The Incumbents: Nick Punto, Jerry Hairston, Skip Schumaker, & Michael Young (mercifully!) are all free agents, so expect a lot of turnover here. I could see Punto returning, but Hairston & Young each seemed cooked, and Schumaker’s utility to pair with Mark Ellis at second base may no longer matter with Alexander Guerrero in town. Scott Van Slyke probably deserves a shot as a righty 1B/OF bench bat, but the team certainly didn’t act as though they wanted him around late in the season, and he does have an option remaining. A big part of this, of course, depends on what happens with the outfield logjam; If no one is traded, the bench could contain an Andre Ethier or Carl Crawford or Matt Kemp every day.
This group had versatility in 2013, but was a terribly punchless bench otherwise. The team can and should do better, with the understanding that the backup catcher (likely Tim Federowicz again) stands apart.
Organizational Options: All the names you’ve come to know and love, mostly. If he’s not traded first, Dee Gordon will spend another year in Albuquerque, waiting for injuries. Justin Sellers & Elian Herrera are still bouncing around, if they somehow manage to hang on to their 40-man roster spots, and newcomer Mike Baxter might be in the mix, as might Chili Buss. Joc Pederson may push his way up at some point, but is far more likely to be playing every day in Triple-A (or in some other team’s organization) than riding the big league bench.
Trade Options: As you’ll see below, scarce. The Cardinals have probably had enough of Pete Kozma & Daniel Descalso at this point, though I think we’ve been down the “mediocre scrappy ex-Cardinal” route already. Jeff Keppinger can handle a few spots, is surprisingly expensive ($4.5m), and was so terrible that the White Sox would likely be happy to move him, and you can always dig up guys like Adam Rosales, Cody Ransom, or Maicer Izturis. Mike Aviles may be useful, though Cleveland probably wants to hang on to him, and Kevin Frandsen & Emilio Bonifacio are mildly intriguing though probably not worth the effort.
Free Agent Options: This gets tough because anyone good is going to want to be a starter… and anyone who signs as a bench player probably isn’t that good. Care to gamble on Mark Reynolds, Eric Chavez, or Kevin Youkilis? Ramon Santiago or Kelly Johnson? Does whatever deity you believe in hate you so much as to force Willie Bloomquist on to you? Or worse, Yuniesky Betancourt, who lurks quietly, just waiting to haunt your dreams?
I’ve always liked Rajai Davis, and if we learned anything this year, it’s that the Dodgers need someone on the bench who can handle center. He can, and he’s stolen 216 bases over the last five seasons, but that’s exactly what might make him hold out for a starting job. Chris Young and David Murphy are also interesting, though coming off of miserable seasons. Either way, guys like these aren’t likely to come to a team that doesn’t have much outfield space to offer, and that’s disappointing, because the only interesting options are in the outfield.
What the Dodgers absolutely need if Punto doesn’t come back — and maybe even if he does — is another middle infield option, since Guerrero is unproven and Hanley Ramirez is always hurt. Santiago or Alexi Casilla or Brendan Ryan might be the best options there, though none offer anything with the bat. While not a middle infielder, Mike Morse may be available, if you believe his terrible year was more due to his wrist injury than anything else.
The Verdict? If we know anything about Ned Colletti, it’s that he’ll inevitably staff his bench with at least one “gritty, good clubhouse guy” that will infuriate us all. But why go shopping for one when Michael Young is so close? You know it, I know it, and it’s not going to be fun.