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NL West Notes: Dodgers, Hernandez, Pederson, Ray

While veteran utility player Enrique Hernandez is drawing interest from the Angels among several other clubs, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Halos fear that Hernandez prefers to return to the Dodgers, with whom he played from 2015 to 2020 before the club re-acquired him at the 2023 trade deadline in a deal with the Red Sox.

Hernandez, 32, sports the versatility to play anywhere on the diamond except catcher. While the veteran struggled at the plate during his time in Boston last year, he enjoyed a resurgence upon returning to L.A. with a respectable .262/.308/.423 slash line in 185 plate appearances. If Hernandez were able to replicate those offensive numbers over a full season in 2024, that roughly league average offense and his positional versatility would combine to make him among the more valuable bench options in the game. With that being said, Rosenthal adds that the Dodgers appear to have their priorities focused elsewhere as they search for a high-leverage bullpen arm to complement the likes of Brusdar Graterol and Evan Phillips.

Dodgers bullpen arms posted a strong 3.42 ERA last season, the third-best figure in the majors behind only the Yankees and Brewers. Nonetheless, it’s sensible for the club to look for relief upgrades. After all, the club’s production out of the bullpen dramatically improved upon their acquisition of veteran righty Ryan Brasier, who posted an eye-popping 0.70 ERA in 39 appearances with L.A. after being acquired from the Red Sox last June. Prior to Brasier’s arrival, the Dodgers’ bullpen was struggling to an ERA of 4.94, bottom-two in the majors alongside the lowly A’s. To that end, Rosenthal suggests the club could look to reunite with Brasier or perhaps even longtime closer Kenley Jansen, who the Red Sox are reportedly shopping this winter.

More from around the NL West…

  • Rosenthal also discusses the recent deal between the Diamondbacks and lefty slugger Joc Pederson. Rosenthal notes that prior to accepting a fourth consecutive one-year deal in free agency Pederson indicated to Arizona that he hopes to “restore his value” with the club in 2024 before returning to free agency in search of a multi-year pact. For Pederson, Rosenthal suggests that would involve showing he’s more than a platoon DH. The Diamondbacks’ outfield mix is a fairly crowded one with Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Corbin Carroll entrenched as regulars alongside a litany of potential options like Alek Thomas, Jake McCarthy, and even Dominic Fletcher. Each of the aforementioned names is a stronger defender in the outfield than Pederson, so the 31-year-old could instead look to boost his stock by playing more regularly against southpaws, against whom he has taken just 606 plate appearances during his entire career.
  • Newly-acquired Giants southpaw Robbie Ray spoke to reporters (including Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle) as he rehabs from UCL and flexor tendon surgery. The 32-year-old southpaw said it feels as though he has a “brand new elbow,” and that he hopes to begin throwing off a mound early on during Spring Training. In terms of a timetable for his return to the big league pitching staff, Ray suggests that a return around the All-Star break would be a “best-case scenario.” The 2021 AL Cy Young award winner, Ray posted a 3.31 ERA and 3.94 FIP in 65 starts with the Blue Jays and Mariners the past three seasons, though only one of those starts came in 2023 before Ray went under the knife back in May of last year. His eventual return should bolster a San Francisco rotation that currently figures to feature Logan Webb, Ross Stripling, and newly-signed righty Jordan Hicks alongside youngsters Kyle Harrison and Keaton Winn.

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