Things are going smoothly in Los Angeles. The Dodgers have gotten out of their June rut and climbed to the top of a crowded NL West, sitting four games clear of the pack in the hotly-contested division.
The once-maligned bullpen is showing its reliability as the trade deadline creeps closer. The lineup is as productive as ever, led by first baseman Freddie Freeman who might as well be swinging a bat molded by fire of late.
Mostly everything’s going smoothly in Los Angeles as the season gets past the halfway point.
Except when it comes to Austin Barnes.
The veteran catcher is having the worst year of his career in 2023, and he has the unfortunate distinction of being the worst hitter in the major leagues thus far, with a ghastly .104/.186/.123 slash line.
Yes, he’s LA’s backup catcher behind All-Star Will Smith, but the Dodgers need much more production on the occasions where Smith gets a day off. Something he probably needs a bit more often as the season stretches into month number five.
Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic went through potential options that could fill that role for the Dodgers with the August 1 trade deadline looming.
The Reds have a pair of veteran backup-types in Curt Casali and Luke Maile who may be available. Jorge Alfaro could be part of a looming roster crunch in Boston. The Mets’ Omar Narváez has a $7 million player option for 2024 but has been supplanted by rookie Francisco Álvarez. Former All-Star Mike Zunino remains unsigned after being released by the Guardians last month.
via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic
The two more intriguing names here in my opinion are Narvaez and Zunino.
Narvaez was an All-Star in 2021 with Milwaukee, and he lost his starting job in New York to Alvarez — a catcher that had long been the Mets’ No. 1 prospect — not really because of poor production, but rather because Alvarez was doing so well when given the opportunity.
Zunino packs a bigger punch offensively that Narvaez — he hit 33 home runs for the Rays in 2021 — but the veteran has struggled since then, hitting just .177 with three HRs and 11 RBI this year with the Guardians. His 61 strikeouts over his 42 games in Cleveland isn’t a good sign either.
But the Dodgers are known for reclamation projects and Zunino had built a quality track record — something that could be a good combination for both sides.
And given that Zunino is a free agent, it’d almost be a no-risk for LA.
Time will tell what LA decides to do, but there are certainly some options for them to look into as the stretch run approaches.
Photo Credit: Jonathan Hui-USA TODAY Sports
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