Mar 6, 2014, 5:02 PM EST
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 2014 season. Next up: The Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Big Question: Can the deep-pocketed Dodgers be stopped?
After a midseason turnaround led to 92 wins and a trip to the NLCS last year, the Dodgers had a relatively quiet offseason, at least in terms of bringing in outside talent. Sure, they locked up 2013 NL Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw with a monster seven-year, $215 million extension to and re-signed Juan Uribe for two years and $15 million, but their two biggest additions were right-hander Dan Haren (one year, $10 million) and Cuban infielder Alexander Guerrero (four years, $28 million). While they recently signed another Cuban infielder, Erisbel Arruebarrena, to a five-year, $25 million contract, he’s not expected to contribute in the majors right away. The truth is that they didn’t need to do much in the way of tweaking, because they were already in pretty good shape.
We heard rumors over the winter about the Dodgers potentially trading one of their outfielders, but they ended up hanging on to all of them. Given the injury histories of Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford, that’s probably for the best. The lineup has some potential weak spots between second base, third base, and catcher, but there are plenty of impact bats here. Hanley Ramirez was one of the best hitters in the game when healthy last year and Yasiel Puig was an absolute dynamo after his call-up. Adrian Gonzalez hasn’t surpassed 30 home runs since 2011, but he’s still a solid run producer.
Even though the Dodgers were unable to land Masahiro Tanaka, the rotation is looking potent once again with Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Hyun-Jin Ryu leading the way. Kenley Jansen has emerged as one of the best closers in the majors and bridge to the ninth inning should be stronger this year with full seasons from both Brian Wilson and Paco Rodriguez. Chris Withrow and J.P. Howell will be back in the bullpen and Chris Perez and Jamey Wright were both added to the fold over the winter. Oh, and Brandon League is still collecting a paycheck.
With a payroll well above $200 million, anything short of the World Series will likely be considered a disappointment. Who knows if the Dodgers can get there, as the playoffs are often a crapshoot, but all signs point to them being a forced to be reckoned with once again.
What else is going on?
- Matt Kemp is a big question mark as he makes his way back from ankle surgery. He was recently cleared to increase some baseball activities after an MRI showed proper healing, but he’s not expected to be ready for the start of the season and might not even make an appearance during Cactus League play. With Yasiel Puig, Carl Crawford, and Andre Ethier in place, the Dodgers don’t have to rush things. Still, a healthy and productive Kemp would make them even scarier.
- The Dodgers would love for Alexander Guerrero to run away with the starting second base job, but he’s had some issues adjusting to the position and there’s some chatter that he could begin the season in the minors in order to get comfortable. However, if he keeps doing things like this, it’ll be tough to send him down. The possible alternatives at second base include Dee Gordon, Chone Figgins, Justin Turner, Miguel Rojas, and Brendan Harris, which makes the decision to let Mark Ellis walk a little questionable. The Dodgers certainly could have afforded him, even in an insurance role. He’s essentially doing the same thing for the Cardinals right now.
- Josh Beckett was limited to just eight starts last year prior to undergoing surgery to relieve thoracic outlet syndrome, a procedure which involved having a rib removed to relieve pressure on a nerve which caused numbness in his arms and fingers. The good news is that he hasn’t had any issues this spring and projects to begin the season as the team’s No. 5 starter. The Dodgers have alternatives if things go wrong, as Paul Maholm was added over the winter for depth purposes and Chad Billingsley could be ready to return from Tommy John before the All-Star break.
- What does Yasiel Puig have in store for an encore? With his all-out style and flair, the 23-year-old outfielder was the talk of baseball as a rookie last year, hitting .319/.391/.534 with 19 home runs, 42 RBI, and 11 stolen bases in 104 games. The Dodgers (and some opponents) would like to see him dial things back somewhat, but you take the good with the bat with this type of talent. Unfortunately, his style of play does put him at a greater risk for injury, which is something to watch this season.
