really like this ball club. My job is to keep these guys moving forward. So that’s what I’m going to do. If something happens, we’ll read it and respond.”

Of course, the Dodgers boast in-house options, including players coming out of IL and a 25-year-old outfielder.

In the year As the pandemic shifts to 2020, in the quiet moments between kush sessions at a park near his hometown of Redwood City, California, James Oatman finds it hard to imagine where he’ll be after two winters. The athletic, left-handed hitting outfielder was viewed as organizational filler rather than a prospect who could one day reach the big leagues. However, that’s exactly what he did when he arrived at the visiting clubhouse on the course. The Dodgers promoted Outman as they looked to replace Zach McKinstry, who was traded to the Cubs for reliever Chris Martin.

In the year In 2019, once removed from Sacramento State’s mid-major program, Outman hit just .226 in center power as a 22-year-old in Class A. In 2020, Outman was not among the prospects invited to the Dodgers’ alternate training camp at USC. Despite his solid speed and flash of manpower in all three outfield positions, Ottman swung, in his words, “like a caveman.”

“It’s very rigid, there’s not much,” said Auman.

Outman began listing coaches like Craig Wallenbrock, whose coaching tree includes current Dodgers hitting coach Robert Van Scoyck. Those coaches took Outman’s jab-like swing and loosened it up, allowing him to make more contact and power.

“A total rebuild,” said Auman.

So Outman and some friends find a place to check out the new swing wherever they want, even as the world closes in around them. Before reporting to the Dodgers’ training camp that fall, Outman used friends’ backyards and open playhouses at local parks and wherever. In the year In 2021, he hit 18 homers in 104 games over two phases, earning an invite to the Arizona Fall League and a spot on the 40-man roster this winter to avoid the Rule 5 draft. He just continued to grind this season, hitting 16 homers in 68 games at Double-A Tulsa and earning a call-up to Triple-A Oklahoma City less than a month later.

Now the business frenzy has brought him to the big club.

“There’s a lot of life to a bat,” Roberts said.

Outman will start in right field Sunday in his first major league game.

“It’s been a goal of mine to get here at some point in the year,” Auman said. “But I was surprised when I called.”

This stint in the big leagues may be a short one for Othman. He is the 26th man on the roster looking to add talent.

Trace Thompson and Jake Lamb have produced an 870 OPS (147 wRC+ or 47 percent above league average) playing in a left field platoon. . Edwin Rios hit seven homers in 92 plate appearances before he was injured. But many others have struggled to find even formal measures. The Dodgers activated McKinstry from the injured list on July 6, and in the 23 days prior to the trade, McKinstry only collected seven plate appearances. Whitman’s contribution could be as a placeholder.

Players are getting healthy. Rios began rehab this week in Oklahoma City. He could be there for at least two weeks after missing last season with serious shoulder surgery. Taylor will begin his rehab on Monday as he returns from a broken bone in his left foot. Roberts recently suggested Taylor could play some second base in that rehab assignment, even though he hasn’t played the infield this season after an offseason elbow procedure. The Dodgers have fared well in his absence. But even with Taylor’s return, additional reinforcements may be needed.

Until then, the Dodgers will remain in a position that has seen two former MVP candidates create holes in the lineup. Bellinger has yet to return from shoulder surgery after the 2020 postseason. Muncie tore the UCL in his left elbow on the final day of the regular season last October. He avoided surgery but hit the injured list in May after a slow start. The expected restart didn’t work. In his first 163 plate appearances since returning, Muncie posted just a .627 OPS and sacrificed a few walks for less power gain.

“He is,” Roberts said Friday when asked if he sees Muncy, who finished in the top 10 for MVP last season, as an everyday player. “I will continue to give runs, but I will definitely still expect quality batsmen. I think performance, a meritocracy, is really the way it should be. … until it doesn’t, it will.

“For me, for the organization, I think the track record, the performance and the defensive consistency, he deserves a longer tie.”

And there are still flashes of that playfulness. Muncie stood at the plate in the ninth inning Saturday, representing Daniel Bard in the Dodgers’ final game against the Rockies, as he turned to right with a 98-mph sinker. It came off the bat with almost the same speed and direction as the previous one. At this Grichuk jumped. He doubled up on the glove and off the wall. It was the kind of swing the Dodgers had been hoping all year Muncie could replicate.

(Top photo: Max Muncy after sixth-inp flight Saturday: Ron Chenoy / USA TODAY)

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