Are Dodgers Finished Player-Shopping for the Winter?

As the steam from this winter’s hot stove has seemingly subsided, hopefully the anger and frustration resulting from the Houston and Boston scandals follow suit. The fallout from these improprieties has been especially hurtful to all those affiliated with the Dodgers, but like anything else, perhaps the coaching staff and the players can try to turn these negatives into positives, producing a boundless energy that will lead them to success during the upcoming campaign.

Even though these sign-stealing scandals have dominated the news, one secondary subject among fans of the Dodgers has been whether or not the team is finished making additions to the player roster. While there were a few additions, none of them were deemed to be overwhelming by any standards.

Nevertheless, all three of the newest Dodgers—Blake Treinen, Jimmy Nelson and Alex Wood—do indeed have the capabilities of making significant impacts in 2020. In the case of Treinen, it’s just a matter of recapturing the mojo he had during his 2018 campaign (which might be a tall task) when he posted a ridiculous 0.78 ERA and 1.82 FIP with 38 saves over 68 appearances. For Nelson and Wood, the biggest factor might be whether both veterans will be able to maintain their health.

If he’s throwing well, Treinen is certainly an upgrade to a bullpen that has faced plenty of scrutiny over the past few seasons. However, where and if either Nelson and Wood contribute remains to be seen. One thing we do know, though, is that both players were signed to big league contracts and neither have options remaining, so there’s a good chance both will be part of the Opening Day roster. And, unless the Dodgers decide to employ a six-man rotation, one of the two will probably find himself assuming the duties of a reliever.

In essence, I guess you could say that front-office boss Andrew Friedman has addressed the needs of both the starting rotation and the relief corps, although the success of those additions he made depends on quite a few variables. And gambles.

One area that hasn’t been addressed is the absence of a quality right-handed bat to compliment Justin Turner. The Dodgers have been plentiful when it comes to lefty hitters over the past several seasons, but they haven’t been quite the same in the power department since they lost righty hitters Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp and Yasmani Grandal. When we view the raw numbers that Puig, Kemp and Grandal contributed in 2018, along with those of Manny Machado and Brian Dozier (just when they were with the Dodgers), the tally comes out to a whopping 86 home runs and 278 RBI—just between those players.

As far as current right-handed hitters go on the prospective 26-man roster, Turner is flanked by A.J. Pollock, Will Smith, Enrique Hernandez, Chris Taylor and Austin Barnes—a group that’s certainly nothing to write home about. Andy discussed Pollock a bit in her column on Thursday, indicating the potential role he could play in 2020. If Pollock can indeed capture some of his old form, it will definitely go a long way in balancing out the team’s power attack. Still, the fact that two-thirds of the starting pitchers the Dodgers will face will be right-handers sets the team up to succeed (most of the time) on the offensive side of things.

I don’t expect any big moves between now and the beginning of spring training, although there might be a few additions to help solidify the fringe between Triple-A and the majors. There’s still a little money left over between the payroll budget and the Luxury Tax Threshold, but this is currency which might be put to good use should the team decide to upgrade at the summer trade deadline.

Nevertheless, Friedman has stunned followers of the team with some of his surprise moves in the past. For all we know, he might have a big splash up his sleeve that will be revealed over the next few weeks. We shall definitely see.

 

What Should Dodgers Expect from Clayton Kershaw in 2020?

There’s probably no other player on the Dodgers‘ active roster scrutinized more than lefty starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw. When he was at the peak of his game just a few years ago, many folks rivaled his success with the legendary Sandy Koufax; but now that he is on the backside of his impressive career, there are actually some fans who feel he’s not even worthy of a rotation slot.

Aside from his rookie season in 2008, most of Kersh’s 2019 regular season numbers were among the worst of his career, specifically his 3.03 ERA and 3.86 FIP. However, it goes without saying that many rival teams around the league would be happy if their ace produced those kinds of numbers. That’s a great example of how much fans of the Dodgers have been spoiled for decades by superior starting pitching.

Of course, Kershaw has been hampered by the monkey on his back as far as throwing in the playoffs goes. During the regular season, he has a lifetime record of 169-74 with a ridiculous 2.44 ERA, yet during his postseason career, he has tallied a 9-11 mark with a not-so-impressive 4.43 ERA. Obviously, some of those figures involve the scandalous numbers of the Red Sox and Astros that Kersh will forever have on his personal ledger, but his five earned runs in just 6-1/3 frames during the 2019 NLDS are still quite revealing.

