By Matt Citak
It’s difficult for a team’s season to be rendered over just a month into the season. But that is a possibility that the Los Angeles Dodgers are currently facing after losing yet another key player.
The Dodgers entered the 2018 season as one of the favorites to represent the National League in this year’s World Series. But as it stands on May 1, Los Angeles finds itself four games under .500 at 12-16 and in fourth place in the NL West, eight games behind the division-leading Arizona Diamondbacks.
Now, if Los Angeles were healthy and armed with their entire starting lineup, this would not be an impossible hill to climb. The Dodgers were the best team in baseball during the regular season last year, racking up 104 wins and winning the division by 11 games.
However, LA has been a serious victim of the injury-bug early on this season. Justin Turner was hit by a pitch during spring training and has been out since with a broken wrist. Joining him on the sidelines is Yasiel Puig, who was just placed on the disabled list at the start of the week with a hip issue. While Puig has struggled to find his groove in 2018, there’s no denying the threat he represents each and every time he steps up to the plate.
But the biggest blow to the Dodgers’ chances of making their second consecutive trip to the World Series came on Monday, when it was revealed that shortstop Corey Seager would need Tommy John surgery on his right (throwing) elbow and miss the remainder of the season. Seager has been having elbow troubles dating all the way back to last year, and was brought along slowly during spring training because of it.
While Puig should be able to return from the disabled list in 10 days, Turner is not expected to be back in the lineup for a few more weeks. That means the Dodgers will have to stay afloat in the National League without their two best hitters for the foreseeable future.
This could prove to be too tall of a task for the short-handed Dodgers.
With Seager done, Los Angeles will have to move Chris Taylor back to shortstop. Taylor, a natural shortstop, was moved to the outfield in order to pave the way for Seager to take the reigns at short. And with Taylor back in the infield, utility man Kike Hernandez, a lifetime .236 hitter, will now become more of an everyday player in the outfield.
Even with all of the injuries, the Dodgers still have talent up and down their roster. Yasmani Grandal has looked spectacular to start the year, while Matt Kemp has seemingly had a rebirth in Los Angeles in 2018. And don’t forget about Cody Bellinger, who looks more and more like a seasoned vet at the plate after each game the 22-year-old appears in.
But if the Dodgers are serious about regaining their status as contenders this season, there is one quick, albeit expensive, move team president Andrew Friedman could make that would have the team back in the NL West race almost immediately.
Trade for superstar Manny Machado.
Machado is off to an unbelievable start. Heading into play on May 1, the 25-year-old is batting .361/.448/.676 with nine home runs and 22 RBI.
Again, this move would not come cheap. But armed with one of the top farm systems in all of Major League Baseball, it is a cost Los Angeles would be able to absorb in order to obtain one of the game’s most dangerous hitters.
The Dodgers are in win-now mode. Clayton Kershaw is 30-years-old and has an opt-out clause in his contract that would allow him to become a free agent this offseason. While he seems likely to return to Los Angeles, it will cost a significant amount of money to re-sign the team’s ace. This is one of the reasons that the team would like to stay below the luxury tax threshold this season, in order to reset the rate for next year.
But, with Los Angeles sinking further and further behind in the standings, how long can Friedman wait before pulling the trigger on a deal that would bring Machado to Hollywood? While the team would want to pick up as little of his $16 million 2018 salary as possible, who knows if they can really wait much longer to make the deal. The longer the front office waits, the more the losses could continue to pile up, and the further behind they could get in the standings.
The Dodgers have a huge decision to make in the coming weeks. Sacrifice the future by trading away some of the organization’s top prospects for a few months of Manny Machado, or roll the dice with the current roster and see if they can find some of the magic from last season.
Either way, it should be a very interesting few weeks in Los Angeles.
Matt Citak is a contributor for CBS Local Sports and a proud Vanderbilt alum. Follow him on Twitter.