Dodgers eyeing four for outfield spot
With almost every item on their offseason to-do list crossed off, the Dodgers appear to have little else on their agenda than finding a fourth outfielder to replace Juan Pierre, whom they traded to the Chicago White Sox last month. That search appears to have been narrowed to four veteran free agents.
Anderson, 37, a 16-year veteran, had spent his career with the Angels until signing as a free agent last winter with Atlanta, where he had a disappointing season as the Braves' everyday left fielder. The three-time American League All-Star posted career lows in average (.268) and RBIs (61) and hit his fewest home runs (13) in a dozen years.
Giles, who turned 39 earlier this month, is a 15-year veteran who spent the past seven years with San Diego. He missed the second half of last season because a knee injury and was believed to be considering retirement when the winter began. Before he was injured, he hit only .191 for the Padres last year, with two homers and 23 RBIs.
Gross, 30, hit .227 in a part-time role with Tampa Bay last season and might be better suited to the role than either Anderson or Giles because he has been a backup for all of his six years in the majors. He has never had as many as 400 plate appearances in any of those seasons, which also included stints with Toronto and Milwaukee.
Johnson, 33, has been an everyday player during his seven-year career but was mostly a reserve during the past two seasons with the Chicago Cubs. He missed two months last summer after fouling a ball off his left foot on July 29, breaking a bone, but he returned for the final two weeks of the season.
The Dodgers backup outfielders are Jason Repko, a speedster who can play all three positions and is gifted defensively but is a career .226 hitter with a history of injuries; and the inexperienced Xavier Paul, who hit .214 in 11 games as a rookie last season before going on the disabled list May 22 with a staph infection in his knee that would keep him out for the rest of the season.
The Dodgers need a fourth outfielder who can play frequently because of the makeup of the starting outfield. Left fielder Manny Ramirez will turn 38 in May and probably will need at least one day off a week, and lefty-hitting right fielder Andre Ethier probably won't play against certain left-handed pitchers. Center fielder Matt Kemp also will need an occasional breather.
Anderson, Giles and Gross are all left-handed hitters, and the Dodgers don't have an experienced left-handed pinch hitter on their 40-man roster. Veteran Doug Mientkiewicz, who was with the club last year, will be in spring training on a minor league contract and could end up as the primary left-handed bat off the bench, but Mientkiewicz is a corner infielder and can't play in the outfield.
Anderson, Giles and Johnson are all Southern California natives.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.