Seager’s return, Pollock signing highlight Dodgers’ off season

On Sunday, Los Angeles Dodgers’ fans everywhere were able breath a sigh of relief because of the news that the club is expecting to have former Rookie of the Year, and All Star, shortstop Corey Seager to be ready on opening day.

Seager’s return from Tommy John surgery will mark a major upgrade over Chris Taylor at short — Manny Machado also saw 296 plate appearances with LA last year, he was worth 2.4 wins in such a short amount of time. The ball club also signed 31-year old outfielder AJ Pollock to fill in the outfield spot left by trading Matt Kemp to Cincinnati.

The youngest Seager brother has been the most productive through the first two-plus seasons he’s had at the major league level — he’s hit .302/.372/.372 with a career wRC+ of 133, while also being worth 14.9 wins already. Because his 2018 season was cut short due to the injury, we don’t have a ton of plate appearances to dig into…the best we can do is look at his 2017 season (worth 5.9 wins, with a wRC+ of 127) and what the projection services predict he’ll do in ’19. Steamer projects that he’ll have a wRC+ of 129 while being worth 5.4 wins; while ZiPs is less optimistic and has him being worth 4.1 wins, with a wRC+ of 120 and it also projects the 24-year old to see 57 less plate appearances than Steamer does.

LA’s decision to sign in Pollock was made to fill in the rotation around it’s out field positions. In 2018, Pollock was better defensively (-0.7 UZR, compared to -4.8) while Kemp has more thump in his bat (122 wRC+ compared to 110 for Pollock). That being said, fWAR feels that Pollock’s defense made him more valuable as he was worth 2.5 wins last year — 0.9 wins more than Kemp; the fact that the former Diamondback is three-years younger than Kemp is another reason to be optimistic that he will our produce him this year as well.

The return of Seager will easily counter the slight dip in offensive production from the outfield that’s likely to occur…and the loss of catcher Yasmani Grandal (I really like the Dodgers’ catching prospects). As a result, you can fully expect the Dodgers offense to still be one of the most dangerous in baseball — last season Los Angels had team wRC+ of 111, tied for the best in the league.

On the bump, the biggest changes LA made was ditching Alex Wood in the Reds trade and signing set-up man Joe Kelly to a three-year, $25 million contract. The decision to sign Kelly to such a large deal is a bit of a head scratcher as he wasn’t anything spectacular last season, he was just perfectly average (4.39/3.57/4.04 in 65.2 innings pitched) for the Red Sox last season. Kelly was worth 0.7 wins last season, that makes him the second most valuable relief pitcher on the roster based off of his performance last season; which is a nice addition to Los Angeles’ bull pen, but I don’t think he’s worth $8.3 million a year for three years.

As for starters, the loss of Alex Wood is going to hurt. Wood wasn’t great in 2018, but he was still an effective pitcher that ate 148 innings as he pitched 3.65/3.55/3.72 while being worth 2.5 wins. It’s going to be really hard to see where they pick up that production from their rotation since they don’t have a ton of starting pitching depth, and made no real move to fill his roster spot during the off season. So expect the starting staff to struggle late in the season, as it’s not very deep and there isn’t a lot of exciting options in Triple A Oklahoma City.

After reaching the World Series for the second straight year (and losing, again), Los Angeles added an above average relief pitcher to add more depth to its bullpen. While at the same time, the Dodgers shipped off a perfectly good No. 3 starter and didn’t make a corresponding move to fill his spot. The lack of starting pitching depth could lead to a late season collapse/slow down that will hamper the Dodgers push for a playoff berth in an increasingly competitive NL West.