Mar 16, 2013, 11:28 AM EDT
Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2013 season. Up next: The Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Big Question: Will the big spending lead the Dodgers back to the postseason?
It’s a new world in MLB and the Dodgers are playing by their own rules. While the mighty Yankees are making plans to get under the luxury tax threshold, that’s not a concern for the new ownership group in Los Angeles. The Dodgers are projected to have a payroll around $225 million this season, the highest in major league history. Having a new $7 billion cable deal helps.
After adding big names like Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett in trades last season, the Dodgers signed Zack Greinke to a six-year, $147 million contract over the winter and committed $61.7 million to sign Korean left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu. But for all the spending, the Dodgers still have their fair share of questions.
After ranking 26th in runs scored last season, the offense should be better, but by how much? Matt Kemp is coming off shoulder surgery while Crawford is still rehabbing his elbow following Tommy John surgery. Adrian Gonzalez is healthy by all accounts, but he hasn’t shown much power since his shoulder surgery two offseasons ago. Luis Cruz has a lot to prove after playing well in a small sample last year. And yes, Andre Ethier still can’t hit lefties.
Clayton Kershaw is arguably the game’s best starting pitcher, ranking second in the majors in ERA and first in WHIP and strikeouts over the past two seasons. Greinke’s upside is obvious, but it looks like he’ll get a late start to the season following a sore elbow. Beckett had better results after coming over from the Red Sox last season and should benefit with a full season in the easier league. However, things get a little dicey after that. Ryu is an unknown quantity and hasn’t been overly impressive this spring. The Dodgers are hoping that the ulnar collateral ligament in Chad Billingsley‘s elbow will hold up, but they have Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang and Ted Lilly in reserve in case things go awry.
It’s easy to envision a scenario where the Dodgers run away with things in the National League West, but like with any team, there are also ways that things could go wrong here. Injuries. Underperformance. It happens. This is baseball. Still, the pressure will be on after they came up short last year. If the Dodgers aren’t playing in October, manager Don Mattingly will likely be out of a job.
What else is going on?
- The Dodgers’ spending hasn’t been exclusive to the talent on the field. They have also directed roughly $100 million in improvements to Dodger Stadium, including the return of hexagonal scoreboards, upgrades to the sound system, bathrooms, and concourses, the construction of a new clubhouse for players and bullpen overlooks which will create standing-room views for the game. Much-needed upgrades for a stadium which is now the third oldest in the majors behind Fenway Park and Wrigley Field.
- Can Luis Cruz keep the starting third base job? There’s reason to be skeptical. After hitting just .261/.296/.394 over 12 seasons in the minor leagues, the 29-year-old delivered a surprising .297/.332/.431 batting line in 78 games with the Dodgers last season. The crash back to Earth could be ugly. Moving Hanley Ramirez back to third base (where he likely belongs) could give Dee Gordon another chance at shortstop, but the young speedster still carries plenty of questions of his own.
- After posting a 2.30 ERA in 28 appearances after coming over from the Mariners last July, Brandon League was retained this winter on a three-year, $22.5 million deal and is expected to open the season as the Dodgers’ closer. The contract is questionable enough, but Kenley Jansen is the best pitcher in this bullpen if healthy. The contract probably gives League some job security out of the gate, but with the Dodgers determined to win now, don’t be surprised if there’s a change at some point.
- With all the money flying out the door, when will Kershaw get his piece of the pie? The soon-to-be 25-year-old is under team control through 2014, but there is mutual interest in getting a long-term extension done. He remains the best bet to be the game’s first $200 million pitcher.
- Vin Scully, 85, is set to begin his 64th season of announcing Dodgers games. Enjoy it.
Prediction: It should be a close race with the Giants, but I have the Dodgers in second place in the NL West. They will secure one of the two Wild Card spots, though.
Oct 23, 2014, 5:17 PM EDT
Bad year at a bad time for the 33-year-old free agent.
Oct 23, 2014, 5:04 PM EDT
‘Tis the season for concern trolling about World Series ratings.
Oct 23, 2014, 3:45 PM EDT
That’s quite a change from last time Cabrera hit the open market, when he managed only a two-year, $16 million contract coming off a 50-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.
Oct 23, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT
Great Moments in Expectations-Setting
Oct 23, 2014, 2:14 PM EDT
Stinson has had brief looks in the majors with the Orioles, Brewers, and Mets, combining to throw 52 innings with a 4.47 ERA in parts of four seasons.
Oct 23, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT
He only played 49 games this season, but they were 49 pretty good games.
Oct 23, 2014, 1:47 PM EDT
On your mark. Get set. Complain!
Oct 23, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT
He previously managed in the Brewers’ minor league system.
Oct 23, 2014, 1:15 PM EDT
Will the Blue Jays trade Lind after he hit .321 this season?
Oct 23, 2014, 12:45 PM EDT
Or did the players actually have something to do with all of this?
Oct 23, 2014, 12:12 PM EDT
Who wants THAT job? Anyone? Anyone?
Oct 23, 2014, 11:26 AM EDT
The team may soon own the buildings across Waveland and Sheffield Avenues.
Oct 23, 2014, 10:42 AM EDT
Presumably, the Braves will also hire a general manager, giving them the two-headed front office we’ve seen in Chicago and will soon see in Los Angeles.
Oct 23, 2014, 9:56 AM EDT
And now he may be on his way to Korea.
Oct 23, 2014, 8:59 AM EDT
The Freak was back last night. And he did OK, though he left with a stiff back.
Oct 23, 2014, 8:26 AM EDT
‘Tis the season of overanalysis.
Oct 23, 2014, 7:44 AM EDT
The rookie didn’t have control. With his pitches or with his emotions.
Oct 23, 2014, 2:25 AM EDT
Petit deserves the nod over probable starter Ryan Vogelsong.
Oct 22, 2014, 11:34 PM EDT
Yordano Ventura held the Giants to two runs over five-plus innings and the Kansas City offense awoke for seven runs on 10 hits as the Royals evened up the 2014 World Series at a win apiece with a 7-2 Game 2 victory on Wednesday night at Kauffman Stadium.
Oct 22, 2014, 10:40 PM EDT
The host Royals have the visiting Giants right where they want them in Game 2 of the World Series.
- The World Series ratings are low. So what? 4
- John Hart to be named Braves President of Baseball Operations 2
- No, Ned Yost didn’t “out-manage” Bruce Bochy. His players played better 67
- At least Hunter Strickland entertained us last night 34
- Royals even up World Series with 7-2 Game 2 victory 37
- Craig Kimbrel wins Trevor Hoffman Award; Greg Holland gets Mariano Rivera Award 8
- World Series, Game 2: Giants vs. Royals lineups 10
- HBT Daily: Are the Royals doomed, doomed, doomed? 11
- So, if you’re not a fan of the Royals or Giants, who ya got? (129)
- Erroneous Narrative Alert: no, the Giants are not a “gritty,” anti-stats organization (122)
- Pedro Martinez has some opinions about who the new “face of baseball” is (112)
- PANTY RAID! Homeland Security agents confiscate unlicensed Kansas City Royals underwear (105)
- “The Kansas City Royals Are the Future of Baseball” — someone actually said that. (93)