A Dodgers Favourite Returns After Manuel Margots to Minnesota

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports activities

When the Dodgers traded for Tyler Glasnow this offseason, he wasn’t the one participant the Rays despatched west. Manuel Margot additionally joined Los Angeles, the place he would to fill Jonny DeLuca’s previous position as a righty-hitting outfielder able to enjoying any of the three spots. But, Margot wasn’t precisely a cosy match for the Dodgers; his inclusion within the commerce felt extra like a manner for Tampa Bay to shed wage. It appeared probably that Los Angeles would flip him to a different staff earlier than the beginning of the season.

That’s precisely what occurred on Monday, when the Dodgers despatched Margot and minor league infielder Rayne Doncon to the Twins in change for minor league shortstop Noah Miller. Los Angeles additionally agreed to cowl $6 million of Margot’s $10 million wage for 2024, together with the $2 million he’d be owed if Minnesota doesn’t train its staff choice for 2025, as Aaron Gleeman reported. So, in buying and selling Margot, the Dodgers are saving $4 million; naturally, they promptly circled and signed Enrique Hernández to a one-year, $4 million deal.

You may nearly analyze the Dodgers’ facet of this commerce in a field, as a result of the issues being exchanged are so related. In reality, to make my evaluation make sense, it’s a must to understand how shut the prospects are in worth, so let’s begin there. Doncon is a 20-year previous center infielder who spent 2023 at Single-A Rancho Cucamonga struggling towards older pitchers. Desire a prospect novel? Eric Longenhagen has one for you:

Doncon was a 2021 and 2022 backfield prodigy who seemed like he may change into a slugging center infielder. His bat pace, physique projection, in addition to his struggles on protection and with chase, prompted Alfonso Soriano pipe goals and extra level-headed Esteury Ruiz comparisons on the time. Doncon had a mediocre 2023 with the bat – .215/.283/.368, albeit with a career-high 14 homers – however seemed significantly better on protection. He at present has the actions and arm power for shortstop, however he’s nonetheless younger and has numerous room on his body, which suggests he might but outgrow that place and transfer to both second or third. Doncon’s pitch recognition shouldn’t be nice, and he’s a bit extra chase and whiff susceptible than is right, however he has good energy for a hitter his age and might be going to develop into extra. The longer he can keep at brief, the higher probability he provides himself at being a helpful large leaguer regardless of his flaws. The Twins have two seasons to develop Doncon earlier than they must resolve whether or not to reveal him to the Rule 5 draft, and realistically, they’ve one other yr or two past that to let him barbecue on the 40-man in the event that they actually wish to. He provides a component of upside to their system in addition to a component of threat. He’s not prone to have a meteoric rise. As an alternative, he’s a slow-burning, high-variance prospect.

That’s fairly near the textbook definition of a dart throw. He may pan out into one thing nice, however he in all probability received’t. On the opposite facet, Miller is a yr older and performed a degree larger in 2023, however he put up a equally lackluster batting line. Eric once more:

When Miller was the thirty sixth total decide in 2021, there was hope he’d develop sufficient power to be an on a regular basis shortstop. The protection and get in touch with parts had been already in place. That hasn’t occurred. The 21-year-old has been under common total on offense at each minor league degree as a result of he has roughly 30-grade energy. He’s nonetheless a terrific and precocious shortstop defender with implausible actions and arm accuracy. A switch-hitter with above-average plate expertise and bat-to-ball skill, there’s sufficient offense right here for Miller to be a lower-impact utilityman.

In different phrases, Miller is a special sort of minor leaguer regardless of enjoying the identical place. He’s extra prone to attain the majors however much less probably to take action as an impression bat. Total, I feel their values are shut sufficient that they’re extra about shifting organizational priorities than the rest. Possibly Miller has extra energy in there someplace. Possibly Doncon will take a giant leap in his first post-teenage yr. Most certainly, neither of them will have an effect on the arcs of their groups very a lot.

With that out of the best way, our subsequent cease in understanding this commerce is Minnesota, as a result of its facet of the deal is straightforward. Right here’s the Twins’ projected beginning outfield as of Monday, with my notes on them appended:

Twins Beginning Outfield

Place Participant Bats Notes
LF Matt Wallner L 21 wRC+ in 64 profession PA vs. LHP
CF Byron Buxton R Performed 0 innings in CF in 2023
RF Max Kepler L Is already 31. Are you able to consider it?

The Twins had a closely lefty outfield earlier than Monday’s commerce, and one with damage threat as well. Final yr, they introduced in Michael A. Taylor to spell Buxton in middle, just for Taylor to finish up as their on a regular basis middle fielder. They didn’t re-sign Taylor, they usually plan to have Buxton again in middle this season, however he’s actually no lock to remain wholesome. Margot can deal with that position; I’ve him down as a meaningfully worse defender than Taylor however a greater hitter, significantly towards lefties.

