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 6, 2015, 11:34 PM EDT
Hardy was placed on the disabled list before Opening Day after suffering a strained left shoulder in one of the Orioles’ final Grapefruit League games.
May 6, 2015, 10:29 PM EDT
Astros right fielder George Springer made a stellar catch on Tuesday night against the right-field wall at Minute Maid Park, but he looked dazed afterward and is now being placed on the 7-day concussion disabled list, per the team’s Twitter account.
May 6, 2015, 9:37 PM EDT
Eddie Rosario was promoted from Triple-A Rochester on Monday and drew his first start Wednesday night against the A’s. Here’s the very first pitch of his very first major league at-bat …
May 6, 2015, 8:42 PM EDT
Joey Votto is probably facing a suspension for this scene Wednesday at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park …
May 6, 2015, 7:56 PM EDT
Some very good news here for the Dodgers …
May 6, 2015, 7:04 PM EDT
Tigers right fielder J.D. Martinez had batted either fourth or fifth in his first 26 starts this season, but he is 2-for-25 with 16 strikeouts in his last six games …
May 6, 2015, 6:18 PM EDT
Jeff Samardzija officially dropped the appeal of his five-game suspension on Wednesday, temporarily opening a spot in the White Sox starting rotation.
May 6, 2015, 5:25 PM EDT
Acquired from the Braves as part of the Jason Heyward trade this offseason, Walden posted a 0.87 ERA and 12/4 K/BB ratio in 10 innings for the Cardinals.
May 6, 2015, 4:03 PM EDT
Tough news for “Kitten Face.”
May 6, 2015, 3:43 PM EDT
Diamondbacks, Royals, Indians and Mariners.
May 6, 2015, 2:47 PM EDT
May 6, 2015, 2:33 PM EDT
May 6, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT
Bonds is a sponsor of a women’s cycling team. And, in cycling, is finding more acceptance and peace than he’s found in baseball in a long, long time.
May 6, 2015, 1:05 PM EDT
Michael Taylor fills in.
May 6, 2015, 12:03 PM EDT
And he’s still only 26 years old.
May 6, 2015, 11:32 AM EDT
There’s a chance for some history on the Say-Hey Kid’s 84th birthday.
May 6, 2015, 11:03 AM EDT
And he is fully justified in being fed up.
Stephen Strasburg left Tuesday’s start after three innings with “discomfort under his shoulder blade”
May 6, 2015, 10:47 AM EDT
“The irritation kind of rattles the cage a little bit.”
May 6, 2015, 10:15 AM EDT
Two years ago Hochevar a 1.92 ERA and 82/17 K/BB ratio in 70 innings.
May 6, 2015, 9:36 AM EDT
In my day we called it a benching.
- George Springer placed on 7-day concussion disabled list 0
- Video: Joey Votto ejected, bumps umpire 18
- Carlos Rodon to make first MLB start Saturday 1
- Bryce Harper’s underrated day: Three at-bats, three homers 42
- Tigers, doctors clear Justin Verlander to resume throwing 12
- Brook Jacoby and umpire Doug Eddings were in a “loud, obscenity-laced, nose-to-nose exchange” 57
- And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights 143
- Devin Mesoraco could need hip surgery 11
- And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights (143)
- Torii Hunter doesn’t care what Floyd Mayweather has done outside of the boxing ring (140)
- Some anti-DH counterpoints (102)
- Alex Rodriguez hits a pinch-hit home run to tie Willie Mays at 660 home runs (96)
- And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights (95)