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 1, 2014, 4:04 PM EDT
Not a ton of surprises. Gaby Sanchez in at first over Ike Davis because of the lefty on the hill. Otherwise, play ball.
Oct 1, 2014, 3:45 PM EDT
Ron Gardenhire was fired Monday after 13 seasons, the last four of which have seen the Twins lose 90 or more games.
Oct 1, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT
Somehow, it all seemed to tie this strange 2014 season together in one fitting package, though the end result wasn’t what anyone in green and gold wanted.
Oct 1, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT
Thanks for sharing, Aubrey.
Oct 1, 2014, 2:48 PM EDT
Adam Wainwright will start Game 1 against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw.
Oct 1, 2014, 2:36 PM EDT
The Royals, like just about every other team in baseball, have an analytics department. Apologies if that messes with your preconceptions.
Oct 1, 2014, 2:14 PM EDT
At least he got to pitch this season. That was fun.
Oct 1, 2014, 1:53 PM EDT
The Royals may not have won the AL Wild Card if not for the confounding decisions of manager Ned Yost.
Oct 1, 2014, 1:47 PM EDT
He hit just .229 with a .659 OPS in 67 games after June 1 and batted .193 in September.
Oct 1, 2014, 1:34 PM EDT
But there’s a tale of bribery involved in all of this too.
Oct 1, 2014, 1:15 PM EDT
Starting pitchers Francisco Liriano and Gerrit Cole off the Wild Card game roster, which is fairly typical.
Oct 1, 2014, 12:50 PM EDT
Another night, another one-and-done game.
Oct 1, 2014, 12:11 PM EDT
Not a ton of glitzy names here. At least not yet.
Oct 1, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT
The A’s went all-in and busted. Now what will Billy Beane do?
Oct 1, 2014, 10:40 AM EDT
Behold, one of the worst “hot takes” you’ll see.
Oct 1, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT
My first take: cautious optimism.
Oct 1, 2014, 9:40 AM EDT
Adam Dunn has no problem with not playing last night. And, apparently, does not plan to play again.
Oct 1, 2014, 9:02 AM EDT
He says it will allow athletes a place to talk with “no filter.” In reality, it’s likely to have way, way more filters than what currently exist.
Oct 1, 2014, 8:29 AM EDT
Bumgarner vs. Volquez is, on paper anyway, something of a mismatch. But as we saw in last night’s game, predicting these things is a fool’s errand.
Oct 1, 2014, 7:36 AM EDT
And Pedro Martinez absolutely roasts Yost for that.
- The beauty of belief 12
- MLB to test new pace-of-play rules in the Arizona Fall League — including a pitch clock 31
- Playoff Reset: The National League Wild Card Game 15
- Video: Salvador Perez walks off Royals in Wild Card Game 3
- Small ball prevails … in a 9-8 game 25
- Royals complete thrilling comeback to defeat A’s in the American League Wild Card Game 70
- Josh Hamilton declares himself ready for the ALDS 3
- Wild Card Game: A’s vs. Royals lineups 15
- Hunter Pence dropped a bunch of F-bombs in his postgame speech. Good. (116)
- Barry Bonds discovered to be “glassing” — it’s just as bad as you think (90)
- Derek Jeter’s final game in Yankee Stadium could be cancelled because of rain (85)
- And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights (85)
- Previewing the 2014 Playoffs (80)