What The Dodgers Need This WinterCraig Sternberg. 16th November, 2009 - 5:10 pm
Coming off two consecutive NLCS appearances, the Los Angeles Dodgers enter the 2009 offseason as one of the more stable teams in the National League. With a solid core of young players and seasoned veterans, the Dodgers at times last year look poised to run away with the National League pennant. After struggling down the stretch and running into the vaunted Philadelphia Phillies, the Dodgers were sent home earlier then they had anticipated. Now, the Dodgers face an uphill and uncertain battle of improving the team enough to hoist their first World Series championship since 1988.
There?s an old, tired and tested clich? that runs true in all sports when it comes to building a successful team. Every organization needs to begin its quest to building its team from the top of the organization all the way down to the bottom. No team in the MLB has more turmoil at the top right now than the Los Angeles Dodgers. Dodgers? owner Frank McCourt fired his wife Jamie McCourt as the CEO of the team in what is becoming an unfortunately messy divorce. Both Frank and Jamie are seeking full ownership of the team and are refusing to cooperate with each other.
Hypothetically speaking, even if Frank McCourt can establish sole ownership of the team, he will have much less money to work with this off-season knowing that everything else in the divorce will be split 50/50 as California law states. The result is not as much cash flow as you would normally have which means less money to go out and make a splash via free agency and the inability to take on certain amounts of money via trade. It remains to be seen how this will also affect the Dodgers as a prime destination for players to want to go.
Realistically, the Dodgers will be in a tough spot to make an enormous splash this off-season and might have to rely on the growth of its young players to help carry this team next season. The good thing is the Dodgers don?t have very many upgrades they need to make and can certainly contend with the core pieces that have lined up next year. This could be a chance for Ned Colletti to shine and make some shrewd moves despite all the turmoil in the front office.
The Dodgers starting pitching really struggled down the stretch last season and their need for an ace or a pitcher with high upside to anchor the staff is huge. The Dodgers have two very young pitchers in Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley with the ability to possibly be aces in the future but both have struggled in the past to reach their full potential. The Dodgers rotation would suddenly look very different with an ace at the top of their rotation, but the likelihood of an ace becoming available via trade is unlikely and this free agent class doesn?t have the same allure to it as other free agent classes.
While many rumors will swirl suggesting the Dodgers are in the mix for Roy Halladay, all suggestions so far are that the Toronto Blue Jays are asking far too much in return for Halladay. What works in the Dodgers favor however, is that if the Blue Jays were to move Halladay now it might be their best chance to reap the biggest reward for the right handed ace. The value they get in return at the trade deadline is bound to go down considering he could very well end up being only a two month rental for whomever decides to trade for him. All in all, with Halladay expected to test the free agent market after 2010 season and the ransom that the Blue Jays are asking for this could make these trade rumors much ado about nothing.
There are plenty of more realistic options out there on the market that might not make the same splash that an ace would have, but could improve the rotation. Randy Wolf and Vicente Padilla are both looking for long-term deals, which the Dodgers may not be willing to give out. Regardless, both were better then advertised with the Dodgers which could force their hand as to not let the starting pitching depth get worse.
Jon Garland who was brought in at the trade deadline, didn?t have his option picked up, but could be had on the cheap, which could either bolster their starting rotation or could fill a need as a long man in the bullpen.
Other options in bolstering the starting pitching via trade or free agency include adding guys like Rich Harden, Erik Bedard, Pedro Martinez, Edwin Jackson and Ben Sheets, who all can be on the Dodgers radar.
Getting a starting second baseman is also a priority for the Dodgers. Orlando Hudson ended up losing his starting job to Ronnie Belliard late in the season and even had his locker cleared out before the conclusion of the NLCS. While it is still very possible that Ronnie Belliard could come back and start for the Dodgers at second base next year, the Dodgers are said to be interested in many different second basemen, especially ones they can get via trade. This could also be a chance for the Dodgers to add some extra pop to the line up in a position where it isn?t always plentiful.
Dan Uggla being moved is said to be a top priority of the Marlins this offseason and the Dodgers could potentially be able to put together a package of cheap young players. On the other hand, many of the Dodgers young players are in the big leagues now and play vital roles on the squad leaving the Dodgers farm system not as strong as it once was. Depending on the cost, this could be a huge offensive upgrade in the power department and could be a great big bat addition to the team.
The Dodgers are also said to have inquired with Mets about Luis Castillo and could also ask the Reds about acquiring Brandon Phillips, who are looking to shed salaries. Adding a big bat at second base could provide to be key for the Dodgers next season and could be more possible than adding a frontline starter.
The Dodgers have many of their 15 free agents on their bench, which could possibly undergo a revamping of sorts. Although trading for Jim Thome at the trade deadline didn?t work out too well, the Dodgers could use a left handed power bat off the bench in the vein of a guy like Eric Hinskie who is also a proven winner.
A defensive minded outfielder to spell Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier in the outfield could also benefit the team.
Re-signing Brad Ausmus could continue to help the young catchers on the staff continue to improve defensively. Marcus Thames has also been on the Dodgers radar for quite sometime and could provide some punch off the bench.
Prospect Blake DeWitt is expected to be called up to either fill the void at second base or come off the bench.
The Dodgers have many great pieces that will make them a tough team to beat in 2010. Whether those pieces are enough remains to be seen, but the most likely scenario for the Dodgers to finally get over that hump is for all their young players to take the next step in their development and really shine. While a trade or pick up in free agency could help the team immensely, if they are to win in 2010 it will be because certain players on the team made the leap to stardom, whether it?s a potential ace, a bat behind Manny Ramirez or a shut down closer, the Dodgers best chance at filling their needs is through their own organization.