Los Angeles Dodgers (104-58)
Additions: Matt Kemp, Pat Venditte, Scott Alexander
Subtractions: Yu Darvish, Brandon Morrow, Curtis Granderson
So, so close.
The Dodgers were just one win away from capturing the coveted title that has now eluded the franchise for three decades. After falling in Game 7 at home to the Astros, Dodgers fans went home expecting nothing short of a return to the Fall Classic the following October.
So, did the Dodgers do enough to get back to the World Series?
There wasn’t too many areas on the roster that needed to be addressed or changed. The Dodgers were possibly just a fresh bullpen arm away from being world champs, after plowing through the National League and winning 104 regular-season games. There was a stretch last summer where some argued if the Dodgers were the best team in baseball history! That was before Farhan Zaidi brought Yu Darvish over to complete what he thought would be the last piece of the puzzle.
Unfortunately, Darvish imploded in the World Series and is now in Chicago, representing the Cubs — the Dodgers’ toughest matchup in their quest for another league pennant. One of their best relievers in Brandon Morrow has also found a new home in the Windy City, which made the pitching staff an area of interest for Zaidi and the Dodgers this winter.
Let’s begin with the starters. Despite his postseason struggles, Darvish leaves a void behind in the starting rotation. Dave Roberts has a full five-man staff at his disposal, with questionable depth backing it. Clayton Kershaw remains the best in the business, with Alex Wood, Kenta Maeda, Rich Hill and Hyun-Jin Ryu behind him. Again, it’s a full five, but Darvish had provided added depth and a formidable second starter. The Dodgers wanted to reset the luxury tax and let Darvish go. They will need their current staff to stay healthy or make another deadline move to stay ahead of the Cubs, who will be seeking redemption after last season’s disappointing finish.
Morrow is gone, but the bullpen will remain a strength for the Dodgers. Kenley Jansen is one of the best in baseball, and Josh Fields will look to continue the success he found in 2017 (2.84 ERA over 57 innings), assuming he is healthy for Opening Day. Tom Koehler is another health concern as he recovers from a shoulder strain, but hopefully Scott Alexander, who was acquired in a three-way trade this winter, can get some consistent outs and provide a stable bridge to Jansen. The late innings are essentially locked down, but the middle innings will have to be felt out over the first month or two of the regular season.
The offense has a familiar face returning in Matt Kemp, who has impressed this spring with his ability to shed weight and continue to hit for power. His solid exhibition performance should earn him the starting spot in left field, while Chris Taylor hopes to build upon what was a breakout season in center field, hitting 21 homers with an .850 OPS in what was his first full season.
The infield is one of the best in the league on paper, but they will have to make up for a lot of offense as Justin Turner recovers from a broken wrist he suffered in spring training. Turner will be back at some point in the regular season, but his 5.8 WAR in 2017 will be a lot to make up for. Kike Hernandez will have to step up while Turner mends, with Logan Forsythe needing to rebound from a sub-par 2017 season.
Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager will lead the way in Turner’s absence. Forsythe, now 31 years old, watched his home run total drop from 20 to just six last season. If Bellinger can’t keep up with his torrid homer pace that he set in his historic rookie season, Forsythe could be an important factor to rediscover some of the power he lost in 2017. Regardless, the Dodgers will be a feared lineup from top to bottom, especially when Turner is back in the middle of the order.
The Dodgers will likely be at or near the top of the league come October, just like they were last season. PECOTA projections put them at 99 wins, or tied for the best in the league with the Astros. Darvish and Turner are certainly a big loss, but this team also has the means to make a move should the need present itself by July. Aside from Darvish, there weren’t many roster changes to report from Los Angeles this winter. Then again, coming off of a 104-win season and a World Series appearance, there isn’t much that needs to be changed.