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.
May 19, 2013, 11:45 PM EDT
The Giants lost their third game in a row, their fifth loss in their last six games as they went down 5-0 to the Rockies this afternoon. Starter Barry Zito labored into the sixth, allowing five runs on 11 hits in 5.2 innings. It marks the sixth consecutive game in which Giants pitching has allowed…
May 19, 2013, 11:00 PM EDT
Entering tonight’s game against the Tigers, Mitch Moreland has a .921 OPS with ten home runs and has arguably been the Rangers’ most dangerous hitter thus far in the 2013 season. Going into the season, first base was assumed to be a weak spot for the Rangers as Moreland had been more or less average…
May 19, 2013, 10:15 PM EDT
In the bottom of the eighth inning with the Marlins leading 2-0, Diamondbacks reliever Josh Collmenter was trying to keep the deficit at two as he faced the top of the lineup. Adeiny Hechavarria decided to attempt to bunt the first pitch he saw, but popped it up. Catcher Miguel Montero and Collmenter converged on…
May 19, 2013, 9:55 PM EDT
With a three-run home run to right-center in the third inning and a solo shot to straightaway center in the fifth — his ninth and tenth of the season, respectively — against Rangers starter Derek Holland, Miguel Cabrera put himself in a tie with Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg with 331 career home runs. Cabrera,…
May 19, 2013, 9:20 PM EDT
Daniel Murphy has hit out of the #2 spot in the Mets’ lineup throughout most of the season, but manager Terry Collins decided to shake things up today by moving up to lead-off. Murphy responded with an eighth-inning solo home run that gave the Mets a 4-3 lead. The jolt of offense seems to have…
May 19, 2013, 8:55 PM EDT
Pirates closer Jason Grilli spent most of his 20′s and early 30′s bouncing from organization to organization — he pitched for the White Sox, Tigers, Rockies, and Rangers. Between 2004-09, working almost exclusively as a reliever, he posted a 4.62 ERA. He suffered a knee injury during spring training in 2010 with the Indians, forcing…
May 19, 2013, 8:25 PM EDT
It’s not every day a player can say he accomplished a Ruthian feat, but Matt Moore has earned that very prestigious honor today. As the pitcher of record behind the Rays’ 3-1 win over the Orioles this afternoon, Moore improved to 8-0 in nine starts this season, becoming the first lefty age 23 or younger…
May 19, 2013, 7:55 PM EDT
With Jaime Garcia on the 15-day disabled list with a shoulder injury, the Cardinals have promoted 25-year-old lefty Tyler Lyons to take his spot in the rotation. Lyons had a 4.47 ERA with 38 strikeouts and nine walks in 46.1 innings with Triple-A Memphis. Via MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch and Chad Thornburg: The Cardinals’ decision to…
May 19, 2013, 7:15 PM EDT
The ninth inning of today’s Reds-Phillies series finale was full of statistical improbabilities. First, Delmon Young drew a four-pitch walk (yes, Delmon Young walked) against Aroldis Chapman. He was immediately replaced by pitcher and pinch-runner Cliff Lee. With Erik Kratz at the plate battling Chapman in a 2-2 count, the lefty reliever picked Lee off…
May 19, 2013, 6:45 PM EDT
This pairs nicely with the situation that arose in the sixth inning in Baltimore this afternoon. Major League Baseball is likely to expand video review in 2014, reports the Associated Press. Commissioner Bud Selig, who has staunchly opposed expansion of replay usage in the past, says his view on the issue has “evolved”. After watching…
May 19, 2013, 6:05 PM EDT
In the top of the sixth inning of today’s series finale in Baltimore, Rays right fielder Matt Joyce blasted a 3-2 fastball down the right field line, initially ruled a double by the umpires. Watching it live, it seemed to go foul, but when reviewed in slow motion, it was clear that the ball caromed…
May 19, 2013, 5:17 PM EDT
From Anthony Andro of FOX Sports Southwest comes word that the Rangers have placed second baseman Ian Kinsler on the 15-day disabled list with an intercostal muscle strain and recalled top infield prospect Jurickson Profar to fill the roster vacancy. Kinsler suffered the strain Thursday while trying to duck out of the way of a…
May 19, 2013, 4:23 PM EDT
Logan Morrison is finally making steady progress in his recovery from September 2012 knee surgery. According to Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald, the Marlins first baseman is scheduled to begin playing in minor league rehab games on Monday with the High-A Jupiter Hammerheads. He’s spent the past week-plus taking at-bats in games at extended…
May 19, 2013, 3:35 PM EDT
Veteran right-hander Roy Oswalt should be back in the major leagues at some point in early-to-mid June. According to Thomas Harding of MLB.com, Oswalt allowed just one hit — a leadoff bunt — over five innings Saturday in an outing at extended spring training against a group of Brewers minor leaguers. He struck out nine…
May 19, 2013, 2:42 PM EDT
The Phillies might, yet again, be without starting catcher Carlos Ruiz for an extended period of time. Ruiz was lifted from Sunday afternoon’s game against the Reds after straining his right hamstring while running the bases in the bottom of the second inning. Ruiz will presumably be placed on the 15-day disabled list Monday, and…
May 19, 2013, 1:59 PM EDT
From Patrick Saunders of the Denver Post: Right fielder/first baseman Michael Cuddyer said he is feeling much better after receiving a shot Tuesday to relieve the stiffness and soreness in his neck. He resumed baseball activities Saturday — throwing and hitting in the cage — and said he’ll be ready to come off the disabled…
May 19, 2013, 1:10 PM EDT
Tom Singer of MLB.com reports that the Pirates have scratched center fielder Andrew McCutchen from their starting lineup for Sunday’s series finale against the Astros because of soreness in his right knee. Starling Marte will slide over to center, Travis Snider will play left field and Garrett Jones will get the start in right. Gaby…
May 19, 2013, 12:21 PM EDT
As first reported by beat writer Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times, the Dodgers have activated infielder Mark Ellis from the 15-day disabled list. Tim Federowicz was optioned to the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate in Albuquerque to open up a roster spot. Ellis is in the Dodgers’ starting lineup on Sunday afternoon against the Braves,…
May 19, 2013, 11:36 AM EDT
From MLB.com’s Evan Drellich comes word that Red Sox shortstop Stephen Drew is out of the starting lineup again on Sunday against the Twins due to lingering discomfort in his lower back. Pedro Ciriaco will get the start in his place. Drew also sat out of Saturday’s game, but he is not believed to be…
May 19, 2013, 10:58 AM EDT
Ike Davis went 0-for-4 in the Mets’ loss to the Cubs on Saturday and is batting just .156/.238/.359 in 39 total games this season. But the Mets’ decision-makers still aren’t ready to do anything drastic. Despite some reports to the contrary, Davis was assured Saturday by Mets general manager Sandy Alderson that a demotion to…
- Miguel Cabrera ties Hank Greenberg with 331st career homer 4
- Bud Selig’s view on replay has “evolved” 13
- Umpires use replay on controversial Matt Joyce home run 9
- Rangers put Ian Kinsler on the 15-day disabled list and call up top prospect Jurickson Profar 5
- Carlos Ruiz leaves game with strained right hamstring 2
- PBT: Parker carves up Grizzlies as Spurs roll in Gm. 1
- PHT: Senators sneak past Penguins in two overtimes
- PHT: Bruins crack Lundqvist, hammer Rangers
- MST: No bumping on Bump Day at Indy 500
- PST: Arsenal grabs Champions League spot
- Ferguson's managerial career ends with 5-5 draw
- Moore stays unbeaten as Rays top Orioles