Los Angeles Dodgers
Optimal year of contention: 2013
On paper, the Dodgers might be the most talented team in baseball. As baseball fans should know, however, this doesn't always amount to much.
The Dodgers were 68-58 when they pulled off a trade for Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Nick Punto, and an injured Carl Crawford in the midst of a close race in the NL West. They went 18-18 from that point on, losing five games in the standings to the eventual World Series champion Giants, and missing the playoffs altogether. They continued to add this offseason, signing top free agent Zack Greinke to a $147 million deal, and are unlikely to shy away from adding to their payroll again during the season. New ownership wants to win now and has given manager Don Mattingly enough talent to do so. It's now up to him to make sure that they are a "team" and don't become the latest example of a failed attempt to buy a championship.
Clayton Kershaw, LHP (eligible for free agency after 2014): With most of the team's core already locked up to long-term deals, it's hard to see something not getting done with Kershaw, and an extension is likely at the very top of the organization's priority list. If Kershaw gets less than the $26.5 million per season that Greinke is getting, it's only because the Dodgers have some leverage because of the injury risk and the fact that pitchers can be dominant for years and then all of a sudden lose effectiveness during a particular season (see Tim Lincecum).
Kenley Jansen, RHP (2016): Keeping him out of the closer's role in favor of Brandon League will lower Jansen's save total -- and price -- when he enters his first year of arbitration next winter. But the 25-year-old converted catcher has been one of the most dominant relievers in baseball over the past two seasons, striking out 14.6 hitters per nine innings and holding opponents to a .146 batting average. The Dodgers won't be able to argue against those numbers in arbitration. They'll first want to make sure that his heart problems from the past year are behind him, but a pre-arbitration extension could make sense for both parties.
LAD payroll outlook
An estimate of guaranteed salary (GS) over the next five seasons, with the number arbitration-eligible players in parentheses.
2013 $213M (1)
2014 $163M (5)
*Source: Cot's Contracts
The Dodgers would like to place an All-Star at every position. What team wouldn't? In this case, they do have the resources to make it happen. The problem with the team of All-Stars they've assembled thus far is that many are "former All-Stars."
Hanley Ramirez hasn't been an elite player since 2010, and has, in fact, been very average since. Gonzalez was an All-Star in 2011 and then had his worst OPS (.806) since he was a 23-year-old rookie with the Rangers in 2005. Crawford was an All-Star with Tampa Bay in 2010, then had one subpar year in Boston before missing most of 2012 because of injuries. Beckett was an All-Star in 2011, but wore out his welcome with the Red Sox, mostly by not pitching very well in 2012. Even Greinke hasn't been an All-Star since 2009, when he also won the AL Cy Young Award. It's not that these guys are so far removed from being considered some of the top players in the game. They just weren't that in 2012, and there's no guarantee that any of them will bounce back in 2013.
Potential free-agent targets
They did what they needed to do this offseason. Most lineup spots were already filled by players with guaranteed contracts, and there weren't really any players in this free-agent class who would've been a huge upgrade over third baseman Luis Cruz or catcher A.J. Ellis. So aside from acquiring utilityman Skip Schumaker, they stood pat with their offense. With Chad Billingsley's health a huge question mark -- he opted for platelet-rich plasma injections over Tommy John surgery -- it was essential that they added another starter to pair with Kershaw at the top of the rotation. They signed the best available option in Greinke while also adding Korean lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu to a rotation that is now eight deep if Billingsley stays healthy.
Because of the team's bankroll, they'll be mentioned in many free-agent rumors over the next few years, but because they are locked in at almost every spot on the diamond, there are no obvious fits.
While they'll be smart to hold on to as much pitching depth as possible, the Dodgers will likely be able to trade Chris Capuano or Aaron Harang, two veterans coming off of solid seasons in 2012, before Opening Day. They also have some pretty good pitching prospects, including Zach Lee, Chris Reed, and Chris Withrow, in the upper minors they can use to go shopping in July.
Waiting in the wings
Spending a ton of money on their big league roster hasn't affected the farm system much because they don't really have many impact prospects ready to contribute in the near future. And with the organization's win-now mentality, it's more likely that a lot of their best prospects will be traded down the line in order to improve the major league team.
If Capuano and Harang leave as free agents after the season (both have mutual options for 2014), along with Ted Lilly, who will also be a free agent, then Lee, Reed, and Withrow could have an opportunity to get to the big leagues in 2014. That is, if they're not traded first.
Future regulars (ETA in parentheses): Corey Seager, SS (2016); Joc Pederson, OF (2015); Yasiel Puig, OF (2015); Zach Lee, RHP (2014); Chris Withrow, RHP (2014); Chris Reed, LHP (2014)
Good read. Everything I'm seeing has me worried about the left side of the infield along with the lead off spot which isn't really spoken of. Those are 2 pretty glaring weakness'. I hate what I'm reading about Ramirez.