It is going on the third year that the Dodgers have extremely high expectations coming into the season. With Cy Young and MVP Award winner Clayton Kershaw (21-3, 1.77, 230 Ks in just over 198 IP, 0.857 WHIP, 6 CG) and the overall amount of talent on the team, there has been little to excuse the fact that the Dodgers have not made it to the World Series in either of the past two campaigns. GM Ned Colletti was re-assigned and the Dodgers brought in Andrew Friedman from the Tampa Bay Rays as team President and Farhan Zaidi from the Oakland Athletics as General Manager.
Both of the newly hired executives quickly went to work first parting ways with SS Hanley Ramirez (.283, 13, 71) and then trading franchise player Matt Kemp (.287, 27, 89) to the Padres in a deal that brought them C Yasmani Grandal (.225, 15, 49), RHP Joe Wieland and LHP Zach Eflin. Eflin was then traded with another minor leaguer to the Phillies to get SS Jimmy Rollins (.243, 17, 55, 28 SB). They then embarked on an extremely interesting trade with the Miami Marlins. They traded 2B Dee Gordon (.289, 2, 34, 64 SB), RHP Dan Haren (13-11, 4.02, 32 starts) and infielder Miguel Rojas (.181, 1, 9, 85 games) to Miami in exchange for LHP Andrew Heaney (0-3, 5.83, 5 starts), RHP Chris Hatcher (0-3, 3.38, 60 Ks, 56 IP) and utility player Enrique Hernandez. They then traded Heaney to the Angels for 2B Howie Kendrick (.293, 7, 75, career high 181 hits). Even more interesting was the fact that they chose to take on the entire remaining $10 million of Haren’s 2015 salary. They then chose to release RHP Brian Wilson (2-4, 4.66, 61 games) even though the team was on the hook for his $9.5 million salary for the 2015 season.
The Dodgers then took to free agency to address the last two spots in their rotation. They signed RHP Brandon McCarthy (10-15, 4.02, 32 starts, 200 IP) to a 4 year, $48 million contact then signed LHP Brett Anderson (1-3, 2.91, 8 starts) to a 1 year, $10 million deal. Both moves could have been considered against the grain but McCarthy had pitched very well for the Yankees after he was acquired (7-5, 2.89, 14 starts) and seems to have recovered from all types of injuries that have impeded his past 6 seasons. The same can be said about Anderson, a one time high ceiling starter who has had a series of injuries destroy the last 4 seasons of his career. If both are back, the Dodgers will get every bit of the value they were seeking for the addition of the two pitchers.
The Dodgers added Hatcher from the Marlins and traded for Joel Peralta (3-4, 4.41, 69 games, 74 Ks in just over 63 IP) from the Rays. They have also taken flyers on free agents Dustin McGowan (5-3, 4.17, 53 games, 9 starts) from Toronto and Juan Nicasio (6-6, 5.28, 33 games, 14 starts) from the Rockies. If that wasn’t enough, the Dodgers also added relievers David Aardsma, Mike Adams, Chad Gaudin, David Huff and Sergio Santos as NRIs. All of whom can become huge steals if they can make the team.
Closer Kenley Jansen (2-3, 2.76, 44 saves, 101 Ks in just over 65 IP) had surgery on his foot which will likely keep him out through April. RHP Brandon League (2-3, 2.57, 63 games) and LHP J.P. Howell (3-3, 2.39, 68 games) have minor injuries that should not impact their place on the opening day bullpen. Hatcher, Peralta and Paco Rodriguez (1-0, 3.86, 19 games) will also be shouldering a lot of the load early. RHP Pedro Baez (0-0, 2.63, 20 games), McGowan, Nicasio and the group of NRI relievers will manage to make for a very good bullpen. They have the numbers game in their favor, all of whom have track records of success at certain points of their careers.
Kershaw’s dominance makes it easy to forget how good of a pitcher Zack Greinke (17-8, 2.71, 207 Ks in just over 202 IP) is. Hyun-jin Ryu (14-7, 3.38, 26 starts) is the number three, followed by McCarthy and Anderson. RHP Wieland, brought over from San Diego in the Kemp trade is the top option in case of injury as well as NRIs Erik Bedard, Gaudin and Huff.
The main part of the Dodgers lineup will be 1B Adrian Gonzalez (.276, 27, 116) and RF Yasiel Puig (.296, 16, 69). CF Joc Pederson (.303, 33, 78 in AAA) takes the reigns with Carl Crawford (.300, 8, 46, 23 SB) and Andre Ethier (.249, 4, 42). The Dodgers are in a tough spot with Ethier, who seems to have lost his edge. The Dodgers will have to assume a large part of his remaining salary if they were to trade him, similar to the Phillies with Ryan Howard. Juan Uribe (.311, 9, 54) returns to play 3B. The Dodgers lineup I would go with is Rollins SS, Kendrick 2B, Gonzalez 1B, Puig RF, Pederson CF, Uribe 3B, Grandal C, Crawford LF. Justin Turner (.340, 7, 43) was fantastic for them last season and will lead the bench which includes newcomer Chris Heisey (.222, 8, 22), Scott Van Slyke, Darwin Barney, Ethier and now backup catcher A.J. Ellis (.191, 3, 25).
As good as Pederson should be, 3B/SS Corey Seager (.349, 20, 97, 50 2B) is expected to be even better. The Dodgers are not in a major need to rush him with the additions of Rollins and Kendrick, but Seager may make it difficult to keep him off the big club for long. RHP Chris Anderson and LHP Julio Urias are missing bats and both should be ready to help out in the rotation this season if needed. Similar to Seager though, both are blocked because of the depth on the major league roster.
The Dodgers O/U is set at 92 1/2. I think it is right on. I have the Dodgers winning 93 games, losing 69 games and finishing in 1st place in the NL West division. Lots has to go wrong to see this team finish anywhere but first, even though the Padres are better and the Diamondbacks will be a surprise.