Skip to content

2013 Preview: Los Angeles Dodgers

Mar 16, 2013, 11:28 AM EST

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. A.J. Pierzynski to earn a $2 million base salary with the Braves

    Dec 26, 2014, 10:25 PM EST

    A.J. Pierzynski A.J. Pierzynski

    The Braves’ one-year deal with catcher A.J. Pierzynski is for $2 million.

  2. Rafael Furcal suffers torn hamstring, will miss Dominican Winter League playoffs

    Dec 26, 2014, 9:20 PM EST

    Rafael Furcal Rafael Furcal

    Rafael Furcal has suffered another injury, this time a torn hamstring which will keep him out of the Dominican Winter League playoffs.

  3. Report: Phillies nearing a deal with Wandy Rodriguez

    Dec 26, 2014, 8:03 PM EST

    Wandy Rodriguez Wandy Rodriguez

    If Wandy Rodriguez passes his physical, the Phillies are expected to sign him to a minor league deal.

  4. Jeff Manship signed a minor league deal with the Indians

    Dec 26, 2014, 7:10 PM EST

    Carlos Ruiz, Jeff Manship Carlos Ruiz, Jeff Manship

    Jeff Manship will begin the spring with the Indians after signing a minor league deal.

  5. Giants may target Ben Zobrist

    Dec 26, 2014, 6:05 PM EST

    Ben Zobrist Ben Zobrist

    According to Peter Gammons, some GMs think the Giants will eventually trade for Ben Zobrist.

  6. Report: Hiroki Kuroda is going back to Japan

    Dec 26, 2014, 3:49 PM EST

    Hiroki Kuroda Getty Images

    After seven years in the United States, Hiroki Kuroda is heading home.

  7. Nationals sign Dan Uggla

    Dec 26, 2014, 11:32 AM EST

    dan uggla getty Getty Images

    Uggla hit .179 in 2013 and .149 this year.

  8. Baseball in Uganda? Yes, baseball in Uganda.

    Dec 26, 2014, 11:00 AM EST

    Uganda tourism destinations

    And it’s all thanks to a man named George Mukhobe.

  9. Giants re-sign J.C. Gutierrez

    Dec 26, 2014, 10:30 AM EST

    Juan Gutierrez Giants AP

    He threw 64 innings with a 3.96 ERA and 44/16 K/BB ratio for the Giants in 2014.

  10. Padres season ticket sales have spiked in the wake of their offseason spending spree

    Dec 26, 2014, 9:35 AM EST

    padres logo

    Remember, Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things.

  11. Chihiro Kaneko re-signs with Orix Buffaloes

    Dec 25, 2014, 3:05 PM EST

    kaneko getty Getty Images

    Japanese righty Chihiro Kaneko might have been one of the top starters on the open market this winter had he been posted by the Orix Buffaloes, his Nippon Professional Baseball team.

  12. 2015 Free Agent Tracker

    Dec 25, 2014, 1:23 PM EST

    Hanley Ramirez Hanley Ramirez

    Your one-stop shop for all of the offseason signings.

  13. Merry Christmas from HBT!

    Dec 25, 2014, 8:47 AM EST

    Screen Shot 2014-12-25 at 8.45.33 AM

    And a very special friend of HBT

  14. Tommy Lasorda reads “Twas the Night Before Christmas”

    Dec 24, 2014, 10:00 PM EST

    mlb video

    A good way to finish off our Christmas Eve coverage on HardballTalk …

  15. Kenta Maeda re-signs with the Hiroshima Carp

    Dec 24, 2014, 8:04 PM EST

    kenta maeda getty Getty Images

    The sought-after 26-year-old right-hander has now officially re-signed with the Hiroshima Carp for the 2015 season, according to the Japan Times.

  16. Rockies sign outfielder Roger Bernadina

    Dec 24, 2014, 6:17 PM EST

    roger bernadina getty Getty Images

    Ben Badler of Baseball America reports that the Rockies have agreed to terms on a minor league contract with outfielder Roger Bernadina.

  17. What baseball team did people from Bedford Falls root for?

    Dec 24, 2014, 4:21 PM EST

    IAWL

    A toast to my big brother George: The richest man in town. Well, except for Mr. Potter. That guy is LOADED.

  18. The Braves and A.J. Pierzynski reach a one-year deal; first reported in a ham store

    Dec 24, 2014, 2:00 PM EST

    Ham

    No, really. The news broke on line at a Honeybaked Ham store.

  19. THE YEAR IN REVIEW: HBT’s most commented-upon stories of the year

    Dec 24, 2014, 1:00 PM EST

    megaphone

    Based on these results, no, we will not stick to baseball. Because you clearly don’t want us to.

Featured video

Cubs shore up rotation with Jon Lester
Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. W. Myers (2130)
  2. J. Kang (2022)
  3. D. Ross (1892)
  4. J. Shields (1811)
  5. M. Scutaro (1810)
  1. D. Haren (1780)
  2. C. Gonzalez (1767)
  3. T. Tulowitzki (1701)
  4. J. Grilli (1666)
  5. C. Hamels (1526)