That second half is vital even when Buxton stays wholesome, as a result of Wallner actually shouldn’t bat towards lefties. Earlier than including Margot, the plan was to make use of Willi Castro as Wallner’s platoon accomplice, however Margot is an improve and frees up Castro for a roving utility position. There’s additionally some prudent damage hedging in-built; if Buxton misses time, Margot can transfer to an on a regular basis beginning position and Castro can deal with short-side platoon responsibility.

This can be a straight improve throughout the board, in different phrases. I don’t suppose the Twins may have gotten a participant with Margot’s precise mixture of expertise and match for one yr and $4 million in free company. They wanted a righty who may deal with middle; possibly that’s Adam Duvall, or possibly it’s simply nobody. I feel the prospect swap was mainly a wash, however even when the Twins gave up a little bit bit in it, this deal matches them like a glove. The Dodgers had no use for Margot and had been prepared to make his contract enticing to maneuver him, however that doesn’t imply he’s not a superb participant. He simply wasn’t a roster match, and squeezing worth out of different groups’ roster complications is sweet enterprise.

Talking of that Los Angeles roster headache, it’s pretty straightforward to grasp. The Dodgers ended up with too many outfielders. They moved Mookie Betts from proper subject to second base to assist ease the jam, however the issue was nonetheless there. Teoscar Hernández, James Outman, and Jason Heyward are the staff’s regular beginning configuration towards righties. Ideally, the staff would spell each Outman (generally) and Heyward (nearly all the time) towards lefties, which suggests two extra righty-hitting outfielders on the roster. However that may be a *lot* of gamers dedicated to the outfield, and would depart the infield depth too skinny.

Some groups may make use of a DH who may also help cowl the sector once in a while, however the Dodgers have the last word luxurious drawback there: They’ve the sport’s greatest DH, and the place within the subject that he’ll assist cowl (beginning in 2025) is pitcher. Sure, it sounds absurd that I’m saying Shohei Ohtani is an issue, and naturally he’s not. However he does restrict the staff’s roster flexibility.

It will get even a bit extra awkward than that. I feel the staff would ideally prefer to carve out some enjoying time for Miguel Vargas and restrict Miguel Rojas’s at-bats; his 69 wRC+ over the past two years is grim. However Vargas can’t play brief – truthfully, he can’t even play second that nicely, which is why the Dodgers are giving him reps within the outfield this spring. There simply aren’t sufficient infield backups to go round.

Chris Taylor remains to be there, however he can solely cowl a lot. He’s 33, hasn’t hit 500 plate appearances in a season since 2021, and seemed significantly hindered by damage final yr. He’ll additionally spend his justifiable share of time enjoying third base towards lefties when Max Muncy sits – except he’s enjoying the outfield to spell Heyward. It’s only a robust puzzle to crack throughout.

Right here’s an amazing thought, although: What if Margot may play shortstop? He can’t – however in Enrique Hernández, the Dodgers constructed an inexpensive approximation of that hypothetical. Calling his 2023 season disastrous can be an understatement. After a ghastly 2022 that left him proper on the roster borderline in Boston, he got here out and hit .222/.279/.320, good for a 59 wRC+, and ended up getting minimize. He redeemed himself barely in Los Angeles, posting a 96 wRC+ to shut out the season, however there nonetheless wasn’t a lot marketplace for him in free company. That’s hardly unreasonable for a mid-30s utility participant coming off two straight down years.

In a vacuum, I’d want Margot to Hernández, in actual fact. However the Dodgers are decidedly not a vacuum. The power to spell second, brief, and middle subject with one participant is precisely what they had been out there for. Getting a man they already know and are comfy with due to his earlier years on the staff is simply gravy.

Let’s ignore this commerce and signing and simply ask one query: Would the Dodgers want Margot or Hernández for 2024, all else being equal. For me, the reply is fairly clearly Hernández. The Dodgers have been constructed round positional flexibility and roster versatility for years. Taylor and Hernández have keyed that, generally as starters and generally as supersubs.

With Ohtani within the fold, and with the staff fairly fairly desirous to lighten the load on Betts by having him largely play one place, it was extra essential than ever for the Dodgers to make the remainder of their roster extra versatile. And that’s precisely what they did right here. In impact, they transmuted Margot into Hernández for gratis. In the meantime, the Twins are in a special place; greater than positional versatility, they wanted a righty bat who may credibly play middle subject. If I had been solely confronted with that puzzle, I’d want Margot over Hernández, too. Everybody bought what they wished in the long run – even Hernández, who bought to interrupt the information of his personal signing himself. Who doesn’t love a Hollywood ending?

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