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.
Jan 27, 2015, 6:39 PM EST
The Rangers and Red Sox have swapped 25-year-old pitchers.
Jan 27, 2015, 6:19 PM EST
The Orioles have failed in their pursuit of several free agent outfielders this offseason, so they might now be turning to the trade market to fill the need.
Jan 27, 2015, 5:10 PM EST
He hasn’t worked with the Astros since 2010.
Jan 27, 2015, 4:40 PM EST
Crawford requested $3.95 million and the Giants countered at $2.4 million.
Jan 27, 2015, 4:13 PM EST
They’re coming in bunches lately.
Jan 27, 2015, 3:55 PM EST
Tulowitzki is owed $114 million for the next six seasons and Gonzalez is owed $53 million for the next three seasons.
Jan 27, 2015, 2:48 PM EST
Welcome to the future, man.
Jan 27, 2015, 2:22 PM EST
Specifically, a reduction in size of an area of land protected in order to help keep drinking water clean
Jan 27, 2015, 2:01 PM EST
Dyson requested $1.6 million and the Royals countered at $900,000.
Jan 27, 2015, 12:30 PM EST
The league now requires Cuban players to get a much more difficult to obtain clearance to sign than even the federal government requires.
Jan 27, 2015, 11:33 AM EST
One Hall of Fame expert argues that Selig should have to cool his heels before waltzing into Cooperstown
Jan 27, 2015, 11:03 AM EST
So long that he’s one of the few GMs who rocked a flip phone after he already had the top job.
Jan 27, 2015, 10:50 AM EST
As of six weeks ago Angels manager Mike Scioscia was telling reporters that the team didn’t expect Garrett Richards back from knee surgery until May.
Jan 27, 2015, 9:54 AM EST
Great Moments in Spring Training Cliches.
Jan 27, 2015, 8:10 AM EST
No, it’s not “because the balls don’t have air inside them in baseball.” Though that is a good point.
Jan 26, 2015, 11:45 PM EST
McGee is expected to begin the season on the disabled list, but he’s hoping to return by late April or early May.
Jan 26, 2015, 11:05 PM EST
Ottavino has quietly been very effective since joining the Rockies in 2012, posting a 3.60 ERA over 179 relief appearances while averaging 9.3 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9.
Jan 26, 2015, 10:01 PM EST
After negotiations with Ryan Vogelsong broke down last week, the Astros are now considering alternatives.
Jan 26, 2015, 9:07 PM EST
Gutierrez has played a grand total of 173 games dating back to 2011 and sat out last season due to a gastrointestinal issue.
Jan 26, 2015, 8:16 PM EST
Avila is making a change in hopes of avoiding future concussions.
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- Reds sign four-year contract extension with Devin Mesoraco 11
- The Yankees are going to try to get out of paying A-Rod his contract incentives 82
- How Commissioner Rob Manfred Can Make Baseball More Appealing 60
- Blue Jays cut off talks for Orioles executive Dan Duquette 48
- Rob Manfred, new Major League Baseball commissioner, suggests ban on defensive shifts 118
- Yankees reject A-Rod’s apology attempt 51
- Bud Selig: The Greatest Commissioner in the History of Baseball (146)
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- Why “Deflategate” would never happen in baseball (92)
- The Yankees are going to try to get out of paying A-Rod his contract incentives (82)
- Comments of the Day: some of you guys aren’t big Bud Selig fans (77)