It goes without saying that Kershaw has passed the reigns of the “ace” pitcher to 23-year-old righty Walker Buehler. Despite the No. 2 label, the projections by many outlets still have Clayton producing All-Star caliber numbers for the upcoming campaign. According to the Steamer figures on Fangraphs, CK will post a 14-9 record with a 3.55 ERA, a 3.68 FIP and a 4.4 fWAR over 32 appearances and 202 innings pitched. Coincidentally, Baseball Reference has Kershaw tallying a 12-6 record with a 3.24 ERA over 164 innings of work.

Heading into the new campaign blind, I’d probably agree that the aforementioned predictions are as good as any, but something inside me seems to think that the now 31-year-old Kershaw might have a trick or two up his sleeve in order to succeed in 2020. Perhaps he has been putting in extra time this winter when it comes to pinpointing his command, or maybe he has optimized the spin on his deadly slider to produce better results. Despite the apparent decline in velocity on his four-seam, maybe Kershaw will finally discover a way to come somewhere close to the success he once experienced in his heyday.

Instead of avoiding reporters after his squad’s season-ending loss to the Nationals in the 2020 NLDS, Kershaw decided to speak, seemingly revealing the attitude with which he might take the field during the upcoming season.

“Every year is no fun. This year, the abruptness, the way it happened. It’s no fun. It’s not. It continues not to be,” Kershaw told Ken Gurnick of MLB.com after being eliminated by the Nationals. “But you have two options: you can either crawl into a hole, or you can move on and try to get better for the next year. I don’t want to crawl into a hole yet, so I’m going to try to get better for next year.”

My personal guess is that he will indeed get better. And, although he is viewed as the No. 2 starter in the rotation from a theoretical perspective, I’d be willing to wager skipper Dave Roberts still gives Kershaw the ball against the Giants on Opening Day.

 

Dodgers Roster: Additional Thoughts on the Prospective 2020 Starting Rotation

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(Getty Images photo)

No matter how you stack up all the pitchers involved in the landscape of the Dodgers‘ 2020 starting rotation, the fact remains that aside from two or three key pieces, almost anything is possible in the days leading up to Opening Day on March 26.

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Dodgers Reportedly Sign Alex Wood

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(Los Angeles Times photo)

Almost exactly like we hypothesized a little over a week ago, the Dodgers reportedly signed Alex Wood to a one-year deal on Sunday, which coincidentally was Wood’s 29th birthday.

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What Role Will Matt Beaty Play in 2020?

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(Getty Images photo)

With five weeks remaining before pitchers and catchers begin filing into the clubhouse at Camelback Ranch, there’s still a bit of time remaining for the Dodgers to enhance their player roster with a prospective trade or free agent signing. However, when considering its existing core of players, the club remains one of the most formidable powerhouses in the National League, although building a squad to succeed deep into the playoffs is a completely different story.

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Cody Bellinger Snags Record-Breaking Deal to Avoid Arbitration

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Cody Bellinger and the Dodgers on Friday evening agreed to a one-year deal worth a reported $11.5 million, setting a record for all MLB players who were arbitration eligible for the first time.

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Contemplating a Potential Jeter Downs Move to Third Base

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(Matt Kartozian/USA TODAY Sports)

Long before the rumors began circulating about the Dodgers being interested in acquiring players like Anthony Rendon, Josh Donaldson and Kris Bryant, there were plenty of fans discussing what the team believed its long-term solution at third base to be, especially when considering that 2020 is the final year of veteran Justin Turner‘s contract.

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Dennis Santana Preparing for 2020 Bullpen Role

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(Photo Credit: Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY Sports)

If you were able to catch my column on Sunday, you would have seen my projections for the 2020 starting rotation at Triple-A Oklahoma City. The main goal of the story—as with most of my prospect posts—is to examine the organizational depth of the Dodgers at all levels of their farm.

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A Little Background on Jimmy Nelson

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(Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)

Following some patterns of our recent discussions, the Dodgers on Tuesday morning reportedly signed pitcher Jimmy Nelson to a one-year contract.

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Projecting a Preliminary Starting Rotation at Triple-A Oklahoma City

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(Photo by Cody Roper/OKC Dodgers)

As we are all aware, starting rotations at the Triple-A level are very difficult to predict in the middle of the winter. Even though the big league starting five of the Dodgers is theoretically about 80% set, injuries, trades and free agent signings can impact all levels of the farm at any moment. Minor league rosters are often decided in the final hours leading to MLB’s Opening Day, but that doesn’t prevent us from speculating on how things might look at Oklahoma City right now.

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