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Roberts: Dodgers ‘hungry’ after Series loss

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There’s a second vacancy on the Dodgers‘ coaching staff, with quality-assurance coach Juan Castro becoming director of operations of the  jerseys in the Mexican League after bullpen coach Josh Bard became bench coach of the Yankees.

Dodgers #74 Kenley Jansen Blue Cool Base 2017 World Series Bound Stitched Youth MLB Jersey
Dodgers #74 Kenley Jansen Blue Cool Base 2017 World Series Bound Stitched Youth MLB Jersey

Add those to the previous offseason departures of vice president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos to be Atlanta’s general manager; director of baseball operations Alex Tamin to the same role with Atlanta; director of player development Gabe Kapler as Philadelphia’s manager; assistant director of player development Jeremy Zoll as Minnesota’s director of Minor League operations; special assignment scout Aaron Sele to the same role with Miami; assistant hitting coach Tim Hyers named Boston’s hitting coach; Triple-A pitching coach Matt Herges to be the Giants’ bullpen coach; and the dismissals of bullpen catcher Rob Flippo and Triple-A hitting coach Shawn Wooten.

Meanwhile, a slow offseason of roster moves continued Tuesday at the Winter Meetings. Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi said he suspects the resolution of the Shohei Ohtani and Giancarlo Stanton situations will spur increased activity in the next two weeks. The Dodgers, who are exercising fiscal restraint to minimize luxury-tax exposure, are more likely to make a trade than sign a free agent, Zaidi said.

Zaidi repeated earlier comments by president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and manager that the primary focus is on restocking the bullpen, where Zaidi indicated the club is more likely to look for a reclamation project — as it did with Joe Blanton in 2016 and Brandon Morrow in 2017 — than target an expensive acquisition.

“The bullpen is probably the place where being diligent, you can create value there,” Zaidi said. “Whether it’s looking at guys that have started earlier in their career and you think their stuff can tick up in the ‘pen, or looking at pitch usage or mix or sequencing. We’ve made a lot of efforts there, especially as Andrew alluded to with the moves we made last year and what our financial commitments would be this year. That being a place where we have some potential openings, we’re going back to the well and hopefully find some other guys for 2018.”

Roberts said he is moving on with Kenta Maeda back in the starting rotation after an impressive postseason in the bullpen; with Andrew Toles expected to be healthy after knee surgery and competing in Spring Training for an outfield job; and with first baseman likely to return for the final year of his contract and wholesale MLB jerseys at the same position Cody Bellinger plays.

Gonzalez’s situation could get sticky. The 35-year-old suffered a herniated disk that ruined most of his 2017 season but created playing time that Bellinger converted into stardom. Gonzalez can only play first base or designated hitter, but the remaining $21.5 million salary coming off a serious injury makes him virtually untradeable.

“I see him on our team right now, and Adrian, you don’t get to be the player that he is if you can’t overcome some adversities,” Roberts said. “Obviously, this is a different time in his career, and you’re dealing with injuries. But I’ve had conversations with Adrian, and he’ll definitely bet on himself. He’s healthy and looks to compete to get at-bats. I see Adrian on our ballclub and contributing.”

“Stepping back from that specific player,” Friedman said, referring to Stanton, “I just think where we are payroll-wise, moves of significant substantial commitments in 2018 require some creativity. We consciously did a lot of our heavy lifting last winter [re-signing Kenley Jansen, Justin Turner and for a combined $192 million], realizing we are locking a lot of our core in place for the foreseeable future. We were happy about  then and we’re happy about it now. That got in front of a lot of things heading into this offseason. Look around our team and there are not a lot of obvious areas to address.”

Winning 104 games in the regular season and finishing one win shy of a World Series title is evidence of the roster strength. Friedman said the bullpen, which is about to lose setup man Brandon Morrow to the Cubs, is a priority. He said Tony Cingrani (acquired at the non-waiver Trade Deadline) and Yimi Garcia (returning from Tommy John surgery) could pick up innings. He said starting pitching isn’t a priority, another indication that Yu Darvish is considered too expensive to bring back.

“I like the depth we have,” Friedman said. “If [an acquisition] happens, great. But I actually think it’s a great opportunity to start working in some of our younger upside starters. We don’t want to continue taking away opportunity from those guys, and give them a soft landing spot in the big leagues to go through their acclimation process. We have a talented enough group to ride that out a little bit.”

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for since 2001.