Dodgers look to fill holes at Winter Meetings

Dodgers look to fill holes at Winter Meetings

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers have plenty of work to do at next week's Winter Meetings.

MLB.com and MLB Network will have wall-to-wall coverage of the 2016 Winter Meetings from the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center outside Washington, D.C. Fans can watch live streaming of all news conferences and manager availability on MLB.com, including the Rule 5 Draft on Dec. 8 at 6 a.m. PT.

The Dodgers' game plan will be dictated by the search to fill holes at third base and closer created by the free agencies of Justin Turner and Kenley Jansen.

The Dodgers need to re-sign or replace them, as well as starting pitcher Rich Hill, second baseman Chase Utley and setup man Joe Blanton.

In two years since arriving, current Dodgers management has come close to signing only one megabuck free agent (Zack Greinke), while reaching agreement on nothing bigger than the four-year, $48 million deal given to Brandon McCarthy.

The current regime prefers trades, so maybe this is the time the club actually deals outfielder Yasiel Puig. The former All-Star now figures as a platoon player in a crowded outfield. He was nearly dealt to Milwaukee for Ryan Braun during the summer.

Club needs

Closer: Jansen and Aroldis Chapman will command the kind of big-money, multi-year contract Dodgers management doesn't want to give. A shorter free-agent deal for Mark Melancon, or trading for another club's closer, might be the outcome.

Dodgers look to find closer

Starting third baseman: Management might want a hometown discount, but Turner is the only top-shelf third baseman on the market and just had a career year, so he's going to get paid. Again, this is another hole the club might fill with a trade.

Starting second baseman: Rumors have the Dodgers considering trades for offensive second basemen Ian Kinsler and Brian Dozier. High asking prices might send the club back to an Utley/Charlie Culberson/Kiké Hernandez platoon.

Starting pitcher: The club has a surplus of starting arms, though not legit No. 2 starters like Hill. But the Dodgers have understandable questions about Hill's durability at age 37 if the bidding gets aggressive.

Setup reliever: Blanton had a remarkable regular season that was marred by postseason disaster. But finding fearless workhorse relievers like Blanton isn't easy. An intriguing in-house option is Josh Ravin, whose first half was a mess. But he looked like something clicked down the stretch.

Whom they can or need to trade

Puig remains the most intriguing chip the Dodgers can/need to trade with a crowd in the outfield. Once a legit superstar, Puig's value dropped so far since his dramatic arrival that he was demoted to Triple-A in the summer. He somewhat rehabbed the reputation when he returned as a platoon right fielder through the postseason. His aborted summer trade to Milwaukee for Braun could be revived. The Dodgers also have a surplus of starting pitching. The club would probably prefer to move McCarthy, Scott Kazmir or Hyun-Jin Ryu because of their contracts and injury history. Other clubs will ask for Julio Urias, Jose De Leon, Ross Stripling and Brock Stewart.

Top prospects

1B-OF Cody Bellinger: Adrian Gonzalez is signed for two more years, but Bellinger is the first-base heir apparent. Athletic enough to also play center field, he has big league bloodlines (Clay Bellinger) and after struggling his first pro season has become the best prospect in the organization. He continued to impress in the recent Arizona Fall League.

Next Big Leaguers: C. Bellinger

RHP De Leon: He showed glimpses during a late-season callup of why he's been considered the right-handed complement to lefty Urias as the future of the Los Angeles rotation. He's a 24th-round Draft pick who has flown past a bunch of first-rounders to rank as the club's second-best prospect and the best of their right-handed starting pitchers.

OF Alex Verdugo: At age 20, he played at Double-A in 2016 and wasn't overmatched. His recent AFL stint was cut short so he could compete for Team Mexico in a two-game exhibition. Some clubs wanted to draft him as a pitcher.

2B Willie Calhoun: He's a left-handed slugger in a 5-foot-8 package. There are doubts about where he'll end up defensively, but no doubt about his quick and powerful bat.

RHP Yadier Alvarez: The Dodgers spent roughly $150 million internationally in the last two years, and at $16 million Alvarez might be the best buy. Only 20, he dominated in the low Minors this year with a 1.03 WHIP.

Arbitration-eligible

C Yasmani Grandal, RHP Louis Coleman, LHP Luis Avilan, LHP Alex Wood, RHP Josh Fields, LHP Vidal Nuno, 1B/OF Darin Ruf.

Rule 5 Draft

The Dodgers have no room on the 40-man roster at this point and will need to make room to sign free agents or a Rule 5 Draft pick. Despite all of the roster manipulations by the front office since it arrived, it hasn't made a Rule 5 selection.

Big contracts to unload

Erisbel Arruebarrena ($5.5 million in 2017, $6.5 million in 2018), Andre Ethier ($17.5 in 2017, $17.5 million or $2.5 million buyout in 2018), Kazmir ($16 million in 2017 and 2018), McCarthy ($10 million in 2017 and 2018, conditional option of $5 million-$8 million in 2019), Ryu ($7 million in 2017 and 2018), Puig ($6.5 million in 2017, $7.5 million in 2018).

Payroll summation

The Dodgers will be near or at the top of MLB in payroll in 2017, but the trend is downward by design. Current ownership came in promising to rebuild the farm system and create a sustainable model for consistent excellence (four consecutive division titles) without relying on expensive free-agent signings.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.