May 18, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp (27) looks on against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. The Diamondbacks won 5-3. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

How can the Los Angeles Dodgers improve?

The Los Angeles Dodgers came into this year with big expectations. Featuring a lineup stacked with talent on top of a star-studded pitching staff, the Dodgers were though to at least be the best team in the NL West, if not one of the best in all of baseball. But if the season ended today, the Dodgers wouldn’t even be in the playoffs, as at 35-33 they sit 8.5 games out of first place in their division as well as half a game out of the second Wild Card spot. So what do the Dodgers need to do to overcome their early season disappointment?

1. Trade for a catcher

Dodgers’ catchers such as A.J. Ellis (currently on the DL) and Drew Butera are lauded for their ability to call a game. But, their struggles at the plate are not going to cut it. Dodger catchers are hitting just .185/.270/.278 this season, and they need an upgrade at the position because of it. Russell Martin is a free agent after the season and the Pittsburgh Pirates would have no problem trading him if they aren’t contending when the trade dealing approaches. Carlos Ruiz of the Philadelphia Phillies would be a good option, though he is signed through 2016 and the Phillies don’t have much incentive to trade him unless blown away by an offer. There are plenty of other options that could fit, but it is clear the Dodgers need a change at the position.

2. Upgrade the bench

Scott Van Slyke has played brilliantly off of the bench, and Justin Turner has done well enough to stick around. But, Chone Figgins has struggled, however, and poor depth has exposed some more weaknesses. Alex Guerrero is on the minor league DL right now, but he has hit well in Triple-A and would provide a boost to the bench. There are also a multitude of options who will be on the trade market in the coming weeks that would upgrade the big league roster, or at the very minimum give them much-needed depth.

3. Get rid of Chris Perez and add another bullpen arm

Brandon League, Jamey Wright, and J.P. Howell have pitched well, and Kenley Jansen has been decent, but Chris Perez and Brian Wilson have struggled mightily. Perez is a free agent after this year, and he has gotten continually worse over the past few seasons. At some point the Dodgers will have to say enough is enough for him. Wilson will likely receive a longer leash because he has a player option for next season that he will likely exercise. The Dodgers don’t have any great internal options to replace Perez, but plenty of good relievers are traded from non-contenders to contenders each season. Even if they want to give Perez more time to overcome his struggles, they could stand to add some more relief depth regardless.

4. More production from outfielders not named Yasiel Puig

They can make the above improvements, and that will help them out some, but if the Dodgers are going to compete the biggest improvement they has to come from their outfield. Puig has torn up all pitching this season, but Matt Kemp (.733 OPS) Carl Crawford (.693 OPS) and Andre Ethier (.701 OPS) have struggled. These players are too talented to perform like they have been, and they need to start playing like they are capable of.

In the end, the Los Angeles Dodgers need to make some changes if they want to improve as a team. Trading for a catcher would be a big help, and adding to the bench and bullpen would also provide a boost. The club also needs production from their veteran outfielders. The Dodgers still can be the team that was given lofty expectations before the season, but if they make the necessary improvements to become that team remains to be seen.

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Tags: Chris Perez Los Angeles Dodgers

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