Skip to content

2013 Preview: Los Angeles Dodgers

Mar 16, 2013, 11:28 AM EDT

Don Mattingly Reuters Reuters

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.

Latest Posts
  1. Bruce Bochy sticking with Ryan Vogelsong to start Game 4 of the World Series

    Oct 24, 2014, 11:51 PM EDT

    Ryan Vogelsong Ryan Vogelsong

    Ryan Vogelsong will start as scheduled in Game 4 of the World Series against the Royals. Madison Bumgarner will not pitch on short rest.

  2. Behind strong bullpen, Royals edge Giants 3-2 to take a 2-1 World Series lead

    Oct 24, 2014, 11:27 PM EDT

    The Royals’ bullpen was solid, allowing only two base runners in four innings to preserve Jeremy Guthrie’s win in Game 3 of the World Series against the Giants.

  3. It’s official: Brandon Finnegan the first to play in two World Series in one year

    Oct 24, 2014, 11:02 PM EDT

    Brandon Finnegan Brandon Finnegan

    Brandon Finnegan achieved a rather rare feat with his first appearance of the World Series in Game 3 on Friday night against the Giants.

  4. Cole Hamels updating his 20-team no-trade list

    Oct 24, 2014, 10:55 PM EDT

    Cole Hamels Cole Hamels

    Cole Hamels is updating his 20-team no-trade list, which will dictate if and how the Phillies shop him over the off-season.

  5. Giants strike back with two runs, trail 3-2 going into the seventh

    Oct 24, 2014, 10:22 PM EDT

    Michael Morse Michael Morse

    The Giants fought back in the bottom of the sixth inning with two runs, making it a one-run game again. The Royals lead 3-2 heading into the seventh inning.

  6. Royals add on, lead Giants 3-0 going into the bottom of the sixth inning

    Oct 24, 2014, 10:00 PM EDT

    Alex Gordon Alex Gordon

    The Royals extended their lead over the Giants to 3-0 thanks to an Alex Gordon RBI double and an Eric Hosmer RBI single in the top of the sixth inning of Game 3 of the World Series.

  7. Twins expected to contact Joe Maddon about managerial vacancy

    Oct 24, 2014, 9:50 PM EDT

    Joe Maddon Joe Maddon

    The Twins are expected to consider free agent manager Joe Maddon for their managerial vacancy.

  8. Through three innings of World Series Game 3, Royals lead Giants 1-0

    Oct 24, 2014, 9:08 PM EDT

    Jeremy Guthrie Jeremy Guthrie

    The Royals have a narrow lead through the first three innings of Game 3 of the World Series against the Giants.

  9. Victor Martinez expected to pursue a four-year deal

    Oct 24, 2014, 8:45 PM EDT

    Victor Martinez Victor Martinez

    Victor Martinez is going to use his monster 2014 season to attempt to get a four-year deal over the off-season.

  10. Bruce Bochy, Dave Righetti have discussed using Madison Bumgarner on short rest if Giants lose Game 3

    Oct 24, 2014, 8:05 PM EDT

    Madison Bumgarner Madison Bumgarner

    The Giants have kicked around the idea of using Madison Bumgarner on short rest if they lose Game 3 of the World Series against the Royals.

  11. Kevin Towers expected to join Reds after being fired as Diamondbacks GM

    Oct 24, 2014, 7:43 PM EDT

    Kevin Towers AP

    No word yet on the exact role Towers would fill in Cincinnati.

  12. Paul Konerko, Jimmy Rollins named co-winners of the Roberto Clemente Award

    Oct 24, 2014, 7:20 PM EDT

    Paul Konerko Getty Images

    Paul Konerko and Jimmy Rollins are your co-winners of the Roberto Clemente Award.

  13. The greatest trick this Royals bullpen ever pulled …

    Oct 24, 2014, 6:55 PM EDT

    Greg Holland Greg Holland

    The Royals bullpen is really good. So good, in fact, that you can’t really use it incorrectly, Joe Posnanski writes.

  14. Royals claim Moises Sierra off waivers from White Sox

    Oct 24, 2014, 6:37 PM EDT

    Moises Sierra White Sox Getty Images

    Being in the World Series hasn’t stopped the Royals from tweaking the margins of their 40-man roster.

  15. Report: Joe Maddon seeking a five-year deal in the $25 million range

    Oct 24, 2014, 6:05 PM EDT

    Joe Maddon Joe Maddon

    Joe Maddon is looking to become at least the second-highest paid manager in baseball.

  16. Taylor Jordan had surgery to remove bone chips from elbow

    Oct 24, 2014, 5:40 PM EDT

    Washington Nationals v Atlanta Braves Getty Images

    Jordan pitched well in nine starts for the Nationals as a 24-year-old rookie last season, but then went 0-3 with a 5.61 ERA in five starts this year before being shut down in June.

  17. It’s possible that some are overstating the impact of Joe Maddon opting out

    Oct 24, 2014, 5:03 PM EDT

    joe maddon rays pointing

    Joe Maddon is a good manager. But he’s just a manager.

  18. Adam Wainwright underwent elbow surgery to “trim” cartilage

    Oct 24, 2014, 4:23 PM EDT

    adam wainwright getty Getty Images

    Earlier this week the Cardinals insisted there was nothing wrong with Adam Wainwright’s elbow and he wouldn’t require surgery.

  19. Ranking every baseball team’s “victory song”

    Oct 24, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 3.47.04 PM

    Needs more Pixies. I have no idea which song, but any list needs more Pixies.

Featured video

When home-field advantage isn't so
Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. T. Lincecum (3044)
  2. M. Bumgarner (2593)
  3. M. Morse (2402)
  4. J. Shields (2216)
  5. Y. Cespedes (2058)
  1. H. Pence (1477)
  2. T. Ishikawa (1418)
  3. L. Cain (1409)
  4. U. Jimenez (1387)
  5. B. Butler (1377)