Dodgers eyeing more than just elite closer

Dodgers eyeing more than just elite closer

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The Dodgers need a closer and Mark Melancon came off the board at the Winter Meetings on Monday, signing a four-year deal with the division-rival Giants.

But Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers' president of baseball operations, indicated Melancon wasn't his Plan A, especially with franchise saves leader Kenley Jansen and triple-digit specialist Aroldis Chapman still available.

"There are a number of guys on the trade market and two elite guys on the free-agent market and everything is intertwined," said Friedman.

Kansas City reliever Wade Davis emerged as a logical Dodgers trade target, with one year left on his contract at $10 million more appealing than the five-year, $100 million paydays Jansen and Chapman might approach.

But if you read between the lines, Friedman might have indicated that an "elite" closer is not necessarily essential to start a season, even though the expanded use of Jansen, Chapman and Cleveland's Andrew Miller in the postseason might start a trend.

"Obviously, there's been a lot written about relievers and usage, especially in playoffs," he said. "Elite relievers have been valuable in the game and will continue to be really valuable in the game. But as far as how much it helps you in the regular season, I'm not sure it's changed from what people thought three years ago, five years ago, as far as leveraging them differently in the playoffs. There was more aggressive usage this past postseason. We'll have to see if that's a trend and see the toll it takes on guys."

Roberts on Jansen, Turner

Friedman said his Monday re-signing of Rich Hill to a three-year, $48 million deal leaves the Dodgers with a surplus of starting pitching that should increase in trade value, considering an already thin free-agent market lost one of its best in Hill.

The surplus includes veterans Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Alex Wood (all returning from injuries) and young pitchers Jose De Leon, Ross Stripling and Brock Stewart. That would make for a crowded dogfight to be the fifth starter behind Clayton Kershaw, Hill, Kenta Maeda and Julio Urias.

Retaining third baseman Justin Turner is the top priority on offense, but the Dodgers need more right-handed hitters than just him. That's why they are rumored to have continued interest in Pittsburgh outfielder Andrew McCutchen, Minnesota second baseman Brian Dozier, Tampa Bay second baseman Logan Forsythe, Kansas City outfielder Lorenzo Cain, San Diego third baseman Yangervis Solarte and White Sox third baseman Todd Frazier.

"There are very good infielders on the trade market," said Friedman, who also needs a second baseman.

With or without a closer, the Dodgers want a veteran arm for the seventh or eighth inning, so they have talked to free agent Greg Holland, who missed the 2016 season after Tommy John surgery.

"We've had a lot of conversations with agents and teams, and things are starting to bubble to the surface a little bit," said Friedman. "We feel good about the market and how it will play out."

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