- Much was made of Don Mattingly’s job status last season and in the aftermath of their loss in the NLCS, but the situation should be less of a distraction now that he has received a contract extension through 2016. Of course, that could always change if the Dodgers flop.
Prediction: I could see the Giants, Diamondbacks, and Padres all competing for a Wild Card spot this season, but the Dodgers are the most well-rounded team here and they have the resources to upgrade as the season moves along. They deserve to be considered heavy favorites to win the division for a second straight year. No surprises here. First place, NL West.
Nov 20, 2014, 6:55 PM EST
The White Sox are apparently one of three teams showing interest in free agent outfielder Melky Cabrera.
Nov 20, 2014, 6:05 PM EST
The Pirates picked up Pedro Florimon off waivers from the Nationals on Thursday evening.
Nov 20, 2014, 5:17 PM EST
Wheeler made his big-league debut this season when injuries wrecked the Yankees’ roster.
Nov 20, 2014, 4:46 PM EST
As recently as mid-September manager Walt Weiss was talking Nicasio up as a reliever for 2015.
Nov 20, 2014, 4:30 PM EST
Could a team that is unloading salary go nine-figures on an outfielder?
Nov 20, 2014, 3:45 PM EST
Belisario served as the White Sox’s closer for part of this season.
Nov 20, 2014, 3:15 PM EST
Zeid underwent season-ending foot surgery in July.
Nov 20, 2014, 3:01 PM EST
And it’s not at all clear when or if those experiments will translate into rules changes.
Nov 20, 2014, 2:05 PM EST
Don’t bother unpacking.
Nov 20, 2014, 1:06 PM EST
With the Tigers out, the Jays are in.
Nov 20, 2014, 12:50 PM EST
Presumed front-runners may have changed their minds.
Nov 20, 2014, 12:14 PM EST
Zimmermann has just one season remaining until he’s eligible for free agency and the 28-year-old right-hander is in line for a massive payday.
Nov 20, 2014, 11:34 AM EST
The Cuban outfielder is letting his market develop, it seems.
Nov 20, 2014, 10:45 AM EST
For now at least there doesn’t seem to be a clear front-runner.
Nov 20, 2014, 10:23 AM EST
What’s not to like?
Nov 20, 2014, 9:24 AM EST
The new commish takes over on January 25.
Nov 20, 2014, 8:54 AM EST
He was a nice pickup for the O’s last season. But do you give Delmon Young a multi-year deal?
Nov 20, 2014, 8:30 AM EST
A crappy K/BB ratio is the least of Cody Kukuk’s problems now.
Nov 20, 2014, 7:44 AM EST
No one ever asks the billionaire owners of baseball teams questions like that.
Nov 19, 2014, 10:37 PM EST
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that the Marlins have agreed to terms on a minor league contract with infielder Reid Brignac. The deal presumably comes with an invitation to major league spring training.
- Report: Red Sox offer Jon Lester six years, $110-120 million 66
- Report: “There is a 90 percent chance that Pablo Sandoval will sign with the Red Sox” 121
- A’s sign Billy Butler to three-year, $30 million contract 79
- Cardinals reportedly joining pursuit of Jon Lester 65
- Giancarlo Stanton’s contract is backloaded. REALLY backloaded. 148
- Braves and Cardinals swap Jason Heyward and Shelby Miller in blockbuster deal 156
- Blue Jays sign Russell Martin to five-year, $82 million deal 135
- Done Deal: Giancarlo Stanton and the Marlins agree on the biggest contract in baseball history 124
- So Curt Schilling spent his evening arguing against the theory of evolution (165)
- Braves and Cardinals swap Jason Heyward and Shelby Miller in blockbuster deal (156)
- Giancarlo Stanton’s contract is backloaded. REALLY backloaded. (148)
- Blue Jays sign Russell Martin to five-year, $82 million deal (135)