Dodger Details: Replenishing the system, Kiké Hernández’s injury and more



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PHOENIX — Buried under the billion-dollar winter is a hint of how the Los Angeles Dodgers will have to address the rest of the roster for the foreseeable future.

Just look at how the Dodgers cycled through to clear their roster glut during the winter:

Dec. 11: Traded left-hander Victor González and infielder Jorbit Vivas to the New York Yankees for shortstop Trey Sweeney.

Jan. 3: Traded left-hander Bryan Hudson to the Milwaukee Brewers for left-hander Justin Chambers.

Jan. 11: Traded right-hander Yency Almonte and infielder Michael Busch to the Chicago Cubs for left-hander Jackson Ferris and outfielder Zyhir Hope.

Feb. 5: Traded left-hander Caleb Ferguson to the New York Yankees for left-hander Matt Gage and right-hander Christian Zazueta.

Monday: Traded outfielder Manuel Margot and infielder Rayne Doncon to the Minnesota Twins for infielder Noah Miller.

That’s a total of seven players traded off the 40-man roster (with Doncon the lone non-40-man player) with just one 40-man player (Matt Gage) coming back in return. Those moves cleared spots for some of the Dodgers’ splashy additions It also allowed the Dodgers, who have lost draft picks and international money due to their extravagant spending, to keep replenishing the cupboard.

The deals netted them a pair of shortstop prospects (Sweeney, Miller) to address a thin position for the farm system, with Sweeney in particular drawing rave reviews this spring. It allowed the Dodgers to move off the final year of Ferguson for another intriguing lefty reliever who has minor-league options. And it allowed a group of prospects primed to age out but blocked on the major-league roster to essentially start fresh.

Maybe dart throws for guys like Jackson Ferris and Zyhir Hope don’t work out. The value of trading proven big-league-caliber players for prospects always carries risk. But it’s part of how the Dodgers might have to operate to keep the bottom from falling out, as president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman has so often warned.

“There are a lot of cautionary tales of large revenue teams that have had a period of success, and then kind of fallen off of a cliff and had to take time to rebuild,” Friedman said in 2022. “And we’re doing everything we can to stave that off.”

Inking megadeals in free agency through blunt force cash is the most straightforward way of player acquisition. But it can’t be the only way. And though trading from the fringes of the roster to restock with younger fliers is hardly a novel idea, it’s one the Dodgers will have to embrace more frequently as their luxury tax bills become recurring.

The Dodgers have been taxpayers in each of the last three seasons, and have blown past the highest threshold of the competitive balance tax for this season. With it, they’ve taken cuts to their international pools, gotten draft picks pushed back (and they’ll lose another one after inking Shohei Ohtani, who had a qualifying offer attached to him) and, as a whole, had to find more talent on the margins. They’ll probably have to get used to it — even with Ohtani deferring as much money as he has, the Dodgers have a luxury tax figure for 2025 that is already projected to clear $200 million, and that sits around $170 million for 2026 and 2027.

So making more of these deals is more of a “conscious effort,” general manager Brandon Gomes said this week.

“I just think it’s something that we’re focused on for the long-term health of the organization,” Gomes said. “There’s only so much you can just continue to pull forward and add via free agency if you’re not making sure the farm system is stocked. It’s been our foundation for a very long time, and we have no intention of having that shift in any way.”


For Kiké Hernández, sorting through the origin of his discomfort over the last two years hasn’t been a mystery. The root of it? A different story.

When he innocuously slipped in the outfield late during his first season with the Boston Red Sox in 2021, both he and the club’s staff felt Hernández was simply dealing with tightness in his hip. Playing through treatment, he put the finishing touches on his best season as a big leaguer (.786 OPS and 5.0 bWAR) and keyed several important moments in Boston’s surprise run to the ALCS.

Come the next spring, the issue persisted. The utilityman felt discomfort while running, spurring a string of blood tests to find a cause. Those tests came back clean. An MRI revealed issues with Hernández’s psoas muscle — a series of muscles that overlay his vertebral column — along with his upper and lower abdomen. That cost him a chunk of the 2022 season as it required a procedure that drained blood from his spine to address a hematoma in the region along with receiving a PRP shot. Hernández saw his OPS drop to a career-worst .629 but still got a contract extension, with both sides hoping his health issues were behind him.

Hernández’s scans were clean ahead of the 2023 season, but he continued to deal with pain in the area as he struggled at the plate, his production only slightly bouncing back after a midseason trade brought him back to Los Angeles. It took until after the Dodgers’ season last year for Hernández to again address it, this time with double hernia surgery performed by Dr. William Meyers in Philadelphia.

“Both sides on my adductors, my abs were off the pelvis,” Hernández said after inking a one-year, $4 million deal to return to the Dodgers this week.

“When you’re playing in pain, you’re not having that much fun, and especially when you’re in pain (and) they tell you that you’re fine, that there’s nothing wrong, it makes you doubt yourself and makes you think a million things at a time,” Hernández continued. “I never thought I’d say that I was looking forward to surgery — but I was really looking forward to the surgery.”


That Andy Pages is even swinging a bat this quickly in spring, let alone having the spring he has for the Dodgers and is slugging massive home runs as he did Saturday at Camelback Ranch, is a surprise.

Pages is just eight months removed from surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder that he suffered on a swing in his first game at Triple A in May. Yet the former top-100 prospect has been torrid this spring, collecting three extra-base hits through his first week of play and moving well with his slimmed-down frame.

“I wouldn’t have expected him to be where he’s at right now,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said this week. The Dodgers have been cautious to space out how often he’s played this spring, but those guardrails are likely to come off soon. The power didn’t take a hit.

“That,” Pages said in Spanish, “will always be there.”

Pages still hasn’t logged many high-level at-bats and remains in a tough spot behind Miguel Vargas on a crowded roster, but there’s a path for him to force his way into the picture later this summer.

“The talent, obviously, he can play at this level,” Roberts said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we see him at some point.”

Diego Cartaya, however, has not had the explosive spring required to jump back on prospect radars. Instead, the catcher who ranked sixth on Keith Law’s top 100 prospects just a year ago has been slowed down by lingering back trouble this spring, a recurrence of the issue that caused him to miss time in 2022. This, after a season in which Cartaya produced just a .656 OPS in Double A, continues a downward trajectory for the former uber-prospect who has had some long-term health concerns.

Cartaya is still expected to be ready to start the season back with Tulsa as part of a projected catching split with Dalton Rushing (one of several other catching prospects, including Thayron Liranzo, to rise up prospect boards). Cartaya has continued his swing alterations, which have received positive reports.

He has joined Nick Frasso and River Ryan as Dodgers prospects with limited activity this camp. River Ryan is being slow-played this spring after the converted infielder logged 104 1/3 innings last season. Frasso is rehabbing from surgery to address a torn labrum in his right shoulder and was walking around on crutches Saturday after a “cleanup” procedure on his right hip labrum. He likely won’t pitch this season, though the door remains open for him to pitch in the Arizona Fall League.

(Photo: Ashley Landis / Associated Press)





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